Wednesday, October 31, 2001

He, Birdgirl and Faceless Larry

     It was a typically nice sunny day in California.  The type all of the natives don’t appreciate any more.  Frank was one of those natives.  He’d seen it all before.  He had big troubles rumbling through his head like the violence of a juxtaposed thunderstorm against all of this bright sunniness bullshit.  He had chosen to eat inside the taqueria.  In the back.  It was his one meal a day (he seemed to be limiting himself to that nowadays, waiting to eat until he just couldn’t stand it anymore, or the dizziness and shaking begin to set in).  His whole happiness system was embedded in the half-eaten burrito that sat before him.  He was shoving huge chunks of food into his mouth and not bothering to wipe his face.  Sour cream and salsa lined his mouth.  Even the employees had begun to take notice.  They probably thought him a junkie of some type, what with his gaunt frame and greasy bed-headed hairdo.  Frank did not give a fuck what they thought.  “What do they have to do with my burrito?” He thought to himself. “Sure, they made the thing, but they are over there whereas my burrito is right here in front of me.”  Frank was becoming a junkie of some sort; a junkie of food indulgence, a junkie of the way that food to a starving man could simplify a whole goddamn swirling hell world into “mefoodeatnow”.
A burning need and its obvious solution dancing through his body. But just then someone stepped into his temple that broke his trance mid-chew.

It was Larry Terry.

Larry Terry, oh perhaps number one on the list of fellows that Frank really did not want to run into.  And here he was, with his long blonde-dyed black hair and young taut face with that perpetual half-condescending grin, cutting a dull old blade right through Frank’s last simple pleasure, his worship of food.  Larry Terry was a local musician, just like him, but the fact that he wasn’t successful either had never seemed to bother him somehow.  Quite the contrary, Larry seemed to wear his failure like a badge on his shoulder.  He had slighted Frank on many occasions, too many to name, always with the off-hand pseudo-offensive remarks about his art, mannerisms, hair, always with the evil grin of self confidence.

And to make it worse, by his side was her.

Frank didn’t know her name, but he goddamn sure knew her looks.  The small shocks of jet black hair across her white forehead, her angular youngish body juxtaposed against her 6 foot tallness, she was even wearing the same dress she had been on that night, a tantalizing black number, of course, black, everything that wasn’t perfect angel wing white on this girl had to be dark raven wing black. And she was shaped like some beautiful bird as well, an egret perhaps with her long graceful neck.  Frank had nicknamed her Birdgirl in his mind.

Yes, he had spent a few hours about a month ago unable to stop gorging on the sight of this would-be young goth starlet at a local nightclub where one of his favorite local bands was playing.  He had even known the girl she was sitting next to and had sat dumbly down hoping to be introduced, but no such luck.  The girl he already knew just started having some stupid conversation with him having NOTHING to do with the beautiful girl that he OBVIOUSLY couldn’t stop staring at.  And stare on he did, she was like an impossible fiction to him........

..and still was.  And of course, here she was spending her time with our young representative of Satan, Larry Terry.  Even his name pissed off Frank.  Larry Terry.  Of course, being the pretentious little gothboy that he was, he had made up a new name for himself, Ulysses S. Mayle or something, but it never stuck.  At least not to Frank, to him he would always be Larry Terry, the guy with two first names and the perpetual evil grin.
Larry of course ignored Frank for as long as he possibly could, and Frank followed suit, diving back into his burrito, albeit in a little more civilized manner due to the presence of the beautiful Birdgirl.

The next time Frank looked up Birdgirl was gone, probably in the bathroom, and Larry was ordering for the both of them.  After placing his order Larry pretended to suddenly notice Frank.

“....” he said.

He of course said nothing.  Just the sneer with a slight grain of recognition curling in his thick black eyebrows.  It would be of course necessary for Frank to say the first words.  He tried to hold back, to turn the responsibility on Larry, but it was no use, Frank, although the moody depressed type, had little control over the spasms of human social practices.

“Ah yeah.  Burrito time.”  he said lamely, hating the words as soon as they left his mouth.

