16B - The Michigan Daily Literary Magazine - Thursday, March 12, 1998
Continued from Page 15B
"Do I know you?"
"I'm Darren. Good to meet you." He
reached out his hand again, and I let it
hang there, suspended halfway between
his bed and mine. We stared at each
other for a long time before he looked
away. I didn't know any Darrens.
And then he started convulsing, and it
all came back to me. The tombstone and
the two obnoxious women and Elvis'
face everywhere and the guy who fell
out of the crowd, shaking on the ground
at my feet. This guy. And here he was
convulsing again. I panicked and pulled
myself up, fumbling for the buzzer to
call the nurse, and then he stopped shak-
ing and looked over at me with a big grin
on his face.
"Thanks for helping me out earlier
today. So are you a doctor or just some
random passerby? Do you visit
Graceland often, or was this your first
time? I hope this wasn't your first time
because it really is a beautiful place, and
I hate to think that I may have spoiled
your first trip to Graceland."
"I ... am a professor of medical
ethics at Vanderbilt." Darren was eating
his peas again. "Do you need me to call
"You just had another seizure."
"Obviously not a doctor. Random
passerby then, huh?"
"I teach medical ethics at Vanderbilt
And then he started shaking again,
and then he stopped and laughed at me,
and then he was shaking again, and then
he stopped, and then again and this time
he didn't stop, and I was so angry
because even when he wasn't laughing at
me it was like he was laughing at me.
"What's wrong with you?"
Darren was out of breath, tears were
running down his face. He stopped shak-
ing finally and straightened himself out.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Don't call the
nurse, I'm okay. Would you like some
He held his bowl out to me and I just
stared at him lying there in his blue gown
and his big grin and his bowl of hospital
peas. I wasn't quite sure what to say.
"Are you epileptic?"
"No are you?"
"No why would I be?"
"Why would I be?"
"I don't know"
"Neither do I."
"You're the one with the seizures."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are."
"I've never had a seizure in my life."
"Those weren't seizures?" I pulled
myself up in my bed and looked over at
"And that wasn't a seizure in
I could feel the pea now smushed up
against the inner part of my thigh, and I
was going to reach down and scoop it
up, but I didn't, because I didn't want to
break Darren's concentration. The idea
of it, though, smushed up against my leg
like that and smearing green pea goop all
over the white sheets made me a little
"I don't understand."
Darren started singing. "Do your ears
hang low do they wobble to and fro? Can
you tie 'em in a knot? Can you tie 'em in
I didn't know what to do. I didn't want
to stare at this man who was quite possi-
bly a lunatic, but I was afraid to look
away because it felt like he was singing
"Can you throw 'em o'er your shoul-
der like a continental soldier do your
He was holding the remote control
and he reached out and tapped the top of
"Hang ..." And he tapped my head
again. "Low." I just stared at him, jaw
Darren was smiling again, and I was
worried that he would start shaking, but
he didn't. Oprah was breaking to a com-
mercial, and Darren threw the remaining
peas at the TV screen.
"I really hate commercials." He point-
ed the remote at the TV and flicked it off.
I looked away. He continued, "I like
"Okay, so, I was standing there over
Elvis' grave with 411 those pathetic peo-
ple weeping over his tombstone where
he probably isn't even buried anyway
because he's probably living under an
assumed name in a mansion in some
third-world country in Central America
where he owns a factory where the peo-
ple of the village all work for 30 cents an
hour making Elvis bumper stickers that
are sold in the States to help make his
fortune and support his gluttony. I'm
surrounded by these people and I think
to myself, What if I died right now.
Would they even notice? Would they
realize that someone else besides Elvis
existed in the world and would they try
to help me or would they just stand back
and sip their Elvis Presley Soda Sippers
and watch? So I decided to see what hap-
I thought of Gloria sipping on her
Elvis Presley Soda Sipper and I don't
think she would've noticed that a man
was convulsing over Elvis' grave, unless
it was to complain that someone was
.obstructing her view. For a minute I
thought Darren had a point, but then I
realized what he was saying.
"You faked the whole thing?"
"You could say that."
I couldn't believe what was about to
stay in one of their empty rooms. They
opened their doors andshowed me in. I
was a priest for four days. What do you
do with yourself Johnny Ethics? Do you
mind if I call you Johnny Ethics? It's
kinda catchy don't you think? Stop suck-
ing the dick of The Man. I had a dream
last night that all these people were
naked standing on a slab of gray stone
against a tall, gray, stone wall. There was
sun coming from either side and every-
one turned to the wall and tried to
squeeze into it but there was nowhere to
go. They all had your face, Johnny.
Different bodies - same face. Different
bodies - same face. Listen to Oprah.
She knows what it's all about."
Darren flicked the TV on again. The
door swung open and in marched Gloria,
Twinkie in one hand, Wet-Nap in the
other. She had been visiting the vending
machines. I'd almost forgotten about her.
