Downhill. Thoughts of suicide to stop it all now while I am still in control and aware of the world around me. But then I think of Charlie waiting at the window. His life is not mine to throw away. I’ve just borrowed it for a while, and now I’m being asked to return it.
I must remember I’m the only person this ever happened to. As long as I can, I’ve got to keep putting down my thoughts and feelings. These progress reports are Charlie Gordon’s contribution to mankind.
I have become edgy and irritable. Having fights with people in the building about playing the hi-fi set late at night. I’ve been doing that a lot since I’ve stopped playing the piano. It isn’t right to keep it going all hours, but I do it to keep myself awake. I know I should sleep, but I begrudge every second of waking time. It’s not just because of the nightmares; it’s because I’m afraid of letting go.
I tell myself there’ll be time enough to sleep later, when it’s dark.
Mr. Vernor in the apartment below never used to complain, but now he’s always banging on the pipes or on the ceiling of his apartment so that I hear the pounding beneath my feet. I ignored it at first, but last night he came up in his bathrobe. We quarreled, and I slammed the door in his face. An hour later he was back with a policeman who told me I couldn’t play records that loudly at 4 a.m. The smile on Vernor’s face so enraged me that it was all I could do to keep from hitting him. When they left I smashed all the records and the machine. I’ve been kidding myself anyway. I don’t really like that kind of music any more.
Strangest therapy session I ever had. Strauss was upset. It was something he hadn’t expected either.
What happened—I don’t dare call it a memory—was a psychic experience or a hallucination. I won’t attempt to explain or interpret it, but will only record what happened.
I was touchy when I came into his office, but he pretended not to notice. I lay down on the couch immediately, and he, as usual, took his seat to one side and a little behind me—just out of sight—and waited for me to begin the ritual of pouring out all the accumulated poisons of the mind.
I peered back at him over my head. He looked tired, and flabby, and somehow he reminded me of Matt sitting on his barber’s chair waiting for customers. I told Strauss of the association and he nodded and waited.
“Are you waiting for customers?” I asked. “You ought to have this couch designed like a barbers chair. Then when you want free association, you could stretch your patient out the way the barber does to lather up his customer, and when the fifty minutes are up, you could tilt the chair forward again and hand him a mirror so he can see what he looks like on the outside after you’ve shaved his ego.”
He said nothing, and while I felt ashamed at the way I was abusing him, I couldn’t stop. “Then your patient could come in at each session and say, ‘A little off the top of my anxiety, please,’ or ‘Don’t trim the super-ego too close, if you don’t mind,’ or he might even come in for an egg shampoo—I mean, ego shampoo. Aha! Did you notice that slip of the tongue, doctor? Make a note of it. I said I wanted an egg shampoo instead of an ego shampoo. Egg… ego… close, aren’t they? Does that mean I want to be washed clean of my sins? Reborn? Is it baptism symbolism? Or are we shaving too close? Does an idiot have an id?”
I waited for a reaction, but he just shifted in his chair.
“Are you awake?” I asked.
“I’m listening, Charlie.”
“Only listening? Don’t you ever get angry?”
“Why do you want me to be angry with you?”
I sighed. “Stolid Strauss—unmovable. I’ll tell you something. I’m sick and tired of coming here. What’s the sense of therapy any more? You know as well as I do what’s going to happen.”
“But I think you don’t want to stop,” he said. “You want to go on with it, don’t you?”
“It’s stupid. A waste of my time and yours.”
I lay there in the dim light and stared at the pattern of squares on the ceiling… noise-absorbing tiles with thousands of tiny holes soaking up every word. Sound buried alive in little holes in the ceiling.
I found myself becoming lightheaded. My mind was a blank, and that was unusual because during therapy ses-
sions I always had a great deal of material to bring out and talk about. Dreams… memories… associations… problems … But now I felt isolated and empty.
Only Stolid Strauss breathing behind me.
“I feel strange,” I said.
“You want to talk about it?”
Oh, how brilliant, how subtle he was! What the hell was I doing there anyway, having my associations absorbed by little holes in the ceiling and big holes in my therapist?
“I don’t know if I want to talk about it,” I said. “I feel unusually hostile toward you today.” And then I told him what I had been thinking.
Without seeing him, I could tell he was nodding to himself.
“Its hard to explain,” I said. “A feeling I’ve had once or twice before, just before I fainted. A lightheaded-ness … everything intense… but my body feels cold and numb…”
“Go on.” His voice had an edge of excitement. “What else?”
