Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Enhancement by John Oliver Kammeyer

An attack of lucidity sparks off an intimate dialogue between new lovers Mia and Webster; by John Oliver Kammeyer

"Web? What's wrong?"

"..."

"Webster, why are you up?"

"..."

"Web, say something! You're scaring me."

"This just happens sometimes. Please keep your voice down."

"What do you mean? What's going on?"

"Seriously, talk quietly. It hurts."

"Alright, you need to tell me what's going on because I'm now officially scared."

"Okay, just let me breathe for one second."

"..."

"I don't want to call them episodes; that's not the right word. But sometimes, like once a month, I get these... moments."

"Moments? Are you fucking with me?"

"I don't know what to call them. Sometimes when I'm lying in my bed reading, I'll be towards the bottom of the page and then the book will twist and sway against the backdrop of the wall. I'll look at an object. That chair will go all funhouse weird and bob and move while the room goes the other way."

"Are you saying you're having a hallucination?"

"Kind of, but I'm lucid, and that's the worst part."

"I don't follow."

"NOT SO LOUD!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm quiet. Why do I have to be quiet?"

"I told you: because I'm lucid. I'm super lucid. That's the most terrifying part."

"I don't... You're feeling super sensitive?"

"Exactly."

"Like your senses are heightened?"

"Exactly, but it's more than that. It's a problem of my mind interpreting my senses or something. Every sound I hear will turn into a bass that reverberates and bores into my chest. My arms will feel like they're vibrating from the ripple of just you whispering to me."

"Should I just stop talking?"

"No, I need you to distract me. Just talk slowly and softly."

"Should I take you to the hospital? This sounds like something doctors should handle."

"No, it won't last that long. No doctors. By the time we got to the hospital it would be over."

"Oh-kay..."

"..."

"Well then why don't you just lie down, close your eyes, and I'll be extra quiet, and we'll wait it out?"

"I absolutely cannot do that."

"Why not?"

"One sec..."

"..."

"If I close my eyes, it's the worst. I'll be concentrating on my other senses more, and I won't be able to stop images from rushing to my mind, which is the most terrifying part."

"Damn, really?"

"I could try to picture my little sister smiling up at me in a grass field. Her teeth will turn to fangs, her eyes black, her head will grow to the size of a building, the grass will convulse and shatter, and the whole frame of the image will bang and boom like a sound amp."

"Fucking hell."

"Even if I try to think of my grandmother speaking in a loving whisper, her voice will turn to a cutting screech that I can't stand. I can't close my eyes; it's too much to take."

"Well, why don't you lie down anyway? We'll just lie back down and bed and talk. Here, I'll help and..."

"No, GOD, don't do that! AAAGGH!"

"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I just wanted to relax you."

"Please don't touch me. I told you that everything's enhanced. Your touch is enhanced. You have lovely fingers, French masseuse lovely, but right now the Enhancement made that feel like serrated kitchen knives vibrating in my shoulder."

"I'm so sorry, Web."

"It's fine. I'm sorry you have to be around for this."

"No, no. It's fine. What can I do to help?"

"Just... Talk to me. Be here, softly and quietly."

"Okay..."

"..."

"...Uh."

"Silence can be worse sometimes."

"Uh, oh. I really like that painting. You didn't tell me you painted."

"I don't, my friend Thomas does. You remember him, right?"

"Oh right. He did that? It's incredible."

"Yeah, I love that one."

"Is that a gay... what do you call it?"

"Jester?"

"Yeah."

"Sure is."

"Why?"

"For a gay king."

"Oh, of course."

"Thomas needed to do something big for his senior thesis. He told me he wanted to do some illustrations for a perverted fairytale and that he wanted me to write the story. So, I wrote the sequel to Cinderella where, after their marriage, the crowned prince turns into a drunk, gay king, and Cinderella leads an invasion of France."

"And that's the gay king's gay jester huh? He's really buff."

"The king gets custody of him in the divorce."

"Of course he does. Did this get Thomas a good grade?"

"Oh yeah. His advisor said they were wonderful, but the person who wrote the story should be locked up."

"In prison or an insane asylum?"

"Huh, I didn't ask actually."

"It is a damn good painting though. Oils?"

