Lohbado figured Joe and he would be united in sickness and in death, until health parted them. That's from the wedding jingle. Does anyone take weddings seriously? I'm so out of the loop. I don't know anymore. I'm not certain about anything. The only thing I'm sure about is my name.
There's an unwritten code among Dome Veterans who survived the Apocalyptic War and succeeded in crossing the Plains of Radiation... Exiled from status-conscious society, exiles were loyal to one another. No veteran would turn his back on another veteran in need. However, sometimes, one needed to set limits.
I live in a shelter on the Plains of Radiation, in a region near a freeway service road. You'll find dying plazas, with only ten percent occupancy. Exit the freeway; go down the service road. Most of the malls on the Plains of Radiation are deserted. Even mega-franchise stores flopped. After a dog died in the pet store, customers stopped going. A carpet shop, electronics boutique, a money transfer bureau, a Chinese Herbalist and a hair attachment studio closed. Even the huge Palace of the Big Mattress and Marvin's Marvellous furniture went out of business. The odd dollar store managed to keep a strangle hold on the malls of desolation. Maybe they were money-laundering schemes. You rarely found customers in those dollar stores. Most of the merchandise was junk, which broke soon after being removed from the package. There was no need to have a security guard. A shoplifter would have to be pretty depressed to walk in one of those stores and steal the shoddy goods.
Lohbado never gave the dying mall syndrome much thought until he caught the flu from Joe. Joe deliberately gave Lohbado the flu, because he couldn't stand being sick on his own. Misery really does like company.
About every two hours, Joe phoned Lohbado to see how he was doing and to compare symptoms. Joe phoned to say he felt delirious and on the verge of losing consciousness. Lohbado couldn't stop coughing. The coughing shook his torso, until his muscles, rib cage and shoulders hurt. Everything hurt. His nose burned from the river of mucous. His ears rang from sinus pressure. Joe was dizzy and overcome with nausea.
Joe was even taking antibiotics. Joe on antibiotics was having just as much pain as Lohbado who wasn't taking any medicine, other than to lie on the sofa and gaze out the window, which offered a view of tree tops and the sky.
Lohbado was too sick to tell Joe to stop phoning. Actually, he did tell Joe to not phone so much, but Joe kept phoning anyway. Joe phoned so much, Lohbado began to get lost in the vibrations of Joe's voice coming out of the little holes in the phone speaker. Lohbado suffered tennis elbow, so couldn't hold a phone. He used the phone on speaker mode. Lohbado lay on his side and spoke into the phone apparatus on the lamp table he'd dragged in front of the sofa, to provide light when he felt like reading. Joe's voice sounded like a fuzzy, sinuous, wood-wind instrument playing desert music.
Lohbado's mind floated away on the speech melody of Joe's voice, without understanding a word. That didn't matter. Joe probably didn't care too much. As long as Lohbado grunted and breathed, he didn't have to listen. Joe wasn't too interested in knowing much about Lohbado; all he wanted was company. Joe's voice intensified until it felt like roles reversed. Lohbado became Joe and Joe became Lohbado. It didn't matter who listened to who. Their bodies were in toxic shock and in a state of psychic connection via telephone.
Lohbado just wished Joe would give him a break. Lohbado realized there was no limit to Joe's desire for company. If Joe had his way, he would be with Lohbado 24/7. He would move in with Lohbado and take over Lohbado's being, destroying him in the process. He would take away Lohbado's autonomy so that Lohbado would do everything Joe wanted. A wave of claustrophobic agony swept through Lohbado as he realized Joe was going to talk and talk and never stop. He pleaded for Joe to stop. He told Joe he was dying. Joe said he was dying too.
The next day, Lohbado unplugged the phone. It was like cutting a cord that kept him immersed in scalding hot water. He unplugged the phone and floated away into luxurious silence, knowing nobody could interrupt his rest or relaxation. He could lie there all day and recover from the flu. No matter how many times Joe dialled, Lohbado's phone would not ring, because Lohbado unplugged the phone.
Ok, I'll have to finish this story when I feel better. I'm starting to feel feverish again. My resting pulse is 102 beats per minute. I feel sick. It was the first time in nearly ten years that Lohbado got sick. He had a phenomenal immune system. Joe must have really wanted Lohbado to get sick... thought Lohbado, as he lay there in sickness and in death, waiting for health to separate him from the invasiveness of his buddy. When he felt better, Lohbado would have a talk with Joe and try to establish some boundaries.
The boundaries had to continually be asserted. Lohbado already told Joe to not phone so much. It worked for a while. But then the mania would build and Joe would start to take over again. It was literally making him sick. In the human realm, sometimes one gets pushed into a corner and has no choice but to beat the invader over the head with a club, when politeness, reasoning and infinite patience fails.
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