Note: the Organic Literature Experiment has vanished from the Web, but here is its rendition of a Skeeter Kitefly excerpt.

Heightened Clarity

by P. S. Ehrlich

Then, one fine day-

He switched off the dreadnought air conditioner, opened all his windows, let in poetic September sweetbreezes: first cool evening in what seemed like a thousand years. They were going out to celebrate, Joyce was in the bathroom touching up her appearance, had been at it for half an hour and he was going to shout, "Aren't you presentable yet? The reservations are for seven!" but only got as far as the "Aren't" when there came a CRASH and a cry and the sound of hiccup-weeping-

Don't bother to knock, turn the knob; don't bother to lock, bathroom privacy being respected at Peyton's place, which was just as well since otherwise he would've had to break the door down and how that would have jarred his shoulder, his arm, on top of which he'd still have found Joyce in there on the tiles, on her knees, face pale as sleet, tears dripping down among bits of shattered mirror. Mixed with what Peyton, in his godawful naiveté, thought at first was spilled talcum.

He even wondered why she'd taken a hand mirror into the bathroom when there was a perfectly good one on the medicine cabinet.

And then; and then.

The higher you are, the farther you fall.

Peyton would have believed anybody else on earth to be a snowbird, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and his own mother (who at least mingled with an artful crowd).

But Joyce Finian???

He had suspected her of catching a summer cold, from all that lounging in front of the air conditioner, and of trying to conceal it lest he think her contagious.

Eyes brimming, nose running, dab dab abbadab, sniff sniff sniff. Face flushing painfully, then bleached out again except around her darkrimmed eyes and dampchafed nostrils. Peculiar curlicues: trying to explain the pressures of tension, of being a woman, a shortish slightish young Liberal Arts major-it was incredible, having to respond under such strain-he was a jolly male giant with a big loud voice, how could he understand what she had to go through every day, every night, all her thinskinned jitters, her anxiety-ridden insecurity?

So what else could she do but lay out a line of fine white powder on the glass?

Toot her own horn, and then-

-it was like being inside one of her Impressionist postcards. There at Giverny or Argenteuil, able to see through Monet's eyes but with heightened clarity-or like looking at a Seurat and seeing it whole, but at the same time each tiny dot was separate and distinct. Each a burst of pure, intense color-

-like sailing over a rainbow.

All it took was Pixie Dust.

At the cost of a gram or two a week.

Which could run you two, three hundred dollars, depending on your dealer and the market; whereas Joyce's takehome pay hardly topped a thousand a month, even adding in extra hours at the Excelsior Hotel.

And lately she'd been grinding her pearly choppers, and hearing too many noises at night so she couldn't sleep; her nerves were wearing thin, her nasal passages were inflamed, and she felt utterly humiliated unbosoming herself this way, to him.

Didn't want you to see me like this.

Never wanted you to know.

Well guess what, he had and he did; and thanks to Being Involved, he felt a certain responsibility. Racking his self-absorbed memory for some warning sign he might have detected and averted-but hadn't, so couldn't, so here they were. She dabbing and sniffing; he with not the slightest clue what to do. Having prized his snoot too highly to subject it to California cornflakes, what the devil-hell did he know about their abuse and disuse?

When had she begun? Before she'd met him? Before they'd first hit the sheets? He racked his brain all over again for some recollection of chafed nostrils before then. Made over with makeup, perhaps? Not a happy thought that she'd needed the stuff to cope with his pressures, the weightiness of his fulfillment.

So what might Dear Abby/Ann Landers suggest?

To seek counseling, of course; get some therapy from qualified professionals. Actually that sounded fairly sensible-Joyce seemed to agree-arrangements were made-he drove her to the first session, stayed in the waiting room reading a review of The Stunt Man over and over while she broke the ice and tested the water-and came out radiant, full of resolve, intending to go cold turkey, you could do that with cocaine, it was all psychological, she would recover scot-free and be good, he'd see; he would be proud of her. She'd be proud of herself. And bursting with pride they went back to his place and made genuine love for once, dispensing with the you-now/me-now to chase after simultaneity.

All it took was a little discipline.

She would be good and disciplined and never touch the stuff again.

Or at least cut back.

Control her use.

Go for days, weeks without it, not acting like an addict.

She wasn't.

She wasn't…




Copyright © 2002 by P. S. Ehrlich