"Yup, on cardboard."

"Does he do any other media?"

"He did a giant yarn bomb penis at city hall last year."

"I hope you don't mind my saying so, but you two are incredibly fucking strange."

"Not so loud."

"Oh god, sorry. Have you talked to a doctor about these... enhancements?"

"No fucking way. They happen so rarely that I don't really think they can be anything serious."

"It seems pretty serious. How are you feeling?"

"Better, it's settling down a bit."

"Alright, good. Feel like lying down yet?"

"I think so. You want to watch something?"

"Like a movie?"

"Yeah, or a show or something. Just something to distract me."

"Sure... Wait, why are you getting up? Sit down."

"I'm just going to make myself a drink. It'll relax me, settle my mind."

"Why are you moving so slowly?"

"If I move at regular speed, it's bad. It'll seem like my limbs are zooming back and forth and a pulse is shaking my ribcage. I have to keep everything slow, like this, see?"

"...Sit down, let me make you the drink."

"I got it."

"No seriously, you just sit down and be still and be calm, and I'll do the strenuous stuff."

"Um, alright."

"Where do you keep the booze?"

"On the shelf by the kitchen table."

"And where are the glasses?"

"In the cupboard left of the sink."

"Okay, I'll be right back."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"Here you go, rum and apricot nectar."

"Thank you. Did I tell you this was my favorite?"

"You didn't."

"Oh."

"Just thought it'd be a good drink."

"You've got great taste."

"So, what do you want to watch?"

"I don't know, just whatever you can find on Hulu or whatever."

"Okay, let me check and we'll get underway. Lie down, sip your drink."

"Yes mam."

"So now, you don't know what these enhancements actually are?"

"No idea. Maybe they're anxiety attacks or something psychological. I don't know. Perfect proportions for the drink, smartly made."

"I aim to please. Do your friends know about this?"

"Nope, it happens so rarely that I forget to tell them."

"Will you tell them now?"

"Probably not."

"What do your parents think?"

"I'm especially not going to tell them."

"Why not?"

"They'd make me get tested."

"Where's the harm in that?"

"The harm's in finding out there's something wrong with me."

"Well, that's just flawless reasoning."

"Stop talking about it. It's not as serious as you might think."

"I guess you don't know though, do you? So, am I the only one who knows then?"

"I guess so. Sorry again about this."

"Don't worry about it. Okay, what do you want to watch? A new episode of Modern Family just came out."

"Sure, I like that show."

"Perfect. Um, how do I do this?"

"Just put it on the chair and put that next to the bed here."

"Perfect. Looks like we're all set."

"..."

"I'm just going to lie down nice and slowly, don't worry. Moving nice and carefully, extra slowly."

"You can lie a little closer than that if you want. I'm not contagious, I don't think."

"Okay."

"Your hair smells good."

"Not too much for you is it?"

"I think I can take it in moderation."

"..."

"I always feel so innocent when I watch this show."

"Why?"

"I don't know. Just because it's nothing dirty and nothing cocaine or sex-addict related. It's just clever, funny writing. I love it. And the husky gay one is funny."

"He's my mom's favorite. We watch this all the time back home. My dad hates it though."

"He's just forced to watch with you guys, huh?"

"My dad lives in Portland."

"Your parents are divorced?"

"Yeah. Yours?"

"Still together. How long they been split?"

"Since I was nine."

"Was it hard?"

"At the time, sure. Now, they both have someone and new families, and I have a step sister and two half-brothers. Two families is the same to me as one is to most people; it's just bigger."

"You like your step parents?"

"I love my step dad. He's like a second father to me, or at the very least an awesome uncle. I fucking hate my step mom though."

"Bit of a bitch?"

"A bitch would be welcome after having lived with Sarah. She's a manipulative twat who's got my dad wrapped around her anorexic finger. She won't even cook if I'm staying with them. Dad always takes me out to eat. I'm convinced she's trying to get him to disinherit me."

"Why is she such a cunt?"

"I think she's threatened. I look at it like Darwin would. I think she's threatened by another female who's not of her own DNA. Any resources my dad spends on me she reads as less for her. It's like a hellish survival instinct."

"Does your dad make a lot of money?"

