Brandon hated his job. He hated people. He hated life. Perhaps, hate is too strong of a word. Indifferent, is better, but the problem with being indifferent is that life happens to you. It is a slow death, reserved for those without courage. It takes courage to take your own life and it takes courage to live it. Brandon wondered if he would feel different, if his life was different, but change seemed like a distant possibility. His life would change, but not the way he wanted it; and perhaps, that is the worst feeling of all, being powerless. He had lots of experience with that, not personal experience, but with what he did for a living. Working in a nursing home is horrible. It is filled with people who are powerless. It is the beginning of life, all over again, without hope.
His manager reminded him of a grocery-store clerk, checking off who had died and who still needed baby food. He had a pot belly, and a shiny bald head. His face was vacant, and his eyes were black and small. He wore pink polo shirts and slacks that were too tight.
“Brandon, I’m assigning you to a real dish. She was playmate of the month, in 1965.”
Brandon wondered if there would be any lingering sex appeal, after more than half a century.
He wasn’t getting any sex. It might’ve been his late-evening hours, early morning nursing classes, and the homework he did in-between that interfered. He was a monk, or perhaps… a eunuch. The thought, was horrifying. Lately, Brandon was trying not to think. Thinking caused a person to reach conclusions about reality. If it wasn’t for the need to survive, Brandon would not get out of bed. Perhaps, he was the same as the nursing home patients, only, he was taking care of himself—that makes a big difference.
Mary Sue was hooked up to oxygen, so that her breath fogged up the mask, when she breathed. Her eyes were a dull red, and her skin, wrinkled putty. Her head bobbed up when she saw him. She wore a blue nightgown that was see-through, and Brandon made a point not to look too carefully. Her arthritic hands were bundled into fists, useless, with a backdrop of paintings, she had obviously done herself. They were of exotic landscapes, one-legged prostitutes, religious men who looked evil, and symbols of material wealth—cars, clothes, and society.
There were several Playboy centerfolds of her in seductive positions, hanging on the walls. There was the cheerleader pose, the tennis star doing the splits, and Mary Sue bent over a red Camaro in a green bikini. Brandon couldn’t believe the woman sitting in the wheelchair in front of him was his dream girl. If only he could go back to 1965 and give her a sponge bath…
“What’s your name?” Mary Sue asked.
It was strange to Brandon how easily a woman like that asked his name. There was an invisible separation between men like him and women like her.
“My name’s Brandon.”
“Are you the young orderly who will be giving me sponge baths?”
“I suppose so.”
“You don’t say it with much enthusiasm. Young men used to pay, just to get a look.”
“Are you feeling all right?”
“As well as I can; just look at my face.”
Her face was worse than a wrinkled centerfold. Brandon wondered when it happened to women. There was hope for him yet, but as he got older, he had gotten wiser. Somehow, hormones, a lack of wisdom, and women, have to meet in the middle, before any great changes happen.
Old people are good at remembering the past, or perhaps, they keep remembering the fine details and repeat them over and over again. Brandon learned about Mary Sue’s sexual conquests and career. She was one of the first feminists who embraced her body and did things her way.
“Gerald dumped me for a younger woman, but I got that bastard’s money. I convinced the fool not to sign a prenup!”
Brandon had a misconception of older women. He thought they gave candy to little boys and were sweeter than his mother. It’s interesting how one can have blind spots, even when one becomes wise in the ways of the world.
“Well, tell me about your sex life,” Mary Sue said. “A boy like you must know a lot about the human body—being a nurse and all, and you go to school with almost only women.”
“I can’t really say I have a sex life.”
“What? What’s wrong with you? The sex drive can go underground like a river and it can drive men crazy. You got to do something about that!”
“Well… I’m concentrating on my studies.”
“I might be able to help you.”
Mary Sue pulled an herb out of her pocket. “Smell it!”
“Smells like mint,” Brandon said. “Yes, but more powerful. Yes indeed, way, way, more powerful,” she said to herself. “Boil the water and take a drink. You’ll never be the same.”
Brandon thought it dangerous to take advice from a worldly woman, but she seemed to have his interests at heart. He did as he was told, and she was smiling at him.
“Now, go to class and see what happens.”
Brandon finished his shift and went to class the next morning.
“We will be learning about the male reproductive system today,” said the instructor. “Brandon, would you like to volunteer?” She was serious. Later, when they were dissecting cadavers, the female nurses kept bumping into him.
When he left class, he found a girl’s pink panties inside his pocket, with her phone number written into the label. It said, “Call me, Brandon.” He couldn’t sleep all day. When he got back to Mary Sue, she was waiting for him with her expectant smile.
“That tea is powerful stuff. How long does it last?”
“Until you do the deed, young man.”
“You mean to say, I’m going to be a piece of raw fish with the sea gals circling overhead, until I let one of them have me?”
“Sure. That’s how it works.”
“Well, forget it!”
“Oh, you won’t be able to. And none of those women will be able to satisfy you.”
“What will happen to me?”
“M-A-D-N-E-S-S!” She said slowly. “Unless you do the deed with me.” It was horrific to contemplate, but like a tractor beam, he was pulled toward her. There was truth in her words and his bones started cracking. His back snapped, and the life was sucked out of his skin, until he fell face-forward into her.
Brandon noticed, she was not the old woman, anymore. She was playmate 1965.
“Get off of me, you disgusting old man.”
Brandon had to wear the oxygen mask, just to catch his breath, as he stared after her tanned legs and luscious red lips, laughing at him.