CRISTINA ARCHER

- AUTHOR

"Operation Ditching Rupert"

His name is Rupert. He is an unexpected and unwelcome houseguest who took up residence on the Ides of March. He was lurking in the shadows before then but I was unaware of his presence. I attributed the vague level of discomfort to the pangs of life in a big city instead. Feral vermin like him invade many inner city dwellings. He reminds me of hipster professionals and their noisy children strewn across the neighborhood. Sanctimonious adults ignored by their precocious teenagers, both prone to temper tantrums and growing pains. Beware the bite of these creatures, steer a wide birth. But it is impossible to avoid exposure to the contagion they carry.

 Rupert’s wild animal bellow keeps me awake at night. It is hard to get comfortable given the amount of noise he makes. Just as my eyes are closing, my moment before slumber, his shouting makes me shudder. Noisy inconsiderate bugger – how dare he? Uninvited, he does not care how much he is intruding. He is determined to remind me that my home is now his whether he is welcome to share the space or not. I tiptoe delicately around during the day to avoid encounters but he seems to find me no matter what I do to steer clear of him. He is inexplicably everywhere. He knows exactly when to strike. It is his gift and my curse.  

 I call in a barrage of expert exterminators performing multiple diagnostic tests to find his lair and figure out ways to eradicate him. They have a working theory of how he managed to burrow his way into my life and a solution to drag him out. They believe cutting off his food supply will starve him of life. There is one big problem with the proposed solution. His food supply is also mine. Annihilating him might be my ruin as well. There is one token effort to starve him and it is met with a defensive growl. He, nor the source of his food, will be threatened without a fight. It is me or him. There is no middle ground.

 Rupert forces me to walk a tight rope. I place daily poison through my home to keep him at bay but it leaves me groggy because of its potency. This so-called solution can only be temporary. I desperately want him evicted and need the scalpel skill of others to cut him out. Waiting for the right moment to perform this critical operation to salvage my ongoing health is proving challenging. There are so many uncertainties about what might follow the attempt. My wellbeing deteriorates because of the amoral malcontent squatter who randomly swipes at me at every opportunity.  

 The date to ditch his heinous hide is finally set. The specialist hit squad is perversely delighted by the prospect of such a complex extraction operation. It is not difficult to fathom that this crew would regard a hostage release negotiation of such a delicate nature to be worthy of accolades - if they manage to pull off the unspeakably intricate task successfully. I am the one being held to ransom. Rupert is not about to give me up so easily when he has found himself somewhere to call home. I am a cozy and warm place. Granted, he may have begun as a lost soul, wandering aimlessly for a while at first. Perhaps he was even well- intentioned; determined to offer his skills and pay for his board. But he has moored himself in the wrong place. I feel increasingly smaller as he grows bigger. A friend provides me with a voodoo doll of Rupert so that I can vilify a vein-riddled representation of his hide, and puncture it with pins as I see fit. Small enough to hold in my hand, I want to squeeze him hard so that he can feel the same pain that he inflicts on me. His effigy stares back at me defiantly with his beady small eyes. If I hurt him, am I hurting myself? This unwanted symbiotic co-dependence is destructive for both of us.

 The parlance between him and my negotiators is arranged. Shall we compromise? Hardly. In truth, there will not be any talking and this meeting is deliberately held on non-neutral ground. His days of unfettered access in my home are numbered. Rupert is being dragged out, drugged to the hilt and beaten into submission with a sharp needle, bound with a bag over his head to disorient him. A flimsy gown I wear is supposed to entice him to leave me. Near naked, exposed, I cannot imagine his claws letting me go. Through mauling retaliation, he will kick and scream so loudly, and steal the air of all in his proximity. I will skip several heartbeats as he takes my breath away. This sterile environment is fluorescent flickering brightness. Strangely, the icy cold stainless steel pressed against my back gives me cause for hope. This was never a negotiation. My demands are clear, unequivocal. I want him out. I need him out. He has to go. I will send in hardcore marines equipped with masks and the sharpest of knives to slice him out of his fortified enclave inside my temple. At least my soldiers have the sense to stun me into slumber with gas so that I can be spared witnessing the worst of the onslaught. 

 It is the sleep without dreams, sleep of a thousand sleeps, a peaceful sleep, the first such slumber since Rupert slipped silently into and through me. I am there, I am not. This is where I am, this is where I will be. Suspended in the air a short while, if the men in masks annihilate Rupert, and spare me too much damage in the messy process. Dust infinitely if my intruder drags me down with him. I hope he does not leave behind an indelible mark beyond the scar created to remove him. I pray for certainty that he will not prowl back into my life, grasping a fresh foothold on a residue scent that he might have left behind. I fear the possibility there will be fur ball pieces lodged hidden from the experts during the extraction process. Complex is chaotic even with the best cleanup crew in town.

 Will I feel whole again when Rupert is gone? Or will I feel hollow or empty without him? He may not have belonged to me as much as he has owned me these last few months but he has been inescapable for this stretch of time. Though he is incapable of holding any metal weapon, it is as if he has been pointing a gun barrel at my head at the constant ready to pull the trigger at any moment. I suspect some Stockholm Syndrome sympathy might have creeped into my psyche. I will be glad to be rid of him. Really.

 Rupert was believed to be a neuroendocrine pancreatic tumor. The experts told me he was a rare animal, yanking at my tail rather than burrowing around inside my head. He lacked real aggression unlike his distant cousins who could take as little as weeks to maul their host to death. I was blessed with a fighting chance to hold my parasite at bay, enough to unshackle him long before he flicked any switch that might arm him nuclear or spread any cemented roots. The one home I wished to see him smashed permanently to smithereens was a formaldehyde-filled jar. Only with his passing would I have sustained life.

 Rupert conceded defeat and ungraciously allowed his relocation to the hospital waste collection (via interrogation in a laboratory to test his intentions and whether he was squatting alone). Happily for me, he was a disgruntled lame lone troublemaker relegated to the annals of history as a two-bit has been. The ghost of Rupert relinquished power to haunt me as the last remnants of him drained away in that hospital basement in late May. Still, sometimes that dread I felt during his unwelcome stay resurfaces; and I hear an echo of his threatening voice, somewhere untraceable and distant. He will be back to enact retribution because I mistreated him so. My mind plays tricks on me even though I know he is gone.

 Simultaneously bitch-slapped and feather-tickled by the Universe, I could be forgiven for thinking that malevolent mistress S&M dominatrix shares my eccentric sense of humor. I am glad to be concluding my leading role of guinea pig for the raft of specialists who have relished the joy of my unique body temple. Being ‘special’ is overrated.

Was it strange that I chose to name my tumor Rupert? It seemed apt to give him a name, to visualize the alien creature which had been the gushing fountain source of my distraction in these last few months. It has been astounding how something so small could cast so large a shadow.

 

the end

 

by Cristina Archer, May 2013