Sunday, December 30, 2007

386 days, 0 hours, 31 minutes, 50 seconds

The confetti in Times Square will carry messages this year. Wishes will float down like in Cinderella. Anyone can wish over the Internet. It will be mixed in with more than a ton of real confetti though. She’d never get a wish. Or if she did it would be something stupid like bring my husband home from Iraq or let a Democrat win the election.

Make a wish foundation.

Her parents bussed her to Times Square as an eight-year-old. She doesn’t remember confetti. She remembers the cold and the crowd and being pushed and not being able to see over the people in front of her.

Confetti was high school. Saving seats for football games. Making bowling pin dolls. Cutting newspaper into confetti for the older girls. Until she just stomped her feet to get rid of the gum wrappers that landed on them and took off head first along the dark road. Head down, she means. She wished a car would run over her. She wished for a boarding school. Or a hospital.

386 days, 2 hours, 4 minutes, 37 seconds

She’s been here nearly three weeks now. She no longer knows or cares what day it is. Still, they write the date on the board at the front of the room each morning, along with the names of the nurse and aides. Like name tags for Alzheimer's patients. At a rally in Iowa, Hillary hands out pledge cards urging people to vote for her in the caucus on January 14. Only problem is that the caucus is January 3. Shooting herself in the foot, as the paper describes it. If that’s true then she’ll have to use a cane also. Not for support, just for balance.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

387 days, 6 hours, 16 minutes, 31 seconds

So if she falls, she falls, she wants to tell the therapist. Always someone around to help. Thinking of that last fall, 82nd and Broadway, trying to hail a cab. Ten people gathered around helping her, fending off traffic. The cab must have driven around her.

A news story she also remembers. A woman walking in the East Village falls. Two teenage girls run over, ostensibly to help, then rob her. But she was old. And a tourist.

387 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, 20 seconds

Speaking of oranges: children with diabetes as young as 10 years old learn to give themselves injections by practicing injecting water into an orange. So now she can’t even do what’s expected of a normal 10-year-old.

387 days, 6 hours, 47 minutes, 19 seconds

Tonight’s orange is better than last night’s orange.

387 days, 8 hours, 19 minutes, 2 seconds

Here is the man who owes her a dollar. But he is in the hospital. She is in the hospital. She is getting better. She sits at the computer hitting three keys at once, making up for lost time. Time is always lost. There’s no such thing as time, it’s a magic trick. Now you have it, now you don’t. Long long ago, there was time, but the teachers (except for third grade) had no time for her. Other kids had no time for her. She was the smallest. Making up for lost time. Holding her head up. Holding her new hat on. Weighing it down with the cane. This is what it’s comes down to: $40 cane, $ 200 hat. Which will he see first?

391 days, 12 hours, 29 minutes, 3.6 seconds

Sometimes she just wants to be a stray again.

391 days, 12hours, 32 minutes, 22 seconds

For the first time in what seems like months she has a strong enough Internet connection to browse the weird news sites. One of the first stories she reads is about a Jack Russell terrier who heard a 91-year-old woman crying for help at the end of a driveway. She’d fallen in a snowbank. No one else could hear her. Thes dog was a stray just three months ago.

Yes, she calls for help, despite herself.

Now, if she can just keep her eyes open.

391 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes, 11 seconds

Leon Fleisher, the revered pianist who for decades battled, and eventually overcame, a neurological disorder that crippled his right hand, was presented with the 2007 Kennedy Center Honors in ceremonies yesterday in Washington, D.C.

391 days, 23 hours, 14 minutes, 53 seconds

Christmas eve. They try to recall where they were the first time they watched a porn movie.

391 days, 23 hours, 26 minutes, 4 seconds

Shake my hand, the therapist tells the severely brain-damaged man who’s nodding off, reaching out to take his hand. Even the grungiest dog in the pound can do this. But both parents have to want the mutt.

On a nattress across the room, two therapists are trying to teach a man how to roll over with the aid of his elbows.

Bush’s dog, Mrs. Beasley, scampers away from Secret Service men trying to surround her. She doesn’t want to be photographed.

She gets the picture.

392 days, 0 hours, 2 minutes, 22 seconds

She’s trying to make up for lost time.

392 days, 0 hours, 6 minutes, 8 seconds

Aren’t you glad you use Dial?

392 days, 1 hours, 10 minutes, 8 seconds

Voters in Iowa are bothered by campaign calls this close to Christmas.

392 days, 5 hours, 16 minutes, 6 seconds

Blue’s just not your color, the therapist says, as she tries to screw in pegs a two-year-old can manage.

392 days, 22 hours, 27 minutes, 40 seconds

Rich roofer's fatal fall: One of the world's richest men, who made billions with a roofing company, has died after falling through the garage roof at his home. Ken Hendricks, 66, was checking on construction of the roof at his house in Illinois when the accident happened. He suffered massive head injuries.

Do roofers still use asbestos?

Her father-in-law on that roof. One of the first things he did for her. Before he got sick.

392 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, 4 seconds

Finally a clonipin. Or is it tin? That taste in her mouth. That asbestos.

392 days, 23 hours, 12 minutes, 24 seconds

Call the gentle men in blue.

392 days, 23 hours, 25 minutes, 45 seconds

Woman’s work, she called it two days ago, trying to explain to the cognitive therapist that she doesn’t cook, doesn’t shop. Yesterday she discovered her hand works best with two fingers wrapped around a small blue sponge.

392 days, 23 hours, 34 minutes, 5 seconds

She married a turtle.

392 days, 23 hours, 41 minutes, 28 seconds

She loses files. She loses her notebook. She loses a poem. She loses her mind.