"Not that much, but enough for Sarah to want all to herself. I hate going there."

"You don't have any brothers or sisters, right?"

"Right, just me visiting that kraken my dad married. I do like my half-brothers though. They're so cute. They're twins."

"What are they names?"

"Sam and Michael. They're like the only reason I ever want to go to Portland. They're two, and I love babysitting those squishy little potato heads."

"They sound adorable."

"Oh my god, they so are. I'm just a little worried about Michael."

"Why's that?"

"He's an epileptic."

"Oh shit. Mia, I'm so sorry."

"It's okay. He's on meds, and it's being handled. It's kind of scary though."

"I can imagine."

"Can you now?"

"What?"

"Can you imagine?"

"I don't... what?"

"Imagine. Can you really imagine? I doubt it. I hate it when people say that. If you don't have a family member who you've seen convulsing and flailing and foaming at the mouth, there's no fucking way you can imagine it."

"I'm... I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"I know you meant to be nice. That's all anybody means to be. But it's fucking scary. Do you have any sick family members?"

"Agh, please calm down."

"I'm sorry. But do you?"

"Uh nothing, really like that."

"Nothing?"

"My little brother has pretty severe asthma."

"That's not the fucking same."

"I know. Well my dad's... Never mind. I don't know what to say."

"Nothing, you can't say anything. You can just be sorry. That's the thing."

"I won't say anything then. You talk. Tell me about your brother."

"There's not much to tell. It's just scary."

"Did something happen?"

"It's nothing."

"It's clearly something."

"I'm not sure it's..."

"Tell me. Hit pause and tell me. I'll stay quiet."

"..."

"..."

"It happened one time when I was babysitting them. Dad and Sarah went to dinner one night, and I was at home with them. They were asleep in their crib, so I turned on the TV and just chilled out. I had the volume way down so they wouldn't wake up and after like an hour I kind of dozed off. Then, I heard crying and woke up. Really loud bad crying from Sam. I thought he was hungry or something. So, I got up from the couch and went to the crib. Sam was bawling his eyes out, and then I saw Michael. He was on his back and convulsing. His arms were tightening against his little chest and shaking. His mouth had foam coming out of it, and I freaked the fuck out. I've never been more scared in my life. I picked him up and tried to rock him and calm him, but it wasn't working. Sam was still crying like crazy, but I couldn't do anything because I had to focus on Michael. I had no idea what to do. I thought Michael was going to die. I started crying and begging him to stop. I don't know why. I grabbed them both and got in the car and booked it to the hospital. Michael was still convulsing, and Sam was crying the whole way there. I wanted to scream, and I couldn't stop crying. By the time I got there, Michael had stopped convulsing and had fallen asleep, and I was more scared then than ever because I thought he had brain damage or something. I rushed him to the front desk, and then someone came and took him, and I could finally calm Sam down, but I was terrified. They called Dad and Sarah, and they came rushing in ten minutes later. When Sarah saw me, she started shouting and calling me a fucking bitch and grabbed Sam from me, and he started crying again."

"Oh my god, Mia..."

"A doctor then came out and told us that Michael was an epileptic. He asked me if there was anything loud or bright or anything that might've set off the seizure. I told them that I fell asleep with the TV on, and the doctor said there may have been a flashy commercial or something that set him off. Sarah slapped me and called me a bitch again, and I started crying."

"That's when they discovered he was an epileptic?"

"Yeah."

"It wasn't your fault, Mia. How could you have known?"

"The doctor said it was lucky he didn't have any teeth because he may have bitten off his tongue."

"It wasn't your fault."

"I know."

"So, the bitch slapped you?"

"Yeah. She apologized afterwards. She said it wasn't my fault, that she had just panicked, and that she appreciated everything I did. But I can tell she still mentally blames me or at least associates me with it."

"Fucking cunt."

"Damn right."

"Mia, that's horrible. I can't imagine what that was like. I'm so sorry."

"I'm over it. It was terrifying at the time, but I'm just glad that he's on meds and doing fine now."

"That's good."

"Yeah... I'm sorry to unload all that on you. It's just you asked and..."

"Don't be sorry. I'm kind of glad to know."

"Okay. It's still quite a bit of info."

"It's fine."

"..."

