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Peter Gray

Displacement of the Mind

The droning of an elevator shook overhead. I gravely stared at the blank silver door, feeling my eyes lull softly to the low hum of the elevator sinking downwards. Five, four, three…

A jolt shook the whole of my body, forcing me to lean against my crutches more. My left hand leaned against the elevator wall, using it as a support after another jolt came my way. I clenched my teeth together, finding my body weaker than ever before.

Bing.

The door grinded open, revealing a bright light that nearly blinded me for a moment. A large man walked in dressed in a stiff black coat and a brief case in hand. He took one hard look at me, eyeing my crutches with particular interest. A nod of acknowledgement came my way, and then he turned his back to me to press down on the elevator button.

Two, one…

The elevator jolted to a hard stop again, sending me over to the right but the large man was quick enough to stop me from falling. “Careful now,” he huffed, sending a burst of coffee breath my way.

“Argh,” I grunted in pain, somewhat thankful when he set me back on my own two feet. I looked down at my right foot in a cast, knowing I couldn’t put much weight on it.

“Should you be traveling alone?”

“I’m fine.”

The man released his hold of me completely, and then pressed down on the button to keep it open for a little while longer. “You first,” he relayed in a kindly voice, letting those light green eyes alight with sympathy. He stretched out his hand to hold the elevator door as well, letting me hobble through the open doorway to take me into the front foyer.

Waterfall trickled down a nearby wall, pooling over into a large pool of water in front of us. I watched the coloured lighting alight the water, making it almost look like a rainbow before my very eyes. I hobbled over to it, leaving the man that was still walking by my side. I moved the crutch from under my armpit and bent forward to dangle my fingers into the cold water. My golden rings shined under the rainbow tinted water, making me smile without ever realizing it. I started to laugh with amusement, and then cupped the water in a child-like manner. When I turned my head, I saw a little girl watching me; long pigtails hanging at the side of her head that was a dark chestnut brown. “Hello,” I said to her, only to see her dig her hand into a bag of chips distantly. Her dress was a pale blue, the same colour as her eyes. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

She looked down at the water as well, leaning forward until she just hovered over it.

“The most beautiful thing, I’ve ever seen.”

A security guard came to the right side of me, tapping me on my shoulder. “Excuse me, sir.”

“Huh?” I huffed out in alarm, instantly settling the crutches back in its rightful position.

“Is everything alright?”

I turned my head in the girl’s direction only to find that she was gone. “We were just admiring the waterfall,” I told him in a charming voice. He nodded his head at me stiffly, giving me a look that was rather unsettling. “It’s not a crime, is it?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s right,” I blurted out with anger, and then outstretched my crutches to lead me forward. “It’s not a crime,” I mumbled to myself, as I approached the front doors. They had the kind that swung in endless circles, something that was not meant for a person like me. I watched it however, thinking it reminded me of a carousel. I could almost hear the distant screams of children on it, the harsh air whipping about them.

“Sir?” I turned my head to find the security guard beside me again, a small Asian man with a black cap that covered his short hair. “I think you should go.”

“I got a right to be here.”

“I will hold open the door.”

“Hell, you will!” I shot out, and then hobbled forward with the man leading the way. “I should report you. I’m a lawyer, you know.”

“Sir,” he stiffly replied, after he pried open a smaller door for me to go through.

“I ought to be treated better.” I rose up my crutch in front of him, using it as a weapon. “I won’t forget your name… or your face.”

“Sir.”

“Bloody hell,” I mumbled, and then dropped down my crutch, so I could hobble out the door he was holding for me.

The scent of freshly cooked meat filled my senses, making me look over to my left to see a hotdog stand nearby. There was a homeless man laying down on the street next to it, a small white dog nuzzling its snout into the man’s inner leg. I looked upwards to see a car stopping in front of the building, watching a woman come out dressed to the nine’s. She caught me staring at her and sharply turned her head, dismissing me with a single look. The honking of the horn caught my attention, and then the cry of pigeon’s overhead as they rested above the sign of this building.

I suddenly noticed the little girl again, her hand deep inside of the chip bag as she stood next to me. “Where is your mother?” I demanded. “You shouldn’t be out here alone.” She simply swayed side to side, unamused by my antics. “You got a dad?”

She only chewed on her salty potato chips, unbothered to answer my questions.

“You can stay with me? I got a nice place, you see.”

She merely skipped ahead, making me hobble after her. She stopped at a crosswalk, nearly blocking my view for a moment once she stepped into a crowd. The city was as busy as ever, and I felt it more than ever when having crutches.

“Where’d she go?” I muttered, making the old lady beside me turn her head in suspicion.

“I lost a girl. You see her?”

“No.” She drew her lip down crudely, and then went on the other side of her husband.

