Sterile Sofa Zone

He loomed before me with calculated candor.

A movie star, maybe, or he wants to be. This is LA, after all. This is a skeazy hotel, after all. The white gleaming linoleum from the ‘70s matches his overcoat, white, Jacksonian. Maybe he’s Michael J. after all. I wouldn’t recognize any stars.

Forty-five degrees, now moving counter-clockwise – silver. I lie still. The silhouette with its trench coat is Elvis and energy, something my vision can’t fixate on. He keeps moving. I must be moving.

Fingers swaying. An intrusion. It’s like the movies after all. I think I should be lifting a knee; I think I should be kicking him in the groin. But the body’s far away and I feel soft and nervous in this cotton. My feet feel limp on the hotel grime. Maybe this LA dive will really get me raped, like my mother said, and she’ll say she told me after all. If I could tell my legs to kick I would; I’m not sure what they’d reach for now. He’s somewhere over me, too close in. The silhouette’s encompassed me in blue and white, still moving. This isn’t vertigo so it must be dance music.

A song keeps playing and it’s grinding now, something with a beep and pulsating burps. Maybe it’s the couple beyond the other wall. Cold plastic’s unnerving, unnatural. How people lived like this I’m still not sure. Why the hotel emulates it is beyond me. Movie star man has a giant hand, holding the metal. Wooden stick inside my mouth.

The song slows down and it messes with my vision, so the seventy-five-degree silhouette stops there, all of a sudden, the head behind my left ear somewhere, the hand up close and giant now, the trench coat fashion swaying but stopped. The movement now is only the song. “Something neurological.” Some words slowed down and massive, giant zombie words. I want to gag from the wooden stick. I want to kick my legs. But the floor’s so shiny.

The back-beat and bass of the song continue, but with the refrain gone (the neighbor tourists gone?) I’m back to blurriness, focusing on the visual sense, focusing on the movement of the trench coat and its pockets, its shiny watches made of molestation, made of VHS. Something pathological.

I throw up and it’s slow-motion too, a sudden intrusion in the visual turntable, some brown upon the bluish white, and then it’s gone. The smell’s there for a second; orange lingers on the lens. But after that it’s gone, and back to swaying man we go. The grainy chin is somewhere near my ankle now, or must be, because all I see is shiny shoe up near my face, close to kicking me. I try to will more vomit up. I feel no throat. I feel no mouth. I see his. The song starts again; the vision folds in on his metal timepiece. My lips must be hanging open somewhere near it. The back-beat’s all I hear right now, the ticking of the ‘70s, the growl of a stomach, and the beeping. Suction cups, or it sounds like them. Some new instrument.

And vomit again intrudes again, and the vision starts up again, the crawl toward one-eighty. I can’t find the timepiece. My dilated pupils search. I find metal, but it’s different; it’s not on him. It’s on a machine – an amplifier added?

I still feel the linoleum beneath me, but the neighbors are quiet. Where the song went I don’t know, but this is LA, after all, and I’m being molested, after all, and my mother – she might say something about my feet being bare! My stomach lurches, but no vomit, no more music. The silhouette’s retreating; it almost forms a man now. The trench coat walks away in glamour, with a laugh note, such a cold and bare-boned end to such an intimate encounter. I’m alone in this field of stained white shine and sweat, and where’s my skin, and the ten dollars, and the hotel clerk who offered me that extra cot? Everything is cold but I don’t feel it, just the swaying still and floating of my distant field of vision. It isn’t constant clockwise anymore. Something stranger, a zooming splotchiness with blacks and close-ups on yellow spots and reds. I listen to the back-beat beeping again; I can’t tell if it’s in the room, but I notice it again, and it’s there either way, again and softer. Humming glitziness. I’m not living here. My ankles, with nothing to kick now, don’t even try to keep grazing the dance floor. Something’s still holding them in, something leather, and they must be pretty chafed by now. The cotton sheet’s too soft, an anachronism in the harshness, but somehow it blends into my foggy perception. Soft and stirring in the madhouse.

Outside the skull, babies scream for joy.


The experience and methods did not properly suit Steven’s composition. He demonstrated an almost complete deficiency in sensory interpretation, even while internal tests revealed that receptors were in place. His level of cognition is still undetermined, but behavioral tests and overnight observation have added very little to biochemical analysis.

Allison may, in contrast, be able to discharge herself sooner. During intake, she appeared idle and controlled, though far from lucid. She tolerated testing with a sustained but seemingly self-induced lack of recognition. She presented with little self-consciousness or reserve (either apathetic or defensive), clearly taking in several elements of her environment and yet, just as clearly, making little of most of them. She seemed resigned to her position, never struggling to figure out what it was, just accepting it, as if she defined it in some way outside of her then-present senses (perhaps through peripheral stimuli alone, perhaps through some bit of alternate awareness, though it is, of course, way too soon to decide on anything so extreme in her case).

Though evidently dizzy and physically nauseous, Allison did not seem uncomfortable. Instead of alarming me, however, her lack of clear disposition actually confirmed for me a level of mental recognition. Her pupils were dilated, but her visual field could not have been altered significantly, since she focused vigorously, almost rigidly, on various parts of my outfit as they moved near her eyes and hands. She grabbed my stethoscope and made grunts of recognition when she heard machines whirring up. The biggest sign of lucid cognition came following her second episode of vomiting, when she swallowed, smiled slightly, and placed her right hand on my coat, just at the point of my bent knee. Her vision was still focused, it seemed, only on what was immediately in front of her (in this case a maid, cleaning up the floor between us), but some peripheral stimuli must have entered Allison’s visual field in order for her to have been able to reach my knee with her hand. I would not have come to the same conclusion if she had touched another part of me, but in this case she extended her hand with fingers cupped, almost claw-like, evidently intended to cap a knee.

Without inferring too much about her current mental capacities or emotional stability, I should add that a large portion of the epidermis on the interior side of her own right knee was, at the time of intake, found to be shaved off completely, revealing a jagged section of the underlying dermis, evidently clean aside from metal scraps found just at the surface and on the inner thigh, where the blood had slid as she walked or was pushed.

At the completion of intake and initial testing, the patient was left sitting up in her bed, both feet grazing the floor, both elbows bent with hands on either temple. Nurses found after one hour that her nails were digging in, perforating the temples, so the nails were cut quite short. During the nail-cutting, I am told, Allison repeated the words “dance,” “skull,” “locked,” and “hotel” in varying combinations for over two minutes – the only complete words she has uttered since intake. Her pupils were still unusually dilated, though the on-call nurse insists that Allison’s eyes were moving counter-clockwise, focusing softly on Miss Capinara’s own white, high-gloss heels.


(Written in 2009)