Sunday, August 21, 2011


The Rover confronts The Prisoner
The mini-series “The Prisoner” made its television début in the United States in 1968.   I was an impressionable lad and remember this sci-fi spy thriller vividly.   It starred Patrick McGoogan as Number Six, a British secret service agent kidnapped and held captive in an isolated seaside village.

Unfettered and surrounded by high-tech luxury, Number Six was keenly aware that his freedom was an illusion and that unseen keepers were monitoring his every move.  The other residents of the village appeared content and quite oblivious to their imprisonment.  Any attempt to escape was thwarted by a balloon-like device called the Rover that located Number Six and rendered him unconscious long enough to return him to his room. The storylines were surreal, with themes of "hypnosis, hallucinogenic drug experiences, identity theft, mind control, dream manipulation and various forms of social indoctrination."

Monday night I was a guest of the UHS Sleep Disorder Clinic in Binghamton, NY.  I found myself feeling a bit like agent Number Six, interned yet at liberty beneath the watchful eye of a ceiling mounted video camera in the voyeuristic privacy of Room #1.
At 11:00 PM I retired to a king size bed not unlike my own but for the umbilical cord of bundled color-coded wires connecting my neuro-network to an off-site computer located somewhere in the bowels of the building.  Manned by a clinician known to me only as Randy, this highly advanced censoring equipment waited for the room lights to dim and sleep to descend so that it could electronically evaluate my brain waves during REM, check for muscle spasms, involuntarily leg and arm movements, record facial twitches, anal flexes and very possibly any penal protrusions that might occur throughout the night.
The following day the doctor weighed the evidence, scored the data and called me in for a Wednesday morning medical consultation.

The Conclusion?  I snore.  The Remedy?  Four choices:  (a.) Surgically alter the soft pallet; invasive, painful and effective only 50% of the time. (b.)     Each night don a full-face pressurized air mask connected by flex tube to a compressor that adjusts airflow to maintain a clear passage at the back of the throat  (c.) Visit a dentist or orthodontist and have a $350 to $900 plastic mouth guard custom molded that will prevent the jaw from relaxing, dropping backward and closing the nasal air passage during sleep or (d.) Keep a set of earplugs on the nightstand for guests.

 So I asked the Sleep Doctor,

“What are my chances of making “whoopee” if I go to bed wearing one of those full face air masks?”

He looked at me with discriminating eye and replied.

“Well, I imagine that would depend on what your chances are without it?” 
I absolutely hate a pompous doctor, particularly one with a quick wit.  Had he been listening from the control room Monday night as Randy helped me suit up for the evening’s adventure, perhaps this bristle haired, wide hipped, medical man would not have been quite as cavalier with his jovial banter.
As it was, I had not eaten dinner before arriving at the clinic, so after being assigned my room and briefed in procedure, I was given permission to slip out for a bite to eat up the street.  “Divine intervention” is what Randy would latter call it, the work of a superior force, directing me toward a predestined outcome that I was not cognitive of.

Randy’s explanation may have sounded a bit grandiose, but I have to agree that a meal at Subway was not within my customarily navigated waters.  You see, Subway franchises have a tendency to intimidate me.  I go blank when I stare up at their illuminated menu board. I’m not sure why, a touch of dyslexia perhaps, but with all the bread types, sandwich sizes, catchy titles and combo meals I find the board almost impossible to read and of absolutely no help in reaching a decision. 

If there happens to be a queue of customers, the pressure to make a speedy selection is unnerving. The further I edge along the stainless steel guide rail, the faster my heart beats. If I lean anywhere near the framed counter glass a teenager in latex proctologists gloves will request my order, anticipating it rendered in Subway code and expecting it NOW!  You can’t fault these kids; they’re trained to knock out fiber bound multi-meat and cheese wonders in record time. Any delay on my part and you know they are thinking “Come-on old man, got an Indian upstairs rubbin’ sticks together or what?” How can they know my dim-witted expression is symptomatic of the paralysis of the overwhelmed? 
Consider what Subway offers.  There is the five dollar foot long or the regular twelve or six inch on white, wheat or rye, toasted or plain with lettuce, tomato, onion or peppers, brown mustard, yellow mustard, Dijon or spicy tongue numbing mustard, regular mayo, fat free mayo, Italian, Ranch or Thousand island dressings; roast chicken, Buffalo chicken, or sweet onion teriyaki chicken, roast beef or Black Forest ham, turkey and bacon, salami, bologna, or the tuna mix, even a Veggie Delight topped with Swiss, American or Provolone cheese. All these options flip past like digits on a gas pump. So why was I drawn like a winged insect to the florescent light of this sandwich shop instead of the familiar garlic laced heat & humidity of Grandees Pizza? Well, as Randy said, “divine intervention.”
Of course I didn’t know her name at that point nor would I have admitted to being enthralled by the All-Seeing Eye tattooed atop her thirteenth vertebrae on that canvas of deliciously smooth mixed race skin.  No, I was still caught up in the trepidation of placing my order and the regrets that had flooded over me the instant I stood facing the violence of the menu board.
She was with a man, both seated beneath the front window of the shop and had they departed at that instant, I would never have seen her smile, that cacophony of gleaming white teeth, dew wet lips and unbridled mysticism that could have paralyzed an invading army and which struck me like a fatal yet energizing blow.

