Noble X — Episode 21: Bundles of Love
PASSING THE LONG HOURS OF THE NIGHT, John whispers his rants and raves into his smartphone, transcribing cryptic madness dumped into more group text messages, Facebook interactions, and email chains. He had hoped to sleep tonight. He knows things have gotten way out of his control and that he is struggling to reel it back in. John decides he will surrender to Thomas in the morning and ask him to take him to his parents. "After taking Paul to the dentist to have his tooth tended to,” he thinks to himself as he adjusts the blanket and pillow he has used to make his friend more comfortable.
The sun is rising and John finally let’s himself relax. Paul had made it through the night, his sleep postponing his pain for the time-being. John welcomes the birds singing in the first rays of morning light. He takes three of Paul’s cigarette and then for no reason at all, grabs a pair of white jogging pants with a red, gold, and green stripe down the side off the floor. Dropping his jeans, swapping for the jogging pants that are two sizes too small, John looks ridiculous. He scribbles a note to Paul that reads, “Hey, we’re going to go to the dentist at 9 AM. I’ll be back. I swapped you pants,” and tiptoes out.
Heading down the back stairs, he stops and sits in the stillness of the early-morning, smoking one of the cigarettes without even a touch of drowsiness. With a great exhale John tries to release the tension in his body. He feels like he’s been clenching every one of his back muscles for the entirety of the long night.
Rolling out the cherry of the cigarette and adding the butt to the random collection in his coat pocket, he shambles home.
Across town at the same time, Thomas snaps awake with a shitty feeling in the pit of his stomach beyond worry. Very true fear that something terrible has happened to his brother has woken Thomas with a start. He quickly throws clothes on, grabbing his coat and keys on the way out to head back over to John’s apartment. He knows there’s no other way to make this feeling go away.
JOHN RETURNS HOME TO FIND HIS DOOR UNLOCKED and the remnants of an incredibly memorable party. The remaining shred of his rational brain chattered in the background as he was flooded with the wild, wonderful memories of the night, “What is the landlord gonna say? She might kick me out.”
Feeling inspired to tidy up, John begins to construct bundles of love, filling random containers of all sorts, cups, buckets, boxes, with collections of blatant disorganization, all bundled together with a elaborate crisscross of scotch tape. An invisible plus. A handful of puzzle pieces, crayons, bottle caps, assorted items picked up at random as he buzzed around his apartment, bound together, as if to cement his disassociation in a tangible form.
John perceives the bundles as shining brilliance pouring out of him. Enlightenment. Something to share with the world to heal the collective sickness. He is so impressed with his idea that he calls his school, who hasn’t heard from him in days.
The school secretary, Ms. Carlin, answers. Quickly realizing who is calling, she blurts, “Mr. Noble, are you okay?” Principal Hall has her door open, meeting with a couple of teachers and they all hear Ms. Carlin’s concerned voice, going silent. John triumphantly announces to her, “I’m better than okay, haven’t slept for days, but I’ve created some very special things that are going to change education as we know it. No more Common Core. I’ve created Uncommon Core. I'll be stopping in today with some surprises.” Part of him truly intends to, but the part of him still aware of consequence would win out in the end.
At the end of his statement, he ends the call abruptly and gets back to work on his bundles of love while Ms. Carlin and the others sit in the thick quiet before a school day begins, trying to shake their nasty intuitions that something is not at all right with Mr. Noble. None of them can find their words and the moment passes. Later, finding their words, the rumors would begin as his co-workers struggled for answers.
JOHN STICKS TO THE BUILDING FOR A WHILE, but he no longer can stay on one thing for very long. As he quickly tangents to cleaning the dishes with incredible intensity, he thinks, “I’m a Tangential Man,” picturing a tan gentleman in his mind’s eye, laughing out loud. Fully aware of this behavior and its implications, he’s written “tangential behavior" in the notes for his study with increasing frequency as the days have passed. In the course of his flurry of thoughts, suds, and hot water, John slips and cuts his softened hand, pruney from washing. Quickly he grabs his first aid kit from the cabinet above the stove and dresses the cut.
Looking at the supplies set out before him, he proceeds to grab a vest from his closet, filling the utility pockets with assorted medical supplies, imagining the pocketed-vest to be a moving storage center, a file cabinet for organization on his person. Standing in tight-fitting white jogging pants, a vest bulging with supplies and a gauze-wrapped finger starting to spot red, he hears his phone start to buzz on the counter. More buzzing.
Concerned text messages and emails are starting to come in. Responses from John's activity throughout the night. His mom. His dad. His uncle. Now his mom is calling. John ignores the call, immediately feeling guilty. “The jig is up,” he thinks playfully, as the phone starts to ring again. Now his dad is calling. Again he ignores the call. Sensing their fear and worry, he yearns to FaceTime his dad, doing so immediately.
John’s dad has never FaceTimed, so is unsure what is happening when his phone starts to beep loudly at him, ringing in a way he has never heard. He is working from his home office and just got off the phone with his wife, trying to keep her calm though he is beginning to panic himself. He answers the incoming FaceTime call from his phone, blurting, “What the hell is going on, John?!” as the image of his son comes up on his phone. It barely resembles his son. “What are you on?” John doesn’t seem upset by this. He’s elated to see his dad despite the revolting feeling of guilt rising in him as he studies his dad’s reaction to seeing him in his current state. “Dad, where are you at? I wanna come see you like right now,” John says, sounding almost like a child. And like they’re having a regular chat he adds, “Oh Mom’s trying to call again, should I answer?” His dad, exasperated, manages to get out, “Where are you? I’m coming to get you,” and just then, John hears the front door burst open.
Thomas arrives to see the results of John’s “clean-up" efforts, having thrown the apartment into even more disarray. Thomas hears a commotion coming from the back of the apartment and allows himself to feel partially relieved. He’s not too late.
Stay tuned for Episode 22.
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