393 days, 7 hours, 50 minutes, 1 seconds

No pt for her today. She fell yesterday. Alone in the dining room, where she shouldn’t have been to begin with. Not alone. Not without him.

393 days, 8 hours, 0 minutes, 51 seconds

They just leave her sitting here.

395 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes, 18 seconds

Saturday evening. The Hispanic woman in the bed beside her has her family filling the room, including her 8-month-old and a newborn godchild. They offer to help her pick papers off the floor. Before dinner they join hands in prayer.

395 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes, 18 seconds

at 5:20 tonight, Queen Elizabeth II became the oldest British queen. But not the one who ruled longest.

395 days, 4 hours, 16 minutes, 36 seconds

He went straight to the emergency room. But he didn’t stay 26 hours.

395 days, 4 hours, 25 minutes, 39 seconds


It looks like Santa Rudy has a new health care plan in the offing. Coming down with flu-like symptoms while campaigning in Missouri, bringing it back to New York with him. The plane had to turn around.

396 days, 1 hours, 12 minutes, 8 seconds

At home, while searching the Internet for cancer turbans, she zoomed past sites offering hand- knitted gifts. Then, rushing out the door to move to her new room yesterday, they showed up. The Jehovah’s Witnesses. Well-intentioned cancer women wth their bags of makeup including skin tanning creams. They included a copy of in style magazine, with its lead article on tricks to having great hair. She wishes she could give it back.
Well, she found out from the rehab doctor why she wasn’t admitted that first day: they were considering another operation. No one told her. She’s thinking about a different oncologist. She’s thought of this before.

401 days, 1 hours, 10 minutes, 16 seconds

keep that arm involved, they tell her. Even if it can’t be of help, keep it in the vicinity, don’t let it feel like it’s being unused, or just in the way. God, she knows that sham.

401 days, 11 hours, 47 minutes, 3 seconds

So he slept late . He’s sleeping better now. He’ll call when he gets up.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

401 days, 14 hours, 47 minutes, 3 seconds

So. It was a month after their wedding when they saw his extended family. And his aunt, a retired nurse turned real estate broker, gave them a clock with Westminster chimes. But she didn’t feel well. The hotel where they stayed had their first Jacuzzi, and he set it too hot, stayed in too long, emerged barely able to stand up. And she couldn’t help him.

401 days. 23 hours, 10 minutes, 3 seconds

36 hours checking e-mail. She feels like she’s been to a spa for her whole body.

402 days, 9 hours, 8minutes, 50 seconds

She watched as a man twice her size pointed out his bruises to the technicians. So grown ups fall also.

Friday, December 7, 2007

409 days, 1 hours, 25 minutes, 13.8 seconds

A law was passed last Tuesday: neglect of aging parents is a criminal offense. But this is in India.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

410 days, 0 hours, 10 minutes, 41 seconds

Things are starting to grow again. Her toenails. Her fingernails. There’s fuzz at the top of her head. She rubs it for good luck.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

412 days, 7 hours, 5 minutes, 14 seconds

Stay out of the sun, they warn her, handing her the third bottle of pills. A piece of German chocolate cake for her (and she doesn’t usually like chocolate). She fainted when the Brownies went swimming at the lake. She dropped out of the Brownies. She dropped out of school. She bought a dozen sun hats, different shapes and sizes and colors. But there is no color.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

414 days, 17 hours, 10 minutes, 59 seconds

Must acquit.

414 days, 17 hours, 29 minutes, 48 seconds

She imagines Dubyuh with convertible gloves like she just gave her husband. He uses the cashmere for jogging, slips on the outer leather shell when he meets heads of state. Easy to slide out of. That sounds right, doesn’t it? He’ll ask his Chief of Staff, if he can just remember…

414 days, 23 hours, 3 minutes, 31 seconds

It’s after midnight.

414 days, 23 hours, 7 minutes, 30 seconds

He offers to help her set up her pills for the coming week, always a grueling task. He’s trying to make this as pleasant a day as he can but she can’t.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

415 days, 1 hours, 0 minutes, 13.4 seconds

She imagines a diabetic coma at the stroke of midnight on her birthday. Everything else has gone wrong today. She takes her 23rd bite of zeppole, a gift from the waiter, reminds her husband again that if she’s even on a ventilator, not a respirator, she wants off. Don’t let them sweet-talk him into her being as good as before. This is before. The waiter didn’t know it was her birthday. Almost her birthday. She takes another bite. A coma might feel pretty good right now, despite the flowers.

415 days, 4 hours, 58 minutes, 31 seconds

The first day of December, the day before her birthday, three days before Chanukah, 30 degrees out, he goes to visit a friend and comes home having lost one of the gloves she gave him for Chanukah years ago. While he’s away she reads an article about a website set up to unite gloves with their owners, but that’s only in Pittsburgh. For now. The flowers he sent her are delivered while he’s out, and she has to hobble down the stairs to receive them, then hobble back up, terrified of that final step, no one to hang onto.

Friday, November 30, 2007

416 days, 1 hours, 37 minutes, 43 seconds

Tonight the first of her birthday cakes. She forgets to wish.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

419 days, 6 hours, 25 minutes, 8 seconds

It suddenly occurs to her that, less than a year from now, we’ll know who’ll become the next president. With any luck, the country will be in remission.

Monday, November 26, 2007

420 days, 11 hours, 57 minutes, 39.2 seconds

This is how low they’ve come: for the second night in a week, screaming at each other as they walk Columbus Avenue. A teenager walking in front of them even turned around, but she’s with her parents or grandparents, so that’s not really a teenager.

