Someone's Gonna Poke an Eye Out
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I work out at a wellness center run by a hospital, which means I am surrounded by old people with strained hearts, bad backs, artificial hips, diabetes, you name it. My friends ask me why I don't go to a serious weight-lifters gym with younger people, but I don't want to change. First, the free-weight section is all mine. Other than those little 5-pound dumbbells, the rest of the stuff gathers dust unless I use it myself; there's never a wait for the bench press. The other reason I like my gym is because I meet the most interesting people, some of them precariously balancing on that fence that separates reality from illusion. Here's yesterday's sample:
I was outside, talking with a friend who is bald, like me. An older, stooped gentleman with yellowish skin and an oxygen tube in his nose approached us.
"You need to wear a hat," he said in some eastern-European accent. "The radiation is going to kill your brain."
"Uhhh, well, okay, thanks very much," I said. "Wish I had your head of nice white hair and I wouldn't have to worry about that."
"I am quite serious about this. It can happen in just a few minutes. Your brain will be gone, and you won't even know it."
"Oh, okay," I said, looking at my friend with a is-this-one-of-your-friends? looks.
"Yes," the old man said. "I know about this because I used to be an American guerrilla."
"American guerrilla?" my friend asked.
"Yes, like in the Middle East only for America. I used to be all over the world. Once I was infiltrating Nazi officers, and I didn't have a gun with me, and you know what I did?"
He reached down into the V of his opened shirt. I thought for a minute that he was readjusting his oxygen tube when he pulled out a pen.
"See this?" he said, holding up the pen. "This is a weapon. I killed somebody that day with it. You know how you kill someone with this?"
I took a guess: "Poke it through their eye?"
"Yes! Right into the brain. The eye is a window into the brain. So I pretended I was having chest pains, like this," he said, patting his heart, "and instead I pulled out a pen ..." He nearly lost his balance as he simulated the unsheathing of his weapon from between his breastbones. "And I ..."
"You speared him in the eye?!"I said. "Are you serious?"
"Just like that!" he said, snapping his fingers.
"Did you kill him?" I asked.
I would have probed further, but his rent-a-nurse had gotten out of the car and walked over to us and said, "Mr. Blah-Blah, there you are. I've been looking for you."
As she lead him away he turned one more time toward us and said, anemically snapping his fingers, "Just like THAT! ... Be careful of your brains!"
Indeed, I thought. I certainly will.