“Unghhh.” I say without looking at him, my tongue angrily probing the hole between two teeth. He knocked one out last summer. Accidentally, we were moving a couch.
“What? Oh Jesus, you’re not poking at that hole again are you? Go to the dentist already. I said I was sorry!” I see his reflection in the window, turning to me, begging for a fight to break up the monotony of my obsessive behavior.
“I know,” I say, temporarily using my tongue for its intended purpose. “I’ll call today, OK?”
“Well….” he pauses, “okay then.” I see him lean over to give me a dry kiss on the cheek. “See you later.” He walks off without waiting for my reply, my kiss in return, because he knows there won’t be one. I am in mania right now, though I won’t know that until later, after some Stelazine and a few days in a psych ward.
I was walking Ed to work when I saw the man in the coffee shop. He looked just like my father. Well, maybe not. But right now, in full mania, I see my father everywhere. Any male over eighty is fair game. Even Joe, the old man behind the counter at the liquor store. But I have a feeling if I said “Joe, you look just like my Dad,” he’d see it as an invitation to go to bed with him.
The man in the coffee shop has left his seat. I look frantically through the window. My own fault. I was daydreaming. I should have stayed focused, seen where he got to. He left behind the paper he was reading. But I am too afraid to go in and take it. Especially now that the girl behind the counter is motioning at me. I know I must be odd, staring down some old man, while my tongue probes my mouth. I must look like an idiot. I turn abruptly from the window. Maybe I should look for California plates, if that were him, maybe he parked nearby. Would he be going to my apartment now? But then why would he stop for coffee? He knows I keep coffee in the apartment.
I briskly walk towards Eighty-First Street. He would park on a side street, I think confidently. Wait a minute… he should have seen me standing in the window, my pace slows with uncertainty. Maybe he didn’t recognize me. Have I changed so very much? What bastard would not recognize his own daughter? I start walking again. I decide if I find a car with California plates, I will smash in the windows as punishment for not recognizing me. Then we can have some of my coffee. I walk up and down Eighty-First Street; I know he would park here, because he is eighty-one years old. But I can’t find a car with California plates, just New York, New York…
I’m tired. Maybe I’ll go home and nap, and come out later.
Suddenly, I see a parking space. A parking space at 9:15 in the morning. It’s a sign from God. I run to it and stand in the middle of it. I spread my arms wide. A black car slows down and puts its blinker on. It does not have California plates. “NO!” I shout, “TAKEN! IT”S TAKEN!” I angrily wave them on. This will be exhausting. So I lay down in the space. I stretch my body out on the pavement as far as I can and wait for Dad. The sky is clear and crisp and reminds me that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is coming up. It always seems to be a clear day for the Irish. Maybe it’s payback for all the wet weather in Ireland. I hear the screeching of brakes and a car horn, loud and right next to my ear. I shut my eyes and hope it will go away.
“Lady, what the fuck are you doing?” a voice from above interrupts my hope.
I squeeze my eyes shut tighter and clasp my hands across my chest.
“Lady, you are gonna get killed, for real.” The voice sounds anxious.
I open one eye. A small man is looking down at me nervously. He is wearing a knit hat and with the sun behind him I cannot make out any of his features except for a thin mustache that does not make him look the way I think he intended it to.
“You gotta get up and go!” He points at a Subaru that has almost squashed me. In the driver’s seat is a horrified looking young woman. I suddenly regret wearing black, but I had no idea I would be saving a parking space today.
“Can’t,” I manage to spit out, “saving a space.”
The featureless man nods knowingly. “I get that, yeah, I get that shit. Parking on the east side….” he pauses a moment, “is a real bitch. No offense.” he adds quickly.
Why ‘no offense’? I wonder. Do I look like a bitch? Does a real bitch save a parking space for her idiot father? No, definitely not, a nice girl, a good daughter does that. So I simply raise my eyebrows at him, I am done talking.
I begin tuning him out. This is an easy task when you are a schizophrenic and you have not taken any of your medication for a few days. My brain feels pliable and plastic. I suddenly feel in control. I close my eyes and let the noise in my head take over. I guess that’s why I didn’t notice the EMT’s arrive. I didn’t even feel them carry me off. Apparently I was as stiff as a board, mummy-like as they picked me up and strapped me to a gurney. I know this because Joaquin came to visit me at the hospital and told me so with great glee.
Joaquin, the short man in the knit cap and the questionable mustache. Apparently he was very impressed with my space saving skills, so impressed he felt compelled to visit me at Gracie Square Medical Center.
This is good, because Ed is the opposite of impressed and is not visiting me in the hospital. I guess that’s what comes of chasing down a mentally-ill wife for five years. The newness of the psych ward begins to wear off. The sympathetic nurses, the concern of the doctors are no longer enjoyable but painful as you realize you should never have children with this woman, never leave her alone for extended periods of time and will constantly have to check her medication.
For Joaquin, it’s different. He does not see my schizophrenia as an impediment. I am like his friend with the tattoos on the bottom of his feet, or the lesbian chick he knows that chained herself to the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I am the crazy bitch that lays down in the middle of Eighty-First Street to save a parking space for her dead father. He is proud in a weird way to have found me. He has ‘collected’ me and I now have someone who will search the city with me when I am having a bad day, looking for Dad. He won’t question the validity of the search, or the methods and extremes necessary to get to the point. He is along for the ride, and he understands that parking on the east side, is a bitch. No offense.
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