I TALK TO MY T-SHIRT AT CAFÉ NOSTALGIA by Dr. Mel Waldman

I talk to my T-shirt at Café Nostalgia. It’s quite smart, you see.

Last year, I visited the Neo-T-shirt Corporation. A salesman sold me a customized, computerized smart T-shirt. It contains all the designs of every T-shirt I’ve worn and all the memories associated with all my old T-shirts.

By clicking the computer embedded in the T-shirt, I can instantly transform my T-shirt into a living organism with preternatural powers. At my will (and with the proper click), it will project two and three dimensional images or even videos of my past onto my immediate environment. With a few more clicks, I can activate all the senses associated with the memories attached to my old T-shirts.

Thus, my T-shirt will talk to me if I wish and I can hear the voices of the dead and the living and the lost. I can recapture again and again the voices of my beloved wife and children and parents and anyone else I cared about when I wore my T-shirts. Indeed, when I’m lonely, I can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the precious people of my past.

Wearing my neo-T-shirt, I sip a cup of hazelnut coffee at Café Nostalgia. Casually, I click my concealed computer and talk to my T-shirt.  As I drink the delicious coffee, my hungry eyes dart across the empty room. I’m alone, the only human in the place. My waiter is a robot.

Yet with a few clicks, I fill the barren room with three-dimensional images of my dead wife and children, my dead parents, brothers, and sisters, and my deceased friends, may they all rest in peace. And soon the café is teeming with chimerical people of my past, my beloved corpses.

I take a few more sips of coffee and click, click, click, and a whirling, swirling energy force transforms my creations into real people. I’m back with my loved ones in the past.

Now, I relive all the yesterdays I shared with them when I wore my old T-shirts. My wounded heart opens up, temporarily releases the nonliving from the shards of my soul where they reside, and the dead rise from their antediluvian coffins.

I smell them. Yes, I do. I inhale their scents and odors before they passed away, when Eros, the life force, flowed through them; in their last moments, when the sacred breaths of being and becoming stopped; at the funeral parlor, when they wore their death masks, beautified and unreal, vacant and distant and stone cold; and at the cemetery where I said goodbye forever until they were reborn inside my shattered spirit; I inhale their pretty and ugly scents; I take in every odor that oozed from them; I confess; it’s true; I am the keeper of all their scattered parts.

I can’t let go of the dead. They need to move on, wherever they are. Yet I need to hold them tight. And so I cling to them. This is what I need.

I touch them. I caress their cold flesh. I taste their seething sweat. I speak to them and wait, and when they talk to me, I listen, and together, we allow the eternal silence to consume us.

I continue to sip my coffee and click, click, click, and relive again and again our shared past at Café Nostalgia.

Something happened. A concatenation of horrific events, I believe. Yet I can’t recall the specific details. From time to time, I have vague memories of a phantasmagoria, as if I were emerging from a dream. Then I forget.

A distant voice whispers, “It’s a murder mystery.”

“Perhaps,” I mutter.

Everyone I loved died in a short period of time. But were they really murdered?

I study the secret memories embedded in my neo-T-shirt. Perhaps, my T-shirt will reveal who the killer is. If not, it may illuminate the secret truths.

A second bestial voice growls, “Everyone dies. Life kills.”

A third mournful voice cries out, “Chance or destiny, we are powerless.”

They’re all dead. I’m the sole survivor.

I sip my coffee, click, click, click, and relive our shared past.

In the beginning, the past is beautiful, an antidote to my unbearable loneliness. I caress my wife’s soft skin and kiss her forehead. We embrace and Linda plants a long passionate kiss on my lips. After we make love, I play with Michael and Eric, our 5-year-old twins and Helen, our 7-year-old.

Michael and Eric compete for my attention. Helen sits on Linda’s lap and waits patiently for me while I play with her baby brothers. Michael is 5 minutes older than Eric. So I play with Eric first. I lift him high above my head, toss him in the air and catch him, and whirl him around and around until both of us are dizzy and ecstatic. Then I do the same with Michael and finally, with Helen.

I click the computer at random and choose vivid memories from the infinite circle of possibilities. Yet I never find the lost truths buried in my neo-T-shirt.

Here I am at Café Nostalgia, a prison cell without bars. In the distance, I see the exit. Sometimes I dream of ripping off my neo-T-shirt and running out the front door. But I don’t. I live in the past.

Café Nostalgia is my home. I can’t imagine ever leaving. Can you?

“Yes,” you say.

“Who are you?”

“Don’t you know?”

A long lonely silence engulfs us. We are one.

A distant voice whispers, “It’s a murder mystery.”

“Perhaps,” I mutter.

“Rip off your neo-T-shirt!” you order.

“But…”

“Rip it off!”

I obey. Then, with bestial fury, I bite and claw, and rip and tear the smart T-shirt.

Now, I remember what happened. Tears cascade down my scarred face. I stare into space. “It’s too late to fix things,” I mutter.

Wearing a malicious smile, the other commands me to leave.

“Must we?” I ask him.

“Yes. They’re waiting for you.”

“Yes, they are.”

Sweat and tears and the foul odor of ferocious revelations pour down my mournful gnarled face, disfigured by unbearable memories and motherfucking guilt. My hands tremble and my body shakes uncontrollably.

“It’s time,” he reminds me.

Together, we leave Café Nostalgia, and enter the wicked world outside, a wasteland of infinite evil. I know who the killer is. I don’t understand. I can’t imagine why. I never will.

*

Dr. Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, and writer whose stories have appeared in numerous magazines including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, HARDBOILED, DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, DOWN IN THE DIRT, CC&D, PULP METAL MAGAZINE, INNER SINS, YELLOW MAMA, and AUDIENCE. A past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis, he was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature and is the author of 11 books.   Four of his mystery, fantasy, and horror stories were published by POSTSCRIPTS, a British magazine and international anthology, in October/November 2014. He recently completed an experimental mystery novel inspired by one of Freud’s case studies and is looking for an agent. He has been inspired for decades by his patients and their heroic stories of trauma and survival.

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