fata morgana ~by~ Melanie Browne

This morning my scrambled eggs are yellow. The grass on my lawn is green, apples on the counter red. I think of colors as guideposts. They are mostly reliable.

I think about the color-blind. How things must be more confusing for them. I think about how the brain can trick us. I think about the word mirage. I say it over and over again. Mirage. I was always fascinated by the stories you hear as a kid, you know the ones, where the dude is walking along in the desert for days and runs out of water and sees the lake directly in front of him. Maybe it’s a pond, or maybe a water fountain. I don’t know. The point is it becomes so real, that he knows that soon this life giving molecule will sustain him, and he drops to his knees. Thank you! He screams, and he claps his hands together and falls down on his knees and drags himself still farther and he never finds the water. But it helped him, didn’t it? The mind helped ease his suffering.

I briefly worked as a medical assistant at a prison. I took their vitals. One man came in and his blood pressure was screamingly high. I wrote it down on his chart.

I asked him if he was feeling alright. I think I remember his name was Mark. Mark, I said, what are your symptoms. He started telling me about his first sexual experience. I kept trying to get him to describe his symptoms. He isn’t trying to make a pass, I kept telling myself. I think he was just genuinely confused. I kept repeating his name. I noticed his eyes were dilated. He then told me that he was getting out soon, which I knew wasn’t true. I played along, told him that was exciting. I told him not to use extra salt at mealtimes. I told him I heard chewing gum lowers blood pressure.

He just stares at me.

Chewing gum?

This isn’t L.A., he said.
I’m not Charlie Sheen, he added.
Or am I? You like me, huh? You think I look like ol’ Charlie. You hear me. Stop playing dumb.
I quit working there not long after. I went to live near my family in Tacoma.. I stopped looking for mirages.

I went to a lifestyle club with some friends. They had bonsai trees sitting on all the tables. I saw a man sitting next to a woman with an hibiscus in her hair. He was older, with inquisitive eyes.
My friends went to smoke outside, so I went and sat by the couple. We talked about their recent trip to Panama.

They offered to show me some trinkets they had returned home with. We took a cab to their condo.

He took me into the bathroom. We gave each other pleasure while the woman watched TV.

I see him occasionally. He still lives with that woman.  He told me he’s trying to quit drinking.
He doesn’t believe in mirages either.

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