“I can’t feel my body any more. I’m numb. I have the feeling that Charlie is close by. My eyes are open—I’m sure of that—are they?”
“Yes, wide open.”
“And yet I see a blue-white glow from the walls and the ceiling gathering into a shimmering ball. Now it’s suspended in midair. Light… forcing itself into my eyes… and my brain… Everything in the room is aglow… I have the feeling of floating… or rather expanding up and out… and yet without looking down I know my body is still here on the couch….”
Is this a hallucination?
“Charlie, are you all right?”
Or the things described by the mystics?
I hear his voice but I don’t want to answer him. It annoys me that he is there. I’ve got to ignore him. Be passive and let this—whatever it is—fill me with the light and absorb me into itself.
“What do you see, Charlie? What’s the matter?”
Upward, moving, like a leaf in an upcurrent of warm air. Speeding, the atoms of my body hurtling away from each other. I grow lighter, less dense, and larger… larger… exploding outward into the sun. I am an expanding universe swimming upward in a silent sea. Small at first, encompassing with my body, the room, the building, the city, the country, until I know that if I look down I will see my shadow blotting out the earth.
Light and unfeeling. Drifting and expanding through time and space.
And then, as I know I am about to pierce the crust of existence, like a flying fish leaping out of the sea, I feel the pull from below.
It annoys me. I want to shake it off. On the verge of blending with the universe I hear the whispers around the ridges of consciousness. And that ever-so-slight tug holds me to the finite and mortal world below.
Slowly, as waves recede, my expanding spirit shrinks back into earthly dimensions—not voluntarily, because I would prefer to lose myself, but I am pulled from below, back to myself, into myself, so that for just one moment I am on the couch again, fitting the fingers of my awareness into the glove of my flesh. And I know I can move this finger or wink that eye—if I want to. But I don’t want to move. I will not move!
I wait, and leave myself open, passive, to whatever this experience means. Charlie doesn’t want me to pierce the upper curtain of the mind. Charlie doesn’t want to know what lies beyond.
Does he fear seeing God?
Or seeing nothing?
As I lie here waiting, the moment passes during which I am myself in myself, and again I lose all feeling of body or sensation. Charlie is drawing me down into myself. I stare inward in the center of my unseeing eye at the red spot that transforms itself into a multipetaled flower—the shimmering, swirling, luminescent flower that lies deep in the core of my unconscious.
I am shrinking. Not in the sense of the atoms of my body becoming closer and more dense, but a fusion—as the atoms of my-self merge into microcosm. There will be great heat and unbearable light—the hell within hell—. but I dont look at the light, only at the flower, unmulti-plying,undividing itself back from the many toward one. And for an instant the shimmering flower turns into the golden disk twirling on a string, and then to the bubble of swirling rainbows, and finally I am back in the cave where everything is quiet and dark and I swim the wet labyrinth searching for one to receive me… embrace me… absorb me… into itself.
That I may begin.
In the core I see the light again, an opening in the darkest of caves, now tiny and far away—through the wrong end of a telescope—brilliant, blinding, shimmering, and once again the multipetaled flower (swirling lotus—that floats near the entrance of the unconscious). At the entrance of that cave I will find the answer, if I dare go back and plunge through it into the grotto of light beyond.
I am afraid. Not of life, or death, or nothingness, but of wasting it as if I had never been. And as I start through the opening, I feel the pressure around me, propelling me in violent wavelike motions toward the mouth of the cave.
It’s too small! I can’t get through!
And suddenly I am hurled against the walls, again and again, and forced through the opening where the light threatens to burst my eyes. Again, I know I will pierce the crust into that holy light. More than I can bear. Pain as I have never known, and coldness, and nausea, and the great buzzing over my head flapping like a thousand wings. I open my eyes, blinded by the intense light. And flail the air and tremble and scream.
I came out of it at the insistence of a hand shaking me roughly. Dr. Strauss.
“Thank God,” he said, when I looked into his eyes. “You had me worried.”
I shook my head. “I’m all right.”
“I think maybe that’s all for today.”
I got up and swayed as I regained my perspective. The room seemed very small. “Not only for today,” I said. “I don’t think I should have any more sessions. I don’t want to see any more.”
He was upset, but he didn’t try to talk me out of it. I took my hat and coat and left.
And now—Plato’s words mock me in the shadows on the ledge behind the flames:
“… the men of the cave would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes</emphasis>”
Sitting down to type these reports is difficult, and I can’t think with the tape recorder going. I keep putting it off for most of the day, but I know how important it is, and I’ve got to do it. I’ve told myself I won’t have dinner until I sit down and write something— anything.