Instead, I was engrossed in pirouettes of word play with the barely pubescent prep-server as we constructed a sandwich to act as my surrogate dinner.
“Oven roasted chicken okay?” she chirped. 
“Sounds great.” I replied, relaxing a bit. “How about with a little lettuce and tomato.” 
“Mayo?” she tweeted 
“Sure” I said with a surge of confidence 
“Like to try our Mexican Chipotle sauce today?” 
“Why not!  Lets go for it!”  
“Would you like this as a Subway Freshbuzz value meal? 
“The value meal?”  
“Yes sir, the Freshbuzz is $2.50 more and includes a medium soda and chips or two chocolate chip cookies” 
“Hmmm” I reflected aloud, that’s a tough one... “Its either the chips or the cookies, not both right?  
“That’s correct.” 
“Okay, I’ll go for it. Give me the chips and a coke”

Sliding an empty paper cup toward me she pointed to a soda machine a few feet away. 

“Cocoa cola is to your right and the chips are on the display rack to your left. That will be $8.80.”
My mind, cleared of its culinary options, quickly added the five dollar foot long to the $2.50 value meal surcharge and then factored in New York States 4% luxury tax on restaurant food.  I was mulling over how a Subway sandwich could be considered a luxury item when my server handed me the change from the ten I given her and I noticed she was no longer wearing her latex gloves.

“So do you have to put on a new pair of gloves between each customer?  I asked.  
“Yes, if I run the register.” she beamed back, apparently pleased that I have taken some human interest in her.  
“That must get old after a while?” 
“Yeah, it sure does and the other day I’d taken them off to step outside for a moment and when I came back in the manager caught me without them on.  Boy did he let me have it!  And I wasn’t even serving!”        
“Busted huh?   Got to love bosses.”

She smiled, shook her head in affirmation and then her eyes darted to the next customer. Our intimacy ended with a cheery,

“Hi, can I help you?”

With soda, chips and paper wrapped sub on a small brown plastic tray I moved slowly through the room of tables like a fishing trawler through a spring flow of North Atlantic ice.  I took a seat at a small table against the wall just in front of the tray return and sat facing my reflection in the glass exit door. SHE was seated at the table kitty corner to mine and it was then that I saw for first time the brilliant flash of her eyes and the toned yet relaxed grace of her femininity etched upon the sheer fabric of her cotton sundress.  

Her table partner, on whom she lavished the whole of her attention, was undeniably gay and elegantly coiffed, but my eye was only for her, visually scenting her chestnut complexion and loosely tied hair whose shining thickness was pulled forward over her shoulder and flowed stream-like over the polished surface of her firm and shapely breast.

This was a woman of unparalleled beauty, whose green-flecked sand colored eyes shown with intelligent confidence.  I was immediately transported to the fictional world of the novel “Shataram” and the Swiss born femme fatal for who the narrator pines; indeed, the woman across from me was the same archetypical image embodied by the character Karla and as I smoothed my Subway wrapper neatly around my warm tubular meal, it was all I could do not to stare.
Munching chips and sipping soda, my darting glances traveled from her flawless face to her shoulder, then to her forearm, then her partially exposed calve and then on to her ankle, each destination greeted by yet another finely wrought tattoo ranging from stylized lettering to intricate Celtic symbols.  Never an aficionado of branding, decorative scarring or tattooing, I found myself instantly attracted to the designs. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why such a pretty young woman would have so adorned her self with so much irreversible flesh-bound jewelry.  