420 days, 12 hours, 16 minutes, 53 seconds

So he tells her now he went to the parade mainly because he wanted her to have a balloon, he wanted her to have a balloon from Macy’s. And the first balloon vendor he saw had a unicorn and he wasn’t sure he’d see other vendors so he bought the unicorn (which she didn’t discover until later) and the Dalmatian. He remembered the balloons being larger. But he wanted her to finally her a balloon from the Macy’s parade. Two balloons. He's completely forgotten he brought her back a balloon the one other time she remembers him going to the parade –a lion, she thinks, and a mermaid. One was for her, the other for their sick friend. Still sick. Dalmatians are rescue dogs.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

424 days, 11 hours, 30 minutes, 36 seconds

He goes to the parade after all. Just for two or three bands. Comes home with a small Dalmatian balloon for her, which he places on top of the stuffed rabbit. He hates that rabbit.

Dalmatians are rescue dogs. Her father had a real Dalmatian. He was named Tuesday. Today is Thursday. Possibly he was blown up on Tuesday. Meanwhile, she seldom picks up the phone from her father anymore, but he talks to her husband for a few minutes each day just to check things are alright. When he remembers.

424 days, 11 hours, 33 minutes, 20 seconds

Do you know what year is this is ? Do you know who’s president?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

425 days, 1 hours, 19 minutes, 21 seconds

No blow ups tonight, she supposes. No more tantrums.

On just 2 mg of the steroid every other day her face may lose its bloat. And even that will stop soon.

No more blow ups tonight. The night before Thanksgiving, when all the Macy’s balloons are gathering down by the museum. Twenty-two years ago, when they were first together, no one knew about these little outbursts. They could stay watching as long as it took to get Garfield’s tail straight. She bought gloves. The next year they bought hot coffee for one of the workers. But now the streets are mobbed, and they close them off to viewers early.

No blow ups tonight. He won’t be going to the parade tomorrow. He won’t end up in the ER. Not tonight. Not tomorrow. And she won’t either. She swears she won’t.

425 days, 1 hours, 33 minutes, 51 seconds

A nightmare last night where she couldn’t keep her medications straight. She had on all these little candy bracelets. Or most of them were candy. She couldn’t remember which was which. She woke with a migraine and never really got back to sleep.

She supposes that’s what happens when you just walk out of the emergency room not even bothering to take off the bracelet. She supposes that’s what happens when you stomp on the insulin vial. It takes all her energy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

432 days, 13 hours, 43 minutes, 39 seconds

Almost time for George to pardon two more turkeys.

432 days, 23 hours, 32 minutes, 10 seconds

It’s the thigh, not I, that will be her downfall. Downstairs, half asleep , he reads The Tin Drum. She no longer orders chicken in restaurants.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

438 days, 10 hours, 55 minutes, 18 seconds

Even back then, he didn’t know what to say to her. But he used to mutter this click or cluck all the the time, shaking his head, turning away. It’s the same click she’s heard from her husband lately. He doesn’t even know he’s doing it. And she, who never notices, notices.

438 days, 11 hours, 3 minutes, 55 seconds

In The Hotel New Hampshire, one of her favorite books and movies, Lilly is trying to grow. She even writes a bestseller about it. But in the end she kills herself, leaving a note behind that says “not tall enough.” She knows the feeling. At school on photo day she was always the last person in line. The last person to be weighed and measured in September. Her father talked about how when he graduated high school he and one other boy were the shortest in the class. The other guy went through a growth spurt, so it could still happen to her. She knew it wouldn’t. She knew the only growth would be inside her. What she didn’t expect was how much she’d come to fear it. This is what she thinks about at two in the morning, just before bed.

438 days, 22 hours, 30 minutes, 14 seconds

Mr. Kasuri reiterated that Gen. Musharraf would move forward with parliamentary elections early next year and make good on a pledge to give up his military uniform while remaining president.

438 days, 22 hours, 40 minutes, 31 seconds

To learn without thinking is an effort in vain. Her husband’s fortune.

438 days, 22 hours, 55 minutes, 57 seconds

Bush quips he might stay in power.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

438 days, 23 hours, 13 minutes, 38 seconds

No one is standing in your way anymore, it’s time to move forward: the fortune she’s been waiting for. And, on the other side of the strip, next to the lucky lotto numbers: Learn Chinese: and the characters for kai wam sei: joke around.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

440 days, 2 hours, 14 minutes, 21 seconds

The oncologist takes one quick glance at her. It’s over. And she feels better already.

Monday, November 5, 2007

440 days, 23 hours, 45 minutes, 43 seconds

The fours are adding up here. She was 41 when she married him. They’d been together just a little over four years. Her mother was alive (another five years). His mother was alive (another five years). Four living parents. People die all the time. So it’s not just her.

440 days, 23 hours, 52 minutes, 51 seconds

Another night. Another clonopin. Or whatever you call it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

442 days, 21 hours, 22 minutes, 46 seconds

She can’t believe they’d schedule the marathon the same weekend as Daylight Savings Time ends. Then again, life’s all about transitions.

She can sit and do one thing fairly well, if a little slowly. But then to move from one thing to another, from one place to another, requires her sitting there for what seems like forever trying to map a route. Sitting in the bed today, ensconced by pillows, she looks up to see the most exquisite deep red and white sunset lines over a small patch of sky. She knew by the time she got a camera it would be gone. She was trapped by pillows. Even walking to the window would have been too much. (She remembers waking up in the carriage alone when her mother had run inside for the camera; she remembers how scared she was).

Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein have decided to back Bush’s nominee for Attorney General. Easier that way. January 20, 2009. That’s the transition of they’re waiting for. But the pillows, meant for luxury, the realm of Kings and Queens, won’t let her move.