"...You know your brother's going to be a genius, right?"

"What?"

"Michael's going to be a genius. There's a long history of genius epileptics."

"Are you fucking with me?"

"No. Dostoyevsky was an epileptic, and before he had a seizure he would have these almost spiritual moments where his creative eye would open up or something, and later he'd be inspired to write something incredible."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah. Let's see, who else? People seem to think Julius Caesar was an epileptic. Back then they thought that it was a curse from Apollo. And then there's Napoleon. Some historians say he was one. Look at all he did. Um, Joan of Arc was either an epileptic or schizophrenic; I'm not sure. There was definitely something wrong with her, talking to god and all. Van Gogh was one, and he was an artistic genius. There were some French kings, a Pope or two, Charles Dickens I think, a lot of creative people. Creativity and epilepsy seem to come hand in hand sometimes.

"

"Really? Why?"

"I don't know exactly. I'm guessing it has something to do with like overstimulation in certain parts of the brain. So like maybe the creative part of the brain gets more attention than the other parts. Fuck if I know; I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the subject."

"Huh."

"Yeah. So with Napoleon and other French people, it seems like your brother's in good company."

"..."

"...Mia?"

"Thank you. That's probably the best thing anybody's ever said to me about this."

"Really?"

"Yes, thank you."

"..."

"...Oh shit, sorry. I shouldn't have done that."

"No, it's fine."

"Kissing doesn't upset the Enhancement?"

"I think it's almost gone. Could you hand me my drink?"

"Yeah. Is it any good?"

"Mmm, yeah. It's great, and you weren't niggardly with the rum either. Well done."

"I wasn't what?"

"Niggardly."

"Am I hearing you right?"

"I don't know. Are you? Niggardly, niggardly, niggardly."

"You say that? Seriously?"

"Say what? Niggardly? Like a niggard, in the manner or of the quality of a niggard? Miserly, stingy, cheap, unwilling to share?"

"Wait, you weren't saying..."

"Saying what?"

"Nigger?"

"Woah! Hey, what the hell? Where the fuck did that come from?"

"What? I... I mean... I thought you said..."

"Here we are, I compliment you on the drink, we're having a perfectly lovely conversation about the word niggardly, and then you drop that horrid word?"

"What... Fuck... What is going on? You just said it!"

"No, I didn't. I said niggardly. Of or like a niggard."

"Why are you saying it with a D?"

"Niggard always has a D."

"Okay, you're fucking with me, aren't you?"

"Yeah, sorry. I love using that word when I can easily say stingy."

"So, it's niggardly? That means cheap?"

"Sure does. I drop it everything now and then when I want to shock or get attention."

"Not a racial slur?"

"Maybe at one point, but now I'm pretty sure the definition just means cheap. My dad taught me that."

"Good father. You said your mom and him are still together?"

"Yup."

"They happy?"

"...They have their moments."

"What else did your dad teach you?"

"You know the basic father-son stuff: how to tie my shoes, how to throw a knife, how to throw a football, how to properly drive drunk, how to sing the masturbation song. Those old cornerstones."

"How do you drive drunk properly?"

"Put a hand over one eye like this so you don't see double."

"He didn't seriously teach you that, did he?"

"No, not really. My uncle told me he used to do that in college though."

"Uh-huh. And what's the masturbation song?"

"I made that up."

"I don't think you did."

"No, really. It's not a thing."

"Did your dad teach you a masturbation song?"

"I really don't want to tell you about that.

"There is a song?"

"It's not really a..."

"Sing it."

"Oh god, no."

"Sing it."

"No way, that's going to ruin this before it's begun."

"Sing it, please."

"It's perverted."

"Sing it or I'll leave or scream or both, and I'll throw something."

"Really?"

"Sing! You owe me. Enhancement and all".

"...Fine."

"Yay."

"Last night, I stayed at home and masturbated.
It felt so nice,
I did it twice.
Last night, I stayed at home and masturbated.
It felt so good,
I knew it would.
Smash it, crash it,
Beat it on the floor.
Wrap it around the bedpost,
Slam it in the door.
Some people think it's nice to fornicate,
But for all around enjoyment, I'd rather masturbate."

"Wow."

