I don’t remember the ride over to Tony’s at all. I seemed to have been in a half-sleep half-waking miasma of sounds and images and thoughts I wasn’t altogether sure were my own. I can vaguely remember some party or rave I was at, all dancing and drinking and more dancing following by cold and wet. The rocking of the van at first made me feel a little queasy but after I got a grip on my stomach it turned out to be rather pleasant like being gently rocked. I thought I remembered AJ talking to someone but I was could not make out if it was me or not so I ignored him.
All of that came to a very abrupt end when after about some indeterminate amount of time the van screeched to a halt. One door opened then another and the sounds of people talking in stern tones and doors closing were all about me. I was being unbuckled and bodily moved from the van. I remember going through a haze of some hallways, bright lights then some stairs and blessed darkness and quiet. On the way down I did seem to catch the faintest waft of something delicious. My stomach groaned in protest even as my mouth watered in hopeful delight.
I was placed on a couch, apparently Tony or one of the boys stayed here if the hour got to late and sleep was the priority. Here appeared to be a smallish room that had been made over into an office slash apartment. It had the couch I was on, an old-fashioned solid, real wood desk that your middle school teacher would have had and a chair made of the same stuff pushed underneath. There was a couple of filing cabinets against one wall and a small entertainment center along the other. By entertainment center I mean a stereo with CD player. There appeared to be a handful of CD’s laying about but could not make them out. There also seems to be a small sink and a door closing off what I presume to be a small bathroom. High class. The air was cool and dry and comfortable to sleep in. So I did.
Some undetermined length of time later I awoke to the scent of incense and pasta. Weird combination. Slowly I opened my eyes, thankfully not to a flooding of light but to muted lighting coming from a corner lamp with soft, warm low watt bulbs within. My body seemed to feel okay although looking down I could see I was in some pajama bottoms and a white tee. No shoes or socks. The was a bit short in the leg and excessive in the waste. Tony’s clothing no doubt. The bottoms were of grey flannel with light-colored pin stripes running the length of the leg. The Tee was a white classic Fruit of the Loom that Tony always wore. No frills for this guy.
There was the almost immediate feeling of not being entirely alone in the room. I lifted myself to my elbows and peered around. Sitting quietly in the chair behind the large wood desk was a black man in scrubs. A man whose skin color was that of molasses. It was hard to tell his age by his face for there were very few lines about it save for a very few crows at the corners of his eyes. His hair was done in dreadlocks fashion in the style of Woopie Goldberg and he kept a six-inch length of beard emanating from the bottom of his chin kept tidy by a rubber band maybe. He has strands of white going through his beard but could not see any in his dreads. He wore glasses and was reading when I noticed him. As he looked up to see me peering at him he repositioned them farther on the bridge of his nose and set down what appeared to be a paper he was reading. from the looks of what I could make out it was the Willamette Week or Mercury by the size of it and the gaudy cover art.
As our eyes met a warm smile spread over his face.
“You have been unconscious for quite a while my boy. Can you tell me your name?” His voice had a deep timber to it and somehow matched his skin color perfectly, dark rich molasses. He spoke with an accent long forgotten and only came out occasionally with a little harder emphasis on a couple of words ending with a “t”. His teeth were extremely white with a small gap between the front two. His smile was infectious. “John Tallow, uhm…wait, that’s not right.” My mind was a little slow to get out of the gate and had temporarily stalled. I made a supreme effort and was rewarded with “I am a friend of Tony’s.” He sat watching and waiting to see if there was more. After a few seconds of embarrassing eternity he smiled a little, took off his glasses and leaned back in his chair. I could clearly now see the picture I.D. badge he wore although it was too far away to make out a name or title.
“Let me ask you something else, if you are up for it.” I looked at him and raised an eyebrow for what seemed the odd nature of his question. “Sure, fire away.”It had never dawned on me that my own circumstances were what most people would have considered odd or out-of-place.
“Do you know where you are.” He says in his melodious and methodical way.
“Very true. Do you know how long you have been here?”
“A few hours maybe. I felt really strange and sleepy when I called Tony earlier.”
“In truth John you have been here about 18 hours. Tony called me after you hadn’t awakened after 8 hours.” He said this with a completely straight face and a somewhat tired tone to his voice.
“Have you been awake the entire time?” I felt a little guilty as I could see the man clearly was at the point of exhaustion.
“I have. Reminds me of the days as an intern when we were worked almost quite literally to death . Well at least it felt that way with 16+ hour shifts, little sleep and even less to eat. It’s a wonder more of us didn’t burn out.” He seemed to think back in sad sort of way like he was remembering another time. “So, young man, sounds like you have had quite the night.” His eyebrows shot up a trace and I could see the faint trace of a smile forming at the corner of his mouth.
“I guess. Say, not to be rude but since I have been sort of out of it for so long I am gonna pass it off as my brainpan being all wonky, are you a doctor and why wasn’t I brought to a hospital instead of you coming here? Last time I checked house calls went out with things like VCR’s and pogo sticks.”
He paused, thought about it for a moment, stood up and came around to the front of the couch, pushing the chair from underneath the desk as he went. Wheels, it has wheels, awesome. He placed himself just a couple of feet away from me and took a deep breath. The kind someone takes right before they tell you that your dog dies or you’re moving half through the school year to another state. I braced myself for the worst.
“John, your circumstances were such that it may have been hard to diagnose your symptoms in a hospital let alone find treatment for it.” As he sat there I could now see him a little better. He was a thin man around between 50 and 150 years of age. It was really hard to tell. He wore blue scrubs, an old pair of dark blue Vans and had a cain of some wood that he carried more for ornamentation rather than function I would guess by the way he carries himself. It was kind of knobby at the top end where his hand wrapped over it and was three of four inches in diameter and tapered down to about 2. There seemed to be some images on it I could not make out but I could tell that it was stout and would not want to get whacked by it any time soon.
I tried to focus in on his I.D. badge to make out his name and where he was employed but could only make out his image and the name Clarence Caribi.As it was quite evident I was reading his bade he immediately stood up and extended his hand.
“My name is Clarence Caribi but you may call me C.C. most of my friends do.”
“Am I your friend” I was uncertain as to how to proceed without sounding like a royal D-Bag but was a little off guard.
“I would like to think that we may become friends. In time you will be able to make up your mind as to the truth of that.”
I thought it over and as it seemed reasonable took his proferred hand. It was cool to the touch and dry. It was also incredibly firm. I could imagine him crushing my hand if hand reason to. I hope he never has.
“There are some things you and I need to talk about John. Some things you may find very difficult to believe. In fact you will likely not believe them but I beg that you at least to what I have to say with an open mind.”
That sounded ominous.