Authors: Kirk Farber
The postcard is everything, but looks like nothing. An inconsequentialâ¦
I call my sister, Natalie, and tell her about myâ¦
Gerald the Post Office Guy is an affable man. He'sâ¦
Zoe was needy. She needed to be entertained and sheâ¦
“How would you like to be making double what you'reâ¦
The next day is like the day before. Phones ring.
My dog, Zero, and I are in the living room,â¦
I decide to give Gerald the Post Office Guy anotherâ¦
At the time of my father's death, my family livedâ¦
I'm doing it again, the car-wash thing. It's raining hardâ¦
There was a time after Mom died and before Natalieâ¦
The postcard I receive next has a photo of aâ¦
When I finally find Sunny Smiles, I'm not smiling andâ¦
Back home, Zero is not impressed with my travels. Iâ¦
They keep telling me it's almost over.
“You forgot all about me,” a voice cries.
I cup my hand over the phone and hope Natâ¦
First, it's the yelling. The man behind the double-thick glassâ¦
Inside the phone booth it smells like soup. I'm afraidâ¦
My feet are tired and my body achy from allâ¦
I'm not loud and I'm not rude, so I don'tâ¦
In my hotel room, I turn on the television andâ¦
Barcelona is brighter than I imagined. So much sun, it'sâ¦
My vision and hearing are officially gone. All I canâ¦
Rotating the channels on my hotel television allows me toâ¦
Screaming in the middle of the night can draw attention.
I've read that in Haiti, magic is a part ofâ¦
This image is stuck in my mind: a glorious bloomâ¦
The basement feels exceptionally musty tonight. Maybe it's just myâ¦
“Exhaustion,” Dr. Singh says, avoiding eye contact. He dots i's onâ¦
The thing with Candyce wasn't entirely my fault. The wholeâ¦
Candyce is actually quite attractive. Aside from the blue streakâ¦
Wanderlust Incorporated is busy today. The office noises blend togetherâ¦
I know I shouldn't, but the credit card companies keepâ¦
My cell phone vibrates just as Gazelle has completely encasedâ¦
The voice isn't familiar, but the number is. It's theâ¦
The next morning, I am restless. I stand before theâ¦
“Do you know where you are?” the voice asked. Iâ¦
The four bars on my phone are holding steady, finally,â¦
The lilac bushes were in the back, a long lineâ¦
The orchestra music stops abruptly, followed by a few secondsâ¦
I watch the tanks to keep my mind off theâ¦
The Vicodin I've been prescribed has left me feeling softâ¦
Sit and breathe. This is what we do on topâ¦
Back home, I sit on my front porch and stareâ¦
Dream interpretation has never made sense to me, but Candyceâ¦
I sit straight up in bed, shocked into reality, awakenedâ¦
Since it's the weekend, I sleep until noon. I throwâ¦
Maybe it's our mutual appreciation of peace and quiet, orâ¦
I drag myself through Monday's standard promotion at Wanderlust, andâ¦
So, another postcard. Illegible for the most part, leaving meâ¦
The first three hit right on target. Three small stones,â¦
The monotony of everything about this place is driving meâ¦
When the soil slides between your toes, when you feelâ¦
I am in a celebratory mood. My clean CAT-scan resultsâ¦
I know there will be bruises on my waist theâ¦
The Randomizer picks a number and I wait for someoneâ¦
“What's the big deal?” Natalie asks. “It's a phone call.
Today I wouldn't mind if a postcard arrived from Tokyo.
A pair of female bronze legs walk toward me, theirâ¦
The boy doctor who recently gave me stitches now hasâ¦
It was summer when Zoe and I moved in together.
Melanie and I agree to meet at The Basement; it'sâ¦
In my dreams, Melanie and I ride a Jet Skiâ¦
We're here again, together, sitting in a restaurant across fromâ¦
Driving clears my headâthe movement, the white noise, the tangibleâ¦
I get out of my car and take a fewâ¦
As I pull in my driveway, I am exhausted. Openingâ¦
The smell of earth is all around me. Slowly, Iâ¦
There is a Zen-like state achieved through having a cleanâ¦
That night I dream of beaches. Tropical landscapes with coconutsâ¦
The airline business should call red-eye flights dark-purple. My eyesâ¦
The postcard is everything, but looks like nothing. An inconsequential sheet of pressed pulp decorated with a few drops of ink, it barely exists in the physical realm. But this one has got hold of something inside me that feels like forever. I follow the looping lines that make up Zoe's penmanship, the soaring arcs and inky swirls. I try to understand the true implications of her words, the hidden message behind the surface one. What a ridiculous phrase: wish you were here.