"This does not paint my family in a good light."

"I have never heard that before."

"Not surprised. My dad made it up."

"Really?"

"Sure did."

"Is that a family trad... Oh my god, your last name is Yates!"

"Fuck."

"Oh god, high school must have sucked for you."

"It had its moments."

"Oh god, that's hilarious."

"Ow, fuck. Don't slap me."

"Oh Christ, I'm sorry. Your dad sounds hilarious though."

"He has his moments."

"You say that a lot. What other songs has your dad penned?"

"You know, we have a show that's on pause. Can we just watch that?"

"No, I want to hear about your mom now."

"Oh god, oh god. Shit, my head..."

"Shut up, don't use the Enhancement."

"Shit."

"You have siblings, right?"

"Yup."

"Younger brother and sister?"

"Yup."

"That it?"

"Yup."

"So that makes you the oldest. Alright, we're twinsies."

"Yay."

"Who do you love more, brother or sister?"

"I love them both the same."

"You're not a parent; you can tell me which one's best."

"They're both special in their own way."

"No, they're not. Who do you like more?"

"Fine, Allegra."

"The sister, really? That never happens. Guys don't understand women at all, why the hell would you like her more?"

"She's not a woman. She's five and awesome, so is Wolfgang."

"Your parents gave you guys really awesome names."

"Yeah, Wolfgang's a hilarious little pervert."

"Really? How so?"

"He's always got his hands down his pants, and when we say 'Wolfy, stop playing with your lula he says 'I'm not playing with it I'm fixing it.' He's fucking seven, what's there to fix?"

"Then men in your family are just fucking obsessed with their penises, aren't they?"

"Yates men are proud phallus aficionados."

"What's Allegra like?"

"So smart and such a little ball buster. I can't wait to see what kind of adult she turns into, probably a lawyer or a Hillary or a Thatcher."

"How so?"

"She's always bossing Wolfgang around, and she just walks with confidence, you know? She's completely fearless. She walks into a room like everyone in there is expected to bow down to her. I don't know how to describe it. She just walks with a high chin and a long stride, and she already loves to read."

"She sounds like a ball buster. How does she boss Wolfgang around? Didn't you say he was older?"

"It doesn't matter, Cheney would have cowed to my sister. Last year, Wolfy got this little play car he can push himself around in. When Allegra saw him riding around in it, she ran up to the car, opened the door, grabbed Wolfy and threw him out, and then drove off in it."

"Oh fuck, she carjacked him. She sounds psychotic."

"She may very well be, but I love that little psycho."

"Does she love you?"

"Of course, I'm her medium bear. She thinks hair on your arms means you're an animal so she calls my dad big bear and me medium bear."

"Aww. Do you see her a lot?"

"I try to. I try to take her a lot of places and get her out of the house."

"Does she just stay in there all day and read if you don't?"

"No, she just really needs to get out of the house a lot because of... um..."

"Because what?"

"Just 'cause... it's good for her."

"Is there something else?"

"..."

"Come on, tell me."

"…Um."

"You kind of owe me for the story I told you."

"Uh... Okay, it's just that I want to get her away from my dad."

"What?"

"Oh, don't make that face. It's nothing sinister."

"What is it?"

"My dad's bipolar."

"Really?"

"Yeah. His moods are weird. He'll be in one or the other for a month or two at a time. When he's on an upswing, he'll be the most extroverted, happy, energetic guy you've ever met. He'll take Allegra and Wolfy to the park every day, he'll build things with them, he'll read to them every night. He'll be the Shamwow guy. He'll be that guy at the end of the party who's doing impressions and egging on others to go swimming or do something crazy while everybody else is too drunk to move and just wants to pass out. You'll love him on an upswing, and he'll love you twice as much and want to know every secret you have. But then comes the downswing, and it's like a lightbulb dies. He doesn't want to do anything. He lays around for days in the same spot on the bed staring at a dark TV screen. He won't want to turn it on because he knows it won't cheer him up. He won't even snack because he knows he won't really enjoy whatever he's eating. It won't even do him any good to remind himself of his beautiful wife, his beautiful smart kidlets, his A-student son. He can't look at things objectively because he can't think of anything but his own sadness. His life is, and is part of nothing else but his own sadness. And this lasts for a month or two at a time. Allegra and Wolfy will jump on the bed and beg him to take them to the zoo or build something with them, but he'll tell them he's just too tired. He loves them, but they're outside of the world in a downswing. They'll stay in the bed with him for a whole day waiting for him to get his energy back, but it won't come, and they wind up sadder at the end of the day."

