Inside Out

Garmish Sly awoke with an awful, horrific headache. He recognized it as either the aftermath of, or a prelude to, an episode. It wasn’t unusual, but it was unwelcome.

He spoke, out loud.

“I think they scalded my brain.  The thoughts, they scalded my brain.  They are so coarse and hot they’d melt a ten-inch cube of solid steel. They’d transform that massive chunk into a quivering, shaking, throbbing silver sphere, the metallic equivalent of jello. Like mercury spilling out of a giant broken thermometer, right?”

He was not sure whether he was speaking or just thinking the words, until he saw himself in the mirror, his mouth moving, his words emphasized with sharp jabs of his hands into the air. But, as he watched the mirror, he closed his mouth, yet the soliloquay continued.

Wait. Scalded may not be the right word. Melted? But can a brain melt?  Surely it can be scalded though, the way I can scald my hands if I’m not careful when I lift the lid off a pot of boiling water. I did that last night.  I was steaming some tamales and let the pot boil dry; when I poured a glass of water to replenish the pot, a plume of steam erupted like a geyser onto my hand. Oh, that was pain.  That was godawful pain.  Big hunks of steam-cooked flesh dropped off my fist into the pot and vaporized. It smelled like I was searing a steak, but I was the steak.

It wasn’t the steam that got my brain, though.  It was the thoughts.  They were white hot, way hotter than burning lumps of coal.  When they get that hot, you worry they’ll burn through to the outside of your head and be visible to everybody around you. At least that’s what worries me when I have them. Oh, there’d be an ugly sizzle if that happened!

“Carla would go bat-shit crazy if she knew I was thinking of how I want to caress her naked body. She’d be more than angry, she’d be “incensed,” to use her new favorite word. I think she learned that word just so she could tell me how mad she was at me for breaking her sewing machine.  It didn’t matter to her that I was trying to sew something for her. She was pissed off that I tried to sew leather with it. When I took it back to her apartment across the hall, she could tell right away I’d broken it; the part that holds the needle was bent about thirty degrees.”

His dialog flitted back and forth, as it often did, between an internal conversation with himself and an external discussion with another person, though Garmish knew the other person was himself.  The other person was just another version of himself, like a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood version of the person he saw in the mirror.

“My hand is wrapped up in gauze now.  It’ll be all right in a week or two, I think.  It hurts like hell, but Carla let me have some of her painkillers last night so I could sleep.  That’s probably what got me thinking those thoughts.  That, and hearing the mattress bumping against the wall in the apartment down the hall. She has no idea how much I think about her like that.

“Sheesh. I can’t tell whether it’s the image of seeing her in that tight sweater and wishing I could touch her full breasts inside of it or watching her hips sway as she walks in front of me.  But it’s something! It’s making me steam up like that double boiler!

“Hah! I remember when Taylor Middlemarch broke his mother’s iron when he took it apart to see how it made steam. He never did figure out how it worked, but I did.  I mean, how can you not figure out that electricity heats up an element in the water chamber?  It’s not like brain salad surgery.  Where did that come from?  Oh, yeah, Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  I remember that from high school.  Was it high school?  Must have been. Steve Scarfler used to play their albums.”

Carla would have liked Steve. He was cool. Relaxed. A lot more reserved than I am. If she’d met Steve before she got married, she might be living in LA now, instead of in that crummy apartment across the hall. I’m glad she isn’t in LA, but I don’t know why. She treats me more like a baby brother than a boyfriend. Well, I guess that’s because I’m not technically her boyfriend, not yet.  But it’s scheduled. Yes, indeed, it’s scheduled.  I hope she changes her opinion of me beforehand. 

His headache was getting worse and the skin around his eyes began to darken. That, he knew, was evidence that he wasn’t coming out of an episode, he was just about to enter one.

This may be a bit weird. I’m trying my hand at getting into the mind of a guy who’s plagued by,  for lack of a better term, psychotic episodes, exacerbated by drugs. This is one of them.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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