Professor Nemur sent for me again this morning. He wanted me at the lab for some tests, the kind I used to do. At first I figured it was only right, because they’re still paying me, and it’s important I have the record complete, but when I got down to Beekman and went through it all with Burt, I knew it would be too much for me.
First it was the paper and pencil maze. I remembered how it was before when I learned to do it quickly, and when I raced against Algernon. I could tell it was taking me a lot longer to solve the maze now. Burt had his hand out to take the paper, but I tore it up instead and threw the pieces into the waste basket.
“No more. I’m through running the maze. I’m in a blind alley now, and that’s all there is to it.”
He was afraid I’d run out, so he calmed me down. “That’s all right, Charlie. Just take it easy.”
“What do you mean ‘take it easy’? You don’t know what it’s like.”
“No, but I can imagine. We all feel pretty sick about it.”
“Keep your sympathy. Just leave me alone.”
He was embarrassed, and then I realized it wasn’t his fault, and I was being lousy toward him. “Sorry I blew up,” I said. “How’s everything going? Got your thesis finished yet?”
He nodded. “Having it retyped now. I’ll get my Ph.D. in February.”
“Good boy.” I slapped him on the shoulder to show him I wasn’t angry with him. “Keep plugging. Nothing like an education. Look, forget what I said before. I’ll do anything else you want. Just no more mazes—that’s all.”
“Well, Nemur wants a Rorschach check”
“To see what’s happening down deep? What does he expect to find?”
I must have looked upset, because he started to back off. “We don’t have to. You’re here voluntarily. If you don’t want to—”
“That’s all right. Go ahead. Deal out the cards. But don’t tell me what you find out.”
He didn’t have to.
I knew enough about the Rorschach to know that it wasn’t what you saw in the cards that counted, but how you reacted to them. As wholes, or parts, with movement or just motionless figures, with special attention to the color spots or ignoring them, with lots of ideas or just a few stereotyped responses.
“It’s not valid,” I said. “I know what you’re looking for. I know the kind of responses I’m supposed to have, to create a certain picture of what my mind is like. All I’ve got to do is…”
He looked up at me, waiting.
“All I’ve got to do is…”
But then it hit me like a fist against the side of my head that I didn’t remember what I had to do. It was as if I had been looking at the whole thing clearly on the blackboard of my mind, but when I turned to read it, part of it had been erased and the rest didn’t make sense.
At first, I refused to believe it. I went through the cards in a panic, so fast that I was choking on my words. I wanted to tear the inkblots apart to make them reveal themselves. Somewhere in those inkblots there were answers I had known just a little while ago. Not really in the inkblots, but in the part of my mind that would give form and meaning to them and project my imprint on them.
And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t remember what I had to say. All missing.
“That’s a woman…” I said, “… on her knees washing the floors. I mean—no—it’s a man holding a knife.” And even as I said it, I knew what I was saying and I switched away and started off in another direction. “Two figures tugging at something… like a doll… and each one is pulling so it looks as if they’re going to tear it apart and—no!— I mean it’s two faces staring at each other through the window, and—”
I swept the cards off the table and got up.
“No more tests. I don’t want to take any more tests.”
“All right, Charlie. We’ll stop for today.”
“Not just for today. I’m not coming back here any more. Whatever there is left in me that you need, you can get from the progress reports. I’m through running the maze. I’m not a guinea pig any more. I’ve done enough. I want to be left alone now.”
“All right, Charlie. I understand.”
“No, you don’t understand because it isn’t happening to you, and no one can understand but me. I don’t blame you. You’ve got your job to do, and your Ph.D. to get, and—oh, yes, don’t tell me, I know you’re in this largely out of love of humanity, but still you’ve got your life to live and we don’t happen to belong on the same level. I passed your floor on the way up, and now I’m passing it on the way down, and I don’t think I’ll be taking this elevator again. So let’s just say good-bye here and now.” “Don’t you think you should talk to Dr.—” “Say good-bye to everyone for me, will you? I dont feel like facing any of them again.”
Before he could say any more or try to stop me, I was out of the lab, and I caught the elevator down and out of Beekman for the last time.
Strauss tried to see me again this morning, but I wouldn’t open the door. I want to be left to myself now.
It’s a strange sensation to pick up a book you read and enjoyed just a few months ago and discover you don’t remember it. I recall how wonderful I thought Milton was. When I picked up Paradise Lost I could only remember it was about Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, but now I couldn’t make sense of it.
