Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A divorced man's death in Pleasantville

Things are fine until they're not. For gods sake don't disrupt. Routines set like cheap glue. The pieces fit. They fit until they don't. Deviations disrupt. Divorces disrupt. The cracks creep in. Cracks conspire. Pleasantville might crumble. Don't disrupt.

Apparently the neighbors bore my divorce well. They're not speaking to me either. Neither are they waving. The waving has altogether stopped, as though deliberate and planned in secret. For gods sake don't wave.

Before, as neighbors, we were the masters of the waving. We loved waving, from our cars, yards, porches, from the ends of dog leashes, and living room windows. But especially from our cars. Easy waves those waves were.  

One diligent hand on the wheel, the other hand shot up, eager, to meet a neighbor's offering like a high five between teammates, but with 50 feet of buffer between palms. Throw in head nods for extra credit; smiles for even more.

Happily we waved, glad to see each other we waved, after long days of herding cattle, teaching, healing, litigating, law enforcing, selling car parts, and/or mothering.  We well-wished the ones who left, and welcomed their return back home again with enthusiasm. On it went with the waves. Like clockwork, the waves. In waves, the waves. 

Until the waves stopped. No more waves. Just awkward offerings to empty spaces. Something died and sent the waves into hiding. Hands remain planted in front pockets like bodies buried among gravestones. Their hands don't rise to meet my hands anymore. They mourn now. No more waves.

A death, you see. The demise of a marriage, you see. My own. And other deaths, the deaths of their relationships to her — a fellow neighbor — who left in a moving truck on a cold afternoon in December.

A death in Pleasantville, so it goes.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Social Medicine

Mr. Davison yelled “action” through a hospital mask.  Dr. Beck formed a fist.  He restrained the urge to throw it through Mr. Davison’s mask, which was dainty and made Mr. Davison look like a woman.  Some loose teeth seemed like nothing at all to the doctor.  Davison stood near the operating room door and waved a free hand, gesturing the doctor to move it along already.  A few loose teeth, Beck muttered, reaching for the scalpel.  He turned to the patient.

“Is everyone ready?” he said, looking around the room with its dark walls and cold floors.  His team nodded.  “Is the live feed ready?  How many are online?”

“We’re rolling, Doc,” Mr. Davison’s mask fluttered when he spoke, and hung limp over his face like a loose Kleenex, under Black rimmed glasses, thick and iconic.  “Over a thousand people online and tuned in,” Davison said.  The soon-to-be dad surveyed monitors, pecked at his keyboards, and clicked his mouses from inside a fortress of gadgets.

“Fantastic,” Beck said, to no one really.  He regarded the nerd across the room standing behind a command center by the operating room door.  Unaware of his hands again, he clenched a fist around the shaft of the scalpel.  The pop of knuckles brought his attention back.

The patient, Mrs. Davison, was anxious.  She shifted her gaze between the doctor, her husband, and camera one — giving most of the sparkle in her eye to camera one.  

The C-section was elective.  I’m not putting up with unknowns, she’d said.  Her nails were done Friday and her hair done early Saturday morning before the webcast, before going under the knife.  

She looked stunning.  Beck had always considered her attractive, physically, though she put a lot of unnecessary effort into her looks.  Her body bore the pregnancy well.  It was a shame, he thought, to cut this woman open, not when all her parts were good to go.

Still in the womb, Arlee Davison was famous before she was even born.  She was a Facebook baby.  Comments flooded in under the her mother’s status update, which read: “Vrooom! Vrooom! Friends: please join us as we welcome Arlee Davison into our lives.  Birth is scheduled for 11:00 AM Saturday.  Don’t be late!”  173 people liked it.  Voyeuers friended Mrs. Davison just to watch.  Flattered, she accepted the requests on the spot.  

Dr. Beck was dismayed by the openness of it all, the utter lack of tact.  Mrs. Davison said she didn’t want to miss anything, that this was her moment.  She was the lead actress in her own little corner of the Internet, on her own reality TV show.  She’d feasted on the attention heaved upon her during pregnancy, which was almost over now.  This was her big finish.  

Beck thought that people generally gave the Davison’s whatever they wanted.  They were well-educated, well-liked, and well connected.  They asked; they got.  It was a creed.  Downstairs in legal, heads spun how this whole production was even possible.  But there it was.  

