I was new at the gym. I was in decent shape. But in the first two weeks I was gaining ground fast. I felt stronger, leaner, and my wind was back. Today I was even starting an extra thrity minutes on the glide machine. A machine that supposedly emulates skiing. I started off slow adjusting to a machine I had never been on before. Slowly I increased my speed. I appreciated the new television sets the gym had placed on the walls behind the machines. I liked the setup there was a big aisle in the middle of the machines and the machines faced each other that way you did not have to look at the variety of butts on the machines in front of you. Here you could see the people across the aisle face to face a much more comfortable situation then watching someone’s butt.
I was fortunate my machine was diagonal from the redhead that I had noticed. She was in great shape and her hair was long and thick, she had a beautiful smile and eyes that twinkled. Ever since I had noticed her, I would spend my time trying not to ogle her. But often I would catch my gaze on her and have to refocus on something else. I did not want to make her feel uncomfortable I was not a creep after all. But today unfortunately my machine had the perfect vantage point to watch her. It was going to take all my effort not to stare.
I smiled at her as I got on my machine. I ducked my head because they had placed the televisions a little too close to the machines for my comfort. She smiled back at me. About five minutes into my workout in my efforts not to stare at her I noticed that she was watching me. I mentally checked to see if my fly was open. No, I thought, I was in gym shorts no fly to be had. I checked my face and teeth making sure no food was conspicuously displayed. After a close examination I found nothing awry with my appearance. She was giving me the eye. I went faster on the machine. She must be looking at me. My workouts must be doing wonders. I checked her pace on her machine. She was going faster than me. I quickly remedied that situation. I looked at her again I smiled and gave her a nod. She smiled big almost laughing with pleasure. I increased my workout. I knew now I had to stay on the machine as long as she did. I wanted her to know I was every bit as fit as her.
She was staring so much I was becoming a little self-conscious. I was also becoming a little tired ‘how long is her workout’, I grimaced to myself. But I was not going to give up before she quit. After another ten minutes I thought I always choose the fit ones. My legs were sore but I kept going. Her eyes hardly left me now. I thought this is aggressive behavior on her part. I was beginning to wonder if she was right for me. But one look at that face and I gave up that notion. I was sweating profusely. She had only begun to sweat. I was worried. I was doubting my ability to stay with her. I had been going fifty minutes twenty minutes longer than I had planned and I had been pushing myself extra hard to match her speed.
Finally, I gave up she had won. I could go no further. I stopped exhausted I looked at her and smiled. She shook her head with a smile at me. That smile let me know it was time I introduced myself. I walked toward her. As I walked her way she was still staring where I once was on the machine. So I turned to see what it was she was looking at. And then I saw it the television I had ducked under when I got on my machine. It was directly over my head. It was showing reruns of Seinfeld. And then it all became clear she was not smiling at me it was Jerry. You know Jerry Seinfeld. I was being beaten out for her love by an out of shape bucktooth mealy mouthed comedian. I did not introduce myself to her.
The next morning when I woke up my thighs were killing me. I could hardly climb out of bed. I smiled the redhead had worn me out. But at least I have, just like Charlie Brown, the story of the redhead who got away.
I was in love and that was how it started. It ended when one day a friend told me she is out to kill me. She almost did. But until that moment I had never noticed. Love is strange that way. You start enraptured and end in a ditch wondering how you got there. These many years later I realized there were warning signs.
Was it a sign when I asked her to marry me and the next day she suddenly proclaimed I had changed, I was a different person. One day I am Michael the next day my body had been snatched by an alien force she must destroy. I never noticed the change.
Was the second enlightening moment on the honeymoon? We opened the curtain of our honeymoon suite to discover three rainbow colored hot air balloons on a big grass field. We walked down to the lake beach only to discover that a circus was performing. We even were fortunate enough to see a little bit of a water show. Surprises were around every corner. The gardens were beautiful. The food was good. The shows were fun. It was everything one could want and more.
