Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The podiatrist shares his office space with a dentist. From the exam room she hears the far-off drill: Hoof and Mouth Disease. At first the thought sickens her. Then she wonders if she ought to try this dentist. Meanwhile, at least her feet are almost normal. Compared to what they see here.
A woman emerges from the podiatrist's office, leaves her pocketbook on her walker with her aide, goes to the bathroom. Only she had an "accident," wetting the receipt the receptionist gave her (I assume with water). She blames it on the aide, who told her just to put it in her pocket. The receptionist says it'll dry. The aide stops her from putting it, wet, in her pocket. Now she tries to negotiate the two steps down to the door, the aide standing by, shaking her head, helping only when scowled at. Cold, the woman makes her way back in, blocking the doorway while the aide gets a cab. I write, I look up, I look down again. This could be my father. Yes, I would let this happen to my father. I look away. I write. I feel helpless. 783 Days, 11 Hours, 16 Minutes, 39 Seconds. The time passes.
Another day, another class, another doctor. She writes this to pass the minutes in between. Four years ago, when she started this class, people might write the same story several times, but at least they could fill half a page with writing. Now she's lucky if they write three sentences. And many can't write by themselves, she or an aide have to draw the stories out of them. Twenty people here some Tuesday mornings. Another alarm clock going off, another doctor. This fills the space in between.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Her finger's still numb. Despite over a week wearing the collar. Mostly. Sometimes it seems better with the collar off. But it's not as bad as before. It'll pass, she supposes. No need to find a neurologist. She recalls years ago, having a hairline fracture on her forearm. An orthopedist she finally saw said it would heal itself in time, though better if he put it in a splint. This was after the hospital found nothing then lost her x-rays. She went for the splint. What they didn't mention was the pain when it was removed, and the weeks of exercise. As she vowed at that point, never again. Quoth the raven.
Approximately. She'd have to be crazy to drive through midtown this time of year, that's why she takes a cab. But the cab fares no better. She can't even see the clock in this light. Writing makes her nauseous. She makes her first resolution for the new year: either leave earlier or calm down about being late. One more resolution she'll never keep. A man in the car beside her smokes, flicking ashes out the window. It's been a long time since she's seen that. They pass the old Second Avenue Deli. Dead.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Hunters? He asked over lunch earlier. Of course. Hunters. The more she thinks about it, the clearer it seems. Who else would bother to lug trash all the way back to the trees by the edge of her lawn? A white plastic bag, what looked like parts of a flashlight. Legal deer hunting continues for another week yet, but if she stayed she'd be hearing gunshots long after that. Each fall signs are posted on her land, facing the wrong direction. Eighteen years ago a neighbor found her house with the door wide open, thermostat up to 85, all the covers from the two upstairs bedrooms brought down and piled on her bed, but nothing missing. Hunters. For some reason she finds this thought comforting.
And what if that person dumping trash out back is really her? That's how it seemed when she bought this place. What if the aging caretaker, who also picks up trash, mows the lawn, and plows the driveway, decides to stay at his daughter's forever? What if she's really alone here? That's how it was when she bought this house.
Granville, NY. Thanksgiving weekend. The four hour drive up took nearly six, and going home promises to be worse. Someone's dumped trash out behind the trees, there's a stack of skids in the marsh near the barn door (once she thought to use skids for a coffee table). The mattress, too soft compared to what she's used to, and twenty-four years old, should probably be turned. But she hasn't the energy to remake the bed. She wakes up two mornings in a row limping. Christmas shopping should be full force, but Saratoga was empty and the stores closed at their usual time. The mall parking lot was crowded but they still walked along with that hollow feeling. He fell. At least, once it's loaded in the morning, the Backwards Bush clock keeps count without being online all day. 785 Days, 14 Hours, 13 Minutes, 11 Seconds. How many hours left before the end of the holiday season?