I stood up and closed my eyes and saw Charlie—myself—six or seven years old, sitting at the dinner table with a schoolbook, learning to read, saying the words over and over with my mother sitting beside him, beside me…
“Try it again.”
“See Jack. See Jack run. See Jack see.” “No! Not See Jack see! It’s Run Jack run!” Pointing with her rough-scrubbed finger.
“See Jack. See Jack run. Run Jack see.” “No! You’re not trying. Do it again!”
Do it again …do it again …do it again… “Leave the boy alone. You’ve got him terrified.” “He’s got to learn. He’s too lazy to concentrate.” Run Jack run… run Jack run.. . run Jack run… run Jack run…
“He’s slower than the other children. Give him time.” “He’s normal. There’s nothing wrong with him. Just lazy. I’ll beat it into him until he learns.”
Run Jack run… run Jack run. .. run Jack run… run Jack run…
And then looking up from the table, it seems to me I saw myself, through Charlie’s eyes, holding Paradise Lost, and I realized I was breaking the binding with the pressure of both hands as if I wanted to tear the book in half. I broke the back of it, ripped out a handful of pages, and flung them and the book across the room to the corner where the broken records were. I let it lay there and its torn white tongues were laughing because I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
I’ve got to try to hold onto some of the things I’ve learned. Please, God, don’t take it all away.
Usually at night I go out for walks, wander around the city. I don’t know why. To see faces, I guess. Last night I couldn’t remember where I lived. A policeman took me home. I have the strange feeling that this has all happened to me before—a long time ago. I don’t want to write it down, but I keep reminding myself that I’m the only one in the world who can describe what happens when it goes this way.
Instead of walking I was floating through space, not clear and sharp, but with a gray film over everything. I know what’s happening to me, but there is nothing I can do about it. I walk, or just stand on the sidewalk and watch people go by. Some of them look at me, and some of them don’t but nobody says anything to me—except one night a man came up and asked if I wanted a girl. He took me to a place. He wanted ten dollars first and I gave it to him, but he never came back
And then I remembered what a fool I was.
When I came into my apartment this morning, I found Alice there, asleep on the couch. Everything was cleaned up, and at first I thought I was in the wrong apartment, but then I saw she hadn’t touched the smashed records or the torn books or the sheet music in the corner of the room. The floor creaked and she woke up and looked at me.
“Hi,” she laughed. “Some night owl.”
“Not an owl. More of a dodo. A dumb dodo. How’d you get in here?”
“Through the fire escape. Fay’s place. I called her to find out about you and she said she was worried. She says you’ve been acting strangely—causing disturbances. So, I decided it was time for me to put in an appearance. I straightened up a bit. I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“I do mind… very much. I don’t want anybody coming around feeling sorry for me.”
She went to the mirror to comb her hair. “I’m not here because I feel sorry for you. It’s because I feel sorry for me.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It doesn’t mean,” she shrugged. “It just is—like a poem. I wanted to see you.”
“What’s wrong with the zoo?”
“Oh, come off it, Charlie. Don’t fence with me. I waited long enough for you to come and get me. I decided to come to you.”
“Because there’s still time. And I want to spend it with you.”
“Is that a song?”
“Charlie, don’t laugh at me.”
“I’m not laughing. But I can’t afford to spend my time with anyone—there’s only enough left for myself.”
“I can’t believe you want to be completely alone.”
“We had a little time together before we got out of touch. We had things to talk about, and things to do together. It didn’t last very long but it was something. Look, we’ve known this might happen. It was no secret. I didn’t go away, Charlie, I’ve just been waiting. You’re about at my level again, aren’t you?”
I stormed around the apartment. “But that’s crazy. There’s nothing to look forward to. I don’t dare let myself think ahead—only back. In a few months, weeks, days— who the hell knows?—I’ll go back to Warren. You can’t follow me there.”
“No,” she admitted, “and I probably won’t even visit you there. Once you’re in Warren I’ll do my best to forget you. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But until you go, there’s no reason for either of us to be alone.”
Before I could say anything, she kissed me. I waited, as she sat beside me on the couch, resting her head against my chest, but the panic didn’t come. Alice was a woman, but perhaps now Charlie would understand that she wasn’t his mother or his sister.
With the relief of knowing I had passed through a crisis, I sighed because there was nothing to hold me back It was no time for fear or pretense, because it could never be this way with anyone else. All the barriers were gone. I had unwound the string she had given me, and found my way out of the labyrinth to where she was waiting. I loved her with more than my body.