Just as we passed the exit gate on our way home she announced she had to go to the bathroom. I thought she was joking so I grinned and drove on “Yea I am sure you have to go,” I said. When I passed the first exit she exploded. Why hadn’t I stopped? I was being cruel. I realized then that she was not kidding and we needed to stop. When the second exit came I saw no signs for a gas station or restaurant so I passed, anxious to get to the next exit. Unfortunately, as we passed the exit we saw in the distance a gas station. I was torturing her she proclaimed. The next stop did not come for another twenty miles. She held this against me the rest of the marriage and would tell everyone our honeymoon was a disaster, I was cruel, and I am sure in private to her friends she proposed I had been body snatched. Maybe this was a time for reflection but hey we were young so I went on.
One day as we were sitting, she told me she hated the way I breathed. ‘Why did I have to breathe’, she said. She said I should just stop breathing if I could not do a better job. I looked at her; she was not kidding. I can only chalk this up to a lame attempt to kill the alien inside of me. If I did not breathe the alien would have to leave my body and I would be restored. Yes I would be dead but finally at peace.
Or was it when she blamed the planned pregnancy on me. My alien had used its mind power and overwhelmed her. ‘How dare you get me pregnant like we planned,’ she said. I or at least the alien was responsible for every pain of pregnancy. It was inexcusable what I had done to her. She never forgave me for this. My eyebrows were now permanently arched in that WTF way. But onward I marched.
Maybe I should have realized something was up when she told our friends that our best vacation was the one in which I barfed continuously and walked as a zombie through the streets of St. Augustine. She said I was the most affectionate I had ever been. I remembered being very affectionate when I was thanking her for the trash can to barf in. Maybe the alien had completely taken over my body and I missed the tender moments of bliss on that vacation.
Maybe that time we went to therapy should have been a heads up. The counselor, in one of the most bizarre moments of my life, grabbed me by the throat and started shaking me to see if I would be seized by anger or end up crying on the floor. Or maybe he was trying to shake the alien out of me. For my part I looked him threateningly in the eye and told him to release me. It was the best therapy session she had ever had she said. And when I said I would not go back to him she declared I did not want to work on this marriage. She now looked at me as the Dangerous Husband with an alien inside.
Or maybe I should have figured something was up when we separated and eventually reunited. My only request for moving back in was that a year from now she did not change her mind. We were doing what I thought was well. But on the exact day of a year from when I came back she let me know she wanted out. Now I was getting the picture. Alien’s requests naturally were not to be abided by but resisted.
We decided to give it one last shot so we went to therapy. We spent the first half working on my faults. She listed so many I never knew anybody could have so many. My alien must have been working overtime. I made every change she requested. I was determined to improve for the marriage. She claimed I was only doing all this to impress the counselor. I wanted the counselor to think highly of me but believe me I would not have gone through all that for the therapist. But now that I think about it an alien who did not want to be exposed would. Amazingly she ran out of complaints about my behavior. The counselor said if she was through, it was time to work on areas she might need to improve. She looked at me and the counselor like we were crazy. She said I was faking. It was all some kind of charade to make the marriage work. She was not going to be fooled by my alien and the alien she now strongly suspected living in the counselor. She stormed out of the room accusing me of faking everything.
Now I am a slow learner. The marriage was over but I wanted to at least remain on friendly terms with her for the sake of our son if nothing else. Aliens do not know the concept of alienation that humans are supposed to have after divorce. So I continued to tell people what a nice capable person she was. Meanwhile she was telling people I beat her and had major anger issues. She even claimed I would not have achieved my seminary degree without her and that she had done all of my work and I could not do anything without her. After all aliens could not understand the convoluted theology of humans. I lost friends because of my neglect and the accusations she was making. Yet I still was trying to be on friendly terms. Aliens are that way.
This went on for a couple years until one of my friends shook me and said you know she is out to kill you. The shaking must have worked; the alien was now gone. Suddenly I got the message. She hated me. I am a slow learner especially when aliens are interfering with my neural pathways. She wanted me to suffer so that the alien was no longer able to withstand the pain and would leave my body. Her actions were the greatest act of love one could receive or at least that is the way I choose to look at it.
Sometimes you spend fourteen years as a body-snatched human and are unable to see eye to eye with another human. Insight is sometimes earned the hard way. It was not as bad as she believed and it was obviously not as good as I believed. But when you are in love as the French say C’set la Vie. Or as Eddie Murphy once said Shit Happens. Or na-nu na-nu; that is odd I have no clue where those words came from.