"Oh my god, Web..."

"Yeah, I know."

"Why didn't you say anything? I asked you if you had any sick family."

"It's not the same sick as epilepsy. It's just a behavioral thing. And I don't really like to talk about it that much."

"But I yelled at you for the imagine bit. Fuck, I'm sorry. I..."

"Don't apologize about getting pissed off."

"I fucking shot off at you like you were an asshole, and I had no idea..."

"What, you're not supposed to shout when you're angry about something? Fuck it, you should still be sad or pissed about your stuff even if my stuff is worse, which it isn't."

"A pretty bad one though. That sounds terrible."

"It has its moments."

"Isn't there medication for this?"

"Yeah, but mood stabilizers just keep at an even point where nothing really excites you either which way, so it's almost worse than the downswings. And then antidepressants usually only work with this one other medication that my mom won't let my dad take because the side effects are too dangerous."

"Like what? What are the side effects?"

"Like increasing thoughts of suicide, uncontrollable muscle spasms, really bad neurological shit that takes most of a commercial to list. Have you seen that Abilify commercial? That's it, and there's like this nice pastel animation that goes along while the narrator's going on about homicidal urges and dementia. It's kind of funny."

"Have you talked to your dad about it?"

"He describes it as all the atoms in his body in flux every other month. It's like every particle in his body will either be bouncing around and flying and colliding into each other or every particle in his body will come together and solidify and turn into an unbreakable lead brick. And that's what he'll become: the brick."

"So then you'll try to get Allegra and Wolfy out of the house."

"Exactly."

"How was it for you growing up?"

"More or less just boring and a little sad whenever I was around him. I didn't understand it then. My mom told me all about it when I was in middle school. But mostly whenever it would happen my mom would make an effort to occupy all my time or take me on trips."

"If you don't mind me asking, why hasn't she divorced him?"

"She loves the upswing dad. We all do, and she likes taking care of people."

"She sounds wonderful."

"She is."

"It's just so freakishly unfortunate the way some people lose the lottery and get these shitty diseases."

"Some people are more unfortunate than others. The Yates men, as well as being obsessed with penises, are rabid with mental disease."

"Really?"

"Yeah. My uncle Clyde has Asperger's. My uncle Lionel is dyslexic, and I'm pretty sure my grandfather was bipolar too."

"Wow, that's... huh."

"Yeah, it's pretty crazy."

"Makes you pretty unique though, huh."

"That it does."

"Look, I'm sorry I forced that out of you. It really wasn't my place to..."

"No, it's fine. Don't worry. I'm kind of relieved in a way, and, like you said, I owed you."

"You want to finish that Modern Family episode now?"

"I'd love to."

"How's the Enhancement?"

"I'm pretty sure it's done with."

"Great, I can lay my head on your chest then right?"

"Please do."

"Alright, let's get this started first... There we go."

"This is nice."

"Yeah, it is."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"Oh, I love Cam... Web?"

"Huh? Oh yeah, I love that husky gay one."

"Yeah, he's funny. He's... Web? Webster, wake up. If you die in your sleep, the last words you said to me cannot be 'I love that husky gay one.'"

"Okay, how bout I love you?"

"Try again."

"Okay, just thank you then, and you're awesome. Thanks for sticking through that with me. I'm sorry to give you a scare like that so soon. I'm sure it was quite a bummer. Can I go to sleep now?"

"It wasn't a bummer. It definitely wasn't boring. Good to know for future reference. And how's it that... Web!"

"Oh just let death or sleep or whatever take me. I'm tired."

"Fine."

"Thank you."

"Good night."

"Night."

2 comments:

  1. michael mccarthy

    i enjoyed this.i like the fact that it tells you that we all have problems and or secrets, we guard them jealously, but at the same time we want to confide in somebody, but we still want our 'issues' to be bigger than the next person´s.

    ReplyDelete