I don’t pretend to understand the mystery of love, but this time it was more than sex, more than using a woman’s body. It was being lifted off the earth, outside fear and torment, being part of something greater than myself. I was lifted out of the dark cell of my own mind, to become part of someone else—just as I had experienced it that day on the couch in therapy. It was the first step outward to the universe—beyond the universe—because in it and with it we merged to recreate and perpetuate the human spirit. Expanding and bursting outward, and contracting and forming inward, it was the rhythm of being—of breathing, of heartbeat, of day and night—and the rhythm of our bodies set off an echo in my mind. It was the way it had been back there in that strange vision. The gray murk lifted from my mind, and through it the light pierced into my brain (how strange that light should blind!), and my body was absorbed back into a great sea of space, washed under in a strange baptism. My body shuddered with giving, and her body shuddered its acceptance.
This was the way we loved, until the night became a silent day. And as I lay there with her I could see how important physical love was, how necessary it was for us to be in each other’s arms, giving and taking. The universe was exploding, each particle away from the next, hurtling us into dark and lonely space, eternally tearing us away from each other—child out of the womb, friend away from friend, moving from each other, each through his own pathway toward the goal-box of solitary death.
But this was the counterweight, the act of binding and holding. As when men to keep from being swept overboard in the storm clutch at each other’s hands to resist being torn apart, so our bodies fused a link in the human chain that kept us from being swept into nothing.
And in the moment before I fell off into sleep, I remembered the way it had been between Fay and myself, and I smiled. No wonder that had been easy. It had been only physical. This with Alice was a mystery.
I leaned over and kissed her eyes.
Alice knows everything about me now, and accepts the fact that we can be together for only a short while. She has agreed to go away when I tell her to go. It’s painful to think about that, but what we have, I suspect, is more than most people find in a lifetime.
I wake up in the morning and don’t know where I am or what I’m doing here, and then I see her beside me and I remember. She senses when something is happening to me, and she moves quietly around the apartment, making breakfast, cleaning up the place, or going out and leaving me to myself, without any questions.
We went to a concert this evening, but I got bored and we left in the middle. Can’t seem to pay much attention any more. I went because I know I used to like Stravinsky but somehow I no longer have the patience for it.
The only bad thing about having Alice here with me is that now I feel I should fight this thing. I want to stop time, freeze myself at this level and never let go of her.
Why can’t I remember? I’ve got to try to resist this slackness. Alice tells me I lie in bed for days and don’t seem to know who or where I am. Then it all comes back and I recognize her and remember what’s happening. Fugues of amnesia. Symptoms of second childhood— what do they call it?—senility? I can watch it coming on. All so cruelly logical, the result of speeding up all the processes of the mind. I learned so much so fast, and now my mind is deteriorating rapidly. What if I won’t let it happen? What if I fight it? Think of those people at Warren, the empty smiles, the blank expressions, everyone laughing at them.
Little Charlie Gordon staring at me through the window—waiting. Please, not that again.
I’m forgetting things I learned recently. It seems to be following the classic pattern, the last things learned are first things forgotten. Or is that the pattern? Better look it up again.
Reread my paper on the Algernon-Gordon Effect and even though I know I wrote it, I keep feeling it was written by someone else. Most of it I don’t even understand.
But why am I so irritable? Especially when Alice is so good to me? She keeps the place neat and clean, always putting my things away and washing dishes and scrubbing floors. I shouldn’t have shouted at her the way I did this morning because it made her cry, and I didn’t want that to happen. But she shouldn’t have picked up the broken records and the music and the book and put them all neatly into a box. That made me furious. I don’t want anyone to touch any of those things. I want to see them pile up. I want them to remind me of what I’m leaving behind. I kicked the box and scattered the stuff all over the floor and told her to leave them just where they were.
Foolish. No reason for it. I guess I got sore because I knew she thought it was silly to keep those things, and she didn’t tell me she thought it was silly. She just pretended it was perfectly normal. She’s humoring me. And when I saw that box I remembered the boy at Warren and the lousy lamp he made and the way we were all humoring him, pretending he had done something wonderful when he hadn’t.
That was what she was doing to me, and I couldn’t stand it.
When she went to the bedroom and cried I felt bad about it and I told her it was all my fault. I don’t deserve someone as good as her. Why can’t I control myself just enough to keep on loving her? Just enough.
Motor activity impaired. I keep tripping and dropping things. At first I didn’t think it was me. I thought she was changing things around. The wastebasket was in my way, and so were the chairs, and I thought she had moved them.
Now I realize my coordination is bad. I have to move slowly to get things right. And it’s increasingly difficult to type. Why do I keep blaming Alice? And why doesn’t she argue? That irritates me even more because I see the pity in her face.
