1. My Wrist Hurts Every Now and Then
My wrist hurts every now and then because one time I was riding my bike home from work, and I was excited to get home and skype my girlfriend-at-the-time so I was riding as fast as I could, down a hill, in the rain, and my brakes weren’t that great to begin with…
I hit a curb at the bottom of the hill and flew forward off of my bike and face first into a concrete pylon.
My face healed in a week. That was fine. But my arm was in a cast for three months, and it never really healed properly.
It was a problem mostly because Olyve was coming to visit me, and it was supposed to be our last time together, because long distance relationships suck. So she was coming to Chicago, and we would have a good time, and then that would be it. But now I was going to have this stupid cast on the whole time she was here.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, a week before she got here, I got this weird lump on my hip that turned out to be a sebaceous cyst. I went to a doctor and he sliced it open with a scalpel and pulled out what looked like a piece of chicken fat the size of a pea.
So when Olyve arrived, not only did I have a cast on, but I also had an open wound on the side of my body that I had to re bandage every morning because it was draining pus.
This made it hard to have shower sex, but other than that we soldiered on and kept trying to have a good time.
But then the second day that Olyve was here, I got a phone call from my doctor who told me that my cyst was infected with MRSA, which is a fairly common, but incredibly contagious form of staff infection.
So Olyve and I spent the next few days going to various hospitals and health clinics to make sure she wasn’t going to be infected with MRSA too. We had to cancel all of the things we had planned to do. We didn’t do mushrooms in the park, we didn’t go to the zoo, we didn’t get deep dish pizza.
The lowest point was when we tried to make pop-rock chocolate. It was something that we had had in Israel. We had spent all day in clinics getting poked at by doctors. We were sick and tired, and this was the last thing that I had planned that we could actually do. We just wanted to do one fun thing.
We went to four different stores: 7-ll, CVS, Jewel, Walgreens and none of them had fucking pop rocks. I fell to my knees and started crying in the candy aisle in Walgreens.
But we soldiered on. We got gummy worms instead, and made chocolate covered gummy worms.
The next day I got a virus and we spent the last night in the emergency room of a hospital on the south side, and I could barely stay conscious because my fever was so high.
The next morning she left and I never saw her again.
We both agreed that trip was awful and it didn’t count. So a month later, and the day after I got my cast off, I flew to California to see her. And that was a wonderful time. We went to the beach, hung out in San Fransisco, touched each other in the back seat of her friend’s car. It was wonderful. We were in love, and we were together, and no one was infected or diseased. We got to do everything that we wanted to do that week. No crying in the candy aisle at Walgreens.
And then I had to leave.
She drove me to the airport, and I kissed her goodbye, and I never saw her again.
And sometimes I forget that I have a bad wrist, and I’ll do a cartwheel or something, and hurt myself again, but then a week will go by and it will be better, and another week will go by and I’ll forget again, and then I’ll be breakdancing or something and I will hurt myself. And then I’ll forget again, and hurt myself again, and forget, and hurt myself, and forget, and remember, and forget, and remember.
And it’s been over a year now, but it still hurts sometimes.
Late in his shift Gene was daydreaming and before he could stop it his heart popped out of his chest and landed in one of the egg cartons that was coasting down the line.
He realized what had happened just in time to watch it slip out of sight. He chased after it only to reach the end of the line and find pallet after pallet stacked with thousands and thousands of cardboard cartons. He stared up at the tower in horror, imagining his tiny red heart beating somewhere in that pile of identical white eggs.
“What are you doing?” The floor manager asked.
“Nothing” Gene said, and he went back to work.
That night he didn’t feel much at all, except nervous, and a little deflated.
The next day he felt distant.
The day after that he felt cold.
And the day after that he fell madly in love with a woman he had never met. He had no idea who she was. He didn’t know where she lived or what she looked like. He didn’t have her name, or her phone number, or her address. He just had a feeling, a horrible feeling of missing her, whoever she was.
At work he could barely contain himself. And at night he had cloudy dreams of small lonely apartments, fluffy pink pajama bottoms, and intimate moments in cramped bathrooms.
One night, when he was lying awake and staring at the ceiling, wishing that he was somewhere else and nowhere at the same time, it got so bad that he climbed out of bed, pulled on his jacket, and got into his pick up truck. He drove through the night, following the feeling, hoping it would lead him to her like an invisible thread.
But it was too vague to follow, and it only lead him in circles.
At the end of the night he parked at the top of a hill and sat, defeated but peaceful, on the hood of his truck and he watched the sun rise, casting a pale new light over the city, and he thought to himself: “she is out there somewhere, and if she feels a fraction of what I feel, then no matter how long it takes, I know we will find each other.”
Liz swiped her alarm off, and went to fix herself breakfast. She pulled the fresh carton of eggs out of her fridge and in the far right corner slot instead of a smooth white egg, there was a little wet lump of something. It was red and slimy and pulsed with desperation.
Liz gasped when she saw it.
“Fuck! That’s Gross!”
And she tossed the entire carton in the trash.
3. The Space Beneath Her Bed
Together we pushed her bed aside and underneath, instead of a layer of dust, there was a rectangular pane of glass embedded into the floor, and below the pane of glass there was an endless black expanse dotted with stars. It was like the floor under her bed was the glass bottom of a glass bottom boat, only instead of the ocean it was the night sky.
We were both stunned for a moment.
“Has this always been here?”
“No… I don’t…I’ve never seen this before… I’ve never seen anything like this.”
It was the first time I had seen her looking so soft since we were together. Usually when I saw her now she had a pinched expression on her face, tired and annoyed, like I was wasting her time and she had to get back to something actually important. It was an expression that made me miss her even though she was right in front of me.
But now she looked unsure and amazed. She looked like a little girl in her fuzzy red turtleneck. It made me want to cry. I just wanted her to turn to me and tell me that she loved me again, and I half expected her to do it, but she didn’t. She didn’t move at all. She did not blink. She seemed mesmerized, staring downward into space. The space behind the pane of glass. I could see the twinkling reflection of the stars in the glaze of her eyes.
She didn’t say anything.
Her eyes were wide, and her mouth was open. Her cheeks were flushed like she was cold. Snowflakes and stars look awfully similar. I wondered what she had seen that I hadn’t. What is so mesmerizing down there? Why can’t I see it too?
But these thoughts disappeared when all of a sudden I realized what was about to happen. I leaned forward to stop her
But it was too late.
She stepped forward, onto the pane of glass, and slipped through, disappearing into the darkness below.
I started immediately to follow her, but my heart stopped me. I looked down to try and see her and there was only a red dot quickly shrinking into the darkness.
My heart kept pounding.
Behind me was the door of her bedroom, slightly ajar. In front of me, was the void on the floor, the red dot almost gone.
I closed my eyes, and I took a step…
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
…and my foot landed.
I opened my eyes and I was standing on the pane of glass. I tapped it twice with my foot, but it was as solid as anything. There was no slipping through it. I got down on my hands and knees and peered through. The glass was cold like a window on a winter day, and behind it there was not a trace of her, just an endless sea of stars.
About the artist...
Hal Baum is a writer/performer/musician from the south side of Chicago. He has performed in theaters across the city including: The Laugh Factory, The Playground Theater, and The Neo-Futurists. He just released his first EP “Holding Hands Underwater” on Preserve Records, and is currently working on a full-length album. You can hear his music on Spotify, iTunes or at https://halbaum.bandcamp.comIf you want to see pictures he draws of people on the CTA you can go to: https://halbaum.wixsite.com/peopleonthecta
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