“.....” said Larry.  Then, “oh, Frank!  Hey man, haven’t seen you in a while.  Hey, ya got something right here” he said while running his fingers all around the circumference of his mouth.  Frank, of course embarrassed, reached for a napkin, but all of them were thoroughly soaked with burrito juice.  The napkin dispenser was of course right next to Larry, and of course he wasn’t going to give him one, and of course Frank certainly wasn’t going to ask anything of Larry, so the moment just sat between them.  Frank could see that Larry was eating this whole thing up, just another rich cruel delicacy in the plentiful buffet of his life. Just then the main course walks up to him and kisses him on the cheek, ignoring Frank of course, who was busy wiping the burrito mess on his forearm in a panic.  One more grin from Larry and then the happy new couple went giggling to a table, the only one behind Frank’s.

‘The restaurant is almost entirely empty, but still they have to sit there!’ thought Frank in a rage.  It seemed as if they wanted to avoid even having to gaze upon the hideous visage of Franklin Chambers.  When Frank had wiped his face he had remembered the fact that he hadn’t shaven in three days.  Plus of course he had been sporting what were essentially his pajamas, i.e. sweatpants and a t-shirt that said “Reno” with dancing pretzels on it.  This, along with the mess he was making of his meal had probably been quite a humorous sight to Larry and his new girlfriend, and was probably the source of their continuing giggling right behind his back.

Frank thought himself lucky to only have one bite left of his burrito and finished it before carefully getting up and walking to the napkin dispenser.  He kept his back turned to the twittering couple while wiping his whiskery face.  He then raced for the door in as controlled a manner as he could muster.  Just before he could open the door, Larry had to clear his throat and say “see ya Frank!” with a little laugh shooting off after the “k”.  Of course Frank had to look back and wave, a hokey gesture it seemed, causing Larry to full on laugh with the beautiful Birdgirl playfully punching him in the ribs to stop, even though it was perfectly obvious that it was probably this sort of behavior that caused all the beautiful girls to flock to guys like Larry in the first place.  Women.  They all secretly want the cruel trickster, the manipulator, the condescending prick, even if it’s a secret that they keep from themselves.

Even in this thorough moment of embarrassment and hatred, Frank still managed to get hung up in the stellar swanness of Birdgirl.  He had never seen a girl with a body that at once appeared so lithe and yet so strong.  And did her skin even have pores?  Then his gaze went to Larry, who in response to Frank's obvious mental fondling of his new chick put his arm around her slender waist and teasedly pretended to tackle her.  This was of course very funny to Birdgirl, and her laughter mixed with the door chime as Frank finally pushed through the door to the outside sunny happy bullshit California parking lot landscape.

Frank walked over to his car, a dirty, white ‘65 Dodge Dart two-door, and got inside.  He sat there and just brooded for a long time.  He had been doing a lot of that recently.  He had big problems on his hands, on his mind, the details of which we won’t get into here.  But suffice it to say they were big. Huge. Large. Humongous enough to end up with Frank quitting his job, quitting his band and breaking up with his long-time unsympathetic girl friend.  Yes, Frank was down to nothing, and the problems weren’t going away either.  They were actually getting worse and Frank had no idea what to do about them anymore. So, he ended up doing a lot of sitting around.  He couldn’t write, he couldn’t play, and he definitely couldn’t relax.  He was quickly becoming the mental cartoon of himself he had always dangled in front of his mind; a burned-out lowlife musician who never moved out of his hometown.  He could barely get the energy up to go to the bar and get drunk.  It had taken a huge amount of mental self-flagellation to get him to his car to end his daily fast at the burrito shop there in the shopping mall across town from his apartment.

He sat there for what seemed like a long time, but of course everything in his life seemed to take a long time to him nowadays, so he looked at his clock which of course was no longer working which of course meant that the stupid alternator was shorting out somehow again, so he couldn’t leave the parking lot without fiddling around with the fuse box again.

That was exactly when he grabbed the gun out from under the passenger seat of the car.  He would have kept it under the driver’s seat, but that one had long ago collapsed into itself, creating a small canyon that Frank had to fill with pillows.  He looked at his shiny black gun thinking to himself that even the real ones don’t look real.  But it felt real, cool and heavy in his hands.  He read the inscription to himself and laughed.  “.38 SMITH & WESSON SPL.+ P JACKETED”.  It sounded so serious.  Nothing in this world was serious.

Nothing in this fucked up world made sense, how could anything be serious?

Frank exited his car.  He kept the gun low, but made no attempt to hide it.  He walked straight toward the taqueria.  His mind was empty and simple.  He felt calm for the first time in a while.  The sunniness of the parking lot seemed almost comforting to him.  His sneakers felt as if made for the hot asphalt as they escorted him toward the awaiting door of the restaurant.  He pushed through the door with his left hand, gun in his right. 