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Thanksgiving. Yesterday a dozen wild turkeys landed on a railroad platform in New Jersey. Trying to escape, newscasters quipped. Last year – or was it the year before? – our President pardoned two turkeys and sent them to Disneyland. Last year – or was it the year before? – our President unexpectedly showed up in Iraq, bringing turkeys to some of the soldiers there. This fall they surprised her father on his 90th birthday. He never realized he had that many friends, he said. Going back to New Jersey, the lot of them.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
What goes around comes around. The little girl hiding. The teenager in her room writing. In those days, she recorded the date and time faithfully at the bottom of every poem, as a means of discerning when she did her best writing. Most of her poems were rhymed then. And as a matter of fact one of the efforts she was proudest of was a poem commemorating Kennedy's life and death. That, and a poem nearly a year later, regaling the 1964 Phillies the year they almost won the pennant, and managing to praise every player on the team. They didn't win. And she never really ascertained when she did her best writing, she had no judgment skills back then. Most of her writing was early in the morning, before the day began. Maybe her father was out in the kitchen making coffee, but she never joined him. There were no computers, though her father used a punch card system in his office. It's 2:30 a.m. now. She'd already turned off her computer, though she picks it up and turns it on again downstairs, so as not to wake her husband. What goes around comes around. She offers her husband the love she could never garner for her father. Or just the courtesy.
Posting the previous note, today's date jumps out at her: November 22nd. The anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. When she stops to realize that Kennedy was in office 1076 days and wasn't able to finish all he started, 789 days really doesn't seem that bad.
789, the innocent order of those numbers, as in a child's game of Hide and Seek. Counting from one to ten, eyes closed, palms over your eyes, then you open them and all the others are hiding somewhere. Ready or not, here she comes. And comes and comes, running in mock fear around the house that housed a bedroom all her own. With no sisters or brothers, she only remembers playing this game with her mother. The thought of a grown woman crawling under a bed or wedging herself into a closet next to a cannister vacuum cleaner is laughable now. But maybe she only hid behind a door. If only it were that easy to make a president vanish, she thinks, immediately scoffing at her immaturity. Of course it's not, not now. And her mother left her.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Outwardly, the cervical collar appears to be working. Three fingers and part of her palm were numb last week; now it's only the ring finger. The collar's not so bad most of the day, though by the time she goes to bed her neck and chin itch. Inwardly, she feels like a dachshund.
A note from a friend reminds her: there are 33 shopping days left till Christmas. Including the rest of today. Including Christmas Eve. This year, the Christmas season began just after Halloween. Windows decorated. The minute the election ads got off t.v. the Christmas ads began. Target showing a winter wonderland. Best Buy showing a wrapped up package popping open, almost as if it exploded.
Forget the seconds, then add up the numbers: seven plus nine plus one equals seventeen. Thirteen plus eight equals twenty-one. The story of my life. At seventeen locked in my room, curtains closed, in drugged sleep by the time my parents came home from work. At twenty-one, newly ensconced in New York, friends for the first time in my life. Seventeen plus twenty-one equals thirty-eight. It's been thirty-seven years now, and I still have some of those same friends. So I feel as if I've earned the right to hope. Seven plus nine plus one equals seventeen. Thirteen plus eight equals twenty-one. Mystics build the body of God with numbers such as these.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
F.D.A. Will Allow Breast Implants Made of Silicone. She wakes up, records two dreams, then reads this headline in the New York Times. Actually she remembers it from last night's news. And she remembers other pieces in the news of late. The implants acted as an air bag, coming between a woman and the dashboard after she runs a red light on a busy Romanian street on Saturday morning, the two cars destroyed beyond recognition. (Her father-in-law totals his car driving from Boston to Florida). A woman in Israel is caught in a Lebanese rocket attack and the hospital finds the implants served as a buffer, keeping the shrapnel just inches away from her heart. (Two men her husband works with relocate to Israel). The friend of a friend who had implants twice because they didn't work the first time still couldn't find someone to love her. (Sometimes she thinks her breasts are all her husband cares about). After fifteen years and God knows how many lawsuits, the original manufacturer forced out of business, a study links the implants to suicide but not cancer.