“I’m not going to do you any harm,” I assured her, which only made her husband glare at me with hatred. “I was only looking for a little girl, that’s all.”

A yellow school bus whipped past me, nearly going over the curb of the sidewalk. I turned around to watch it, seeing it turn the corner and fade out of view.

The crowd around me shifted forward, but I got distracted by a man walking around in a clown costume. I laughed at the spectacle, making the people around me wondering what the hell was so funny. “A fucking clown,” I blurted out, and pointed in its direction. I hobbled towards him, pushing myself through the crowd of people until I could stop at an old brick wall. “Can you do any tricks?”

The clown shook his head sadly, though he picked up three apples with glee.

“Juggle for me.”

The clown began to juggle, throwing it high in the air like a true performer. “You take cash,” I muttered, and dug into my pocket to find my wallet. “Damn, where did I put it?”

A person bumped into me, making me nearly fall forward. The clown made a gasping sound but made no effort to catch me. I managed to find my balance at the last second and forced myself upright. “Creep!” the brash teenager yelled over his shoulder.

“I’ll punch your fucking brains in!” I yelled right back, only to see the man give me the middle finger as he crossed the street. As I lowered my raised fist I caught sight of the little girl again in the corner of my eye. My hands clenched themselves around the handles of my clutches before I left the funny clown man to go after the girl. “Hey!” I yelled out at the top of my lungs, and quickly hobbled across the street. “Hey!”

The girl saw me and skipped away, darting out of my view as I crossed the busy intersection. I followed after her, knowing she was taking me to the entrance of a park. She skipped along the glossy high black gates. I quickly hobbled after her, determined to catch up with this giddy little girl. “Will you slow down?” I shouted out, but she chose to ignore me.

I found my chest heaving tiredly, enough to leave me slumping against the rusty park gates to catch my breath. I could hear the sound of a plane fly by, shooting over the city’s skyline. I suddenly wished I could be on that plane as well.

“Got any change?” a homeless man asked me, startling me out of my deep reverie.

“Sorry, no.”

“Nice coat.”

I looked down at the dusty charcoal blue bomber jacket I was currently wearing, before softly expressing my gratitude to this small, wiry looking man.

The old man squinted at me, furrowing his thick jetty eyebrows. “It’s getting colder these days.”

“Yeah, sure is.” He rubbed his hand over his nose, making a small sniffling sound in the act. “What happened to your leg?”

“I was running and then tripped down the stairs.”

“What were you running from?”

“A mob,” I told him stiffly. “They were trying to kill me.”

“Kill you?”

“Yeah.”

The man nodded his head slowly, scratching his scraggly beard that was most unkempt. “This city is shit.”

“You’re telling me.”

“Martin.”

“Jerry,” I told him, and accepted the hand that he offered me. “Hard times, huh.”

“My wife left me and sold our house,” he said. “Left me with nothing.” He dug into his jacket to offer me a smoke. “Want it?”

“No, thank you.”

He shrugged his shoulders and then dug into his pant pocket for a lighter. He sniffled again as he took his place beside me, making me think he had a cold.

“What were they trying to kill you for?”

“I’m a lawyer.”

“A top man!”

“They didn’t want me to represent my client.” The scent of tobacco filled the air, wafting over to me as the two of us leaned against the gate. “So, they decided to get me out of the way.”

“You still represent him?”

“I do.”

“Won’t they come again?”

I whipped out a dagger from deep inside of my coat pocket, revealing the weapon after I flicked it open. “Not this time.”

“Line of defence, I like that.”

“Yes, I thought so too.” I caught something flickering in the corner of my eye, and when I turned my head to the right, I saw the little girl again. “There she is!” I hobbled away from the homeless man, moving faster than ever to catch up to her. “Come back here,” I growled, moving so fast I was out of breath by the time we entered the entrance of the forest. She skipped behind a line of thick bushes, making herself go out of view again.

A dog scampered towards me suddenly, sniffing me with interest. “Miki!” a woman’s voice called out, making my eyes glance upwards to see the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. The dog ran back to its owner, all too eager to be petted by its owner. The young woman was bent over, wearing a form fitting white tank top with a skirt of a bright tangerine hue. A thick silver chain dangled down her neck, it was pretty enough for me to make an assumption she had a great deal of money. She caught me staring at her after she looked up for the second time, and then latched the leash around the collar of her creamy white husky. I found her walking towards me, noticing how the breeze blew her thick curly afro upwards as though she was a dream. She scanned me up and down, trying to make me out, and then approached me with some more hesitation. The sound of a girl’s laughter caught my attention, making me glance over my shoulder to see the same girl laughing at me. I wanted to turn around and give her a piece of my mind, but the sudden bump against the front of my cast made me look downwards to see the same dog vying for my attention.

“Miki likes you,” the woman sweetly relayed.

I smiled at her with gratitude, letting my dark brown eyes soften before her.