January 20, 2009. She still wonders if she’ll live that long. Waking up in the carriage. Or ambulance. Half in, half out.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

445 days, 3 hours, 24 minutes, 6.8 seconds

She thinks of Rosie Ruiz, wiinning the marathon until it was discovered she took the subway. The year she moved in with him it was marathon weekend and crosstown traffic was disastrous. She rhinks of her endocrinologist running again this year. She thinks of her rocking horse.

445 days, 3 hours, 55 minutes, 16 seconds

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445 days, 4 hours, 28 minutes, 35 seconds

She returns from the Upper East Side dermatologist as sick as she’s ever felt, hanging onto a flowerpot to steady herself while the guard comes out to meet them. The mail truck’s here with 35 boxes of mailing supplies that she supposes she over-ordered. He’s got 13 boxes already on his cart, so she accepts those, refuses the others. She just needs to get upstairs and lie down. Another 13.

445 days, 5 hours, 13 minutes, 22 seconds

Rosie the nurse from hell was here again this morning. Never brings her own gloves. Insists it’s easiest to lance the finger without the lancette device. Would chase her around the room if she could just move. Squeezes her arm so tight it hurts. Starts to warn of the dangers of oral diabetes pills. She thinks of Rosie the Riveter. All the wars in her body. All the home fronts.

445 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes, 14 seconds

Not 14, 13. Instead of starting the Ben Casey episodes with disk 1, as planned, she started with the second case, disk 13. Bad Luck. They’ve watched the four shows on that disk now. She hasn’t fallen down the stairs. She hasn’t blacked out in four days. She was able to wash her face last night. The worst should be over.

445 days, 12 hours, 50 minutes, 37.4 seconds

November one. Month eleven. Part eleven of this blog. In fifty minutes it will be eleven hours. She stands up for the first time in days. She’s never felt so lonely.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

447 days, 1 hours, 8 minutes, 21 seconds

In today’s weird news, yet another medical mishap. Surprise, surprise. A woman was treated with the Gamma Knife on the wrong side of the brain. Not to worry, not to worry, this does not necessarily harm the patient. Just a radiation mistake. She thinks of swelling three months later, trying to walk, she thinks about blacking out, she thinks of falling. She thinks and thinks and thinks of a lot of things while she can still think. The computer was supposed to spit her out if things weren’t perfect. The computer was supposed to protect her.

447 days, 6 hours, 22 minutes, 15 seconds

The bickering. Ask her what she remembers about this past week when she’s been too sick to write and she’ll tell you the bickering. It started at the oncologist’s. And God knows why she didn’t write it down at the time. There was a woman and her husband already there, the woman in the seat with a tray table that she usually uses. The empty chemo chair next to them. She was trying to get a DVD player to work. He was trying to help her. The nurse was trying to help her. Then the woman wanted to know again what drugs she was taking and her husband told her. Isn’t that bad for the liver, she asked. Or is it the kidney? He told her again what drugs she was taking. She asked the questions again. She tries to get the DVD to work. She says they must have brought the wrong tape.

Busy day. A young man in his 40s comes in and takes the seat between them. Everyone gets talking. He’s a doorman, comes for sessions every six months or so that’s all there is to it. She doesn’t remember how or why or when but the three of them get into telling stories, laughing their heads off to the point where the nurse has to come and remind them to be quiet. Stories about his work? Stories about his treatments? They’re having so much fun.

The man leaves and things quiet down. No more bickering. She and her husband just sit there watching from the distance. By tomorrow they’ll be the ones who bicker. It’s started already.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

454 days, 22 hours, 48 minutes, 49 seconds

"It's an important concept for our fellow citizens to understand, that no one in need will ever be forced to choose a faith-based provider. That's an important concept for people to understand. What that means is if you're the Methodist church and you sponsor an alcohol treatment center, they can't say only Methodists, only Methodists who drink too much can come to our program. "All Drunks Are Welcome" is what the sign ought to say."

454 days, 23 hours, 28 minutes, 44 seconds

June 18, 2003: George W Bush has fallen off a Segway - a new stand-on scooter designed to make motorised travel user-friendly.The machine went down when he stepped onto it at his family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, but he managed to leap to safety, landing on his feet.

454 days, 23 hours, 44 minutes, 4.9 seconds

Bush 'falls ill' at G8 summit: Friday, 08 Jun 2007. Mr Bush was said to be suffering from stomach pains overnight and is now set to miss some of the discussions scheduled between leaders about Africa today. The BBC reports that the US president fell ill last night and showed TV footage of him drinking a non-alcoholic beer with fellow leaders including British prime minister Tony Blair and German chancellor Angela Merkel. Earlier, White House official Dan Bartlett joked that Mr Bush was eager not to follow in the footsteps of his father, who famously threw up on then Japanese prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa at a state dinner in Tokyo in 1992.

Monday, October 22, 2007

455 days, 3 hours, 45 minutes, 13 seconds

They watch two Ben Casey episodes, accidentally starting on the wrong disk. She’d forgotten he was only a resident. She’d forgotten his temper. Tracy, next door, says that when she trained at Columbia Presbyterian back in the 60s they loved Ben Casey. They used to page him all the time. Tracy, neighbor, friend. The first nurse she put in the hospital. She thought, for a moment, of naming this new computer Tracy or Tracer, but Tarceva’s better. This will save her life. Too weak to stand up right now. Different visiting nurses announce themselves. So the whole building knows. And she fell.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

456 days, 20 hours, 14 minutes, 11 seconds

So it’s 4:30 in the morning again, 1:30 in California, and she’s spreading moisturizer on her legs and thinking how she really has to call her uncle. He turned 90 on the fourth of July and they’d planned on going out there before all hell broke loose. And she hasn’t had the nerve to call and explain. Another cousin who was there just died of stomach cancer. Cancer men. Her uncle, Charles, Ron. She finds their smiles irresistable. The cream on her legs is soothing now, until she notices all the scabs behind her left leg, starts to pick at them. And she thinks of unions.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

459 days, 3 hours, 1 minutes, 48 seconds

Back to Ben. Big Ben. And how it was so important to her British friends that she attend a late-night session of Parliament. Let's draw the world back into focus here.