My only pleasure now is the TV set. I spend most of the day watching the quiz programs, the old movies, the soap operas, and even the kiddie shows and cartoons. And then I can’t bring myself to turn it off. Late at night there are the old movies, the horror pictures, the late show, and the late-late show, and even the little sermon before the channel signs off for the night, and the “Star-Spangled Banner” with the flag waving in the background, and finally the channel test pattern that stares back at me through the little square window with its unclosing eye….
Why am I always looking at life through a window?
And after it’s all over I’m sick with myself because there is so little time left for me to read and write and think, and because I should know better than to drug my mind with this dishonest stuff that’s aimed at the child in me. Especially me, because the child in me is reclaiming my mind.
I know all this, but when Alice tells me I shouldn’t waste my time, I get angry and tell her to leave me alone.
I have a feeling I’m watching because it’s important for me not to think, not to remember about the bakery, and my mother and father, and Norma. I don’t want to remember any more of the past.
I had a terrible shock today. Picked up a copy of an article I had used in my research, Krueger’s Uber Psychische Ganzheit, to see if it would help me understand the paper I wrote and what I had done in it. First I thought there was something wrong with my eyes. Then I realized I could no longer read German. Tested myself in other languages. All gone.
Alice is gone. Let’s see if I can remember. It started when she said we couldn’t live like this with the torn books and papers and records all over the floor and the place in such a mess.
“Leave everything the way it is,” I warned her.
“Why do you want to live this way?”
“I want everything where I put it. I want to see it all out here. You don’t know what it’s like to have something happening inside you, that you can’t see and can’t control, and know it’s all slipping through your fingers.”
“You’re right. I never said I could understand the things that were happening to you. Not when you became too intelligent for me, and not now. But I’ll tell you one thing. Before you had the operation, you weren’t like this. You didn’t wallow in your own filth and self-pity, you didn’t pollute your own mind by sitting in front of the TV set all day and night, you didn’t snarl and snap at people. There was something about you that made us respect you—yes, even as you were. You had something I had never seen in a retarded person before.”
“I don’t regret the experiment.”
“Neither do I, but you’ve lost something you had before. You had a smile…”
“An empty, stupid smile.”
“No, a warm, real smile, because you wanted people to like you.”
“And they played tricks on me, and laughed at me.”
“Yes, but even though you didn’t understand why they were laughing, you sensed that if they could laugh at you they would like you. And you wanted them to like you. You acted like a child and you even laughed at yourself along with them.”
“I don’t feel like laughing at myself right now, if you don’t mind.”
She was trying to keep from crying. I think I wanted to make her cry. “Maybe that’s why it was so important for me to learn. I thought it would make people like me. I thought I would have friends. That’s something to laugh at, isn’t it?”
“There’s more to it than just having a high I.Q.”
That made me angry. Probably because I didn’t really understand what she was driving at. More and more these days she didn’t come right out and say what she meant. She hinted at things. She talked around them and expected me to know what she was thinking. And I listened, pretending I understood but inside I was afraid she would see that I missed the point completely.
“I think it’s time for you to leave.”
Her face turned red. “Not yet, Charlie. It’s not time yet. Don’t send me away.”
“You’re making it harder for me. You keep pretending I can do things and understand things that are far beyond me now. You’re pushing me. Just like my mother…”
“That’s not true!”
“Everything you do says it. The way you pick up and clean up after me, the way you leave books around that you think will get me interested in reading again, the way you talk to me about the news to get me thinking. You say it doesn’t matter, but everything you do shows how much it matters. Always the schoolteacher. I don’t want to go to concerts or museums or foreign films or do anything that’s going to make me struggle to think about life or about myself.”
“Just leave me alone. I’m not myself. I’m falling apart, and I don’t want you here.”
That made her cry. This afternoon she packed her bags and left. The apartment feels quiet and empty now.
Deterioration progressing. I’ve given up using the typewriter. Coordination is too bad. From now on I’ll have to write out these reports in longhand.
I thought a lot about the things Alice said, and then it hit me that if I kept on reading and learning new things, even while I was forgetting the old ones, I would be able to keep some of my intelligence. I was on a down escalator now. If I stood still I’d go all the way to the bottom, but if I started to run up maybe I could at least stay in the same place. The important thing was to keep moving upward no matter what happened.
So I went to the library and got out a lot of books to read. I’ve been reading a lot now. Most of the books are too hard for me, but I don’t care. As long as I keep reading I’ll learn new things and I won’t forget how to read. That’s the most important thing. If I keep reading, maybe I can hold my own.
