4th Week Redux

3 Dec

…and we’re quiet for maybe twenty minutes. I am comfortable with that. So is Mark.
He opens up his small Bible and thumbs through to the middle. I wait for him to start. They’re all salesmen in here.
God is an indispensable product.
But he doesn’t say anything. He just reads to himself. And smokes.
The ceiling fan breaks up the blue vapor above us.
Where is this place? The land looks scarred from the weather. Beaten up. Defeated.
Where is this place?
I’m sorry? He looks up.
Where are we?
You don’t know?
I’m not sure.
Harborcreek, he says. Just east of Erie.
I think: Lake Erie.
Pennsylvania. Erie, Pennsylvania. How long have you been here?
He closes the small book.
A month maybe.
Who’s your counselor?
Cody.
There’s been no work the entire time I’ve been locked in. Blank sheets of paper. Stacks.
We sleep three to a room. The men snore. And fart.
I stuff toilet paper into my ear canals but the grinding gets through anyway. I’m not sure how long I’ll be in. Not sure if I’m well or if I’ll ever be well. Not sure who can get me out. Or if I sign myself free. They won’t tell us anything. Just to get better. We’re all getting better. War is Peace. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.
He’s good. Cody. (Mark again). He’s a good man. He cares.
He has a mustache.
Mark laughs. I’m not sure why I say that. I’m not sure he’s sure either. There’s a long pause.
I think: here it comes. The Sales Pitch. ABC. Always Be Closing. Always Be Closing when they’re wounded.
Up for some backgammon?
Sure, I say. You can’t let me win, though.
Mark laughs.
I’m serious.
He makes me tell him about my grandfather. Again. I don’t know why. But I tell him. It makes him happy. We roll. We move. We bump. We come back in on points. We smoke. A nurse comes in and pulls the thin, white drapes to shield the room from the winter sun. She picks up a tray with discarded, dirty dishes.
We roll. And we move. And I tell Mark how my grandfather slaughtered the pig at Christmas time in the old country and how he made sausages and boiled the kidneys and served them with salt and pepper and horseradish.

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