A few months ago, I was havin´ breakfast in a little sidewalk restaurant in Melaque after goin´ to the bank to withdraw some money from the bank for expenses.
I wasn´t enjoying it that much, the eggs were cold and the bacon was overcooked. Besides that, it was the high season and the town was crowded and traffic was heavy, and the exhaust from the cars, buses and trucks was enough to take the appetite away from a hog.
I gave up on the hard fried bacon and looked around for the waitress to ask for mi cuenta, the bill, but she was nowhere to be seen. So, I waited. Sat and watched the tourists comin´ and goin´ from the souvenir shops full genuine Mexican folk art made in China.
Then I noticed a car stoppin´ in front of a boutique and a pretty woman comin´ out carrying a coupla bags and getting´ into the car. “That looks like Dotty!” I thought, but the car drove off before I could get a closer look to be sure.
A second later, the waitress appeared and I asked for my bill. I thought about complainin´ about the bacon, but I decided against it. She hadn´t cooked it and she was busy, just tryin´ to make a livin´. I handed her some money, but she didn´t have change, so she apologized and went down the street lookin´ for someone who could break my bill. Five minutes later, she came back. I gave her a tip and walked down to the bus station to catch a bus home. Some days I would have gone down to the beach to watch the waves and the people, but today, I just didn´t feel like it.
The bus was packed and hot. I had to stand up all the way to Barra de Navidad. I decided to get off here and go down to Hector´s Bar for a beer. I could catch a less crowded bus later to get the rest of the way home.
But I didn´t stay long. The only people there that afternoon were a couple of loud-mouthed, know-it-alls I didn´t feel like talking with, who were pontificatin´ on the sorry state of everything. I went home to take a nap. Maybe if I started the day over, things might look a little better.
But, as luck would have it, when I woke up an hour later, I was feelin´ worse. My stomach was curnin´ like a cement mixer and I was sweatin´ somethin´ awful. I had a headache and then I had to make a dash for the bathroom. Things were not right at all.
Dotty came in and asked me “What was the matter?” She was lookin´ a little blurry to me and sorta transparent like my imagination wasn´t turned up to full vividity. On top of that, she was wearing a new blouse I had never seen before. “Damn!”
Even though my suspicions were riled up, I didn´t say nothin´. After all, I could still be wrong. I didn´t really get a good look at the woman getting´ inta the car. Besides, her concern for me seem awfully real – she was bein´ nice to me. She helped me get back inta bed and went and got a cold wet washcloth to put on my forehead.
Three days later, I was feelin´ worse. I had been tossin´ my cookies the whole time, even after there were no cookies left to toss. I decided I better crawl out of bed and go down to the clinic to see a doctor.
“Arrrruuggggh. Mooey infermegagh. Mal thumbaka.” I told the doctor.
The doctor said, “Hmmmmm,” and left the room. He came back with a giant syringe. It looked like the kind they use on horses. He had a smaller one too, and he stuck that on in the crook of my arm and drew some blood. Then, he told me to roll over and pulled down the back of my pants. Then he gored me with the big one. “Arrrrrack!” I commented. He left layin´ there on the examination table writhin´ in agony.
A few minutes later, he came back and told me I had an intestinal infection and gave me some medicine. Then he told me I should scrub down my kitchen with bleach to make sure I didn´t get re-infected.
The next day, I was feelin´ better.
I went to work on the kitchen. My God! The doctor was right! No wonder I had gotten sick. It was a mess. There were cobwebs in the cornes, mold growin´ around the faucets and under the dishrack and mice had been in the cupboards. It looked like I hadn´t swept the floor in a month. How could I have been livin´ in such squalor?
I scrubbed and scraped and mopped, disinfecting everything. Then I went and did the same thing in the bathroom. When that was done, I went to work on the rest of the trailer. I went at it like a man obsessed.
It was obvious that I had been livin´ too long with my head in the clouds. Off in an imaginary daze while everything around me was goin´ to pot. It was apparent that somethin´ had to change. I had been neglectin´ my physical existence! It seemed to me, that I was going to have to take a vacation from Dotty, my imaginary wife, and Charlie and Moonbeam, my inner child and his dog.
I was startin´ to feel a little upset with Dotty anyway. Not only was she distractin´ me from my physical duties, but I was wonderin´ who the hell the bastard was that was drivin´ that car I thought I saw her gettin´ into! But how could I do it! I loved her so dang much, the pain was searin´ my soul. Well, I had to do it. That was all there was to it! If I had to endure it, they would too. I would just havta put them outta my mind for a while. I´d just stay so busy, so I wouldn´t have time to imagine them. They´d just have to take a long nap, which is what they usually do when I´m not attentive anywa.
Things went pretty well for the first few weeks, but then, things started to get weird. I had started to have more time on my hands. I would go to wash the dishes and….nope, already done. Scrub the toilet….that too. And another thing. Mosquitoes started botherin´ me, where as before, I barely noticed them.
I decided to replace all the plumbin´. It was old and make shift from so many jury rigged repairs and it sprung leaks all the time. The spaces where the pipes were in the walls were like little tunnels that were hard to get into. You just about had to be some kind of contortionist to do it. I was so vehement about getting´ it done, that I was less than careful. I was givin´ myself backaches from all the weird positions I had to get into and my fingers were gettin´ cut and scraped to ribbons tryin´ to snake them down narrow passages. By the second day of it, my hands had so many bandaids on them that they looked like mummy claws. This only increased my clumsiness and frustration level.
Then, I encountered the iguana.