The new couple were seated right where he had left them, still giggling, now with a spread of food half eaten in front of them.  At the sound of the door chime Larry had looked up first, shooting the sneering grin at Frank’s form reentering the restaurant.  ‘What is this fool up to now?’ Larry seemed to be thinking.  He chuckled to himself but then a forest fire of movement overtook his taut young face, the perpetual sneer actually disappeared, first in his eyes, then finally in his mouth, as it dropped open.  Frank had never seen Larry like this, and he thought to himself, if only for a moment, that perhaps this wasn’t Larry Terry that he was about to shoot in the face.  Birdgirl, who had of course been watching Larry’s face this whole time, had definitely not seen Larry’s face look like this and let out a little yelp of terror at the mere sight of it.  Then of course she followed his gaze to Frank and his gun and let out an actual scream.

Meanwhile, that moment I mentioned earlier, the one in which Frank hesitated about the fact that Larry looked like an entirely different person, was still happening.  Frank wanted to kill Larry, not some new other version of Larry that he had never seen and thus had no reason to hate.  Birdgirl continued to scream and Frank to stand there pointing the gun.  Just then, the forest fire of transformation in Larry’s face reversed itself as the perpetual condescending grin returned as he decided this whole thing was probably some kind of joke.  He turned the grin lopsided a bit and let out a laugh before his whole face was blown off by Frank’s gun.

Blood splattered out all over the wall behind where the Larry with the face had been sitting.  Birdgirl leapt away in terror, bumping her elbow against the wall.  She staggered back into a corner screaming.  She had streaks of blood all over her white skin.  Just then the new faceless Larry, which had been somehow supporting itself up as if in disbelief that it had been shot slumped forward onto the table in a bloody plop.  Parts of Larry Terry and parts of unfinished tostada mixed together in a mess of fangoria that seemed the sick idea of some depraved special effects team.

In the movies when something like this happens the music stops and everything becomes frozen.  At first it had, with Franks hearing temporarily dropping away, deafened by the gun blast.  But it came back, and there, in real life, the music was still playing.  It was the local Hispanic station, playing the usual type of track with the jolly, slightly unpredictable, oomph oomph background with the warbling singer over it all in some heavy reverb.  This was music Frank had always associated with gorging himself with spicy food  The only difference since the gunshot was that the music was now naked, singing over the whole scene in a classic display of irony.

Just then Frank remembered that there were others in the restaurant beside faceless Larry Terry, Birdgirl and himself.  In a dramatic quick motion he pointed his now warm gun at all of them.  First it was three Mexican employees, the fattest with a phone in his hand already in the process of calling the police or perhaps taking a phone order?  Either way the phone dropped from his hand as if all behind the counter was a theme park shooting gallery, and he had just hit the fat Mexican’s target with the red laser of his gun and this was the comical result.  The two other employees, one a young girl, stood frozen in time.

Then Frank turned to a customer still sitting near the front.  He certainly hadn’t noticed her on his way in.  She was a middle-aged woman with a romance novel held open by some plastic mechanism so that she could eat and read at the same time.  She looked at him with the seriousness of a woman who has seen more than her share of true crime reenactments, yet Frank couldn’t quite see her jumping him from behind if he were to turn his back.

Then Frank turned his weapon toward the only other table with customers in the place, a middle-aged bearded man with what appeared to be his full-grown son.  They had two half-finished bottles of Corona on their table and a basket of chips.  It appeared that they had not gotten their meal served to them yet.
Then Frank turned the gun on Birdgirl.  Somehow this finally stopped her screaming.  Frank walked up the Birdgirl with nothing but simplicity shooting through his brain.  Keeping his gun on her crouched form he walked up close enough to stare her right in the face.  Tears were streaked around her perfect high cheekbones.  Her usually lovely blue eyes were reddened with swollen capillaries.  Her elbow was skinned from her leap out of her chair and into the wall.  Her breath was quick and panicky, like a bird’s.

Frank pointed the gun at her face.  “Get up.” he said, quietly.  She did so, never taking her eyes off of Frank.  She was whimpering steadily now but the restaurant music threw a tacky Mexican blanket of sound over it.  He held the gun to the side of her beautiful head.  Frank held on to this moment for a while, the Birdgirl in front of him giving him her fullest attention.  She looked so gorgeous to him, the shocks of black hair still appearing unruffled against the perfect white tapestry of her forehead.  Her tiny dense cleavage seemed to be fighting to get out of her tight raven black dress, just like it had been that night at the bar.  And on a few other nights he had seen her as well.  It seemed this dress was a part of her, like it could never come off, like it was glued against her body by the same people that created Larry Terry and all his problems that wouldn’t go away.  ‘Well,’ he thought ‘there is only one way to find out’.

“Take off your dress.”  commanded  Frank in the same quiet voice as before.

“No!” shouted a voice from behind him.  It was the middle-aged man with the beard.  His son was now standing by the front door, not knowing what to do.  But his father was a man of honor, not the type to let some deranged lunatic molest an innocent woman without at least saying something.

“Fuck you motherfucker!”  exclaimed Frank as he unloaded two bullets into the man’s table, one hitting the target of a Corona bottle.  The rest of the people had gasped collectively at the shots, thinking of course that Frank had killed the man, but instead of blood all over the man it was beer foam and instead of falling onto the table he leaped up and joined his son.  They both stood there in the doorway, looking like they were in an earthquake drill.

Frank turned back to Birdgirl and repeated his command.  She looked desperately to the other patrons and employees and then back to Frank.  “Please....”

“Take it off!” were the first non-quiet words Frank had spoken to Birdgirl.  Then she looked over at her faceless boyfriend "face-down" in their meal and let out a low moan as she reached down and pulled the entire dress over her head.  Frank grabbed it and threw it to the side.  She stood before him in white panties and bra, but her skin was such a perfect white that it appeared to Frank that she was naked.  Frank pushed her against the wall violently, forcing a sob from her chest.  He kept the gun trained against her head as he pulled off the flimsy bra.  With his free hand he then undid his pants and pulled out his turgid erection with utmost efficiency.  With the tip of the gun still resting against Birdgirl’s head he in one motion pulled down her panties and entered her.  He thrust forward against her wiry body, pushing it up higher and higher against the wall, knocking down a clay Mexican gargoyle-looking head sculpture, which fell to the left of Birdgirl with a crash.  He continued thrusting, seeming to go deeper into her every time, holding her up by her arm while keeping the gun trained keenly on her head.

The entire contents of the restaurant disappeared from Frank’s mind.  It was just he and this perfect, albeit a bit blood spattered, vision of femininity.  In fact, it wasn’t even him.  He had ceased to exist, just like all of his problems.  All that there was was the devouring of this perfect meal before him.  He was back in his temple and things were finally simple, although hopeless, again just as they had been before Larry Terry had decided to show up and interrupt his meal.

Frank could feel muscles tightening up  in his body.  This meant that he was about to climax.  He increased the speed of his thrusts, while slowly moving the gun from the side of Birdgirl’s head to the side of his own.  Birdgirl, in an unexplainable moment of something impossible said “” just before the gun fired.

Monday, October 1, 2001

Inside the Haunted Halls of the Sonoma County Department of Mental Health Services

The front office of the Sonoma County Department of Mental Health Services in Petaluma California is a strange place to find oneself indeed.  But, that's the way life works, first youre on one side of the fence marveling at the antics of the clinically insane on the other, and then one day you wake up and see that fence has been moved to the other side and you're in with them now. Only, in all actuality the fence hasn't moved at all, it was you who moved somehow across that line while you were busy dreaming of other things.

            So, there I was sitting in the waiting room of our local government welfare nut house waiting to see a shrink so that I could get a new prescription for an anti-depressant medication called Serzone.  ("Serzoneâ, Reach For Relief" the package had said, with a cartoon picture of a happy yellow sun climbing out from behind dark, purple, brooding mountains.)  I had been on the medication for two weeks and I hadn't felt shit, but like I told my therapist, I didn't think that my dark purple mountains of suicidal thinking were going to go anywhere until my luck changed, but I would take the stuff anyway; oh why not; just one more drug going into a human body; who's to notice?

            I was of course feeling moody and depressed and generally frightened of humanity at large and the decor of the waiting room wasn't helping.  Even though this particular office building appeared young and fresh on the outside, with a hip, modern architectural motif using red painted steel beams woven in and out of concrete, the inside reminded me of waiting in the principals office when I was in 3rd or fourth grade, before they remodeled it.  The over-stuffed cushions of the waiting room seats were a blazing, while still dingy, orange-red.  The floor was covered with mangy off-beige carpeting and the ceiling mirrored its bleakness with its cracked, yellowed acoustical tiling.  Plastic cubbies lined the walls with self-help information pamphlets that looked to have been designed in the 1970s, with titles like "How to Know if Youre DEPRESSED", or "Depression HURTS", or "What Every Kid Should Know About ALCOHOL" or "Dealing with Teenage ANGER", all written in that round bubbly late 70s font, like normal type filtered through a lava lamp sitting on a naugahide coffee table next to a stained yellow ash tray with three stubbed out cigarettes and one tiny roach.

All about were advertisements for various medications like the one I was taking.  There was a Prozacâ clock, a poster explaining the various pros and cons of using Paxilâ, a small Prozacâ manipulatable magnetic sculpture toy, a Busparâ stress relief squeeze ball, a Zoloftâ calendar.....

            Another part of the decor that was increasing my fear of mankind was the man who had just walked in.  His name was Patrick, and he had an appointment with Bob at 2:00.  He was short, with a somewhat trimmed, very full black beard, in the middle of which was a mouth that could not stay closed.  When he had initially entered the office I thought that his mouth hung open because he was winded, perhaps panting like a dog or something.  This I could have dealt with.  However, after telling the secretary of his appointment he sat down and the mouth did not close.  It hung open gaping, unexplainable.  In a normal doctors office waiting room I would have assumed that he had some sort of jaw condition, but here I imagined that perhaps he just always thought that he was in the dentists chair with everyone he came in contact to being either nurses or the dentist himself.  Glad I'm not on the other side of that fence, I thought to myself just as the ghost walked into the room.

            I had never seen a ghost before, so this came as somewhat of a surprise to me.  She did not glow a ghostly blue or green or anything, and you couldn't see through her no matter what angle you tried and she couldn't even walk through walls.  She simply pushed through the other door in the room, the one that led to and from the therapist's offices, and brushed past me toward the receptionist's sliding glass window.  She was dressed in multiple layers of sweaters, sweat-pants, dresses and jackets.  She had a huge collection of plastic bags that seemed to be overflowing with garbage; dirty shoes, empty beer bottles, paperback novels and stained magazines.  She smelled faintly like an alley I always cut through on my strolls through downtown.

When she walked up to the receptionist's window she tried to speak but nothing seemed to come out.  Instead she just made a strange circular motion with her head.  The receptionist seemed to understand this and replied, "Okay Linda, see you next week," with a little smile and curtly closed the sliding window.

 This lady didn't seem like a ghost at all, just a mentally ill homeless woman keeping it all together long enough to pick up her new free prescription down at the government psychiatric ward. But I knew she was a ghost all right for I was the one who had killed her.


It was about a year ago.  My roommate Chris and I were riding around town in his somewhat bashed up white sports car.  It had the kind of headlights that flip up like opening eyelids, but one had been jammed halfway open from a small accident between Chris and a skateboarder, giving the car a groggy, drunken look.  Truthfully I don't exactly recall what we up to, why we were driving around in the first place, but there we were and I was in the passenger seat and bored and playing with Chris's astoundingly realistic looking fake handgun.  It was actually a pellet gun, purchased from a Wal-Mart in nearby Rohnert Park, but Chris had not purchased it to shoot pellets; he had purchased it because it looked so fucking real.  It was black and HEAVY as you would think a real gun would be and it could always be found just laying around on the floor of his scared-up Acura.

I remember thinking that you could have conducted a scientific study right there in Chris's automobile about men and women and handguns.  Here, for all esthetic purposes, was a real handgun, and it would be so fascinating to see what different people would do with it, all sitting in the passenger seat with Chris driving at their left, at different times. I could see the women asking questions about the gun, perhaps even picking it up once they realized it was fake, but putting it down, perhaps away under the seat even, soon afterward.  Women are by and large disgusted by tools of violence.  They also mature faster, live longer and are generally all-around better people than men.     However, I was of course a man and thus having the time of my life with the thing.

            I was holding the gun in my lap with a mean look on my face, like I was a fucking killer.  Chris was of course the driver.  We were busy entertaining ourselves with fake arguments about who was gonna get it from "da boss" if we didn't "do dis ting right".  By "dis ting" of course we meant a drive by shooting.  I told him that if I missed it was "gonna be bofe our asses" and Chris was hollering disagreement, saying that he was "da drivah" and that I was "da fuckin shootah" and that it was my responsibility not to "fuck this ting up".  We sounded like a bad mutant sketch of Italian mobsters and South Central LA ghetto gang bangers, but we kept this line of immaturity up, interspersed with the occasional outburst of pure honky suburban laughter, as we headed toward downtown.

            We turned a corner.  I held the gun in my right hand, fiddling with it, pretending to make sure that it was loaded.  But as we turned the corner everything changed.  It was one of those times when fiction jumps out of its usual hiding place in the human imagination and becomes the real thing and who knows where actual reality goes to.  Perhaps it just gets covered up.

Anyway, as we turned the corner I saw her. It was one of the few crazy homeless ladies that lived in our small town.  It was the one who screamed profanity at the antiquers downtown on Sunday, who couldn't keep from exposing her lower genitalia to passing children, the one who seemed to like masturbating in public during our yearly local parade.  She was sitting at the bus stop all alone with her huge plastic bag seemingly full of garbage on the seat next to her.  She was busy having a rather animated conversation with herself.   There wasn't a single other person, not one potential witness, in sight on either side.

Now was the time.

In one quick, automatic-feeling motion I brought the gun up and extended it out the car window, aimed it at Miss-Crazy Petaluma's head and fired.  From the time we had made the turn on the corner up until then, perhaps only a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity, I had become a cold-blooded killer.  I had been overcome by an overwhelming instinct that had, without an ounce of hesitation, led me to stick the gun out the window cool and calm and professional-like and just fire on an innocent easy victim.  After all, the shot was wide open, ideal.  Chris had seen what I was doing and hadn't said a word.  Like he had said, he was just the driver.

But then, after the empty pellet gun clicked in my hand, I thought about what I was doing.  Sure, no one was going to be hurt by me and this realistic looking toy, and of course there was the danger that some law-enforcer could see me sticking a gun out of a car window at a pedestrian and follow us in hot pursuit, but I wasn't very worried about that.  It was such a quick moment, what were the chances?

            I was much more worried about what the lady would think as she saw a mean-faced youth sticking a handgun out of a passing car and aiming it between her eyes. She might have a heart attack, I thought to myself.  But then again, the woman is insane, so she's probably used to seeing images like that, probably some even more terrifying and threatening.  She probably doesn't believe anything she sees anymore anyway. Plus she looked pretty involved in that internal debate.

            Boy was I wrong.

            The moment she saw the gun the poor old woman's face constricted into a mask of cartoonish terror.  Her eyes squinted up as if it was a light beam ray gun I was about to shoot her with as opposed to just a normal old hand gun.  Just as the trigger was pulled the lady's hands shot up to cover her face and the motion of her arms was so violent that the momentum caused her whole body to slip off the back of the bench, which had no back to it and into the plexiglas wall behind her.  In reality of course, the gun had just made a tiny click as the trigger was pulled.  But, I swear to god I heard a goddamn shot and I certainly know that she heard it.  Her body flying back against the wall was the last thing I saw as our car sped away down the street.

Half a block later I pulled the gun back into the car and rolled up the window.  It just seemed the right thing to do.

            "Holy shit!" Chris spat out from my left.

            "Whoa...." I responded.  I felt as if I was waking up from some sort of dream.

"Holy shit!" Chris repeated.

"Did I just........ kill her?" I asked, my voice sounding tiny and far away to me.  Was I in a movie?  What the hell was going on?

            "Holy fucking shit Damian!  That was goddamn hard-core!"

            "Is she okay ya think?  Oh man what the hell!  I didnt mean to do that...."  I said.

            ".....goddamn hard-core...."  mumbled Chris like a mantra.

            " just happened.....Oh man Chris, turn right again!  Lets go around the block..."

            We went around the block and passed the bus station again but she was gone and I never saw her around town after that. I asked around a bit and no one else had seen her either.

            That is until I saw her ghost passing through the waiting room at the Mental Health Services building.  After gesturing to the secretary she pushed her way through the front door, with some difficulty due to the large, full plastic bags slung over her shoulder.  I caught another glimpse of her face and I was totally positive it was her.  She looked exactly like she did before I had blown her away.  After the front door closed behind her I dropped the book I had been pretending to read and just sat there with my mouth hanging open.  I had never seen a ghost before.  Then I looked across the room and there was bearded Patrick, with his mouth hanging open as well of course, staring right back at me.  Our eyes stayed locked for an eternal second until the inner door opened and a woman's voice said:

            "Damian......the doctor is ready to see you."