She closed the leather bound novel shut with a thunk and gazed out the window at the seaside. The beep of hospital machines cut into her thoughts.
She opened her eyes and realized she had been eating peanuts and crying for the last two hours. She had no idea how and where all the peanuts had come from and would not have accepted the truth had it been shoved into her face: each and every one of her tears turned into peanuts the minute they left her scarred face and touched the ground. She was sitting on a heap of fresh peanuts. She had become a microcosm without even realizing it.
She could not care less. She was now looking at herself in the mirror and the mere look of her sad face cut all across were enough to produce another kilo of peanuts.
The nurse came in, she had a hard time pushing the door open, the floor was filled with nuts and prevented the door from opening. Not really an obstacle for the sturdy Russian nurse. Back in the good old days, in the motherland, she had been an officer in a military submarine. When the curtain fell, she found herself in an unbearable position and decided to go for a major career change: she moved to the forbidden land and became a nurse! She did what she had to do. People liked her, people did not, some patients survived, others died, all was normal and boring and dry until this patient.
She had arrived a week ago, with the heavy leather -bound novel she never read but always kept open. Even when she was sleeping, it laid spread across her chest, open. She was followed by a trail of peanuts and smelled of grilled cheese. Whatever was left of her face between the scars was so sad that one was better off looking at her chest, which, thank god, looked more generous and happier than the eyes, which were always sad and teary. The truth is she was a bore. A true bore. The Russian nurse entered the room and barely glancing at the patient, went straight for the window to light a cigarette.
She was looking at the blue sky as she took in a deep inspiration. She loved her cigarettes more than anything in this world. They were the last remnants of her former life.
She never told anyone what had happened in the submarine. She never told anyone the real reason she was now a nurse in a foreign country treating crazy nutcases producing crying patients.
She had been sacked, à la russe. They had tried to kill her. She was not scared. She did not feel threatened. She had just gone on smoking. Always, everywhere. For all the wrong reasons and for no reasons at all. Everyone in the submarine was choking and teary eyed from the smoke. She could not care less; she just smoked and smoked and smoked.
When they reached the surface, she had 20 dead and 67 highly intoxicated sailors. She smoked as she made her report to her superiors. Two hours later she was on the plane to NY, with a fake nurse certificate she had forced out of one of the dead sailors’ wife.
So there she was smoking by the window, day-dreaming while nut-woman was ever more productive.
Today was different. The nut-woman had stopped crying when she entered the room. She still looked crazy, but there were no more tears. No more noise of the nuts falling on the floor, no more noise of her crunching them between her white teeth.
When the Russian officer turned around, the patient was no longer in bed. The bed had been made and was surrounded by heaps and mounds of peanuts but no patient.
Trained as she was, the officer felt danger was lurking. Her whole body was alert. She lit a cigarette, it always helped. She was puffing at it in a very inelegant and masculine way when the door opened and a doctor entered.
He looked at the officer in a kind way said some words in an incomprehensible language. He was walking towards her. She was about to inform him of the disappearance of the nut-woman, when the doctor took out a syringe from his back pocket and injected her with it. He then kindly threw away her cigarette and led her to her bed.
She was floating again, back in the submarine, giving orders to losers, getting orders from crooks. She was humming a tune her mother used to sing to her when from the corner of her left eye she saw the crying nut-woman waving goodbye as she silently, and without being noticed, left the room and walked free. Had it not been for the peanut trail, nobody would have believed the Russian officer that the nut-woman really existed.
(October 16th, 2013)
Alex S David
Also featured in the Red Slipper Writers’ Room