Everything was hazy.
“Matthew,” called a muffled voice, “time to wake up.”
My surroundings, although fuzzy, would come into slow, painstaking focus as the voice gently called to me.
“Matthew, how do you feel?”
I was cold, despite the thick blanket draped over my listless body. I was sitting in a dentist’s chair and was awake. I guess that my oral surgery must be over.
Buzzing around me was my surgeon, whose name I did not remember, and a couple of comely assistants, whose names I wish I did. They kept asking me questions, attempting to discern if my anesthesia had worn off enough to permit discharge.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, “I am ready to leave.” Each of the assistants took hold of my hands and helped me out of the chair. When I seemed properly set on my feet, they asked if I was doing alright. I nodded. They gently released their hold, and down to the floor I fell like a wet noodle.
They tried to help me up, but I would have none of it — I slapped their hands away, frustrated at the unwanted attention. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” I barked. But instead of standing up, I started to crawl towards the exit. The doctor, embarrassed by my display, barked at me to get up. “No!” I yelled. I reached up, turned the doorknob, and continued slithering into the lobby.
My mother was at the receptionist’s counter, in the middle of writing a check for the procedure. When the door popped open, she stood stunned at the site of her youngest, doped-up and army-crawling into the room. Other parents in the room emulated my mother’s reaction, while their kids giggled in highest of amusement. I reached my mom, wrapped my arms around both her legs, and settled down for a well-earned nap.
My brother Michael was in the audience, sitting on a nearby couch and enjoying every minute of my show. Mom bent down to wrench herself free from my grasp, and Michael popped over to rib me in the process. I don’t remember much of what he said, but the words “Spaz!” and “Idiot!” come to mind. At the very least, he prevented me from starting my nap, and for that I hated him. If I wasn’t so doped up, I might have been able to fire back a witty retort about the patch he was forced to wear for his lazy eye.
Mom was terribly embarrassed and you could hear it in her voice. “Matthew, get up!” she snapped. Grabbing my wrist, she forcefully directed me out of the office, into the elevator, and beyond to our waiting car. Dad was inside, and any happiness at seeing his family was muted upon catching my mother’s sour expression. Not needing to ask what happened, he flatly declared, “Alright, Maffers (his nickname for me), let’s get you home.”
“No!” I retorted.
Dad was taken aback. “What do you mean, ‘No’?!”
“I wanna go t’ Simon David,” I slurred.
Simon David was Dallas’s oldest gourmet grocer. Earlier in the day, I read they had just opened a small handful of supermarket-sized venues. Somehow in my drug-induced state, this sounded interesting to a ten-year old child.
“No, we need to get you home,” Dad said.
I screamed, “No! I wanna go t’ Simon David!”
As Mom and Dad still needed to buy groceries that night’s dinner, they relented.
When the four of us arrived, I assumed my usual position as cart handler. My parents walked at the helm, excepting me to take up the rear as usual. A minute later, they turned around to check on me, but I wasn’t there. I had disappeared along with the cart.
I could be found on the opposite end of the store, briskly navigating each aisle and filling the cart with every bright color or shiny sheen that industrial packaging could provide. Soon it was overflowing with various sundries, a super-majority of which did not need.
My family eventually discovered me. Mom would later tell me that she was more embarrassed at that moment than at the doctor’s office. Dad assigned Michael to keep an eye on me while the two of them went through the laborious task of putting back the sundried tomatoes, Black Sea caviar, and fizzy French water that wasn’t on our grocery list. Then we checked out and drove home.
When we returned home, my brother and I discharged our official shopping duties: he unloaded dry goods into pantry, while I filled the refrigerator. I opened the door and bent over to transfer vegetables into the lower-level crisper bins.
Unbeknownst to me, the gravitational pull of the planet earth was beginning to exert a stronger pull, but only on myself. In one slow motion, I was brought down to one knee while continuing to unload groceries. Then came both knees. Soon enough, I sat on the floor in a side-saddle fashion. After the final item was inside the ice box, I closed its door and sat with my back against the cold, steely metal. My eyes felt heavy, and a shit-eating grin emerged on my face.
The air was then pierced by a determined squeak. I looked down, and there was our oldest Siamese cat Martha Mitchell. Three years older than me and already ancient by this time, with her trademark blue eyes now a steeled grey, she was frail but still full of vigor. Time had turned her purring meow into a single note of a screech that sounded like a rusty screen door. She sashayed up to my side and began to purr.
I looked outside and caught glimpse of our swimming pool. Then I looked back at her, and an idea came to mind that seemed just as logical as visiting a grocery store half-drunk.
“Hey, Martha! Wanna go schwimmin’!?”, I asked.
The last thing I remember is my dad yelling, “Goddamnit!” as he snatched me by the shirt collar, then tossed me into bed, where I immediately passed out.
I didn’t wake up for two days.