“She’s a friendly dog, none the less.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” I said with utter charm.

“You like dogs?”

“I like her owner,” I shot back, which made her laugh lightly. “I like Miki too.”

I bent forward and scratched the back of her ear, watching Miki’s tongue hang out playfully. “Aren’t you a beautiful thing?”

“I’ve had her for a long time.”

“So, very beautiful.”

“You live around here?”

“No, I came out here to visit my doctor,” I casually informed her.

“Oh.” She bent down to be at my eye level, brushing back her wild curly hair so it wouldn’t get in the way. Light almond coloured eyes studied me, while her dark skin took on a bronze hue in the warm sunlight. “About your ankle,” she stammered out nervously. “Did you twist it?”

“Very badly, yes.” I took the liberty of staring back at her, wanting to take in the sheer beauty of this young woman’s face. She felt the heat of my gaze and smiled back shyly, but after a few moments she broke eye contact with me and focused on her dog.

“My name is Jerry,” I offered out.

“Sophia.”

“Lovely name.”

She smiled at my words, betraying her own self-preservation. “I like your name too.”

“It’s a bit plain though.”

“I like it all the same.”

“What a curious thing to say,” I teased. She laughed at my words, and then slowly rose to her feet. “You mind if I follow you for a bit? Thought you might like some company.”

“Alright.” She unlatched the hook of the azure blue leash and let her dog pounce around the park. “You come to a dog park without a dog?” She questioned me with an arched eyebrow.

“I was actually looking for a little girl.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, she keeps popping around here and there.”

“Your daughter?”

“I’m not married.”

“You don’t need to be married to have a daughter.”

“Right, right,” I said lightly, while I found my mind becoming distracted again. There was a bird overhead, black beady eyes were staring at me with interest. I backed away with alarm, fearful that it would attack me suddenly. Sophia caught my movements and looked up at the same tree branch I was staring at. “I hate those things.”

“What things?”

“That!” I shot back and turned on my heels to hobble away from the frightening creature. I kept looking over my shoulder, knowing it was only a matter of time until the bird would swoop down and attack me. “We should hide for cover!”

“From what?” Sophia yelled back.

“The bird!”

I hobbled enough to hide myself in a deep bush, and then bent down to make sure the bird couldn’t see me anymore. I stayed there for a full minute, peaking my head out occasionally to make sure I was not being followed. There was laugher behind me, and when I turned my head, I saw the same girl sitting on a rock. She had a bag of candy in her hand this time, watermelon sweets with specks of sugar covering the tips of her fingers. “Where have you been?” I demanded. “Don’t you know with these crutches that I can’t keep up with you?”

“Jerry?” I turned around to see Sophia bent downwards, poking her head through a small gap of prickly bushes to have a good look at me. “Who are you talking too?”

“The girl.”

She scratched the top of her head questionably. “What girl?”

“The one over there,” I huffed out with annoyance. “The one I was telling you about.”

Sophia gave me a hard look, and then rose upwards to look over my shoulder.

“The girl really likes me, you know. I don’t think she has anyone to take care of her.”

“What girl?”

“The one I was telling you about.” I pushed myself off the floor, leaning against my crutches until I could stand to my normal height.

“What were you running from back there?”

“I never ran,” I shrilled out with annoyance.

“You did.”

“Sophia,” I laughed out loud. “I don’t know what you are talking about, my dear.”

“You saw something in the tree and then you ran away.” She looked over her shoulder as she heard Miki approaching her. “There’s a good girl.” I watched her pet her dog with some delight, and then looked over my own shoulder to find the girl had disappeared. I cursed aloud, making Sophia look in my direction. We locked eyes with one another, and I could sense there was something wrong. “Everything alright, Jerry?” she asked with worry.

“I’m just fine, thank you,” I said with utter crispness.

“I think I should go.”

“Wait!” I hobbled around the thick bush, never stopping until I was right in front of her. “I hope I didn’t scare you away. I tend to do that a lot. I’m really nice, you know. I am sorry we got off on the wrong footing.” I pointed down at my cast for an extra pun. “Okay, that was terrible.”

“A real comedian.”

“We are in the city, you know.”

She licked the bottom of her lips nervously, and then took in my appearance again. I looked down to see my wrinkled white dress shirt, taking in the splatter of ketchup that stained the front of my shirt. My jacket was a bit withered, though warm enough for this cool autumn day. I only noticed now that I was wearing mismatched socks with my left shoe so old and withered it had a hole at the front of it. I brushed my fingers through my hair, finding it longer than I remembered.

“I…” My cheeks flushed with embarrassment, horrified that I managed to get out the house in this state.

“You live here? In the park, I mean.”

“I’m not homeless.”

“Where do you live?”

“Why?”

“I’m only curious.”

