Several miles away, King Jones is waking up. Weak and covered with sweat, his head feels light and tense, the whole right side still aching where the gun report occurred. But the peaceful song of birds quickly soothes him. For once he has nothing to do. The only reason he even needs to get up is so that he can pee. But the luxury of lying in bed and just listening to the sounds around the house makes him worry. He is still shy. No matter what this process has done, it hasn’t taken away his basic personality. Besides, he doesn’t know where the bathroom is, and he doesn’t want to make his debut in the group by letting them know that he has to pee.
A woman he recognizes from when they first came to him years before enters the room as he contemplates bladder control. She carries a tray with a tomato, cheese, and lettuce sandwich on it along with a tall glass of iced tea. He wonders how long he can keep his bladder under control as she glances over the tray at him and says, “Least it wasn’t your whole body, was it? Just your head.” She points at the bandage near the back of his skull as she smiles mischievously down at him.
“It’s not bad yet” she continues. “Wait till you get up and try to function normally. It takes time to get used to your new circumstances. You can eat, though. And it feels just like the real thing...well, it is the real thing, sort of.” She searches his eyes for something, then gives one of her cackles.
“You don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, do you? Really! Me? I did it all with downs, man. And booze. Well, also smack, but it was the whiskey and the ludes that did it. It all came when I didn’t want it. And it took a long time, just like you, once I got here, to overcome my need to get wasted. Most of us have had to deal with that – it was our whole bodies that we put down; but for you, you just acted weird all the time and made people wonder about your cock and why you wore gloves.
“I’m here to take care of you, though, not confuse you. I’m sorry. You been away longer than any of us. Nearly four months. Had some worried, but not me. Like I say, it takes awhile.
“Worst thing is just coming out of it, getting used to a different sense of equilibrium. And there’s some things that are impossible which we can talk about later, like you’ll never have to pee again and all that body stuff. ‘Course, music’s got to be sort of relearned. But it all starts in your mind now, not in your body. Ain’t that a gas? I always thought it was the body that drove the soul or the groove or the funk or whatever you want to call it. But it isn’t. It’s your mind. That’s your soul. Everything from there out is learned. The body is nothing but an extension...at least it is for us now. Maybe it was before, too. We don’t really know. There’s a lot we just really can’t figure out.”
Jones gets a good deal of this, but he still needs to pee. “Um, I need to go to the bathroom,” he finally says quietly.
“Oh sure, it’s down the hall. Second door on the left.” She waits as he tries to sit up.
“Sorry,” she says finally, and bends toward the bed to help him. She isn’t surprised at how light he feels and how easy it is to help move him. She wonders, though, how much he will need her help figuring things out. That’s the main thing everyone is concerned about: he just isn’t like a lot of them. His ego is practically nonexistent. They have no idea if he will make it all the way.
When he comes back, she sees the look of confusion she expected. Again, the sly grin. “Didn’t have to, huh?”
He looks at the floor.
“It takes a while for your body and mind to figure each other out again. Your body doesn’t have to pee, your mind does...which means that you don’t really have to go. It’s just learned. After awhile you’ll stop feeling that pressure. It’s not really there. That’s the good thing. The bad thing, and none of us talk about this much, so don’t tell anyone I told you, is that sex is out the window. Easiest way I can put it is that we’re not really here. Even if you feel like you need to rub your eyes or yawn or scratch something, it isn’t actually there. This state we’re in allows a good deal of compensation for not being here, but we can’t totally overcome the reality of physics. I never paid attention to stuff like that until I got this way, and now I wish I’d read more when I was in school, but I’m learning. When you talk to Jack he might be better able to help you make sense of it all, but most of us spent our lives creating, not learning how things work.”
“Are there children here?” he asks.
“Kids? Nah. You gotta know what you’re doing to get here. You’re probably the closest thing to a child we have.” She pauses to gauge his response and also to wonder if she has just offended him.
“At any rate,” she continues, “I think your work is fantastic. It’s a shame you can’t share it with people anymore. But we’re hoping to learn a lot from you. Now, eat this sandwich and try the tea. Both are very fresh and well worth the trip just in themselves. You’ve got a big day ahead of you. You’ve got a lot of people who are just dying to meet you. I think you’re going to be surprised who you see and what you learn.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish