It was all the rage, that Watergate March, and many Great Americans took the opportunity to explode. Jane Doe, bloated and floated by the infusion of that VA antibiotic, started with a little squeeping fart caught on the Fat Man's alert stopwatch, and then with the rest of us watching, went on to rage at us with a great cacophony of orchestrated farts and then liquid farts and finally a blasting of her bowels and a continual gushing of what seemed like eternal stool. Richard Nixon, bloated by power and doubt, started with a little bark when named by Judge Sirica as unindicted co?conspirator of the Watergate Boys, went on to rage in a farting cornucopia on national TV, convincing almost every Great American by overreaction and gushing paranoiac railing at other Great Americans that he was as guilty as anyone imagined. We were all much relieved that no matter what else, we'd all have Nixon to laugh at and kick around for quite a good while longer. In some ways, after Vietnam, it was just what the country needed: a President so lacking in grace.
In Gomer City, we terns exploded as well. First to go was Eat My Dust Eddie. Bent under his own sado-masochism, he broke. He took himself OTC on every gomer until his service was being run by his BMS, and Eddie would talk about gomers only in terms of "can I hurt this guy today?" or "Some of them us to kill them and some of them don't, and I wish they'd make up their minds 'cause it gets confusing." The BMS couldn't stand the strain and soon gave in to Eddies perverted thoughts, and one day when a particularly recalcitrant gomere shrieked PO?LICEI! PO?LICE! for several hours, Eddie and his BMS borrowed uniforms and appeared at the bedside and said, "Yes, madam, this is Patrolman Eddie and Officer Katz. What can we do to help?"
"Why are you tormenting them?" Fats would ask.
"'Cause they're tormenting me," Eddie would say, "they've got me on my knees, do you hear me? ON MY KNEES!"
When his wife started to have labor pains, all hell broke loose. The day his wife delivered, Eddie showed up dressed in his black motorcycle gear: hat and boots and black wraparound reflecting sunglasses and black leather jacket with
***EAT MY DUST***
in silver studs on the back, and went around to see his gomers with his flash camera taking portraits "to remember them by." The place came apart. Terrified, the gomers began to shriek. The ward began to sound and smell like a zoo. Every House Hierarchy sent a representative and we found Eddie sitting calmly in the on?call room, boots up on the desk, grinning ear to ear and reading Rolling Stone. To any inquiries all he would say was, "They've broken me. I'm OTC." Later, when he asked me if I thought he was being unreasonable, against my better judgment, thinking of what he'd said to me when I was banging on the elevator door, I said, "Unreasonable? Hal I think you were giving them just what they always deserved."
"He's crazy," I said to Fats.
"Yeah. Delusional. A paranoid psychosis. It's terrible to watch. Ah, well, Basch, they'll have to give him a rest."
"They can't," I said. "There's no one to fill in for him."
"No one doesn't need a rest," said the Leggo to the Fish, as they discussed what to do about Eddie. "No one at all. Why, look at poor Dr. Putzel. I'll tell Eddie he needs a rest just like everyone else."
"And who will fill in for him?" asked the Fish.
"Who? Why, the others. My boys will all pitch in and help."
The next day Eddie was not at the cardflip, and when I called him at home he said, "I'm OTC for a while. I'm sorry to do this to you guys, but the Leggo won't let me back into the House. He thinks if I stayed there any longer I might kill one of the gomers and the House would get sued. He might just be right."
"Yeah," I said, "let's face it: you were getting close."
"Wouldn't be a bad idea, though, would it?"
"It's illegal. How's the baby?"
"Oh, you mean the gomere?" Eddie said.
"Yeah, the gomere: incontinent of feces and urine, unable to walk or talk, not oriented, and sleeping in restraints at night. The gomere. Room 811. I don't know how she is 'cause they won't let me into the House to see her."
"They won't let you see your own baby?"
"Yeah. I told them I wanted to take some pictures and they took away my camera, so I'm temporarily OTC with my own baby gomere, too."
The Fish told Hooper and me that to pitch in and help take up the slack created by Eddies snapping, he and the Leggo had decided that we would be on call every other night for our last weeks on Gomer City but that we get special consideration.
"Oh, Christ," I said, "I hope it's not 'the toughies' again."
"Not the toughies," said the Fish. "The 'preferential treatment! "
Preferential treatment was being skipped in the admission rotation once per day. This sounded good until it turned out that skipping a daytime admission resulted in our being awakened at three A.M. for the gomer beelining it in from the Mt. St. Elsewhere via the Grenade Room to Gomer City, courtesy of Marvin and the Blazers. Every other night, this three?A.M. special was the worst. After a week of the preferential treatment Humberto and Teddy and I were going almost as mad as Eddie. Teddy was first to go. His ulcer had started to act up. Muttering something about "the cramps," or maybe "the camps," he left.
Next to go, for me, was Molly. Strained by Gomer City, my thing with Molly had been fading for months, and when the preferential treatment had me on call for thirty-six hours and off for twelve, outside the House all I did was sleep. Once in a while I'd see Molly on the upstairs ward, and it was clear that she was losing interest in me. One day I found Howard helping her to make up a bed. I was shocked. Hot oil and myrrh for Howie? I asked Molly what was going on.
"Well, yes, I've been seeing Howard Greenspoon. He's the tern on this ward now. I guess I can't understand you anymore, Roy:"
"What do you mean?"
"You've become so cynical. You make fun of these poor patients."
"Everyone makes fun of these poor patients."
"Not Howard Greenspoon. He treats them with respect. I mean, it's like you're making fun of what I do. Remember how you walked out of that arrest on the man dying from multiple myeloma?"
"Yeah, but it was a big mess."
"Maybe, but Howard stayed right until the end."
"Howie? You and me used to make fun of Howie!" I said.
"Maybe so, but people change, you know. Look: I've had to work hard to get where I am. I can't help it if things always came easy to you, and you just coasted into medicine. When you were getting patted on the head, I was getting whacked by the nuns. Do you know how big and scary a nun all in black is to a little girl? Probably not. Well, Howard says he does."
"He does?" I said, thinking maybe Howie wasn't a dumb shnook after all.
"He certainly does. He's sincere. No one could call you that."
"So I've got to hand in my gold cleats, eh?"
"Oh, Roy," she said, remembering the loving, snuggling up to me, "I don't know. I still care. I guess it depends on what Howie says: "
Jesus! My myrrh depended on Howie! Howie, the tern who felt like a hero every time he put a feeding tube down someone's demented grandmother, who puffed up with pride when he marched into an elevator filled with nondoctors and heard the whispers, "There's one of them, a doctor." Howie, who bought the fantasy that doctors weren't just people, doctors were "better" people. Howie, who would woo Molly and do all those sexual things he'd only imagined doing, with Molly, and think he loved Molly and get back at his parents by marrying Molly the shiksa nurse and have three kids and then, and then, fifteen years down the pike when Molly awoke and realized that by marrying Howie she was only getting back at the nuns, and what the hell, why not fuck with the macho guy who came to repair her washer?dryer and why not leave Howie, and then, fifteen years down the pike, Howie, awakening to the notion that as a husband-father?lover he'd been screwed by his fanatic dedication to medicine and that even in medicine he couldn't "cure" anyone of anything, he'd check into the motel room alone and for the first time in his life, in shock, have to haggle out his one real decision: whether or not to peg out painlessly with the five grams of phenobarb he'd lifted from the hospital pharmacy when he'd found out that his wife and kids had left. Should I fight? Should I challenge Howie for Molly? Nah, it was too much of an effort now, and she was right: I'd become too cynical, too destructive for her.
Hyper Hooper and I cried differently from Eat My Dust. Although death and Hooper were still going steady and with Eddie on a pitstop at home Hooper was racing even harder for the Black Crow, under the stress of Gomer City Hooper had begun acting like a gomer. He'd gotten thin, almost scrawny, and neglected his personal hygiene. He began to rock, like a schizophrenic or an old Jew at prayer. Having lost his wife, he was now losing his pathologist. On occasion I'd find him sleeping next to Jane Doe in an armchair recliner, mouth in O SIGN, and when the Fish insisted we go on walk rounds, Hooper would slip into a wheelchair and wheel himself around, singing Jane's chromatic scale. If the Fish reprimanded him, he'd turn and say, "Physician, wheel thyself." The real problem arose when Hooper took to sleeping in the electric gomer beds in restraints, and one day when I came in and found him in an ankle cast and asked him what had happened, he said only GOMERS GO TO GROUND. He'd done just that, fracturing a small bone in his ankle, which enabled him to make rounds in his wheelchair every day.
Our final explosion took place at one Sociable C. Rounds. Rocking, chattering, punning, laughing, Hooper and I managed to blast every House Hierarchy. We fought with Lionel over perverted Sam, the Man Who Ate Everything, who, when we'd found him eating our food stashes day after day, we'd TURFED directly out to the icy street, and refused to readmit. The Blazers had readmitted him to floor eight, trying to convince us to take him back. When Selma, amazed, asked Lionel who was taking care of him, with his diabetes and his sexual perversions, Lionel had said, "We are, the staff of HELP." "You?" asked Selma. "HELP is treating his diabetes? That's illegal." I perked up and said, "From what I know of those petunias in HELP, Selma, they may not know how to treat his diabetes, but they sure as hell will get off on his perversions." Lionel got up to storm out, and lying down on my back in his path, I cried out, "Help, Selma, heelllp! I looked up, and all I saw was Blue Blazers!" We antagonized Salli and Bonni for stopping Eddies TURF of the Lady of the Lice?he'd neglected to put her down on her three?part placement form who would meet her in St. Louis?mentioning in passing the word "cunts," which sent both of them and our female BMS flying out of the room. Finally the meeting turned to mayhem when Hooper and I began rocking in synch and muttering "autoeroticism, the only way." The Fish, eyes popping like a. red snapper's, took charge and organized a STAT field trip to Chinatown for lunch.
How could we have known that during our happy Chinese lunch a rumble had begun in the House of God, and that this rumble had already begun feeding into older, deeper rumbles within the Leggo, our Chief. Each affronted Hierarchy had given the Leggo a buzz, and he was enraged. Returning to the House, fat and happy, imagine our surprise when we saw the Leggo appear at the far end of the corridor, rolling toward us. As he came closer and closer, we could see that he had a smile on his face that no one had ever seen before. Trembling, the Fish turned to Hooper and me and said, "You better watch out, guys, you're really going to get it." Amazed and surprised, Hooper and I stared at each other. In his eyes was reflected my own incomprehension: why would the Leggo get us? What was so bad about what we had done?
We braced ourselves for the shock. The stiff legs moved closer, the raging smile spread wider until it looked as if it would split the tight face open and spill whatever hid under that purple birthmark right out onto the floor of Gomer City. When he was so close I could read the brand name on his stethoscope as it ducked down into the jungle of his genitals, in a bizarre fashion that might have been the MSG in the Chinese food, not one but two arms swiveled and two long hands reached out and came to rest on two scapulae, one of the Fat Man and one of the Fish. Staring at them, the Leggo demanded: "Who is responsible? Someone is responsible for these poor interns, for this disaster of a ward. It is my job to find out who. You two, come with me."
"It took all I had," said Fats afterward, "but I did manage to finesse him, at least most of him. Logically, he was trapped. He had two choices: take it out on you interns, or take it out on the ones responsible for you terns. Having already lost Eddie, it was clear that he couldn't take it out on you. He had to take it out on those responsible. While I may be responsible for you, it is also true that the Fish is responsible for me, and guess who's responsible for the Fish?"
"Exactly. So he was stuck. I managed to finesse that part, the logic, but I couldn't finesse what the Leggo felt. You see, the Leggo didn't mind what you'd done to the Lady of the Lice, or to Sam the hungry pervert, Putzel, the Blazers, the Nurses, the BMSs, to Tina or Harry or Jane or the Roses that Hooper keeps killing. He didn't even mind your setting House records for lowest temperature in a living human being, most organs hit with a single needle shot, or most tests of the bowel run in a single night. In many ways, he thought you'd done a terrific job, especially as regards postmortems. But the thing that he was bullshit about was you guys not liking him. He can't stand your being cool toward him. He suspects you even make fun of him behind his back?imagine that. When you show him you don't like him, you hit a nerve, and when that happens, he goes ape. No one can finesse the ape." Pensively Fats went on, "Of course, for my share of the responsibility, he's delaying writing my Fellowship Letter again. I keep worrying that it'll be Samoa. The last thing he said to me was, 'Whatever you boys do, don't do anything else. Do nothing, understand?' Imagine him saying that to me."
"You told him, of course," I said, "that doing nothing was your greatest invention, the delivery of medical care?"
"Right. Why stop at Samoa. Go for broke and get the Gulag."
Fats fell silent. Hooper left, and I asked Fats what was on his mind. "Well, maybe this is more serious than I think. Maybe this is trouble. All the way from Brooklyn, all those exams and scrabbling, all that effort to land me here in the bigtime, on the verge of the big Hollywood 'Hello Fats!' and I just had the thought that maybe it'll all fall down. I don't like it. This may be good?bye L.A., good?bye dreams. Sometimes it seems like it just doesn't pay, does it, Basch?"
"To imagine. To dream."
Potts stood before me in the darkness of two A.M. in Gomer City, and mirrored in his gray face was, as always, the Yellow Man.
"What are you doing here at this hour?" I asked, but he didn't reply, he just stood there, staring. Again I asked what was going on.
"The Yellow Man just died."
I felt a chill. Potts looked white and chill, and his eyes looked dull and dead, and I said, "I'm sorry. I mean, I'm really sorry."
"Yeah," said Potts, fidgeting as if he wasn't really in the same world with me any longer, "yeah, well, he was going to die, it was just a matter of . . . of time."
"Yeah, he was," I said, and I thought about how much torment Potts had gone through every day that the Yellow Man had been alive. "Are you all right?"
"Who, me? Oh, yeah, I am. It's just a little hard . . . I didn't ask for a post. I didn't want to get one," said Potts, almost pleading with me that it was all right.
"It's OK. I know how you feel. I didn't ask for a post on Dr. Sanders. Sit down and talk about it, eh?"
"No, I think I'll just go upstairs and see him once more and then maybe take a walk."
"Right. I'll be down here if you change your mind."
"Thanks. You know, I should have given him the steroids."
"Stop it. Nothing would have helped."
"Yeah, well, steroids might have helped. Well, anyway, we sure had some fun the other night with Otis, didn't we?"
"Sure did, Wayne. We'll do it again, eh?"
"Yeah. Soon. If I can find the time."
As I watched him slip away down the corridor and disappear into the up elevator, I thought of the fun we'd had. I'd gone over to his house, and although it was depressing with the place a mess and with that loaded revolver by the bed, Potts and I had taken Otis out for a run in the March chill, and we'd talked about the South. Potts had told me about Mrs. Bagley's Dancing Class held at the country club every Friday night. Mrs. Bagley, an immigrant, would come out in a chiffon dress with a cinched waist and pop the needle into the groove and out would come the Charelles. They learned to dance pressing a walnut between their noses, and the big event, year after year, was on the last Friday night when Potts and his less tame but still Old Family buddies would roll B?B pellets onto the polished oak floor during a slam?banging one two three one two three Roll Out the Barrel polka. I'd thought it strange, that day, that Potts hadn't even mentioned his father's recent violent death.
I realized suddenly what was going to happen! Fool!
I ran to the elevator and pounded on it, but it wasn't moving, and I raced up the stairs to floor eight, and I kept cursing myself for not realizing it in time and praying that I had or that I was wrong.
I was not wrong. While I'd been cradled in his reminiscences of Mrs. Bagley's, Potts had taken the elevator straight to floor eight, had opened a window, and had thrown himself out to his death. From the window I saw the splattered mess on the parking lot below, and in between my panting for breath and shivering in the chill draft I heard the first siren squeal, and I leaned my forehead on the sill, and I sobbed.
"Did he leave a note?" asked Berry.
"Yeah. It was pinned to the Yellow Man, and it said, 'Feed the cat.' There was no cat."
"What did it mean?"
"It was meant for Jo. When Potts and Chuck and I were together with Jo upstairs, Jo kept niggling Potts to take better care of his patients, to 'feed the cat.' Jo said that if Potts had been on his toes, the Yellow Man mightn't have died." I found myself thinking of Potts as a tragic figure, a guy who'd been a happy towheaded kid you'd love to take fishing with you, who'd mistakenly invested in academic medicine when he'd have been happy in his family business, and who'd become a splattered mess on the parking lot of a hospital in a city he'd despised. What had been the seductiveness of medicine? Why? "They killed him."
"Who did?" asked Berry.
"Jo, the Fish, the others . . ."
While most of us in the House felt empty and didn't know what to say or do, others had definite ideas. Jo, perhaps thinking of her own pop's leap from a bridge, to his death, raised the question of the postmortem exam "to find out if there had been any organic precipitant." The Fish talked to us in a heartfelt way, about how "suicide is always an existential alternative."
The Leggo seemed upset, puzzled that one of his boys, especially one who he'd thought had loved him more than most, had killed himself. He talked about "the pressures of the internship year" and about "the waste of a great talent." The Leggo reassured us that he wanted to give us some time off to mourn. However, he could not do this. In fact, we'd have to all work a little harder, to fill in: "You'll all have to pitch in and help."
Like many other events in the House of God, this response from our leaders seemed so crass as to be imagined. If imagined, however, it had been imagined by us all. No one mentioned how the House Medical Hierarchy had tormented Potts with the Yellow Man, how it had ignored his pain. We tried hard to forget Potts fast, but for the longest time we could not, for every day when we parked our cars in the parking lot we saw and tried our hardest to avoid the little blotchy discoloration on the asphalt. None of us wanted to run over Potts with our cars, even if he was already dead. At first there was good reason to avoid the blotch, for there was real blood there and bits of hair and bone stuck to the thawing asphalt. As we tried to avoid it, the parking problem increased, and the House sent out some of Housekeeping to scrub it off. Try as they might, although they washed away the hair and bone, they had a lot of trouble washing away the discoloration. Sure it got lighter and lighter, but the hooker was that it also got spread wider and wider over the lot so that it became more and more difficult to avoid it, and we all felt, every day, that we were scrambling to avoid parking on Potts. Everyone tried to park on the perimeter of the lot. Some showed up early so as not to have to park in the middle. All in all it was a worse reminder than before they had spread Potts around. Each of us took the nebulous and faint discoloration and created out of it first an image of bone and blood and bits of hair, and. then an image of Potts falling, and then of Potts leaping out, and finally, sadly, of Potts alive, and then, the last, of Potts alive and being crushed by guilt for not having given the Yellow Man the roids. Thinking how they had tormented Potts until he had "bought it," we got mad, for many of us thought that of all of us, Potts, with his compassion and gentleness, might have become a wonderful doc. Of all of us, he was dead. Outrageous.
"What's suicide about?" I asked Berry.
"Here," she said, drawing me to her, "put your head here. Close your eyes. What are you feeling?"
Blank. Then fury: "I'm pissed. I'm so furious I could kill!"
"That's what suicide's about. Under incredible pressure, alone, with no support from your bosses, most of you have found bizarre ways?this role labeling of Hooper with death and the Runt with sex?to project your anger outside yourselves. Potts didn't. He never acted strange, he never got mad. He took his rage and blasted himself. Introjection. The opposite of what you do, Roy."
"What do I do?"
"You rail at everything, you're sarcastic, and even though you're pretty obnoxious, it's the one way you've chosen to survive."
Survive? It was not at all certain that I would survive Gomer City. I didn't know much of anything anymore, but I knew that I was in big trouble and acting crazy and that I didn't really care.
Fats and I sat in the on?call room. In the air was death. Fats looked sad, and I asked him what he was thinking.
"Grenade Room Dubler and his HTE Service," he said.
"Yeah. Hold the Elevator Service. When Dubler, was here in Gomer City he got so fed up?so the rumor goes?that he knocked off the gomers at a terrific clip. He used intravenous KCL, 'cause it can't be detected at autopsy. Whenever he took the elevator down he'd shout out 'Hold the elevator!' and would wheel in a corpse, and ride down with it to the morgue. They say Dubler seldom made the trip down alone."
"WHAT? He knocked off the gomers?"
"Rumor, Basch, rumor."
We sat there together, my mind on this HTE Service and Saul the tailor and Wayne Potts. I felt numb. After a few minutes I looked up. The Fat Man was crying. Quiet tears filled his eyes, fat wet tears of desperation and loss. They rolled down his cheeks. He sat still, a hero overcome.
"Why are you crying?"
"Roy, I'm crying for Potts. And I'm crying for myself."
From far off I heard a tune in my head: not the bright thunderous Souse march blared out by the trombones and crunched by the cymbals as the glittering marching band was led down the street by a miracle like Molly, no. No, seeing the Fat Man crying, the tune I heard was the one always played by a lone bugler and wafted out over a grassy knoll littered with alabaster slabs, heard by those weeping as the Kennedy widows and orphans had wept, a tune of an immense numb solitude, taps.
Saul the leukemic tailor was going through hell. Everyone, including the cheery oncologist who'd failed to cure his leukemia, had given up on him and was waiting for him to die. In coma, he was dying slowly, and could last for a long time. The worst part was that he was in terrible pain, his poisoned bone marrow sending shocks and screams straight through his heart and head, and it all came out in moans and tears. Saul didn't shriek. Saul cried. It wasn't a natural, human crying, for several strokes had obliterated his human sleep cycle so that he never slept. The crying was continuous, animal, moans of pain, streaks of tears on cheeks. It was driving everyone mad. I hated it; I hated him.
Without much thought, raging inside, one night I snuck into the medicine cabinet, got the KCL and syringe, and made sure that no one saw me enter Saul's room. He lay there in his own feces, a mass of tubing and tape and bruises and rotted skin and empty bone poking through at the ribs and elbows and knees. I thought of what I was about to do. I stopped. The memory of Dr. Sanders' death rushed through me, and I saw him oozing blood and saying, "God this is awf . . ." and I heard Saul saying to me, "Finish me off, do I have to beg you? Finish me off!" I caught myself thinking of Potts. Saul screamed. Angrily I uncapped the syringe and found the IV outlet and pushed in enough KCL to kill him. I watched him gasp for breath as his heart depolarized, and I watched his breathing become laborious, and his hand give a little twitch, and then a stillness come over him, a peace, but for his agonal breathing, which seemed to last a long time. I put the light out and went to be somewhere by myself. I was paged by the night nurse. Saul was dead.
On St. Patrick's Day I was called down to the E.W. late at night as part of the preferential treatment that the Fish had invented to turn us into lunatics, and I was startled to see a sideshow row of what had to be the worst patients in the world: a dead nun being resuscitated by Chuck; a homosexual murderer TURFED in from prison who thought his tern, the Runt, despite his mustache, was a girl; two roommates who'd overdosed on heroin and were dying; many gomers. I picked up my admissions chart and headed for the Grenade Room. I wondered where Fats was but I didn't really care and I didn't have to wonder long, because I opened the door and saw Fats and Humberto and the two policemen in what looked like green uniforms because it was St. Paddies Day and a gomer named what else but Rose, and with Fats and Humberto covered in vomit and feces and urine and blood.