459 days, 6 hours, 56 minutes, 51 seconds

Surprise, surprise, the computer didn't make it. Though she can still get on in Safe Mode, with Networking.

She'll get another Toshiba, she supposes. 17-inch screen. Two disk drives. One of the cheaper ones. It'll break a few months after the warranty expires. There's also the HP, of course, but the Toshiba's sleeker. Also, she keeps confusing the name with Tarceva, the pill they say will keep her alive another day, another week, another month of…

459 days, 7 hours, 7 minutes, 40 seconds

And there was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. Everybody loved her curly hair. Four sessions, it was promised. Then two weeks later it would start growing back. There's really going to be a struggle now.

459 days, 10 hours, 18 minutes, 48 seconds

After being unable to lift her head yesterday, she wears black for chemo today. Black tights. Black and white stretch jersey she feels thin enough to wear now. Black and grey Parkhurst hat. Blue socks.

She forgot about white for Yom Kippur.

"You realize that, except for the cancer and the diabetes, everything you're going through now is self-inflicted," he tells her. She stares at him, then the window, then him again. This isn't what you tell a potential suicide. But he explains she's the one who made the decision to continue with the chemo despite all its side effects. And he's proud of her.

Except this can't continue. Not today, at least. Anemia. Her platelet count too low. The doctor gives her a shot. And all those steroids already in her body. Keep her up at least. Same time next week. Same time next year. It doesn't matter. She comes home and puts on her ghost scarf. Black and white.

She forgot about white for Yom Kippur.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

460 days, 23 hours, 10 minutes, 22 seconds

She woke up this morning with a blood reading of 88. As in 88 piano keys. As in the 88 keys on the keyboard she bought him as a Hanukkah gift right before her birthday. The first arrangement he composed on it was happy birthday. After that all hell broke loose.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

461 days, 22 hours, 9 minutes, 16 seconds

She's writing and writing and writing. Blubbering. Probably drooling out of the corner of her mouth. Typing with two fingers and cotton gloves on. It's tomorrow.

461 days, 22 hours, 15 minutes, 49.8 seconds

Man with van. Manny with van. $50. He doesn't need the money, but his mother died two months ago, and she always enjoyed helping people.

She remembers to thank his mother.

461 days, 22 hours, 39 minutes, 56 seconds

A "desk" he calls it. No way. Where do the legs go? Entertainment center, maybe. Or the bottom half. Biggest god-damned thing she's ever seen. And heavy. Perfect for magazine storage. Sitting in the garage for days now. Probably out on the street tomorrow, with the rest of the furniture. She sneaks down to the garage at 3:00 a.m. to take another look. Can't even lift one leg. But she's got to have this. Desk? Okay, desk. Whatever. With both rear seats down she can get it in her car, or thinks she can. Prays she can.

Turns out it's been promised to someone else. Someone who hasn't seen it yet. Just what she needs to hear. She thought what you see is what you get. Thought this was fair game, imagined it in the back of her car. In her storage space. Then it shows up at the door to her apartment. She must be seeing things.

461 days, 22 hours, 56 minutes, 44 seconds

Delicate pink-framed reading/distance bifocals? Where the hell did these come from? For the second night in a row she changed glasses to read a menu, then forgot to change back. Used to be her eyes were immediately strained, but she doesn't even see the difference now. And she writes this with cotton gloves on. She's in the middle of a virus scan.

461 days, 23 hours, 3 minutes, 7.6 seconds

Gaudy pink all around her, marking the strides against breast cancer. Been there. Done that.

461 days, 23 hours, 18 minutes, 21 seconds

She slept for maybe an hour, right around the news, then almost just turned off the computer and said screw backing up, screw the night's meds, screw her arms and legs. She could have drifted back to sleep in seconds. But it just turned tomorrow. The day she's been waiting for. C Day. D Day. V Day. She sees the doctor at three o'clock (probably means four). They decide if the chemo continues. And she doesn't know what she wants. At the moment – no more tomorrows.

Monday, October 15, 2007

462 days, 1 hours, 41 minutes, 35 seconds

So she goes with a friend for brunch not dinner, because these days that's when she still has energy (they both cover their eyes as they pass the hat store), then on the way home stops to pick up a garment rack for the storage space, only it turns out this friend bought the same double-level rack and now doesn't have room for it. Call it a gift, a trade, a lucky charm.

He helps her put it together, stands between the bars and begins Cat's Cradle. She thinks of the cat she had, its last two years alone in an apartment half the size of this storage space. Maybe a third the size, but there was a loft bed, and a ladder. Clumsy old cat, not very good at games, but she supposes this is what storage feels like. No strings. Too many strings. Even her fingers ripped apart today.

462 days, 4 hours, 58 minutes, 44 seconds

The camera scans black and white pictures of children as an announcer says: "Hillary stood up for universal health care when almost no one else would, and kept standing until six million kids had coverage."

"She stood by ground zero workers who sacrificed their health after so many sacrificed their lives, and kept standing until this administration took action," the ad's announcer says as a photograph of Clinton, wearing a face mask at the World Trade Center cite, appears on the screen.