My mind went blank suddenly, so much so, that I stood perfectly still with a dead-pan expression. I could not remember my house address for the life of me, and even the image of the building was vague in my mind’s eye. I could picture the couch though. I am pretty sure it was a rugged forest green couch with puckered holes in it, like a dog had chewed the fabric up to bits. I slept on it last night, didn’t I? I could picture me folding up my jacket and leaning it over the arm of the couch. Was there a dog there, too? I don’t remember. Whose house was it anyways? Was it mine? Was it someone else’s? Was it my father’s?

“Jerry.”

“Yeah.”

“Are you alright?”

I heard the girl’s laughter again, making me grumble under my breath. Miki responded with a low growl as well, perking up her ears defensively.

“I should go.”

“Sophia, wait!”

“I need to go,” she exclaimed, and then quickly pulled on her dog’s leash to get away from me.

“Sophia!”

The girl’s laughter grew louder around me. I could hear it on my left and right and felt like the whole world was spinning around me. “Daddy!” she laughed out merrily, and when I looked down, I saw that my wedding band was missing. “Daddy, where are you going?”

“Alice?” I breathed out sharply.

“Why won’t you come home?”

“Alice!” I screamed out and hobbled past Sophia to get to an unknown destination. “Alice!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, making everyone at the park look at me. “Oh god, Alice.” My crutch went into a ditch and I fell down face first, smashing into the ground so hard I couldn’t move. I began to cry, growing hysterical. “Alice,” I mumbled, and let my head rest against the cold hard ground in utter misery. “Where are you?” I moaned from the back of my throat.

“Daddy, come home.”

A hand was pressed over my shoulder, and then Sophia worked hard to turn me around until I was flat on my back. “Jerry?”

“I saw my daughter,” I relayed sadly with tears streaming down my eyes.

“Jerry,” she simpered, and rubbed a hand against the side of my face soothingly. “You need help.”

“I suppose I do.”

She helped me up on my feet with some trouble, and then bent downwards to hand me one crutch at a time. “Where do you live?”

“A shelter, I think.”

“Yes,” she knowingly replied. “We should take you back.”

“You’ll walk with me?”

“I’ll walk with you.”

“You are a nice girl,” I told her in a wobbly voice, which only made her smile shyly at me. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“That’s alright, Jerry.”

“My daughter’s name is Alice.” Sophia walked close beside me, undeterred by my rambling. “I sometimes forget about her. Is that normal?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“I saw a clown today. Did you see a clown?”

“No, Jerry.”

“He was juggling.” Miki padded her feet ahead of us, distracting me for a moment. “Can you juggle, Sophia?”

“No,” she nearly laughed.

“Did you know I’m a lawyer?”

“Are you?”

“Yeah, it’s the reason I’m injured you see.” She looked down at my twisted foot full of sympathy. “I was being chased.”

“Jerry.” She stopped suddenly and laid a hand on the top of my shoulder so we could be eye-level with one another. “I think you need to see a doctor.”

“I saw one this morning.”

“Did you?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“And what happened?”

“They had a really nice fountain there. I think it shined in the lighting. They had these coloured spotlights, you see. And I stuck my hand inside of the cold water. They had a security guard that tried to kick me out of the building. You know they can’t do that, especially when I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Jerry, the doctor?”

“I can’t remember.”

“Your doctor?”

“Yeah, he was talking but I couldn’t really hear him.” I smirked at her. “A real bore.”

“Jerry,” she sighed out deeply.

“Yeah?”

“Take me to your place.”

“Oh?”

“I want to help you.”

“That’s awfully kind of you, Sophia.”

“Let me drop Miki off at my condo first. I have a roommate there. She is a nurse.”

“A nurse?”

“Maybe I could wake her up, so she could have a look at you.”

“But I’m fine.”

“I know you are, Jerry.” She rubbed her hand down the whole of my back while leaning herself into me. “But you can be a whole lot better.”

“You think?”

“Yeah.”

“I suppose I go a little crazy sometimes,” I chuckled out darkly. “You have nice rosy lips, Sophia. Anyone tell you that?”

“No.”

“I’d like to kiss those lips.”

“Another time.”

“Sure, sure.” I hobbled forward, stirring Miki awake from her light slumber. “Let’s go see your friend then.” I looked over my shoulder to see Sophia, and then my little girl behind her as well. I smiled at the sight of Alice, watching her standing near the swings of a nearby park. She smiled at me and waved her hand, and I instinctively waved back. “My daughter is so beautiful,” I muttered, which brought tears to Sophia’s eyes. “Precious little thing.”

“I’m sure she is,” Sophia uttered in a broken voice, after she looked over her shoulder as well. “Let’s go, Jerry.”

“You lead the way,” I said with glee, after I hobbled behind Sophia and her loyal dog, Miki.

 

 

 

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