"A greatandagrandgood evening tooyooo," said Gilheeny, drunkenly waving a shillelagh, "and itiz true that good officer Quick and I have been while on duty pouring Guinness stout into our bodies and are inebriated."
"For work is the curse of the drinkin' man," said Quick.
"And to cerribrate the Man Who Drove the Snakes from Ireland," said the redhead, "we have foundafittin Rose!"
With the help of the Fat Man and Humberto they hoisted the Rose up to a sitting position and I saw that they had pinned a green sign edged with shamrocks to her nightie, and the sign said:
KISS ME, I'M IRISH
I started to laugh and slipped on a turd and fell down in the doorway. I lay there in the filth, laughing, and the Fat Man came over to me and bent over me and waved a little test tube under my nose and said, "See this? This is all the urine she's made in five days, and half of this is the diuretic I gave her. Her bed has been sold forever. She's had five courses of electroshock therapy for depression, the last in 1947."
A shriek came from the gomere: REEE?REEE?REEEEE . . . and all I did, while they stared at me, was lie on the tile floor and laugh.
"Her neck is so stiff she can lie with her head off the bed and with no pillow, without pain," said Fats. "She is unresponsive to everything we've tried."
REEF?REEE?REEEEE . . .
And I lay on the floor and laughed.
"I stuck a tongue blade in her mouth, and she sucked on it so hard I still haven't been able to pull it out, and neither has anyone else. She has the strongest suck-reflex in history, which means, of course, that there is no frontal?lobe function, no frontal?lobe function at all. And do you know why? Because she had a lobotomy in 1948. Ho! Ho! HOO!"
And I lay down and laughed and laughed.
"The ultimate gomere, and you, you ***MVI*** you, she's totally and completely yours! HOOOO!"
REEEE?REEEE?REEEEE . .
And all I could do then, tears streaming down my cheeks, realizing that these gomers had won, that they had outlasted me and would survive in Gomer City after I'd gone in two weeks and left all of them to try to break my replacement, Howie, and all I could do, then, crying, was lie in the shit on the floor and laugh.
I couldn't laugh when I realized that Potts was gone and Dr. Sanders was still gone and Saul was gone and Molly was going with Howie and Eat My Dust Eddie was gonzo gone and Hyper Hooper was more or less gone and Teddy was gone and half of Teddy's stomach was gone and the Fat Man was soon really going a long way away from me on his Fellowship wherever, and that the only ones who weren't gone were the gomers. I had yet to see a gomer die in the House of God, unless it was with the aid of Hyper Hooper's needle shots or the dummies in dialysis who'd shrunk Fast Tina's brain down to the size of a pea and what the hell mistakes do happen don't they? Almost anyone I cared about was gone, exploded into a billion corpuscular fragments like a Great American Grenade might explode in Vietnam with the shrapnel raining down like confetti except that it wasn't at all like nice soft red white and blue confetti because it brought you to your knees and broke you and hurt you and left wounds that wouldn't heal and watery poisoned blood that wouldn't clot and would never wash out of your whites and images that wouldn't fade like the discoloration on the parking lot that had once been Wayne Potts. We were mostly gone, caught in a net of silence and pain where it might just be that the dead did lie, restless, and even in death fearing worse death or something worse.
I lay on top of my bed. Berry came in. I was silent. Berry sat on the edge of my bed and talked to me, but I was silent. I was not tired or sad or mad. She cradled my head in her lap and looked into my eyes and started to cry. She tried to leave. She came back a couple of times between the doorway and the bed and finally, hesitating at the door a final time like a mourner might hesitate before allowing the casket to be closed, she left. Her sad footsteps echoed down the stairs and died, and I did not feel sad. I was not tired or mad. I lay on top of my bed and did not sleep I imagined I felt what the gomers felt: an absence of feeling. I had no idea how bad I might be, but I knew that I could not do what Dr. Sanders had told me to do, to "be with" others. I could not "be with" others, for I was somewhere else, in some cold place, insomniac in the midst of dreamers, farfar from the land of love.