"So now that almost every candidate is standing up for health care for all," the announcer says, "which one do you think will never back down?"

462 days, 5 hours, 8 minutes, 47 seconds

System shutdown. Reboot. Reboot again. Go into safe mode. What did she expect? The computer's not working well either.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

465 days, 12 hours, 14 minutes, 27 seconds

Hold onto your hat, the CBS weather forecaster says. Wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour. And she doesn't have a hat. But at least she's hearing the news for the first time in days. She promised the driver she would make it worth his while. Then he almost misses the exit and has to back up. She's terrified.

465 days, 12 hours, 55 minutes, 48 seconds

She has one hour and ten minutes to go. She still hasn't decided what to tell her students.

465 days, 13 hours, 20 minutes, 13 seconds

The first taxi refuses, the second talks of trouble on the bridges but agrees to take her to Forest Hills. He calls his boss, and says he'll be late getting back. He has a lady here and she's sick. God, does she look that bad? It's been a morning of one crisis after another. She woke up covered in Vaseline. The nurse didn't show. The computer wouldn't function. He tells his boss she just got out of the hospital.

Friday, October 12, 2007

466 days, 21 hours, 38 minutes, 9 seconds

She takes the green hat with all the buttons, more hippy than retro, wants to add the 1-20-09 button a friend gave her, but finds the clasp won't open. She takes this as personal.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

467 days, 1 hours, 40 minutes, 21 seconds

The jovial neighbor who drives the school bus heard the crash and rushed to the elevator. Her husband heard the crash. One taxi hit another, which jackknifed right in front of their building. The crowd's already gathered. Someone whispers of a mysterious black car that must have sped away. Cops call for a bus. Two busses. There's a fire truck standing by, just in case. She heard nothing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

468 days, 6 hours, 2 minutes, 21 seconds

The hat will have to wait. It's too cold. And too tired.

468 days, 10 hours, 16 minutes, 32 seconds

Two, four, six, eight. Who do we appreciate? No one, the anorexic sorority brat answers. But these days she appreciates all her friends.

468 days, 10 hours, 17 minutes, 48 seconds

I see him. He's a little guy, but he's bouncing up and down. Keep pumping your fist. – The vein.

468 days, 11 hours, 19 minutes, 52 seconds

Another doctor's appointment, then another hat, she thinks, trying to keep the balance. She remembers going with her mother to the doctor, after which they'd go to Woolworth's and pick out a toy. This was in the early 1950s. People never uttered the word psychiatrist aloud. And the Medical Towers building was next door to the White Castle. She loved those squares.

468 days, 13 hours, 20 minutes, 33 seconds

And she's still by far the highest bidder on the Ken Ben doll, but there's another 9 hours and 13 minutes to wait. Why, oh why, did he have to be one of the few items she couldn't buy right away? Hurry, hurry, get home safe. The first night she slept with her Pinocchio doll she bit his nose and broke it. But this is a watchful doll, not a sleeping one. She thinks of the Guatemalan worry dolls, around the apartment somewhere, missing for years. The first night he thought he'd broken one. It was so small. Ben comes, by the way, from Salem, Ma., which the seller lists as "Witch City." Of course there are voodoo dolls, but he's still in shrink wrap. Her one play was set there. Child's play.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

470 days, 19 hours, 24 minutes, 54 seconds

An orange a day keeps the apple away.

Friday, October 5, 2007

472 days, 0 hours, 30 minutes, 28 seconds

Given a half dose of steroids and twenty minutes, she can even double-tie her shoes. This is progress. She remembers her mother's shoes with velcro closures. The pride in her husband's voice, the only boy in kindergarten who could tie his shoes. The rocking horse in the one children's shoe store that she loved to bounce up and down on and the x-ray machine that terrified her. There were the multi-colored sneakers she wanted one summer with L and R printed boldly on the toes, and how her mother refused to buy them and she still can't always remember which way is left.

472 days, 19 hours, 5 minutes, 42 seconds

She bids on a Ben Casey "She'll be going home soon" puzzle (#3 in the series, third on a match), and buys an unopened board game. She also bids on a Ken doll in a Ben Casey doctor suit (made in Hong Kong and still shrink-wrapped). Hopefully the laad won't leak. Four days, seven hours left before she wins. She increases her bid. She needs Ken not Ben tonight. And he'll stay home with her tomorrow. Ken. Ben. Ken. Ben. Then.

472 days, 20 hours, 28 minutes, 38 seconds

So she orders the full set of Ben Casey shows on DVD – 28 disks, 102 episodes, 1961 to 1966, thinking maybe those scenes of doctors working so hard against all odds might work as bedtime stories. She used to leave the room or shut her eyes during the operating room scenes in those days. Maybe she still will. 102 episodes, and actually she reads elsewhere there were 153 episodes, possibly this is missing the first season. It might take ten days to ship. Then 102 Arabian nights, skip a few, round it off to 125 nights. Bush will have 347 days left in office. Less than a year. But it'll be enough to bring back Kennedy's Camelot. To make her understand how lucky she is now. Not only modern medicine, but the doctors care. Or two, at least, one she called at home late tonight, the other immediately returned her page. Still her panic continues. Klonipin doesn't do a damned thing. Ben's chipped head bobbles. She's placed him on the bed sideboard now, opposite her own head, trusting he won't fall and hurt her (if there's an Earthquake, Mary wants a teddy bear to wake her). There was the afternoon she watched the Ben Casey rerun, then prayed not to wake. These nights she's unsure what to pray for.

