It just sat there on the window ledge. Croaking it’s mating call to anything that could hear it. I appeared to be the sole individual hearing its guttural summons echoing throughout most of the common area and into the office. It has the habitual annoyance of over powering everything I do to block it out and I’m beginning to feel the urge to mate with it myself. I walk out onto the screened in patio, the sound of every animal and creature in the throws of mating compulsion are all uniting in chorus.
Following the little path between the building and the fenced in retention pond that constitutes as water front property, under the glow of a fluorescent beacon it sits upon its windowsill balcony. If it was female I could have called it Juliet. With a flick of my fingers my love torn companion is air born into the ragged bushes and dead leaves. Making my way back to the patio, the cacophony appears to be getting louder, as if compensating for the loss.
The rising sounds of the world grow louder and louder; closing in on myself and filling my head with nothing else. The discernable cries of the distinct animals are becoming one whole thunderous rumble, my head is ringing with its overwhelming force and it’s closing in on me in, not only from the darkness but from within me as well. The gnarled trees within the fenced in pond move toward the building, as if the space between us is shrinking, without taking a step, growing larger to encompass everything.
A light is turned on inside, it distracts me and I see Mavis walking to one of the dinning room tables. She’s carrying an arm full of books and papers, a thick brown and green comforter draped over her head. Everything around has returned to the ongoing mating rituals and the dense air encasing the world; all quaint and normal and safe within their boundaries. And then there is Mavis, a pudgy middle-aged woman with a child like contour to her face.
Her smile portents to an innocence that may or may not be there, depending on who diagnoses her; she uses it well when her devious manipulating back fires and her explanations get no sympathy. I watch her, sprawling her belongings onto the table, taking a seat with the comforter still draped over her head, she wraps herself with it and begins separating her papers and books into neat piles. I walk back in, and prepare for the inevitable.
“What’cha doing Mavis?”
“What?” She pokes her head out of the comforter, looking as if I had just spoken to her in a foreign language or she somehow didn’t hear what I had said. “Oh, I can’t sleep in my room tonight. There is poison in the air and it’s gotten into my room.” She pulls the cover over her head once more.
“What poison?” I ask.
“The stuff Chris used to clean the counters tonight. He uses too much of it and I’ve told him thousands of times he can’t use that stuff because he sprays it all over the counters. I need fresh air. I can’t sleep in my room. It smells really bad.” She ends with that deceptive smile and a pseudo-geisha giggle.
I attempt to explain to her that there was no smell of poison or chemical cleaners in the air. I explain to her that had a cleaner been used in the kitchen it would not affect her in her bedroom. All in a reluctant but calm and endearing tone, attempting to defuse the situation before it escalates.
“Oh, it gets into the air conditioner and then to all the bedrooms. I can smell it. That’s all that matters.”
“You don’t smell it here next to the kitchen?”
“No.” She’s looking around for answers; you can almost hear the marbles clanking about in her head. “Because, you know, the air conditioner sucks up all the smell.”
“You know the rules about being out here after bed time.”
“Oh, please, I just want to read and I can’t sleep. It’s cold in here. Can I get some ice water?”
“No ice water and I like it cold in here. I’m sure it’s a lot warmer in your room.” I make my way back to the office.
“But I’ll die in there!” Her voice trailing behind me.
“Yeah, I know, but you still have to go to bed. You got five minutes to clean all that junk you brought out here and head back to your room.” I sit down at the computer and jiggle the mouse to get it going again.
Mavis comes sulking to the office, her head down, attempting to use that child-like innocence. I click on the screen to bring up the desktop, the boss’ grandson on his second birthday, his face smothered in frosting.
“Donald…” She accentuates the syllables like a five year old. “Why can’t I stay in the dinning room? You know Jesus says that when you want something you should take it and I can’t sleep because Gerty is always talking in her sleep.” Gertrud is her roommate; a 55 year old who’s slowly decaying with the AIDS virus.
“Because its bedtime and you know that and you should be in your room.” I pull up a Word document on the computer and begin to type at random to appear busy.
“Well can I tell you something?” She moves into the office and starts to close the door.
“Wait! No. Were not doing this tonight, not again, were not having some heart to heart about your dog, or about the bible, or about the fact that it’s the anniversary of your mom’s death. Step back. Go on.”
“That’s not fair. I need to talk to you.”
“I’ll tell you what’s not fair is what your mom’s going to say when I call her in the morning and explain to her how you’ve been acting these past two weeks.”
She lowers her head once more and heads back to the dining room. Within minutes she storms back past the office carrying all of her belongings and heads for her room, slamming the bedroom door.
Air escapes my lungs in an involuntary sigh. My love torn companion has returned to the window ledge and his swampy serenade begins once more.