The Liquid Metric


Sunny smiled loopy, the medication entering her bloodstream: “I am so sweet…”

Her mouth was curling playful, her eyes closed as she slipped inward, deeper and deeper… farther back. Farther down.

Dr. Diamond, observing from his leather chair across the room: “Sweet?”

Sunny lay back, stretching, head falling into pillow. “Well, relaxed and um… a little loose?” She laughed to herself

“You can feel it. That’s good.” Dr. Diamond could see her muscles relaxing, her breathing deepen and slow. She was responding well- so far. It wasn’t always this easy. Sometime they freak out.

Sunny, nodding now, going tonic, her eyelids melting, eyeballs in motion underneath. Dr. Brian Diamond leaned forward, checking the equipment: Recorder: running, Camera: on. The IV dripped consistent, even as an hourglass, ticking two milligrams a milliliter. Sunny submerged, lowered into unconscious memory with every drop of liquid clear. It slid lazy down the tube to the hypodermic pinned to the bend of her elbow. Outside the sun was leaving the sky, casting purple shadows across the room and long lines in the parking lot below.

“You’re going to go back… you’re going to travel backwards.” Dr. Diamond’s deep Scottish voice took a soothing tone, and he spoke just above a whisper. “You’re in my office, you’re warm and you’re dry… you’re safe, and there is nothing here to harm you. I want you to take in a deep breath, and when you breathe out you’re going to let the walls fall away... I want you to take me back to that night.”

Sunny shifted, her heavy frame creaking the couch, her breathing deliberate. She swallowed, opening her mouth to speak. Nothing came out. The bag of magic juice hung on the pole, dripping.

“You’re going to take me back to that night, the night you can’t talk about... the night that everything went wrong...” She was still, and the doctor said a silent prayer that she wasn’t having a bad reaction to this experimental drug, that she wasn’t in the ten percent for psychotic episode, coma. Or worse.

Just then Sunny smiled, miles away. Diamond leaned forward.

“I remember. I remember it was a Saturday night and my Mom was going out, going out for the night and she hired this babysitter... the babysitter’s name was Paula, and I had never seen her before. Paula was old- and ugly- she was probably only thirty but back then to me she looked old… and ugly. I was nine...? Mom left me with Paula, and right away Paula got into the liquor cabinet- she must have- because I could see that she was drunk and something was wrong, something was wrong. Something was wrong with her besides being drunk.”

“What else was wrong with her?”

Sunny licked her lips. “Various things.”

And Diamond, for the time being, left that alone.

“When I asked Paula for supper… because it was suppertime. And she wouldn’t do it- she sent me to my room- just down the hall from the kitchen- and she told me to go to sleep. She sent me to my room and told me to go to sleep, and I couldn’t go to sleep- it was 6:30- but I went to my room and she locked the door anyway. And I heard a man’s voice outside and I knew it was her boyfriend, had to be her boyfriend that she invited over.”

The doctor inhaled, bracing himself. Sunny was mesmerized.

“That’s when I saw the snake... he was slithering in the corner of my bedroom just underneath the closet door. I swear to you it was a real snake... and I screamed so loud that Paula opened the door and I ran out of my room. And I saw Paula and her boyfriend... they were...” Sunny nodded, acceptance.

“What? What were they doing?” He had stopped making notes- he could review the recordings later. Right now he would relive this night with her, feel it. Be there.

“They were making hamburgers... in front of the television. And the television was on. They were cooking hamburgers on a hot plate... with my Mother’s spatula. And when the boyfriend saw me he hid the ketchup... because it was our ketchup? Paula chased me back in my room and took out all the light bulbs. From my lamps. And she left me in there with the snake... ”

She was speaking in a rugged, drugged voice: numbed… metered…

“Sunny,” Diamond shifted forward, almost slipping out of his chair, “are you aware that we’ve never gotten this far before? This is the first time you’ve been able to talk about that night…”

“I cried... I tried… I tried to cry myself to sleep but it wouldn’t work. I heard music from outside my door and I went out to see what was going on... Paula was in her bathing suit... a one-piece bathing suit, red and white stripes. Or red and white polka-dots. The boyfriend was watching racing on TV... you know, race cars? They were going around in those circles and… around in those circles. And there were two dogs sitting at the kitchen table. Strange dogs... I never saw them before. Black dogs, like Labradors. And they were sitting at the kitchen table like they were waiting for food to be served. But there was no food on the table... just a bowl of cream. Cream is for cats, right Mom?”

The doctor wasn’t sure if he should respond, wasn’t sure if he should role-play Sunny’s mother or simply-

“Paula saw me standing there, threw an ashtray at me when she saw me... I got out of the way before it hit me. She was cursing and she called me ‘little pig.’ Then the boyfriend got up and said something like, ‘I’ll handle her’ or ‘I’ll take care of this...’ and he was smoking a big cigar and the dogs were panting like they were dehydrated or something. The dogs were eating the cream. And the boyfriend took me into my bedroom.”

Diamond’s cell phone was vibrating on the desk across the room. He wanted to reach out and shut it off before it woke her, but he was afraid standing up might have the same effect. Goddammit!

“And it’s black in my room, black as socks, and the boyfriend sat down with me on the bed, and he said, ‘You’re safe, there is nothing here to harm you…’ He was trying to put me to sleep, I think. He wanted to make me sleep. He said, ‘That wasn’t a snake you saw that was an extension cord.’ But then he told me if I turned the lights on the extension cord would become a snake for real and then there was no turning back. I asked him why… why it had to be dark, why I had to go to sleep.”

Brian’s eyes were blinded by the sky outside, on fire as the sun burnt out, heavenly pink and magenta.“What happened after that?”

“I had to go the bathroom. I snuk out of my room and the boyfriend was gone... and the dogs were gone... and there was a newborn baby on the kitchen table but it wasn’t mine… It wasn’t my baby... it just wasn’t. And I made it into the bathroom and I saw them in the bathtub and they were feeding each other chocolate. It was delicious chocolate and I asked them and they said no… They said no I couldn’t have any chocolate.”

“Who was in the bathtub, Sunny?”

There was a pause as Sunny licked her lips, sniffing.

Diamond waited almost a minute but couldn’t run the risk of her straying from the memory. Tears were falling from Sunny’s closed eyes, but she was too deep, too close to turn back now.

The doctor spoke low: “Who was in the bathtub, Sunny.”

Even in the trance she reached up to wipe away the water streaming into her ears. “It was… my Father... it was my Father, and he said…”

Her voice was thicker, quavering, as her chest heaved involuntary.

“He looked at me, and he was laughing, and he said…”

Sunny sobbing, fighting the emotion.

“He looked at me and he said-”

“I’m sorry,” the doctor interrupted, “but we’re out of time for today.”


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