One emergency room visit tells me all I need to know about modern medicine. A few weeks ago I was minding my own business when I caught the flu. Now it was not a serious bout of flu but it did slow me down (i. e, I slept a lot). After the flu had left I still had stuffiness and other symptoms so I made a visit to an Urgent Care facility, although I was not urgent and from their actions neither were they. I finally was seen by the doctor, who said I had no flu or strep throat. I had sinusitis and salivary problems.
The doctor encouraged me to suck on sour candy for treatment. Seeing the bemused expression on my face she gave an explanation. With that and a prescription she sent me on my way. I picked up my prescription and went home, swallowed my pill of modern medicine and went to bed. Two hours later I woke up and went to the bathroom as I was washing my hands to my dismay I discovered my face had grown by a multiple of two. I was having an allergic reaction to the medicine. I called Urgent Care and asked calmly what have you done to me? And what should I do? After an hour I finally talked to a doctor who said go to the emergency room, which is what I did.
The doctor had told me once I got there to tell them I was having an allergic reaction and they would immediately see me. I used my most panicked voice at the ER desk and indeed they immediately took me to the back. Three minutes later I am plugged up and they are doing vitals. They repeatedly ask are you having trouble breathing, which made me want to say should I be.
After a long wait for a word from the doctor he came in and said I am waiting for the EENT doctor to return my call and then we will move you into a room. I ask am I staying overnight. He said yes.
Now I at last knew we were waiting for the EENT doctor. This doctor would be the final arbitrator of what my diagnosis would be and what the treatment they would use. I guess up to now the doctor had been guessing. I told the one whose name can now be mentioned that she could go home I would call once I was in my room. She left as if the place was on fire.
It was quick. I saw the pleasant looking woman coming toward me. I thought she looks nice. She was the EENT doctor. She said I am Doctor Hand and before I could make a joke about an EENT doctor named hand she said open your mouth. She grabbed my cheek and looked inside with her light. She said you are experiencing a little swelling. I laughed a lot. She nodded as if to tell me I will determine that. She looked at the chart to see what treatment the guessing doctor had done. ‘You need to suck sour candy’, she declared. I have not heard that before. These doctors must be invested in lemon drop sours. And the way they said it was why were you not sucking sour candy all your life. I felt like such a failure.
She grabbed my mouth again and showed me mercilessly how to massage my cheek. So violent and harsh was she I examined her closely to make sure she was not my ex-wife in disguise. She peered inside my mouth while she squeezed the insides of my jaws. She said ecstatically, ‘Oh yes puffs of infection are coming out.’ She was so proud of herself. She looked at me again and said ‘you need to suck sour candy and massage your face like I just did. Do you want me to demonstrate how again?’ ‘No!’ I said in total panic.
No longer was I staying overnight; she had diagnosed the problem and I was found lacking. We can get you out of here in another thirty minutes. Now I was without my ride so I called the one whose name we can say now. She was exasperated because she thought she was through with me for the night yet did agreed to come and pick me up. From the hospital we went to pick up my oldest daughter fresh from college. She did not notice my face until I told her it was swollen. She said oh yeah and continued to tell us about her life at college. When I told of my ER room experience the one whose name we can say now said yea that is enough about you, let Maya tell us about what is going on in her life. With this I knew I was on my own. My drama was to be over and I was to move on.
I told my daughters that the wattle that now hung from my neck was the same as a turkey’s and was used to attract females. I wattled it at them to their disgust and said women will not know what hit them once they get a load of this wattle.
The next day they left me, the wattler, at home while they spent money and forgot about wattles. Recovery was slow. Left alone I read the reams of paperwork they gave me. They had yet another suggestion to improve my condition. Shoot a saline solution through one nostril and let it come out the other. I did as I was told, sucked on sour candy, massaged my face without mercy, put saline solutions through my nostrils and yea there were two medications. This is why medical costs continue to go up I guess.
The moral of the story is we have a few meds but we have lots of home remedies. This must be what medical school teaches these days.
