Steven Berbeco
Part I
I am sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now.

You can find the room as specifiable degree coordinates triangulated by several geosynchronous radio-satellites. The window in front of me might be third of a second of a degree off from the chair I am in, on an angled path. You could plot a direct course from where you are to where I am, using standard route maps and true-north compassing techniques and enhanced aerial photography. There is a spread of innumerable points from which you can find me.

The room is connected to the town's electrical power supply. Perhaps you are, too. You could follow the field reduced post-production line from the substation's transfer relay station along the bundled delivery lines to the hospital's localized transformer and wattage reinducer in the basement of the building. It's a short trip up the insulated copper cables to the office, and through the triple-plug grounded outlet next to me. There's a low-wattage table lamp plugged into one of outlets; the other is available.

If you were in that small plane that I see out the window, now you wouldn't see me. I would be part of the rolling landscape, beneath the light cloudcover. And you're traveling too fast, besides. Good-bye.


Whom I had visited became important. My palms rest on either thigh, but I count them on my fingers anyway. I lose count.

The nurse is arranging a garden of vials and needles and syringes in another room. I can hear their clink like coins. I imagine the pussy yellows and thick reds and chemical blues. I wonder what it smells like in there. I think I can smell the blues.

The receptionist of the buxom doctor is watching my back, through the wall, through the rack of charts behind her. She checks her features in a compact, and twists it so that she can see over her shoulder. I move to scratch an ear and she puts the thing away immediately. The waiting room has used magazines in color, browning spidery houseplants, diplomas and certificates of achievement.

I think someone is crying on the next floor up. Or down. I think I can hear someone crying.

On the shelf next to me is a medicinal reference, written in English. The spine is dark, glossy green, and its editors wish to thank a string of initials. It cites the use of shiny instruments that one positions to scrape a line along a man's leg or ooze his eye to jelly.

On the desk there are drawings like those in kindergarten windows.

She sits opposite me by the desk and we exchange looks, quiet of course. I look at her face, and her hands, and her eyes. I notice the lenses of her glasses. There is a tag sticking out from the back of her laboratory coat. Is it made of cotton?

She has a firm, practiced expression.

In the other room the nurse moves her hips too quickly and spills wet blood, plasma, a comma of glass.

I am questioned how I keep my appetite.

The cloud cover is blowing away and the sun is coming out.

In the other room the nurse wipes everything up.

The secretary swaps gossip on the telephone. The doctor asks her to file it, and reminds herself about the door.

My heart says to me with its quickened thump: notice everything.

The doctor motions with a hand lowered to avoid direct pointing. She tries several half sentences on my face. They are like dissonant, faint tones. There is no other way to say this. She tells all of it with her eyes, creasing them at their corners, tightening them to a hard pit. It came alive there.

"Blood is bad at hiding secrets," she says.

She leaves the room to the hall after a page.

I am sitting in a room, different from the one you are in now.

Some of the files on her desk tell the story of indiscretions. Some of the files on the desk are innocent to mischief.

I am sitting in a chair, different from the one you are in now.

The chair is bolted to the floor in sixteen places using 12 millimeter washers and its skeleton is made of galvanized steel with an aluminum alloy used for the cross-pieces. The arm rest has a built-in ash tray. The chair reclines, and can resume its upright and locked position. The seat cushion can hold a load of eighty pounds afloat in salt water, seventy-five pounds in fresh water, assuming neutral buoyancy conditions.

I am in an air-tight, one-atmosphere pressurized cabin in a medium-range commercial jet airliner. There are three jet engines, each rigorously and successfully tested in closed wind tunnels, simulating hurricane force circumstances.

If you were on the ground below us, you might see the plane inch and crawl across the horizon. If you were in the air above, you might notice its delicate shadow playing over the scattered clouds below. Our course is set by wide aeronautical charts measured in nautical miles at zero elevation, relative highways in the sky with no dividing line or shoulder. It's cold in the sky. You would freeze immediately.

The stranger sitting in the chair next to me has large, hairy forearms and a thick, gold watch. His fingers are stubby, but the nails are well-trimmed.

I yawn and stretch my back.

The magazines are boring. The view is a boring monochromatic blue.

He has already bought me two drinks, and has touched my knee several times.

The arm rests are boring. The reading light and fresh air duct are boring.

He leans close to my ear, mid-flight, and asks me moistly.

I pause and balance, weigh.

We unbuckle, and move to the back of the cabin. Separately.

We close the door and latch it.

We unbuckle, and move to the edges and surfaces available to us.

If you were in the last row of seats of the cabin, the seats that do not recline, you might hear something. It might sound like wing adjustments or rudder control or added thrust for increased lift. It might sound like the quiet howl of wind.

We are pressed together, wholly together.

I close my eyes, tightly, and picture his forearms around my waist. All my fingers press against things plastic and unwelcoming.

I try to picture his face, still with my eyes closed. His breath is heavy and wet against my neck.

I open my eyes as he leaves. I latch the door again and avoid the mirror.

Towel. I pull out another paper towel. And then tissue after tissue after tissue after tissue after tissue.

I look in the mirror at the tissues piled in the sink like a fruity salad, colored red, colored puss, colored high pink.

I turn and sit on the stainless steel countertop, alongside the water basin, drawing my knees together and crossing my legs at the ankles. The countertop feels cold.

The floor, too, is littered with tissue-thin flowers a-bloom in color.

Go on to
Part II

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