Cervical collar, she says. And her husband wonders what numbness in her fingers has to do with the cervix. No, the neck, a neck brace, she corrects. And he thinks a brace for her fingers. Then she has to explain, or tries to explain, the muscle's in her neck. A pulled muscle? No, that's not right. A pulled nerve? A pinched nerve, that's what the doctor says, though for some reason she has trouble remembering the proper term, and is suddenly scared to walk into the drugstore and ask for something they might think is for her cervix.
She wonders, if a magnet got close to this key chain, would time stop? Perish the thought. But she's wearing the magnetic necklace she seldom wears. The headaches she bought it for are infrequent these days, but she put it on before going to the doctor this morning, thinking it might help lower the sugar in her blood. Tonight she's tired, when she still has to drive thirty miles home. The heavy necklace weighing on her eyelids? Perish the thought.
Perfume sits down next to her in the waiting room, wearing black tights and spike heels. She pulls out a cell phone and starts making business calls, angered that she missed a flight, that she lugged ten tiles to a client when they didn't need the tiles. She's been told to reduce stress. Her battery runs out two seconds before the doctor calls her in. On her finger is a huge diamond, flashing light as she gets up. Her pink cashmere sweater fits tightly, showing off a decent figure. Maybe it's gestational diabetes.
What she thought might be her alarm this morning was actually a truck backing up on the street seventeen floors below. She was half awake already, and recognized it immediately for what it was. Other mornings she hasn't been as perceptive.
"Come to bed," he says. "It's late." And she says she can't. She knows if she turned in now she'd just lie there counting. 100, 99, 98, 97... It's how she always starts trying to drift off. Somewhere in the 70s she loses count, maybe starts again, then just lies there thinking. She makes a list of the things that she's done, professionally, to justify her age, always the same things, and they always add up with leeway for a couple more years. She turns her other cheek to the pillow, half off the edge most nights, and the count begins again.
Or 797 Days, 23 Hours, 24 Minutes, 18 Seconds, depending which clock you believe. My key chain arrived in the mail today, over an hour different, and it took awhile to set. More patience than I have at the moment. The computer's flagging words as misspelled even as I write this, words I know are correct. One of those days. If I had half a brain I'd just go to bed, except these nights I'm sleeping without my wedding ring.
Or Sunday, November 12, 1:30 p.m. on her computer’s clock. It should be lunchtime, but hunger’s the furthest thing from her mind. Even her husband slept late today, awake half the night despite a sleeping pill. At four a.m. he got up and went back to work. At 5:30 his office called with a crisis, but he’d just fallen asleep and didn’t hear the phone. The two-line cordless phone in the bedroom (his and hers), was left on the desk past its battery running down. She can’t stand that phone. And he never checked his messages this morning.
Nearing the end of the 800 mark, which she supposes is hopeful. Still too much to count on her fingers. She places her hand in front of her face, not wanting anyone to see her unable to make the count. She remembers, years ago, in tears over the whole writing scene and her inability to get a book published, wanting to hide thus. Her friend, in town from Wyoming, had one of those giant cowboy hats. He dumped it over her head. That seemed to perform the hiding trick to perfection.
The year she turned 12, Kennedy and Nixon were running for president. It was the first time she paid attention to the elections. One of the boys in her class, whose parents owned a variety shop on the Boardwalk, was selling Kennedy and Nixon campaign buttons. She bought a Nixon. Then, after seeing the first debate, she switched her allegiance to Kennedy. Seeing, not listening. Then as now, her impressions would be mostly visual. Kennedy was as handsome as the boy she hoped to someday marry. In 802 days, she would be in high school. She would be allowed to go out on dates. She would have her sights on the student council president, two years older than she was and dating the friend of a friend.