Dives answered, ‘Then I beg you,Abraham, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
I woke up looking, as usual, at the ceiling. I noticed right away it was not my room. The ceiling was high and huge. The bed had sideboards and they did not allow me to roll over. What was this I thought? The sideboards were covered with a lace curtain and that was not a blanket over my feet; that was a box, a coffin. I was in a coffin. I noticed the soft music playing in the background. I slowly peeked over the edge of the casket. People were gathered. Lots of my friends and family. It couldn’t be, but this had the appearance of my funeral. With this realization I began to critique the funeral. Not as many people as I would have expected. The music was God awful. Where was my family? And then I did the thing that will live in infamy. I rose up out of the casket.
This caused quite the stir. My ever faithful wife declared, “What are you doing?’ ‘I am not dead.” I replied.” She retorted ‘You think I cannot see that.’ The people in the pews were now stirring and upset.’ My cousin shook his head in disbelief saying, ‘He is such a naïve liberal he does not even know how to die right. Liberals they are so useless.’
I heard a guest I did not recognize say,” I wandered in because I saw the good food but if it is going to be awhile before we eat if you do not mind I will be back in thirty minutes.’ Another person totally confused says, ‘if Mike did not die well who the hell did? I better not be here under false pretenses.’ Another voice from the crowd,’ Such a grandstander!”
In the back of the church, hurrying to the front was the funeral director. With an air of authority he declares, ‘Well, if you are going to stay you need to stick to the scheduled ninety minutes allowed for the room.’
My son looked at me, shaking his head spoke, ‘You probably want to go ahead with the funeral. You always need to be the center of attention. You never let the rest of us have room to breathe. I look at him with tears in my eyes,” You came!” My wife ever present states matter of factly, ‘Do not get too teary eye we had to bribe him with music festival tickets.” “But I am here” my offended son replied.
Everyone in the room is looking at me expectantly; they want to know what we plan to do. I feel inspired and think people might want to hear from a recently resurrected man. ‘ Let’s go ahead. I will deliver the message.’ Suddenly out of a side door comes my preacher brother with great bluster. Now Mike you need to think about you delivering the message most of the people came here because they want to hear me preach. After all funerals are for the living not the dead.’
Suddenly, I look at my wife ‘Why is my brother preaching at my funeral?’ “I couldn’t get anyone else and we are having to pay for him.” Continuing to look at her and why am I not at Bethany church?’ ‘It cost too much to transport your body.’ ‘You could have cremated me at least and then spread my ashes at Bethany right?.’ Exasperated to be honest she declares, ‘We have not gotten that far in the process.’ She continues, ‘But let me say this in my defense it took a lot of planning and money to pull this off. How was I to know you were going to ruin the whole thing?’
My oldest daughter walks up to me,” Dad I love you and everything but is this going to happen because I am scheduled to meet up with some college friends and hike this afternoon.’ I look at her and question, ‘You were not going to stay for the wake afterwards.’ She looks exasperated at her mother” I told you he would want one.’
My youngest daughter comes forward,’ Does this mean I do not get his Chinese prints? I have already chosen the wall for them’ she says disappointingly.
The crowd is totally in an uproar by now with no one knowing what to do. ‘If someone is going to have a funeral they at least should have the courtesy to stay dead. I paid for a hotel room to be here” ‘Are they going to have a service or not. I mean there are two preacher brothers surely we can get one passable sermon from them” “This is awkward. I did not want to be here anyway and now I do not know if the etiquette is to stay or go.” “This is probably nothing more than a radical anti-Trump statement. Mike does not even have respect for the traditions for a good ole fashion funeral.”
I state firmly ‘I have something to say.’ An angry voice from the crowd, ‘You have already done too much. Let your wife speak’ My wife rolls her eyes; in the most sincere voice she can muster she states,’ Let him have his say. You know we will never get out of here until he does.’ My son shakes his head in agreement, ‘Yea Dad get this over with.’ My oldest daughter is on her I phone rearranging her schedule; by her body language you can see she is not pleased with the change in plans she had so carefully orchestrated.
I begin to speak. “I am glad to see everyone here. It is a shame it takes a death to bring us all together like this.’ ‘Except there is no death and now we are stuck with each other,’ mutters my son. I continued “But I think this should remind us …” The funeral director steps forward and interrupts,’ if everyone could please wait for the family as they proceed out and then follow them. This would be great. As you know there will be no graveside service.’ The funeral director takes my wife by the hand and leads her down the aisle as my family follows. I am left standing at the front of the chapel alone. I shake my head get back in the casket and wait for my burial.