472 days, 22 hours, 29 minutes, 51 seconds

New Jersey on Monday joined seven states in filing separate lawsuits against the Bush administration's challenge of proposed federal rules the states say will force poor children to lose health coverage. "The Bush administration has gone beyond its regulatory rights," New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine said as he announced the lawsuit at an East Orange health center.

473 days, 2 hours, 24 minutes, 9.8 seconds

She almost bought an orange hat in the consignment store today. Then she saw the price tag. Rust might be more fitting anyway.

473 days, 2 hours, 57 minutes, 39 seconds


Balloon head. Swelled head. Hippopotamus. The orange is personal. And she'll never have children.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

473 days, 5 hours, 52 minutes, 20 seconds

The first time they were in Manhattan Mini Storage, he said they ought to be married there. Last night, seeing that huge basement space, he decided it was the perfect setting for a murder.

473 days, 11 hours, 6 minutes, 5 seconds

She goes back to the CJHats site and orders the new black and white Halloween Ghosts can't fail scarf. She's got to have this one. She worked as a ghostwriter years ago. It's different now.

473 days, 11 hours, 39 minutes, 4.3 seconds

Time will tell, her father-in-law's future second wife said the first time they met her. But they were hopeful. And the time seemed to bond them well. Not that there weren't mishaps. Him cleaning the roof of the house next door (also hers), dropping the ladder, waving at her through the kitchen window, and having her joyously wave back. Driving in the motor home (where they first slept together) to Houston, and the car hitch came off in the middle of Nashville; she had to jump out, run back and save the Buick while he kept driving. A hospital mixing up his blood tests, saying he had leukemia, and her thinking if that's the case she'd marry him right away to make things easier, but hoping he could have a year to finish grieving before this next commitment. A year would be time enough to know for sure: she thought, he thought, they thought.

473 days, 21 hours, 42 minutes, 33 seconds

He sleeps, or tries to sleep. She types. The clicking of the keyboard. Last March and April he'd finally get upset and ask her to either shut down or at least go downstairs so he could sleep. By June he called it the most comforting sound in the world. Type faster.

474 days, 0 hours, 12 minutes, 11 seconds

00-04-04. Oh, for what? Because she wants all her files, family photos, books she's reviewed, research books (Judaica, mermaid, unicorn, 50s music, persona, Salem witch trials) , artwork, and original publications closer to her. Because it's cheaper than buying another apartment (which she almost did yesterday). She rents the largest storage space she can find: 10 feet by 20 feet. But in the basement. Pipes over her head, like they had in the apartment they rented some summers when she was a child (that's how they paid the mortgage). Reaching up to touch the pipes. Praying they don't burst on her, or that she can organize the important material where it won't be flooded. She'll move many books along with magnificent cases she's collected over the years. She'll move in chairs and tables. She'll hire professionals. She'll take out insurance. The drive gets longer and longer. It's now after midnight. Time's running out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

474 days, 22 hours, 1 minutes, 55 seconds

Affectations can be dangerous. – Gertrude Stein

Monday, October 1, 2007

476 days, 1 hours, 27 minutes, 30 seconds

Iraqi Deaths Fall by 50 Percent. Only 64 military men and women were killed in September, and this hasn't been seen since July 2006. Of course, not all deaths are reported, especially of civilians. These are supposedly heartening numbers. But everyone's weak during Ramadan. And the hunger's fierce. Fall. Fall. London Bridge is falling down.

476 days, 1 hours, 39 minutes, 32 seconds

No ham. No cheese. No artichokes. No meals with friends. She needs sugar. Low-fat coffee cake for lunch at a Starbucks way too crowded. Then a cab the few blocks home. For dinner she hydrates her body with Tasti-d-Lite custom flavors. Vitamins, at least. Or at least she hopes so. Pumpkin or egg nog. Fall. Fall. Fall.

476 days, 5 hours, 45 minutes, 9 seconds

Florence Nightingale calls from the liquor store. The bubble bursts.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

477 days, 0 hours, 31 minutes, 23 seconds

Last day of the month. Last chance to write here. Her body shut down. She wishes the world would shut down. The news would shut down. The country would shut down. Pay rent or sleep on the breezeway, but at least she'd be able to breathe there. At night, he says, he can hear the cancer cells dying, one by one. And blue flowers, carved in a paperweight from Sweden, promise not to die.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

482 days, 10 hours, 45 minutes, 3.8 seconds

Monkey in the middle. A man gets on a plane in Lima with a cute little monkey under his cap. They make it to Fort Lauderdale and wait hours for the flight to LaGuardia. The monkey extends a paw and plays with his pony tail, the same color as his fur. People nearby ask the man if he knows there’s a monkey in his cap. On the plane, attendants finally expose the monkey. It spends the rest of the flight in the man’s seat, the middle seat, the one she avoids at all costs. Messy grade school pony tails making her face ache were more than enough for her. No hair now. And she doesn’t wear baseball caps.

482 days, 13 hours, 53 minutes, 43 seconds

So it’s the middle of the night and her husband dreams he gets an emergency call from work and he tries to help but then realizes a woman he works with can handle this better so he takes the phone in the bathroom so as not to wake her and dials. Then he comes back to bed and can’t find the phone. He finds it in the bathroom, then has to double-check that he was dreaming, no one really called, and he decides to leave the phone in the bathroom, let her get as much sleep as she can. He tells her the dream when she wakes and she reminds him this is the woman who was her hat example.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

484 days, 22 hours, 44 minutes, 2 seconds

She recalls a few years ago, how important those orange gates were in Central Park. Orange of her early teens. All the thoughts and plans and hopes of suicide.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

485 days, 1 hours, 9 minutes, 20 seconds

Red light. Green light. Red light. Green light. She goes, already tired. Her first Yom Kippur service ever. She wants to hear the shofar. She wants her name inscribed in the Book of Life. Red light. Green light. She isn't sure what she wants. But she sits at the Javitz Center, facing sunset. Facing New Jersey as the lights fade. The Ark is opened. Stand if you are able. Her hand trembles on the prayer book, which she covers with his hand. Stand if you are able. It's been a hard week. She feels welcomed here. But maybe there is no book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

488 days, 6 hours, 52 minutes, 54 seconds

Rock smashes scissors, scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock. Moisturizer goes on first, wash your hands, green covers red, wash your hands, two shades of beige blend together, and she wonders how long until it all falls apart.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

489 days, 9 hours, 52 minutes, 37 seconds

One of the worst days of her life. The new pill making her blood go the wrong direction. A migraine for two or three days now. Then she looks at the date and sees it's her cousin's birthday. Diane. Of course Diane.