My throat starts to burn because I'm getting upset. My head feels hollow. Tiny white spots float in my field of vision. I know this means that the lilac thing is about to happen again, and sure enough, it follows like alwaysâa sweet scent floating through the room, a palpable sense of time blurring. My vision and movement go syrupy in a moment of wooziness, as if the universe has slowed everything down so I'll pay attention. But my hearing remains crystal-clear.
I'm sitting on my living room couch, so what I hear is the TVâ
Messages from the Other Side
, I think is the show. John the TV psychic says someone is coming through, an old woman named Wilkins, and she needs to talk to a J name. He follows with specific
facts: Grandma Wilkins liked to make pasta in the kitchen and spread it out all over the house to dry; she was a closet smoker; on her left breast she had a rose tattoo that her high school boyfriend had convinced her to get.
Nobody else could have possibly known these things.
The family member in the audience, her heart clenched, nods and cries, then can't hold it back anymore and yells out, “Yes! That's Grandma Rose!” in such a genuine outpouring of grief and hope and joy and hurt that it's all too clear she is not an actress, and this is not a feigned reality TV show. Somehow, inexplicably, this is the real deal.
So sincere is her reaction that I realize I'm crying too, and it's caught me off guard. I mean, I don't even know Grandma Rose. And the damn lilac scent keeps tickling my nose and I can't stop the tears even if I want to, and I don't.
Then it stops. Time returns to its normal pace and the smell is gone. A commercial for macaroni and cheese flickers on TV. I feel dizzy and anxious, like I've just missed something. I wait for more, but the weird moment is gone.
My fingertips vice-grip Zoe's latest postcard. This one's supposedly from Barcelona. “Dear Sid, I'm having a wonderful time!” it says in frilly writing. And underneath those words, that awful clichÃ©: “Wish you were here!”
“Wish I was where?” I ask the postcard. “Where the hell are you?” I whip the card across the room, Frisbee-style, but it tips up, does a loop, and floats unharmed to the ground.
John the TV psychic returns to relay communications of forgiveness and healing to the family member in the audience, who has now recovered from her crying spell. I'm not crying anymore either, but I'm not feeling consoled. I'm wishing that just once the psychic would make contact with a malevolent spirit who
is still pissed at the living, who has only messages of doom and foreboding.
That's what I feel like lately, a spirit. I find myself staring at the walls a lot, like a zombie. I know I'm doing it, but there doesn't seem to be a proper alternative. When I'm not staring, I'm throwing things. I'm a thrower. Coffee cups. Chairs. Inanimate objects that may have wronged me. Things that get in my way.
My mother was a kicker. If the cat got in her way, she would kick it out of the way. I caught her once, doing this kicking, and stared at her, horror-stricken. “I didn't kick it,” she pointed out. “I moved it.” I guess that made Mom a mover. I'm a thrower.
I call my sister, Natalie, and tell her about my experience. She's a physician. I don't tell her everything. I tell her I think I'm catching a cold and that my head slowed down, got kind of gummy.
“Sounds like fever symptoms. I wouldn't worry about it, Sid,” she says.
“Get more sleep, drink more fluids, ride it out.”
There's something else, I tell her.
“Besides the fever?”
“Yeah. I sort of smelled something.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was sort of flowery.” I deliberately choose not to mention that it was lilac. “It was really strong, then gone.”
This makes her pause.
“What?” I ask. She should know by now not to be quiet for too long when I'm waiting for a diagnosis.
“Has this happened often?”
“Once or twice.”
She makes a clicking noise with her tongue. “It might be good to
get you in for a CAT scan, Sid. Sudden, strong smells can be associated with brain problems. Not to scare you, but just to be safe.”
“You mean like tumors?”
“You think I have a tumor.”
“I didn't say that.”
“I'm the walking dead is what you're saying.”
“Forget the CAT scan. Just call me if it happens again.”
“A zombie,” I say under my breath.
“You're fine, Sid. Probably just a fever.”
We say our good-byes. Natalie jokes that I'm a hypochondriac, but she's been less patient with me lately as she's expecting a baby and the first trimester kicked her in the ass. I guess she can comfort only so many needy souls. Ever since Mom and Dad died, she's played an unspoken parent role, but with her own little parasite slowly sucking the life force out of her, she doesn't need me calling so often.
If I ever told her that Zoe was sending me a steady stream of postcards from the other side, I'm sure she would have me committed.