He sat in his favorite recliner next to the window with the view of downtown Manhattan. Fear gripped him. His hands balled into fists, beads of sweat appearing on his forehead. Anxiety often possessed him. He looked at the clock and watched as a minute passed.
The clock ticked. He lost his hearing. He knew it was coming: a block-out. The view of the city faded before his eyes. He could no longer hear the noise of the traffic on the street. In its place, a big blue door slammed. The sound was deafening. He shut his eyes as he cringed with panic.
In what seemed like an instant, he opened his eyes to see the view of Manhattan once again.
He wiped his forehead and recalled the first time a block-out happened.
Bruce Spencer had been in a supermarket with his mom. Sara Spencer pondered over what tomatoes to get for the salad she was making for friends that evening.
“Should I get beefsteak tomatoes or cherry tomatoes?” she asked as she examined a beefsteak tomato.
“I don’t know, Mom.”
She always had a difficult time making decisions, complaining there were too many options.
“Should I make a big salad or individual salads?” she asked.
“I think you should make individual salads,” he replied as he looked at the avocados and considered buying one.
“That’s why I need you with me, Bruce. You always help me. Your father just . . .”
That’s when Bruce stopped hearing the rest of the sentence. His ears void of sound, he picked up the smell of cigarettes and bacon, but no one was smoking or cooking around him. He could still see his mother talking. She looked taller as he peered up at her from a bit below her shoulders. He sensed warmth on his arm, as if it were hanging out of a car window on a sunny day.
Out of nowhere, there appeared a house window with flowered curtains. Out of this window, Bruce saw a car driving slowly past him. It wasn’t a contemporary car; instead, it was one of those cars from his dad’s old car magazines. Charlie Spencer kept stacks of car magazines he would share with Bruce for hours. It looked like a car from the 1960s. As if it were in slow motion, the car cruised by and the driver waved to him. The driver wore a hat, and Bruce couldn’t see his face clearly.
Everything suddenly twisted into a sliding image fading into real time. He could still see his mother but couldn’t hear her. Alarmed and thinking he was having some sort of seizure, he tried to hold it together in front of her so he wouldn’t scare her. He sucked up the fear, even though his body quivered while she continued selecting tomatoes and dropping them into her basket.
Bruce stood paralyzed, as if people could knock him over if they brushed past him.
He swallowed the first impulse to scream. He didn’t know if he could’ve done so because he couldn’t speak.
As suddenly as everything happened, he heard his mother’s voice again.
“Louise always criticizes everything. I love her so much. She’s such a dear friend, but oh my, what a pain in the butt.”
Feeling like someone had tousled his brain, Bruce held onto the edge of the avocado stand. Frozen in place and fully alarmed, he no longer smelled the cigarettes or the bacon. He was taller than his mother was, and he once again could see the top of her head as he looked down at her.
He had no idea of the duration of the episode that had just occurred. How long had he been out of touch? He glanced around. Did someone just roll a movie in front of his eyes? Did anybody else see that? No one was looking around or making comments about anything strange.
His mother was unaware of what had happened to him as she continued the conversation. He was unable to speak until he heard her ask him a question as she was perusing the pepper display.
“Hey, did you hear me? Should I use the green peppers or these pretty yellow ones?” Bruce’s mother moved closer to his face. “Hey, are you thinking about some girl?”
He opened his mouth and heard himself say, “The yellow ones are fine.”
She smiled and moved away from him. “You’re the best son ever!”
She patted his arm as she always did. The only thought that ran through his head was What the hell just happened? The image of the car embedded in his mind.
Bruce and his mother left the store, and he said nothing to her. He felt relieved he was able to conceal the episode from her. He was scared of what she would say and how he would sound saying it. He tried to make sense of it, but overcome by confusion, he felt unsteady.
Could he have fallen asleep standing up and dreamed everything? How could he see a car out of a window if there was no window where he stood? Was he losing his mind? Was someone somehow pranking him? At a loss for words and completely freaked out, he went with his mother back to her house.
Bruce made an effort to appear as if nothing had happened. He had something to eat and stayed at the house for a while before her friends arrived. He smiled a lot and hoped she wouldn’t notice his trembling hands, which he hid behind his back. As he was about to leave, he turned and hugged her tightly. She looked at him with the loving gaze that only a mother could give a son.
“Goodness gracious, son, you took two pounds off me with that super hug!”