It had, evidently, gotten in there somehow, and was livin´ there. I had been hearin´ it at night, but I thought it was mice. I looked everyplace I could think of for it´s entrance. Every possibility I found, I plugged up, but it was still gettin´ in and outta there somehow. Then when I was gluing some pipe together while in some rubber man position in the back of a closet, I accidentally knocked over the glue can. I was cursin´ up a storm, when I looked up, straight into the evil lookin´ hooded eyes of the lizard. It was a big sucker and seemed to be glaring at me with malevolent intent. Then it opened it mouth and said, “Your only usin´ half your brain, idiot!” If I wasn´t in such a small space and practically upside down, I would have flipped.
When I got myself outta the knot I was in, I thought, “Shit! What the hell was that about? Am I losin´ it, or sumthin?” Then I thought “Wait a minute. I´ve seen somethin´ like this before! My imaginary mother-in-law, Marilyn! She sometimes appears as a lizard faced creature, but what was she doin´ here, inside the, very real, walls of my trailer?”
I took a break as sat down to think about what I had just seen. It couldn´t have been Marilyn. I haven´t even thought about Marilyn, or the rest of my imaginary family, for weeks! Was I goin´ nuts? I shook my head in disbelief.
That night, somethin´ else happened. This time it was a dream. I´d had a nightmare. I never have nightmares, but this was certainly one. I was in the thorn forest at night, following dark passages that tunneled through it like a maze. I came to a clearing and stood in the center of it in the moonlight. Then, from out of the darkness, I heard dogs howling and the next thing ya know, they´re surround me, running in a circle. They all looked like viscous versions of Moonbeam, Charley´s dog and they had eyes that glowed a phosphorescent red. Around and around they ran, snarlin´ an yippin´. I was terrified! I thought I might shit my pants! Then I had a thought that I had seen dogs eat shit before, and, maybe, if I threw some to them, it would distract them and I could get away. It was a disgusting thought, but desperate people get desperate ideas. But, then I discovered that I didn´t need to take a shit. I strained and grunted, but nothin´ happened. I just stood there, helpless and panicin´.
Then, all of the sudden, they stopped runnin´ and all turned and faced me. They bared their teeth and growled deep. There would be no escape. Even if I could evade them, I would never find my way back home though the labyrinthine tunnels in the thorn forest. I screamed, and then I was awake.
Other things started happening. I would go into town to the hardware store or the store, and I would see someone who looked like Dotty. She would turn and smile at me and then her face would melt and turn ugly and I could see it wasn´t her. The same sorta thing would happen when I went past the school. There would be Charley playing soccer with the other boys, but it wasn´t him. Then there were the voices. I couldn`t turn them off, tellin´ me what a fool I was.
Soon the dream was happening every night. After a while, I was afraid to go to bed. After several sleepless nights, I looked into the mirror one day, and I was shocked. My face had become drawn and sallow. My cheeks and eyes were sinking. I was aging before my eyes! Then the image went go all liquidy on me and I had to look away.
I was also loosing energy and was becoming lethargic. I was loosing interest in everything I was doin´. I stopped doin´ the repairs and the garden went unwatered and all my beautiful plants began to die and whither. I just sat in my chair as if comatose. I tried to write, but after starin´ at the blank page for an hour, I gave up. I had read somewhere, that the onset of schizophrenia usually occurs when one is younger, but I suppose it could also happen after a great shock or loss. Previously, through writing and story telling and painting, I could, pretty much, direct the play of my imagination. I could make it go where I liked. I had freedom of choice. I could choose which path to walk down. All it took was wanting to go there. What was happening to me was exactly what I imagined would happen if I gave in to the dark side of the imagination. Now, it seemed to me that I had no control over it at all and I was incapable of turning it off!
Finally, one day, I was out in the garden, trying to pull some weeds from around my dying plants, doing anything to keep negative thoughts away and I passed out. There I was, laying in the dirt.
I was dreaming again, the same nightmare. The dogs were closing in, but this time, I didn´t wake up screaming. They came closer and closer, snarling and snapping, and then, they all leapt at me at once.
Then, a miraculous thing happened. They all transformed into cute, little, cuddly puppies. They were climbing all over me, wigglin´ and lickin´ my face and fingers. We were rollin´ around in the dirt, playin´ in the moonlight.
When I awoke, it was nearly dusk. I sat up on the hard, dry, dirt, and I felt different. It was if I had become weightless. My mind was clear, and I felt rejuvenated. Then, I noticed Dotty standing beside me. She knelt down and kissed me on the forehead. Had I died and entered another world? The plants in the garden were vivid and healthy again, flowering in profusion. There were birds, twittering in the canopy of the trees above. She sat down next to me on the earth.
“Was that you I saw that day getting into a car with someone?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “it was.”
“Well, who was it? I wanted to kill him!”
“It was you. I wanted to go shopping for a new blouse, so I conjured your imaginary self up and a car and we went looking for one.”
I was dumbfounded! All that wasted time, lost because stupid jealousy and mistrust! I put my arms around her and held her close and began kissing her eyes and lips.
“I´ve been sick.” I told her.
“Yes, you have. The imagination is an important part of being human. Without it, you became ill and could easily have died. I hate to think what would have happened if Moonbeam hadn´t found you in that dream!”
I could think of no excuses for myself. There was nothing to say….except…perhaps…. “I´m sorry.”
“I´m just happy to have you back again. Let´s get you inside the trailer and get you cleaned up and fed. You look like you could use it. You know, you do need to take the time you need to take care of your physical being. We all need you to. You should never neglect either half of your existence.”
With that, she helped me up and we walked to the trailer, arm in arm.
In love again.