The sign was not there and then it was there when did it never mind that's the problem maybe now it is gone again where did it go did they ever put a sign there it is again the sign the sign covered in what the rain brought down or splashed up from the street the streets connected wired into so many other streets perpendicular acute and obtuse as the what happened is here again to stay as long as the broken collar shock collar brushing the dandruff of melancholy from the shoulders surrounding the same confused mind lost never mind that's the problem now it is gone again where did it go did they ever put a sign there it is again the sign the sign covered in what the rain brought down or splashed up from the street in green and brown and brown and green and darker green and yellow brown and darker or lighter hues of what would that be brought down by the rain or splashed up from the street as the rain washes a tad off as well as splashing up more to cover and darken as observed by one of them joined by another and they make their way who's way is it really what had they agreed to as they made up some way up the high rise.
They did it by moving inside to the elevator which had an attendant. Neither of them could make out what kind of an accent he spoke with. After he rolled his eyes when they told him what floor they were going to he mentioned his once being a poet. She asked him to remember a poem that he had written. He tried to discourage her from stirring anything up now that they were inside and soaked and needed to dry from what they, too, had been splashed with outside.
"Don't make the man go back. Not now. Don't bring it back to now," exhaled Balforceps with trailing wheezes.
"Just because you listen to your dismal music too loud so that it reverberates in every one of your social encounters doesn't mean you have to project the same horseshit on to everybody else," punctuated Tralissa without a stammer except maybe a quieter after comment like "yeah" or "there."
"No, no, don't fight," said the elevator attendant pushing on the stale air in the elevator with his free hand.
"See, you're triggering some old conflicts he probably just barely survived. Just great. Now how are we going to settle this devastated man down?" questioned Balforceps shaking his cup of coffee with a sneeze.
"I'm sorry we carried on like this," apologized Tralissa.
"We carry something each of us," responded the elevator attendant.
"Yes. Some primordial residue we burn with our inner spark to fuel us on," Tralissa offered with the image of her favorite self-help book blown out of her hands by a sudden crosswind while she lounged in the backseat of her friend's convertible as they drove that time through the desert over that really tall bridge what a long way down into the shadowy canyon it went.
"No, no. I was going to say we carry the illness of life and spread it back and forth to each other so we never get over it. I don't like the sound," insisted the elevator attendant.
"Of dismal things, art, music, you mean?" probed Tralissa with her whatever metaphorical thing that gave some impression of being like a probe probing for something other than whatever.
"No, no. I like dismal music. I could probably talk to your friend for hours," replied the elevator attendant trying to belch as non-explosively as was scientifically possibly.
"Oh, great," muttered Tralissa rolling her eyes.
"No, no. That. That there. That's what I don't like. The sound people make when I tell them my dislike for what are they called the little red boxes they use on your chest my chest and they say clear clear for them they think they make space for me but it's a space for them so they don't don't have to get on them what's going back into me so they can have another warm body to attend another spot because they don't want to listen to me wanting to give up and they want me to let go of all the things they don't want to hear but I can't give up because they need someone to keep showing up so they can go down and up and down," said the elevator attendant looking at the walls of the elevator car and Tralissa's face to see if he got any of his spit on them or her or her.
The elevator shook to a stop as the attendant turned the crank. Tralissa moved towards the door and then smacked the sides of her raincoat when the door did not yet open.
"Finally," Tralissa spluttered.
The attendant gripped the crank and paused. Balforceps widened his eyes.
"I think I remember one of my poems," remarked the elevator attendant.
"That would be cool," commented Balforceps.
"Not now. Forget it. Sorry. No, thank you." Tralissa replied tapping on the elevator door.
The attendant opened the door slowly.
"Clear," reported the attendant.
"You're not being very polite, Tralissa," observed Balforceps as he reminisced about several of his most recent insults especially about the one involving comparisons between openness and bodily orifices. Shouldn't have put so much in to it never wanted the help they said so themselves. It couldn't be helped.
"Let's just go to the shitty assed fucking meeting room. No offense. Have a nice day." Tralissa growled.
As the two of them exited the elevator, the attendant quickly closed the door behind them muttering, "Since when is finally?"
The two of them stood by the closed elevator door looking down into the long narrow dark corridor. The length and dimensions expanded with the deepening of their symptoms. He took another sip of his coffee.
Tralissa asked, "What was the number again?"
