Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Mr. Barbicane Takes A Trip" Chapter Twenty

Mr. Barbicane opened his suitcase and took out the travel-kit containing his razor, toothbrush and other toiletries. This he took into the bathroom and placed on the vanity next to the sink. The vanity ran the length of the room which was larger than many of the hotel bathrooms he’d seen. The wall above the sink was mirrored and reflected the shower behind him as he stood at the vanity. The shower had a sliding door of clear glass instead of some sort of opaque curtain. There was a coffee maker on a tray at one corner of the vanity, with foil packets of coffee, tea bags, sugar, artificial sweetener and powdered dairy-like substance called “Cremetta.” Above this was a wall mounted telephone and next to the telephone a hair dryer snapped into a plastic case.

Next to the sink was a small basket containing a face cloth and several small bottles of luxurious hair and skin care products Mr. Barbicane was welcome to use during his stay. Mr. Barbicane used the facilities then brushed his teeth and, shutting off the bathroom light, returned to room, there to prepare for sleep.

He sat on the edge of the bed to take off his shoes, which is when he noticed there was a note card and a small, foil wrapped chocolate on his pillow. The note was from the management, welcoming him to the hotel and reinforcing the same message he’d received from Dave upon checking in that the staff was ready, willing and able to make his stay a pleasant one. Mr. Barbicane put the note and the chocolate on the night table next to the clock radio then he untied his shoelaces.

The young woman who sat next to Mr. Barbicane between Burbank and Dallas-Ft. Worth found an analogous note on her pillow when she reached her bedroom in her mother’s house in Farmers Branch, north of Dallas on Route 354. She had called her mother on her cell phone from the restaurant where she and Rory were having a painfully quiet late supper and told her not to wait up, that she would let herself in and they’d catch up over breakfast. Her mother said fine, she’d leave the kitchen light on.

She put the phone back in her purse and the meal resumed. There’d been no actual discussion of her going to her mother’s or staying with Rory, but based on the chill he continued to get from her on the drive to the restaurant he decided against bringing up the idea. He realized the possibility of sex, which had kept him going during her absence, was nil. The best thing to do was to try to ride out the storm with as little argument as possible, but really, you reach a point where you have to ask yourself is it worth the effort?

Rory drove her home. She kissed him briefly on the lips, grabbed her bag and went around to the rear of her mother’s house without looking back. Rory slammed the car in gear and made as much noise as possible pulling away from the house; it was the only gesture available to him under the circumstances.

The young woman who had dreamt of her boyfriend and father making love as she slept next to Mr. Barbicane opened the screen door, crossed the back porch and used her key to unlock the kitchen door. She went through the kitchen, switched off the light, and went through to the front of the house where she turned and went up the stairs to the second floor and the hallway that lead past her mother’s bedroom and to the open door of the room she called home from the age of eleven till the day she left for college. It was in this room, with its front facing double dormer windows, that she found her mother’s note on the pillow.

“Vickie. Welcome Home. See You In The Morning. Love. Mom.”

Neatly printed. The first letter of each word capitalized. The way all her mother’s notes looked.

She dropped her bag at the foot of the bed, slipped down the hall to the bathroom where she quietly brushed her teeth then returned to her room and undressed. She put on the big, green “Wallace and Ladmo” t-shirt she got when Rory took her to Phoenix, pulled back the quilt, crawled into bed and turned off the night table lamp.

Light from the street lamps came through the dormer windows and silhouetted the pattern of the lace curtains on the ceiling and far wall. Vickie stretched out under the covers and looked up at the plaster.

There was a stutter of lightning, like a fluorescent lamp with a shot ballast, and eventual thunder rolling somewhere out over the Blackland Prairies to the northeast.

Vickie put her hands on her thighs and tried to remember the feeling she had in her dream, the sensation of suddenly having a penis. More than remembering it, she was curious to feel it again. But she couldn’t get the feeling back. She could remember the sensation, but she couldn’t reproduce it. She couldn’t summon the warm and solid reality of the dream. That was gone. And this made her suddenly sad. What had frightened her had been removed and now she was afraid she’d acted too quickly, woke up too soon. She should have enjoyed the experience more. It was only a dream. If you can’t explore in a dream, what’s the point of sleeping?

The sense of loss was amplified by the fact that she knew she could never tell anyone about the dream. There was no one in her life who would understand, not that she understood herself. She couldn’t tell anyone about seeing Rory and her father kissing and she couldn’t tell anyone about what happened to her body. It would be a secret forever. Something she kept to herself until it started to fade and eventually she wouldn’t even be sure if it had happened. But it didn’t happen. She just dreamed that it happened. But it felt so real, the dream.

It wasn’t fair that a dream could do this to her, put her in this position of having to keep this secret inside forever, to tell no one. She didn’t ask for it, but now she was stuck with it. She’d probably have to break-up with Rory over this and then have to come up with an explanation, something she could say to her mother and other people. Something credible that sounded like the truth, but wasn’t really the truth. All she’d get from telling the truth would be funny looks and people laughing at her and her mother crying over the part about dad never mind the part about growing a penis.

It started to rain again, softer this time. A shower. Just something moving through and blowing the trees so the leaves make that shimmering sound they can make during a light rain.

Had the thing that happened to her in the dream happened because she was watching Rory and her dad? She tried the thought out and dismissed it. She didn’t want it to have happened because of something. She wanted it to be something that was completely her own, authored only by her.

She ran her right hand along the inside of her thigh then lifted her hand and moved it back and forth just above her thigh, ghosting the shape of something she had touched in her dream.

Vickie giggled and was surprised by the sound of her own voice. She whispered to the rain:

“I am the son of Aphrodite and Hermes, raised by naiads in long lost Phrygia. And this is what you get for skinny dipping with Salmacis.”

She pulled a pillow from behind her head and, turning on her side, crushed it between her legs and held it tight.

The secret cause shall here be shown;
The cause is secret, but the effect is known.
Vickie suddenly trembled with the memory.
Grow nearer still, and nearer to her breast.

A dreamy, hot May afternoon toward the end of the semester, incredibly old poetry to fill a lit requirement. All the classes she wanted were filled. Cicadas shrieking somewhere outside the open classroom windows. Bored out of her mind.

Till, piercing each the other’s flesh, they run
Together, and incorporate in one:
Last in one face are both their faces joined,
As when the stock and grafter twig combined
Shoot up the same, and wear a common mind.

Hot and bored and sticking to her clothes and thinking about the weekend, half asleep.

Both bodies in a single body mix,
A single body with a double sex.

Ovid, she cursed. It was all the fault of Ovid!

Ultimately, as is so often the case, blame could be attached to a poem.

Zeus responded to Vickie’s curse with additional lightning and the promise of thunder to follow.


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