Darren pretended to sleep, and I was
left there with Oprah and hospital peas. I
didn't know quite how to explain any of
it. Gloria sat down on the edge of my bed
and petted me. She said she was so
proud of the way I handled the situation
in Graceland, and that she wished she
could've been there to see me conscious.
She must've just returned after I passed
come out of my mouth. "Do you realize "Honey, why are there peas every-
how horribly wrong of a thing that is to where?"
do?" I wanted to tell her about Darren, and
"Oh, listen to the big ethics professor." how he wasn't really sleeping but just
"I can't believe that." I was on a roll. pretending to be asleep, and that he was
"Nobody asked you to help. You never just pretending to have a seizure, and
would've even known the difference if that he threw peas all over the room, and
you didn't pass out and wind up here he threw one at me and now it was warm
next to me. I was just going about my and mushy beneath my leg. I wanted to
business. It's a kind of life philosophy, tell her that I hate Elvis, and that I pur-
you know?" posefully listened to the tour in
"No, I don't know." Japanese, and that Oprah could provide
"I was in Chicago last week." more entertainment interviewing nar-
"You faked the whole thing?" coleptics than the entire mansion of
"I was a priest in Chicago. All I had to some dead fat guy who should've
do was show up at this convent in stopped singing 20 years before he died,
Bucktown - St. Hedgwick's. I rented a and that Twinkies made me want to
priest's costume from a shop in the throw up, and would she please get off
Loop. I showed up at the door of these my bed because the plasticy-rubbery
nuns and spoke in broken English. I told sound she made every time she leaned
them basically that I was visiting from over to stroke my head made me crazy.
the Czech Republic for a convention of But I didn't. And I don't know why I did-
Eastern European priests and I didn't n't but I didn't. Maybe it was because I
speak English. I told them the hotel lost felt like Darren was still laughing at me,
my reservation. I asked them if I could even as he pretended to sleep.
I looked up at Gloria and imagined
someone else's face where hers should
have been. Then I realized that this was
S "Best of Ann Arbor" Poll nothing new. I realized that if I closed
my eyes, I wouldn't have been able to see
what Gloria's face really looked like
because I'd imagined it to look like
(regular $12.00) something else for so long. Not that she
wasn't beautiful, because she was. Not
that I didn't love her, because I did. It
ointments are necessary. was just a game I played.
When I didn't answer Gloria's ques-
tion about the peas, she screwed her face
.versity * 668-8488 up and leaned over me. I felt her breast
drag across my stomach, and I could just
barely smell the perfume I'd bought for
her the year before, my crummy excuse
for Graceland that didn't really satisfy
her, although she pretended that it did.
"Here, have some Twinkie." And she
stuck it up in to my face. The sweet smell
of Cream Filling in Golden Sponge
Cake mixed with the looming odor of
rubbing alcohol made me a little queasy.
I ate it anyway, though, and I smiled.
"We can go back tomorrow," she said.
"The people at Graceland were so nice.
They gave us two free passes and an
Elvis tote bag for me and a paperweight
for you. He sings when you press his
She pulled the Elvis Paperweight out
of the Elvis Tote Bag, and she pressed its
head, and it sang.
"You ain't nothin' but a hound dog."
"That's great, sweetie. It'll go well in
"Cryin' all the time."
"I'm glad you like it."
"Could you get off my bed now
please?" I didn't mean for it to come out
that way. "I mean, I think I'm ready if
you want to help me get my things
Gloria left to get the nurse. I lay there,
alone again with Darren, and I waited for
him to say something, but he didn't. I
waited for him to throw something at
me, but he didn't.
Some of my things were on the chair
next to my bed. I picked up the copy of
Kierkegaard with Welcome to Graceland
stuck in the middle. I leafed through the
pages and came across another line.
"So it is that everyone knew once in
his early youth that there were so many
beautiful things in existence, but the
place he did not know definitely." I
scribbled it on the back of the brochure,
beneath the other two. I sat up and plant-
ed my bare feet on the floor. It was cold,
and it made the hairs on my legs stand on
end. I could hear Darren breathing
behind me. It wasn't the breathing of
someone who was asleep. I- wanted to
turn around and look at him, but I didn't.
With one corner of my hospital gown
I wiped the Twinkie from my face, and
with the other corner I reached down and
wiped the pea out from beneath my leg.
I pulled the gown over my head and let it
drop to the floor. I sat there naked for a
minute, listening to people talking out-
side my door and carts rolling down the
hall and Darren breathing. I sat there lis-
tening to the breathing of someone who
I knew was awake but pretended not to
be, and I felt like a kid again. Playing
games. Saying prayers. Kneeling in the
confessional. Pretending not to breathe.
Afraid to disturb the silence.
I closed my eyes, and my face was
-Aric Knuth is an LSA junior and
English major from Oscoda, Mich.
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