Medicine meets social media.  A new kind of social medicine was the future, and it was now.

“Are you ready, honey?” Mrs. Davison whispered for her husband.  Mr. Davison sat pouting on a stool, consumed.  He was irked by the surgical lighting.  

“This is shit,” he said.  “It’s too harsh.”  His skill was suspended in the spotlight — exposed under the glare like his wife’s protuberant belly.  As a filmmaker he was clueless, an amateur.  But technology made him an expert, much like blogs made writers out of housewives.  

Davison was ordered to stay out of the way, but his presence took over the place.  Beck was pissed.  That morning after he spotted the Davison’s abandoned minivan blocking the emergency room entrance.  The tailgate door was flung open and the hazard lights flashed like an ambulance.  Beck stomped toward the entrance.  Davison sprinted out to get more gear.  

“Dr. Beck, good timing,” he said.  “Hey, would you grab those two laptop bags, the big black duffle bag, and that red backpack in the back seat?  You know where they’re going, right?”  Davison slapped the doctor’s back.  Beck’s ire simmered beneath a cool facade.  Should he hold out a hand for a tip?

“You shouldn’t park here.”

“Shit, I know it now.”  Davison jerked a thumb over his shoulder, “they’re giving me crap about it inside.” 

Beck waived his finger around at the air, at the walls, the doors, and ceiling.  “NO PARKING; the signs.  See?”  What the hell was the point?  He wrestled the gear out of the minivan and waited for Davison to pull away.  Davison sped off for the parking lot.  Beck plopped the bags down on the walkway as soon as the minivan lurched out of sight.  The muffled clunk of gear hitting pavement creased a rare smile on the doctor’s stony face.  He went inside almost cheerful.

His good mood wouldn’t last, though, souring again before the procedure, where he and Davison got along like cold war diplomats, each adamant about how things would go.  Davison stalked the physician around the room asking about camera angles, where could he stand, why was the Internet so slow, could he ask Beck questions during the procedure, how long would it take, where did Beck go to medical school.  

Beck cut him off, “Just stay the hell out of my way, Mr. Davison, it’s an operating room for Chrissake.” 

Beck, the medical staff, Mrs. Davison, and over a thousand Facebook friends online waited for “the director” now, his head buried in the glow of a laptop screen.  

“Honey? We’re ready over here,” Ms. Davison said.  She waited.  They all waited.  “He can get so focused sometimes.”  She loved the man, obtuse as he was.  His firstborn child was poised to enter the world on a blood red tide, and Davison was locked in the embrace of the shiny blue masthead on Facebook, watching the live feed.  

“This goddamn light is killing the mood,” Mr. Davison groaned, he was absorbed.  “Where’s the magic?”  He said it felt like a fucking tire store in here, and that all of them looked like glorified mechanics in scrubs.  

Beck had had it.  He wanted to take a tire iron to Davison’s shiny toys, and when he was through with them, go smack some rubber-gloved sense into the father-to-be, the little shit.  

“You’re killing my patience, Mr. Davison.”

“Beck, you’re lucky we picked you for the catch,” Davison said.  “Just do your part and watch all the fertile Facebook mothers line up for prenatal care.”  

“You’re done, Davison.”  

Here was a man suffering from acute unawareness.  No oaths would be broken, not in Beck’s mind, even if he took to beating the shit out of the man.  The hospital and state medical board might see differently, sure.  He would plead temporary insanity and hope for the best.  

Beck removed his hospital mask and cap and walked right into the camera shot, filling the frame with the sky blue tint of his surgical scrub.  “You missed something here today, tragically,” Beck said.  

The surgeon hung a right hook squarely into Mr. Davison’s jaw, framed behind the dainty hospital mask.  Davison hit the floor hard, his nerd glasses skidding across the black tile.  Viewers could only guess what had happened because it happened off screen.

Beck walked out the door — cool and confident, without a care in the whole damn world.  The medical team scrambled out after him. 

Chat windows opened in rapid succession.  Mrs. Davison waited there alone, lit-up by the surgical lights and prepped for her C-section, a single camera trained on her sour face, and still the star of her own little reality TV show streaming live on Facebook.