"I don't know. He just said it was the door at the very end," responded Balforceps as he closed his eyes to the fading screeches of strings at the inconclusive conclusion of some chamber piece almost ending almost stepped on that dark piece of shit there's a piece of shit in the hallway prompting him to start walking ahead of her.
"What is that horrid smell?" Tralissa gagged.
"More of that horseshit being projected about, I guess."
"I'm keeping up with you away from it. Hopefully, it'll be less noticeable down the hall."
"Less noticeable. Why is there a hatchet sticking out of the couch? What I've noticed is that if you show any signs that you might be getting over a flu people take it as their cue to unload their complaints on you as if that's the tempo of recovery and haven't even gotten out of the mucus covered woods yet," Balforceps commented as he approached the stained door at the end of the long narrow dark narrow corridor long dark corridor.
"Drinking that swill won't help you get better. You shouldn't have even agreed to come. He's not even here yet. Maybe he won't show up. I heard most of those invited were sick as well. What's in the couch? Invitations finding all that uneaten food between underneath the cushions. The conversations the laughing the body aches I think I'm coming down with what everybody has. Need to trim my toenails damn it."
Sliding down in front of the door, Balforceps sits and coughs into the inside of his left elbow. He takes another sip. He shivers.
"Sit down," he offers patting the floor.
"Are you sure you want to touch the floor?"
"The rain washes it off and splashes it back on and washes it off and splashes it back on," he uttered haltingly as another cough and shiver went through him.
"You should go. You are not well."
"I should stay so I could spread the good news about sickness and give him a taste of it. But, that would only succeed in making him more unavailable. He's so impervious to all that gets spread around, all the harsh words the collisions of earth."
"See that's the crux of your problem. He's got the vision and you've got the meat grinder grinding up anything that has any meaning."
"Vision's been my problem since I started squinting in that stark ugly classroom. They must have knocked it out of me after each hit in the back of the head and they would taunt me with guessing who it was that time. I think that's why I couldn't care less about remembering people's names. The only kid who she didn't take her she didn't stay in our town very long forgotten her name went along with the attendance list too bad that was I think it was before the streets and everything was connected and there were whole ways of dirt leading down to I think it was a forest or the ocean no no it was just a fen," he trailed off with another wheeze and hacking cough.
"You should go."
"He might show up."
"At this point I'd hate to think what it would be like if he did show up and take his place and the stages and the roles."
"Now what kind of attitude is that?"
"What difference does attitude make now when now is so full of what's happened and it's now for as long as I don't know like trying to play a harp covered in some kind of insect. You pick you're good at that."
"I had a feverish nightmare similar to that last night now that you bring it up where I'm trying to kill these bugs I can't describe them they just keep getting bigger and longer and the only way I try to kill them is by holding them down with both my feet and strangle them with one hand don't remember which while I use the other to apply all the pressure I can with a big enough pot lid as the head flies off and astonishingly nothing sprays out like I was expecting. I start my morning sickly with the darkness about me taking its time to dissolve the images of decapitated bugs and pots and lids hanging like some mocking constellation over my sweaty face trying not to swallow what's collected in my throat."
"I'm not a big fan of doing the dishes."
"There will always be dirty laundry."
"Oh, shit. I think I just heard the elevator coming back up."
"I think my fever is spiking again."
"You didn't have to do this in your condition."
"Condition? My condition leaves me contemplating knocking on any one of these other doors to borrow their bathroom for a window to jump out of or self-examination of how I should have tried harder and stuck with stuff more stuck to it more should stay more stuck to the canvas to let another thumb smudge me into whatever texture they're trying to shape this horseshit into," he muttered as he coughed took a sip of his coffee that was losing its warmth as another shiver went through his body inside his soaked clothes inside his drenched raincoat.
What happened is here again to stay as long as the broken collar shock collar brushing the dandruff of melancholy from the shoulders surrounding the same confused mind lost never mind that's the problem now it is gone again where did it go did they ever put a sign there it is again the sign the sign covered in what the rain brought down or splashed up from the street in green and brown and brown and green and darker green and yellow brown and darker or lighter hues of what would that be brought down by the rain or splashed up from the street as the rain washes a tad off as well as splashing up more to cover and darken as observed by one of them joined by another and they make their way who's way is it really what had they agreed to?
- Max Stoltenberg