Dr. Strauss came around the day after Alice left, so I guess she told him about me. He pretended all he wanted was the progress reports but I told him I would send them. I don’t want him coming around here. I told him he doesn’t have to be worried about me because when I think I won’t be able to take care of myself any more I’ll get on a train and go to Warren.
I told him I’d rather just go by myself when the time comes.
I tried to talk to Fay, but I can see she’s afraid of me. I guess she figures I’ve gone out of my mind. Last night she came home with somebody—he looked very young.
This morning the landlady, Mrs. Mooney, came up with a bowl of hot chicken soup and some chicken. She said she just thought she would look in on me to see if I was doing all right. I told her I had lots of food to eat but she left it anyway and it was good. She pretended she was doing it on her own but I’m not that stupid yet. Alice or Strauss must have told her to look in on me and make sure I was all right. Well, that’s okay. She’s a nice old lady with an Irish accent and she likes to talk all about the people in the building. When she saw the mess on the floor inside my apartment she didn’t say anything about it. I guess she’s all right.
A week since I dared to write again. I don’t know where the time goes. Todays Sunday I know because I can see through my window the people going into the church across the street. I think I laid in bed all week but I remember Mrs. Mooney bringing me food a few times and asking if I was sick.
What am I going to do with myself? I cant just hang around here all alone and look out the window. Ive got to get hold of myself. I keep saying over and over that Ive got to do something but then I forget or maybe its just easier not to do what I say Im going to do.
I still have some books from the library but a lot of them are too hard for me. I read a lot of mystery stories now and books about kings and queens from old times. I read a book about a man who thought he was a knight and went out on an old horse with his friend. But no matter what he did he always ended up getting beaten and hurt. Like when he thought the windmills were dragons. At first I thought it was a silly book because if he wasnt crazy he could see that windmills werent dragons and there is no such thing as sorcerers and enchanted castles but then I re-memberd that there was something else it was all supposed to mean—something the story didnt say but only hinted at. Like there was other meanings. But I dont know what. That made me angry because I think I used to know. But Im keeping up with my reading and learning new things every day and I know its going to help me.
I know I should have written some progress reports before this so they will know whats happening to me. But writing is harder. I have to look up even simple words in the dictionary now and it makes me angry with myself.
I forgot to write in yesterdays report about the woman from the building across the alley one floor down. I saw her through my kitchen window last week. I dont know her name, or even what her top part looks like but every night about eleven oclock she goes into her bathroom to take a bath. She never pulls her shade down and thru my window when I put out my lights I can see her from the neck down when she comes out of the bath to dry herself.
It makes me excited, but when the lady turns out the light I feel let down and lonely. I wish I could see what she looks like sometimes, whether shes pretty or what. I know its not nice to watch a woman when shes like that but I cant help it. Anyway what difference does it make to her if she doesnt know Im watching.
Its nearly eleven oclock now. Time for her bath. So Id better go see…
Mrs Mooney is very worried about me. She says the way I lay around all day and dont do anything I remind her of her son before she threw him out of the house. She said she dont like loafters. If Im sick its one thing but if Im a loafter thats another thing and she has no use for me. I told her I think Im sick.
I try to read a little bit every day mostly stories but sometimes I have to read the same thing over and over again because I dont know what it means. And its hard to write. I know I should look up all the words in the dictionary but Im so tired all the time.
Then I got the idea that I would only use the easy words instead of the long hard ones. That saves time. Its getting chilly out but I still put flowers on Algernons grave. Mrs Mooney thinks Im silly to put flowers on a mouses grave but I told her that Algernon was a special mouse.
I went over to visit Fay across the hall. But she told me to go away and not come back. She put a new lock on her door.
Sunday again. I dont have anything to do to keep me busy now because the TV is broke and I keep forgetting to get it fixed. I think I lost this months check from the college. I dont remember.
I get awful headaches and asperin doesnt help much. Mrs. Mooney believes now that Im really sick and she feels very sory for me. She’s a wonderful woman whenever someone is sick. Its getting so cold out now that Ive got to wear two sweaters.
The lady across the way pulls down her windowshade now, so I can’t watch any more. My lousy luck.
Mrs Mooney called a strange doctor to see me. She was afraid I was going to the. I told the doctor I wasnt to sick and that I only forget sometimes. He asked me did I have any friends or relatives and I said no I dont have any. I told him I had a friend called Algernon once but he was a mouse and we use to run races together. He looked at me kind of funny like he thot I was crazy.