I was off in just such a fantasy when the couple rose and together walked toward the tray table behind me.  But then she stopped, looked directly at me and broke into the most incredibly soulful and honest smile I’d ever seen.  Of course I returned the gesture, but I could feel the muscles in my face tighten and distort, bringing forth what I feared must have been a somewhat forced and exaggerated expression.   Still, she seemed to glow in return, and we held each other’s gaze for a rich and poignant moment.

Her partner then stepped between us and sweeping the refuse from his tray, placed it atop hers.  This momentary obstruction, like a cloud passing before the sun, cast a shadow through my buoyant soul which vaporized instantly as he backed away and allowed the sunlight of her beauty to reemerged. Teasing my heartstrings with yet another abbreviated smile, off she glided through the glass exit way.

Outside in the warm hue of the day's waning light,  the couple paused to chat.  I watched as she rose on tip-toe and stretched slowly and gracefully like an Olympic swimmer preparing for a high dive.  I soaked up this erotic visual fantasizing that her coy display was intended just for me.  Instantly the left side of my brain countered with a reality-fix, reminding me that I was twenty years her senior and from a decidedly different race and culture.  Ah, but how opposites attract!

Lost in my musings, I watched them move off down the sidewalk and then, at the last optical opportunity, she turned and beamed another smile to me before disappearing from sight. Stimulated by her coquettish behavior, I took a large bite from the second half of my sub sandwich and a hefty slurp of my Coke.

“Ah to taste the lips of a woman like that.”  I thought to myself as I dabbed a smear of mayo from my chin.  Just then I was overwhelmed by a fluttering in my chest and tightness in my gut. For some reason I felt compelled to glance up from my food and there she was. With the grace of a long legged gazelle she was retuning alone to the sandwich shop. My eyes followed her as she reached the exit, slipped through the door and came straight to my table.  Without a word, she laid a folded square of a Subway napkin at the edge of my tray. I glanced at it and could see the number she had written.  As our eyes met, a luxurious calm settled over me.

“Thank you very much.”  I said softly with the relaxed confidence of someone who had been expecting this to happen.  She returned a shy smile and turned back to the exit. When she reached the door, she spun around and again faced me.  Pushing the door with her hip, she lifted a pinky to her mouth and a thumb to her ear and with glistening lips mouthed the words “call me” and then she was gone.

Back at the sleep clinic, giddy from the encounter, I downloaded my tale to Randy as he busied himself sliding wires under my P-J bottoms and T-shirt, pasting sensors to my knees and nose and in my hair.  At the end of the story I asked him,

“So do you think she's a hooker?”  

“Listen man, don’t do that to yourself.” Randy countered.  “You’re a good-looking guy.   Hookers hang out down by the stadium not in the Subway shop.  You have to call her!  Its divine intervention!”

“Yeah, I have to say the timing was pretty amazing.  I mean, this afternoon I got an email from my ex-girlfriend.  I think she wants to get back together.  Backsliding is how I look at that.  It’s been six weeks and I don’t want to slip now.”

“That’s what I’m saying Ron, this is fate working.  You call this girl.  You go out with her.  It’ll make you know for sure what you want to do about your girlfriend.  If it sucks, well maybe you’ll go back to her.   If it doesn’t, then man you're moving on!”
Randy then launched into the pre-scripted talk on what the evening’s study would accomplish.
“They’ll probably want you back for a second session even if your apnea is mild to moderate.  When you book the appointment make sure you ask for me as your aid.  I want to find out what happens with this exotic lady!”
Switching back to business Randy added,

“Okay, I’ll be dimming the lights in a couple minutes.  I’ll be back in at 5:30 to wake you.  If you need to use the bathroom during the night, just call me and I’ll hear you over the monitor and be in to unplug you, alright?”

“Cool,” I said. “See you in the morning.”

As I waited for Randy to make it back to the control room, I reached for my wallet on the nightstand and slipped out the square of napkin she had given me.  Unfolding it, I stared at the “Eat Fresh” logo and then studied the numbers she had written below it.  The handwriting was neat and crisp.   Was she for real?   Could this have been a magical moment or was it some sick practical joke or just the number of a prostitute?  How could I tell without calling?
“Divine intervention.“

I repeated Randy’s words slowly and looking hard at the name she had printed below the phone number I asked myself again,

“Is this possible?  Do miracles still happen?  Could an angel really be named Jazzlene? 

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