Friday, July 8, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Never Forget How to be Alone

"I'm going to be okay. Knew it from the first moment I woke up, before the doctors said anything. Before I saw Mitsy's eyes. She doesn't glass up like with happiness.

“See, when I wake up, I always turn over. My ankles roll while I sleep, and my spine shifts. I've woken up adjusting myself so many times that now I expect to do it. And my feet wouldn't move. Tried again and realized my knees weren't coming along either. Right then I didn’t know, but I knew. You know?

“And my first thought wasn't, 'Career is over.'

“It wasn't, 'Getting around the beach is going to be harder.'

“It was, 'I bet I can balance myself between that IV stand and the windowsill, and look like I'm standing for at least a minute before I fall over. That'll look bad ass.' I was kind of excited to try it.

“Then I saw Mitsy's eyes, and the doctors told me about fractions of percentages of chances, and they scheduled a lady to stretch my legs for me two times a week, and my mother called to cry. Then I got all those thoughts you're supposed to have.

“None of those people thought it was funny. Mitsy screamed at me, but you know, on Tuesday? I fooled four passersby before I collapsed. It’s not a denial thing. It’s funny. I’ve got to find different ways to express it, because she will chain to me a wheelchair if I keep pretending I can stand.

“Throughout, it's stayed with me. That there’s a spot in my brain that not only auto-adjusts to tragedy, but that wants to do something with it. This is my nature. I'm going to take it belly-sledding next week."


  1. Way to cope with something like that! Could learn something from it. But I wouldn't think it is funny either.

  2. That's facing adversity square in the face. That inner courage that refuses to give up and that bright spirit that can laugh at itself.

    After all 'he who can laugh at himself has a constant source of amusement.'

    Would be that we could all be so strong.

  3. Two thumbs up and a #tragicallyfunnyface

  4. I hope I never face such a challenge. But I also hope that if I ever do I can do so with as much humor.

  5. I love this - humour only you get at the expense of the world. Fabulous!

  6. Humor is one of the most important coping skills in life. On the bright side, this guy will now be able to do Olympic-level pratfalls.

  7. "It’s not a denial thing. It’s funny."

    For some I think, it's not that they keep a sense of humor but that they see the humor despite the tragedy and can't help but expose it.

  8. I love this characters attitude - although like Misty if it was someone close me I'd probably get annoyed by it too. Love the bit where his mother phoned up to cry - so typically true.

  9. I love it: short, effective, and something resembling hope for the human spirit. Well done, you!

  10. Sonia and Haze, I'm a classic enabler. If they start doing this I'll probably join in, but I can imagine everybody else in the room only getting more worried about it.

    Helen, sideways strength is the best, because you don't have to exercise it so much. A constant source of strength, I guess, like your source of amusement!

    Danni, thanks for stopping by!

    Tim and Rachel, while not the exact challenge, I've been in a few such corners. People decidedly do not want them to be fun. In many ways they aren't, but in a few ways? They're hilarious.

    Tony, slapstick at an Olympic level? I love this idea.

    Harry, that can be the way. I begrudge interlopers who stifle this rare reflex.

    Anne, I like to vary the lengths of my #fridayflash. It's good mental exercise, and some weeks you really crave a shorter one. Glad you liked it!

  11. I don't know this for sure, but I think only you could write something like that. Take something horrible, traggic and life altering and focus on how to get a laught out of it. It seems very you.

  12. This seems like something I'd do sice I do a lot of stupid things. I just hope I can take it as well as this character. Well written piece that resonated with this reader.

  13. I liked this kind of whacky voice, thoughts just slightly choppy from trauma, and a great blend of dry humor and hope. Love those spots in the brain.

    It kind of reminds me of George Carlin's pledge to arrive at the gates of heaven with a battered, used-up body. I think he probably succeeded in that.

  14. LOL — I love this guy's spirit. My first thought would probably be along the lines of "does my w**g still work?"

    I hope Mitsy learns to cope as well as the MC does. Great job.

  15. Nicely done. Only hope I can face things like that with the same 'Who gives a s**t' attitude :)

  16. Optimism at its best. Sometimes these things are easier on the person affected than by those looking on from outside. Good reminder that there's always a way to take a situation from tragic to interesting. Somehow I think you are one of the few people who can do this.

  17. Bev, it is one of my biases that many don't share. I appreciate you saying that, though, Bev. Gave me warm fuzzies.

    Michael and Anthony, and may you not have to face many such things, though we're all in for one tragedy or another if we live long enough.

    Erin, it's a sort of happy pragmatism that's a little too rare. Do you think Carlin would like this guy, or berate him?

    Mr. FAR, a lot of guy's minds would go to their bits. I wonder what my first thought would be. Maybe this whole monologue was wishful thinking?

    Susan, it's my nature, at least to write things like this. Often the worst part of my situations have been what other people expected and wanted me to respond. Very sore spot for me, all that social animal stuff.

  18. Given the same circumstances, I'd most likely go through attitudes both morose and melancholic before getting to this point. I'd live the hell of it, before tossing my arms in the air for the sake of que sera.

    I'd love to be more like this guy, but then who would take my place?

    Thanks for sharing this.

  19. Interesting that you chose to present this one in quotes, rather than just the first person POV. Gives a different perspective to the monologue.

  20. This makes perfect sense. No matter what happens to us we volley between the 'reality' of the situation and an attempt towards some kind of normal equilibrium. There's a sort of denial which can be a reckless optimism that sometimes despite it's ludicrous nature might just see us through. Very well observed John, these psychologies and evidences of us as social animals are my favourite kind of subject matter. Having seen a similar kind of tragedy close up it's not even always courage, it's just the way the person is that makes them act, it's because there isn't really any alternative that's worth looking at.

  21. I wonder whether my first thought would be "now I have an excuse to sit at my computer all day long!"

  22. I think I would find someone like this incredibly hard work to be around, but if that's how they choose to cope, then I suppose that's good. At least he's trying to find a way through it, instead of resorting to self pity.

  23. Donald, the morose and the melancholic are both utterly reasonable reactions to tragedy, especially personal tragedy. Not everyone has that reaction, though. I find the deviant perspective more interesting sometimes.

    Peggy, he wanted to take you into his mind at the time. Glad you liked that trick.

    Alison, I agree that's it not necessarily courage that makes people persevere. It can be, especially against physical problems. But often it can be clever use of misdirection, or inclination to think a different way. A streamline down to the same success.

    AM, may you never find out. But if you do? Maybe you be right.

    Icy, I imagine my exuberance in general would annoy you. A handicapped guy playing pranks would be too much for many testy people.

  24. I like this guy's attitude. I'll drop by one day with a cup of coffee for him. Loved this one, John.

  25. This guy has attitude. There is always things to get in our way. He's got an excuse everyone would permit, but he's channeling his inner clown. I liked the closing statement.

  26. This reminded me of my time in hospital. Still in my twenties and stuck in a room with four octogenarians who each had interesting quirks.
    I used to take my IV stand for a walk whenever the man across from me would flash the nurses, or when the woman next to me would soil herself.
    It's difficult to find humour in such situations but not impossible.
    Thanks for writing this. I loved it.

  27. This struck home, for reasons too maudlin to most. It will stick with me for some time. I love the attitude, the lack of self-pity, especially with the piece ending on that note. Terrific stuff, thank you for posting it.

    Take care,

  28. You never disappoint. This was really clever.

    Faced with loss of anything or anyone, humour is always a good way to cope. As long as you don't take it too far.

    But - more than that - he seemed to have extreme positivity, as well. Rather than a goal, he seemed to be treating walking as an inevitability. I imagine his character to be a very determined man.

    I liked it when he said that he would have to stop pretending he could walk or his wife would chain him to a wheelchair.

  29. It's reading something like this that makes one feel a little ashamed when we are whinging about the minor things in our lives.

  30. Another wonderful take on a potentially awful situation. Love your protagonist and the last line made me laugh out loud!

  31. Strength to conquer comes from within, no doubt about it. I'm sure he'll find other ways to express himself.

  32. Alan, finally somebody says they'd hang out with the poor guy! And I'm not surprised it's you, Alan.

    Aidan, I think there are multiple ways to respond to the insurmountable. But you're right, there is always something in the way.

    Judge, thank you for sharing your anecdote. I'm glad I could touch a period in your own history, Judge. Finding that humor is just easier for some people, sometimes it seems for no reason.

    JC, I'd be happy to hear whatever reasons you've got. Personal resonance is an interesting part of the literary experience. Might not be maudlin to everybody.

    Henrietta, thank you so much for the kind words. I don't know if he thinks he'll walk again, but if there's an opportunity then he's absolutely going to pursue it.

    Steve, one of the greatest lessons in the syndromed half of my life is that healthy people complain way too much. It's almost amusing.

    Virginia, would you go sledding with him? He can always use the company.

    Stephen, life will find a way! And so will a sense of humor.

  33. I, too, would hope that I could have a sense of humor in a situation like that. But I can also see how it would be difficult for those around him. Great piece, John - funny and thought-provoking at the same time.

  34. I always combat tragedy with humor. It's an instinctual response that I can't help. Laugh and everyone laughs with you- cry and your mascara runs.

    Great story. Amazing bite-sized character sketch. Loved it.


  35. I actually really like the way the news was revealed through the reactions of others. That struck me more to the core than the disarming of it through humour

  36. Masterfully done as always John. And you really tapped into how strong the human spirit can be.

  37. Either this guy is in huge denial, or he's the most optimistic man I've ever "met". Great story, John.

  38. In these situations there is a point where you have to find the humor or you will fall into the dark. And for some reason, most the time the family or friends that surround us find it acceptable for us to fall into the dark but not acceptable to find the joy or the humor in the situation. They think we are loosing reality or that we aren't facing up to reality if we aren't depressed. I gave up on human politics long ago. Be who you are and let the rest go. Bellyslide all the way, baby! Great stuff as always.

  39. "...I was kind of excited to try it..."

    The spirit that can find ways to deal with what's happened - and then find ways to deal with Misty's reaction. Indomitable.

    I like this character. Reminds me of the cartoon I saw once, a mouse standing with middle digit raised in the face of an eagle swooping in with talons extended.

    One last act of defiance. Seems your character is cut from the same length of steel.

    Excellent story - a lot told in a little space.

  40. Chuck, and if you didn't have that sense of humor, I wouldn't blame you. But if you did, I'd sure try to support it.

    Spot, I commend your strategy of anti-tragedy humor. Full endorsement.

    Mr. Marc, that's something I'm trying to turn into part of my style, rather than making all details upfront. Much easier to do in first person, when you're so keenly aware of what you're unaware of.

    Craig, if only we were more at ease with keeping it so durable. Thanks!

    Mari, is it denial if you don't recognize the thing first? What about if you get to it second?

    Jodi, that means a lot. You've been through so much that I won't say here, but your endorsement on the piece means a great deal. Thank you for weighing in.

    Kevin, thanks for both the response to the length and the substance. I wanted to pack this one tight. Maybe go longer next week (or the next day). I can see myself being that mouse, too.

  41. This guy would be an Olympic planking champion. Wonderfully dark and comic.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  42. This guy can definately make lemonade out of lemons.

  43. Adam, if I can only bring the comedic to the darkness, then I'll have done one worthwhile thing with my work. Thanks!

    Lara, I hope he likes the taste.


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