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By Chris Kowalski
Do you remember that burning summer when the whole city just melted? Do you remember the one where five hundred people expired from the heat? There was an autistic girl who lived below me. Terribly retarded. Her parents were convinced she was God’s punishment on them because they were cousins. She couldn’t speak at all, but there was a part of her mind which was keeping perfect time. Caught in a never-ending loop, because the one perfectly functioning portion of her brain couldn’t communicate with any other part. She was a living, breathing metronome. We called her spoon girl, because you could hear her downstairs tapping a spoon on the table in perfect rhythm. That summer, I would try to drink myself to sleep and just lie in bed wide awake in the night, sweating out the alcohol. And the heat settled down on the building like a big dog chewing on a bone. And you knew, you just knew when spoon girl couldn’t sleep, because you’d hear her below. Bouncing a ping-pong ball on a table. All night long. It was like Chinese water torture. And you’d want to yell down the stairs for her to shut the hell up. But the retarded girl below couldn’t sleep. And that’s all she did. So we’d lie awake. Everyone in the whole building. Spread-eagle on our backs on sticky bedsheets. And listen to the bouncing ball below rattling to a stop, and then being bounced again, like some horrible people trying to play table tennis, but they can only serve. And all of us awake. All night.
Copyright©2001 by Chris Kowalski.
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