He smiled when I told him I use to be a genius. He talked to me like I was a baby and he winked at Mrs Mooney. I got mad because he was making fun of me and laughing and I chased him out and locked the door.
I think I know why I been haveing bad luck. Because I lost my rabits foot and my horshoe. I got to get another rabits foot fast.
Dr Strauss came to the door today and Alice to but I didnt let them come in. I told them I didnt want anyone to see me. I want to be left alone. Later Mrs Mooney came up with some food and she told me they paid the rent and left money for her to buy food and anything I need. I told her I dont want to use there money any more. She said moneys money and someone has to pay or I have to put you out. Then she said why dont I get some job instead of just hanging around.
I dont know any work but the job I use to do at the bakery. I dont want to go back their because they all knew me when I was smart and maybe theyll laff at me. But I dont know what else to do to get money. And I want to pay for everything myself. I am strong and I can werk. If I cant take care of myself Ill go to Warren. I wont take charety from anybody.
I was looking at some of my old progress reports and its very strange but I cant read what I wrote. I can make out some of the words but they dont make sense. I think I wrote them but I dont remember so good. I get tired very fast when I try to read some of the books I baught in the drugstore. Exept the ones with the picturs of the pretty girls. I like to look at them but I have funny dreams about them. Its not nice. I wont buy them any more. I saw in one of those books they got magic powder that can make you strong and smart and do lots of things. I think mayby Ill send away and by some for myself.
Alice came to the door again but I said go away I dont want to see you. She cryed and I cryed to but I woudnt let her in because I didnt want her to laff at me. I told her I didnt like her any more and I didnt want to be smart any more either. Thats not true but. I still love her and I still want to be smart but I had to say that so she woud go away. Mrs Mooney told me Alice brout some more money to look after me and for the rent. I dont want that. I got to get a job.
Please… please… dont let me forget how to reed and rite…
Mr Donner was very nice when I came back and askd him for my old job at the bakery. Frist he was very suspicius but I told him what happened to me and then he looked very sad and put his hand on my shoulder and said Charlie you got guts.
Evrybody looked at me when I came downstairs and started working in the toilet sweeping it out like I use to do. I said to myself Charlie if they make fun of you dont get sore because you remember their not so smart like you once thot they were. And besides they were once your frends and if they laffed at you that dont mean anything because they liked you to.
One of the new men who came to werk their after I went away his name is Meyer Klaus did a bad thing to me. He came up to me when I was loading the sacks of flower and he said hey Charlie I hear your a very smart fella—a real quiz kid. Say something inteligent. I felt bad because I could tell by the way he said it he was making fun of me. So I kept on with my werk. But then he came over and grabed me by the arm real hard and shouted at me. When I talk to you boy you better listen to me. Or I coud brake your arm for you. He twisted my arm so it hurt and I got scared he was going to brake it like he said. And he was laffing and twisting it, and I didnt know what to do. I got so afraid I felt like I was gonna cry but I didnt and then I had to go to the bathroom something awful. My stomack was all twisting inside like I was gonna bust open if I didnt go right away… because I couldnt hold it back.
I told him please let me go because I got to go to the toilet but he was just laffing at me and I dint know what to do. So I started crying. Let me go. Let me go. And then I made. It went in my pants and it smelled bad and I was crying. He let go of me then and made a sick face and he looked scared then. He said For gods sake I didnt mean anything Charlie.
But then Joe Carp came in and grabbed Klaus by the shirt and said leave him alone you lousy bastard or Ill brake your neck. Charlie is a good guy and nobodys gonna start up with him without answering for it. I felt ashamed and I ran to the toilet to clean myself and change my cloths.
When I got back Frank was there to and Joe was telling him about it and then Gimpy came in and they told him about it and he said theyd get rid of Klaus. They were gonna tell Mr Donner to fire him. I told them I dint think he should be fired and have to find another job because he had a wife and a kid. And besides he said he was sorry for what he did to me. And I remember how sad I was when I had to get fired from the bakery and go away. I said Klaus shoud get a second chance because now he wouldnt do anything bad to me anymore.
Anyway I bet Im the frist dumb persen in the world who found out some thing inportent for sience. I did somthing but I dont remembir what. So I gess its like I did it for all the dumb pepul like me in Warren and all over the world.
Goodby Miss Kinnian and dr Strauss and evrybody…
PS. please tel prof Nemur not to be such a grouch when pepul laff at him and he woud have more frends. Its easy to have frends if you let pepul laff at you. Im going to have lots of frends where I go.
PPS. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard.