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One Giant Step

By Shawn Schepps

Michael took me to the emergency room. I don't remember how he got my clothes back on.

I do not know if he got all my clothes back on, all I could remember was that old adage that girls always hear telling us to wear clean panties, that way, if we are ever in an accident no one will think we are deviate or dirty. I think I kept mumbling something about panties while Michael dragged me out to his car. All I could imagine was an intern looking me over and screaming across the emergency room to the other intern on duty, "Hey! Bobby! Look, we got a girl here with dirty panties! God are they dirty! What's wrong with this girl do you think anyway? There must be something very wrong with her to have dirty panties on! Don't give her the I.V. We don't give I.V.s to girls with dirty panties!" So all I could do on my way to the emergency room was mutter that I needed to have my panties on and were they clean? The curly haired rocker came with us. He tried to help out. But he fainted in the car at the sight of all my blood. I guess when he was a junkie blood didn't bother him so much, but since he's been sober and in a twelve step program, bodily functions make him queasy. Reminds him of his former self. So he fainted dead away. Michael ended up having to carry me into the emergency room first with his one arm and then the famous guitar player with the same one arm. Of course the young nurses all went completely mental when they saw Michael carrying the unconscious famed man into the emergency room. They forgot about me right off the bat as I bled all over the waiting room floor and flitted about the guitarist with the curly long hair just dying for him to wake up and maybe fall in love with one of them. A very tall over-enthusiastic nurse gave the guitarist a bit too much oxygen and he puked all over her. Finally they took me and by this time Michael wouldn't speak to me he was so angry. I guess I went a bit insane in the ladies room at the studio. I guess I bled all over the front seat of Michael's Mercedes. I've offered to have the seat recovered, I'd pay of course. But Michael is very mad at me. He keeps storming in and out of my bedroom, slamming cups of tea and turning the air conditioner on and off. I have a white bandage wrapped around my head. Blood stains show through it. This is not attractive. The left side of my face has turned black and blue. I almost broke my nose. The doctors kept saying I was lucky. Lucky. What is luck anyway? Michael did a good job of keeping me out of the psychiatric unit. They wanted to put me there. I think he slipped the doctor a rather large contribution to the children's wing still under construction. And now he is mad at me. He is clanging about. Marlene is here with him. He called her. She is on my automatic dial. I lay in my bedroom as they talk about me. My head is killing me, but I can have no pain killers. Not until the swelling goes down. My head stabs me as I listen to them talk about me. Michael doesn't understand. What is wrong with me? How can I be so sweet and tender one moment and then so balmy the next? It is not Michael's fault. To understand a person one needs information. I have never given Michael the information he needs. I have never given anyone the proper information. I have let my giant, my affliction, build up like a constant hurricane thrashing me from one spongy wall to another. I am all internal live wire. I burn myself constantly. There is no putting out the flame. I am united with my secrets. I have been loyal to my secrets. I have been cloistered with my secrets of rage and shame for so long, they have caused me to take off all my clothes and bang my head against a wall in a public bathroom. To bleed on Michael's car. To bleed on Michael. A one armed man. Marlene is trying to comfort Michael. She offers to read his palm, but Michael will not stop pacing the length of my living room.

"Well, Michael, maybe she needed attention." I hate Marlene right now.

"But I give her attention. I give her a lot of attention."

"Cali's high strung. She gets hysterical easily. She's artistic and Jewish. It's not your fault."

"I know it's not my fault," he sounds vitriolic, "I didn't do anything wrong. See, this is what happens with people, you try and try and try to be there for them and they shit on you. I mean she bled all over my car and the recording studio. I work there. I have my reputation to think of. I work there for God's sake. Does she do drugs, Marlene? Because I can always tell when someone does drugs and I just didn't peg her for that."

"She does food." Thanks, Marlene.

"Food? What are you talking about?"

"She uses food like drugs."

"Oh please. My God. My God. My God. What is all this about food? She likes food. She's robust. I like that. I love her body. What's all this about food. Oh please. Everyone has to have an excuse. I'll never get the blood out of the front seat of my car."

"Michael, do you want me to read your palm? You seem tense."

"I am tense, thank you. Yes. I am very upset. I'm sorry. This has been very upsetting and she won't talk to me and I'm not supposed to upset her. I don't know why it happened. I am speaking harshly. I am just very upset."

I hear Marlene go into my kitchen and pop open a caffeine free Diet Coke. Michael paces. My head is throbbing. I have no excuses. It has all come tumbling down on me. I get up off the bed. My head pounds. I do not care. I must get out. I must escape the good intentions and the bad intentions and the excuses I can no longer make for myself. For my war-torn body. For my relationship with food. I cannot explain myself. I am too long and detailed. I have wrought damage, yet I cannot emotionally pay for my mistakes. Not this day. I pull my black leather bag out of my closet and stuff clothes into it, tampons, some make-up. I pack up my computer. I cannot stay here with my dirty deeds. I cannot forgive myself in order to let Michael forgive me. I cannot undo thirty years of lies and self-deceit in an explanation. My head screams out in pain. I do not care. I must simply go. I create havoc as long as I stay. And I hurt people. And I hurt myself. And I hurt Michael because I cannot communicate to him all the information. It would take volumes to make him understand. I am nauseated, but I know that I must go. And it makes me so sad. He is so beautiful. Maybe one day he will forgive me. I will write him a long letter of love and apology begging his forgiveness of me. Send him a check and pay for his car. Tell him that I have fallen in love with him. But I cannot be with him. Not now. I must flee this place. Michael and Marlene are in the kitchen still complaining about me. I write a quick note and leave it on my bed. I tell Michael that I love him. But I am tarnished. Soiled. I can only run. I could not bear the scrutiny of his eyes. His arm. His mouth folded up into a frown while I limply told him that I was defective. That he must exchange me for a new one. And with all my being I do not want him to trade me in, but he cannot have me as is. I am a discounted model. He will put a lot of time and money into me and I may never work. To tell him this would break my heart. To say the words would scald me. So instead I tiptoe out the door. I never give him a chance. I never give myself a chance. I never let him know. I keep the information to myself. I must purify my hatred. I must create a change. I must be alone. I quietly close my front door and stumble to my car. It is a beautiful Los Angeles morning. Dew is crisply sparkling on the leaves and everything smells pretty and new. I can see the hills clearly and the sun shines but it is not hot. I hope no one breaks into my apartment. I hope Marlene has the presence of mind to water my plants. I do not care. I am already gone.

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