A new day. A new day, laced with slight rays of sunshine permeating through my window. Swallows perched on the branches. Twirling to each other. Happily building their nest, because its spring. They can’t hear people yelling “Listen, I don’t like people touching me.” Or the doors slamming shut. They can’t hear foots steps that patter beneath the doorway and wonder where they will stop. Poor swallows, not fortunate enough to get the mental respite from it all.
Such a wonderful respite it is. One could hate to be a swallow. Being able to roam here or there, look for food to feed its young. Bathing in thermally unbearable sunshine. Fluttering its wings to clear off all the dirt that has been caked on throughout the day. Poor swallows can’t hear the music of the respite hall –hear the clicklity clack of some woman’s shoes, the simultaneous giggles that resound like laugh tracks off the I Love Lucy show. The music of the respite hall calms and sooths the soul. “Clicklity clack, clack” goes the shoes of some woman who talks to you with a sweet voice, a cooing nurturing sound of mother to baby. Poor swallows. You are the lucky one. You can take the soma.
Everyone here takes soma. For those that don’t there is a special room for them. Soma comes in many shapes and forms but mostly it’s an additive that is places in the mouth. Once it is taken, some become the uppity uppers where once wear a grouch and a slouch now they become friendly and happy. Others are the total opposite dippity downers. Once they drink their soma, the world stops to spin and a lazy haze fills over them. There are many types of soma and many reactions people have on the soma, but these are the most of the common.
Yes all living creatures on the outside of the pane have a falsified freedom that is a wonder lust of fret. How to find the next worm? What material to use to build their nest. Perhaps the nest isn't to their liking anymore and a new one is in order. The number one issue of the soma creature is choice.
Some days here you can decide that you prefer to be solitary. The others who have more will than you, with their clicklity clackity shoes preen down their nose at you and constantly remind you of the rules: “you can’t go in there. Please, you know you can’t go in there Juan, this is a female hall”. Now Juan will have a sheet of paper with his name written on it. Tiny little boxes containing a single check in one specific box meaning 'not in his room'.
In your room there is everything. Unlike the swallows that have to flutter about to find their next delicacy of regurgitated worms, you have everything. Before the sunrises someone is there to wake you and ensure you’re alive. How wonderful is that! As you lay I your bed, your left arm is squeezed until you feel the flow of your blood in your right arm. Quickly you become dizzy, but this feeling is eased with the realization that your blood pressure is 118 over 80. As you drift back to sleep a loud thud comes to your door, “breakfast” Oh joy! You quickly fashion yourself into the high end taffeta gown complete with two strings for your modesty.
You roll of the spring less vinyl wrapped mattress to let your feet hit the cold floor. Poor sparrows, if they only knew the benefit of a cold floor.
You sashay into the well fit spacious environment of the dining line. Hear others wonder loudly “you got fork?” and people stealthily try to cut in front of you without regard to how long you been standing there. Taken aback by the sudden sound of “Ms. Brown, Ms. Brown” you hear a high pitched voice from some foreign clicklity clack and wonder if it was for you. As you regain your attention, someone says “Ms. Brown, it’s time for your 5 o’clock soma. You leave the line grudgingly wondering if the people will let you back in. Once you’ve taken your soma and attempt to rejoin the line some clicklity clack says “We’re calling by rooms” there goes the line, there goes the order and you feels yourself cursing and saying inside your head “fuck I wish I was room 4, 5, or 6” but you’re not, and at least you're not a swallow whose food isn’t given to him on a platter.
People like yourself sit and wait wondering when their number will be called. Conversing and talking to pass the time away. “Are you taking good care of her” says a blond Russian girl to another respiteer about his new wife with a heavy accent. Sweet really. “Don’t go anywhere” she laughs as she mocks one of the Clickity Clacks in the respite hall.
We’re still here. The respite hall. Still waiting for our number to be called. One of the Clickity Clacks orders everyone to sit and wait their turn instead of lining up alongside the wall of the hallway. What a mean Clickity Clack she is. Pacing back and forth with her preening eyes looking beneath her glasses. Sometimes the Clickity Clacks that don’t make much noise with the bottoms of their shoes make more noise out of their mouths.
They still wait. “Rooms 1, 2, 3, 4” and a pause. “Rooms 15, 14, 13, 12… You want French Fries? Right there” and just like that she Clickity clacks off. Now as we join the dining line people whisper what the choices of food are and groans can be heard. But over all everyone is happy with the respite hall.
Of these Clickity Clacks. There are nasally sounding Clickity clacks that mostly make sounds with their mouths and not with their shoes. There are men clicklity clacks as well. They more so glide than clack. The clicklity clacks are here to provide entertainment and supervision to those under heavy soma. Those committed to the respite hall sleep and nod their heads to a hidden beat locked within their minds. Girls sit on their beds in between the soma hours and wonder how they are going break free. Not that this respite hall isn’t the best place on earth, just seems to be missing the smiley effect of snow globe. You can’t help smiling after shaking it a few times. Upside down goes the snow globe. All the air floats to the top, and like the little town inside, you’re stuck at the bottom. Somehow you exist with a slight feeling of suffocation.
The respite hall has its cast of characters. Those most happy to be here. Slightly homeless men who wash without soap and gleefully put their feet in sinks to elevate their soul. Beats being outside fluttering around in the rain. All the while the music of the respite hall never ends. “Can I used the phone, Can I have a pain killer, Can I wash my clothes” is the usual chorus I hear. Another character is Dr. Dougie. Dr Dougie passed by me several times. Sometimes I wonder if I am only visible during consult. But a swallow isn’t visible beneath the leaves. At least I have a chance at reaching some form of peace of mind. Before I came to the respite hall, I had a limited supply of soma. It was so passé. Taking it to heal the ails of a fractured mind were frowned upon by my peers. “Why you taking that shit?” was the usual response. A truth laden statement hallowed by a shaky voice. Him and I would chat on the phone about the habitual respiteers in Harlem who are a bit like swallows—needing a guaranteed platter to eat, a vinyl mattress to test their head on and a good dose of soma to get them through the day.
Him and I. That’s a bubble long popped, revisited and popped again. This isn’t some tale of how I lost my love and finding some requiem of a dream. More a tale of seeing that what you have is just right for you. The poor swallows may be roaming free but yet you have stability you don’t want but need.
While here I tried to find out what everyone is as crazy as they are. Some seem to be born that way. Others seem to be victims of circumstance. I am still trying to figure me out. Sugared with hellos and thank you, sneaked snack well cookies into my room, I found myself laying down and crying. A part of me wishes I could never leave. I could never hear the pitter patter in my chest, have my soma handed to me every hour on the hour. There would be the clicklity clacks whispering about the physical hygiene of a perhaps dumpy rotund smelly lady, who sneak into your room at night to steal your Reece’s Buttercups.
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