“Stray Strange” is a travel column that appears in the quarterly Moon Halo Preservation Society zine. This article appeared in Issue 4, Summer 2013.
The elderly and the slackingly verbal gather under caged fluorescence with grimly mugged escorts of rescinded blood relation as a tenured, combed-over assistant fumbles a pen in your direction to mark your entry with your only word, your name, your time of deliverance of self and proof of chosen extortionists who accidentally drop your leash while you lay back, stir up, cringe and contort in the name of mental comfort as “you heard it from the horse’s mouth,” the horse being human who may have worked hard at school or possibly had a rich condoning father, but the way she talks about the good days the good tunes and the good stuff, alcoholic self-medication as preservation, you begin to unclench mental block against bottled relief and just let the money flow to your lawful captors because we are stuck with them as we are our minds until one or the other lets us die under guise of simple administrative misfiling that really could have happened to anyone, if you think about it—and wouldn’t you know, they wink about it as your worthless name dissembles into tangible number and electrodes fizzle like spilt change on tile floor.
ON THE 7TH FLOOR OF A NONDESCRIPT BUILDING IN LOS ANGELES:The only entrance, through gate o’er most of concrete moat directly projects you through sea of rarely-operated motor vehicles at typical rest, all in blue-tinted painted frames in an aerial color composition often chromatically gray, yellow, white, and red.
When all the placards are handicapped, prime locale is divvied among waddlers and borrowers who wake up most exuberantly and put off luncheon monetary kickbacks from Grand to grand until after business because they are sure all lines painted blue are not equally prime in the skew of mouthy coke bottle worldview.
Waddle on, arm-in-arm, arrive at Moses doors—those glassy walls that part majestically when thee approacheth—and receive adhesive paper from keeper of extension knowledge.
Elevators, the heavily-preferred mode of upward mobility here, heave and deliver hordes to designated dilemma, while stairways coo for long of use, menacingly hoping for case of fire and end to loneliness and lack of gentle, orthopedic pulse of use.
Even with ample legginess, elevator whirs enticingly coax and release at seventh floor.
In a well-lit (as in, how a neglected well might look and feel from the depths if several hundred bug-zapper bulbs had been thrust down behind you) waiting room, waiting occurs.
The carpet moans with hideousness, calling out to the almost-neon tubes of light opposite to distract dozing, bobbing heads and glassed eyes up and away from gray-mauve shame with buzzing flickers worthy of sticking your tongue out now to be safe when resulting seizure inevitably strikes.
Silk sunflowers hide in corner baskets knowing just how sly they aren’t, and under the scrutiny of bifocals fail to cheer. Nary a petal has ever fallen atop “Good Housekeeping” and her neighbors, so they cluck about tacky decor while groped and ripped, yearning for delivery to chic studio within.
“It’s almost as if they make the room more stale than if there were dead flowers because at least they were, at once, alive,” one hurls and she fans herself open.
“If one more of these sickly brutes gnashes me between his fingers, I will teach all of them that something nonalive can surely die when self-hatred is the motivation,” cries the bullied faux flower. “She knows what I mean,” nods in the direction of a blonde woman, refrigerated bag tucked under sculpted arm.
“I’m here to see Dr. Washington,” matching pen to embroidery on bag and coat and smile to that of sanatorium as samples rattle in case like tokens for casino to lay on its floor near slot machines, inviting tastes of possible (impossible, though) comfort.
Addiction is her kinked smile and eye-twitch when like an enamored and pathetic teenager trying to ask roundabout questions of crush and whereabouts to mother at home, she politely but pressingly inquires why she did not know of other doctoral representation in this particular asbestos-paneled cashout voucher.
She is the numbest of side effects, and tenured assistant promptly flushes her down drain by way of continual, “10 more minutes, thank you’s.”
Your name is called, your number is taken by way of clanking ancient scale and you are thrust into sterility with paper napkin. The front side is the side you’d think could and should never be so, and you drape a massive tissue parachute over the rest, although not visually or otherwise absorbent, you wonder what possible insecurities a textured parchment could quell when the lights could cut muslin.
In each of two rooms so far visited hang 1970s educational infographics about fruit, and this is no different—a periodic table of fruit hangs in view over peaks of knees. A pair of clip on earrings adhere resolutely to sagging lobes below stethoscope territory, and you make small talk to the tune of a yearly consensual intrusion.