489 days, 11 hours, 48 minutes, 44 seconds

Hats off to Larry,
He broke your heart,
Just like you broke mine when you
Said we must part....

This song's been going through her head for weeks, might as well write it down. And, unmusical as she is, it sounds like the same melody as Who Wants to Buy This Diamond Ring. At least around the same era. She might have played either one on her accordion, but didn't.

The ring tangled in the bed sheets. For the hysterectomy years ago, they taped it down but let her wear it. And she recalls its comfort. The woman in pre-op screaming where's my husband? And her, wheeled to her room, hearing her husband's voice on the phone, not able to locate him. That ring still taped on her finger. Fool's gold. When they worked on her brain they removed it.

489 days, 13 hours, 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Well, her father's certainly losing it. He weighs less now than he did in high school. Complains he can't get a belt small enough, and suspenders don't hold his pants up. But that's not what she's thinking about.


489 days, 22 hours, 56 minutes, 18 seconds

She window shops for hats and sees only headless manikins. Beauty. Style. Haute Couture. When did this start?

No start. No end. Her migraines continue. Her brain swells. She recalls, years ago, browsing through a headache chat room and someone asking where they could buy a guillotine. And in a news story last week, a 41-year-old Michigan man's body was found in the woods next to a guillotine he'd built. It was bolted to a tree and included a swing arm he could operate himself.

So much for Dr. Kevorkian.

489 days, 23 hours, 26 minutes, 2.3 seconds













Apparently she isn't the only one. This on Madison
Ave.

The only problem was she stopped to talk. But don't mind her. It's been a long day. Very long, very tense, too tired to talk straight. And they weighed her down with pamphlets.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

491 days, 5 hours, 23 minutes, 2 seconds

Was it second grade? Or fourth grade? The father of a boy in her class owned a novelty shop on the Boardwalk, and he sold all the kids big white buttons with their names in red. But of course they didn't have her name. She cried for what seemed like weeks. She cursed her parents.

Then there was the Nixon button, traded in for the Kennedy button.

The first button she ever wore seriously was during the 2004 election:

2004 No Carb Diet
No Cheney
No Ashcroft
No Rumsfeld
No Bush

Two out of four isn't bad, some people would say. But she's never been some people.

491 days, 5 hours, 29 minutes, 21 seconds

Her mother, who didn't sew except to hem her dresses, had an ornate black floral cookie or tea tin which she used to store ornate buttons. They were her third-favorite thing to play with, right behind charms and marbles.

491 days, 5 hours, 35 minutes, 47 seconds

Spend spend spend spend spend. A hat, two scarves, three pairs of long velvet gloves, two pins, two polyester cowl-neck tops for around the house. All of it just to compensate.

491 days, 5 hours, 52 minutes, 12 seconds

So she said she wanted a green hat, and this is definitely green. More hippie than retro. Someone's sewed buttons along one side in an interesting pattern, where other hats have feathers or flowers. Mostly small shirt buttons. Mostly ivory with thick green wool thread, but other colors as well. The street vendor insists the hat is new.

Her mother had no pattern for those charms.

Her hand so bad today she can barely clasp a button. And one fell off of a blouse last. It was the top button, so it barely matters.

Friday, September 14, 2007

493 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes, 52 seconds

Months ago now, when Hillary threw her hat into the ring, she called for a cap on spending in Iraq. But that's all semantics. And she's starting to look more closely at Obama now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

495 days, 1 hours, 16 minutes, 9 seconds

Back from dinner, they stop in the drugstore for Saltines – the one thing she's convinced is helping ward off the expected nausea. She tells him Saltines, warm diet Coke, and sucking on lemons is all that's ever worked for her. Then he, not she, mentions the lemon law.

495 days, 22 hours, 53 minutes, 28 seconds

Speaking of hats again – once again last night, the Mets honored those who died on 9/11 by wearing caps honoring the New York City Police Department, New York City Fire Department, New York City Fire Department Paramedics, New York State Courts, Port Authority Police Department, and the Office of Emergency Management. Each cap will be signed by the player or coach who wore it, then sold at a charity auction. They won again, at home, against the Braves.

495 days, 23 hours, 23 minutes, 14 seconds

Yesterday was 9/11. A Tuesday, as it was that first year, but hot and humid, with thunderstorms, not the crisp clear fall day it was six years ago. The next year, not even recalling the date, she'd been walking the city with her camera, realized she left her battery charger upstate, and headed down to J&R. At first she didn't understand the crowds of people. Then she wandered among them, circling the site twice, before she began to focus on half-dead flowers stuck in the fence, most with notes. The next year there was nothing to photograph. And it's all old hat now.

496 days, 0 hours, 23 minutes, 59 seconds

A St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap, a NY Yankees baseball cap, a red hunter's cap, a burnt orange Texas Longhorns baseball cap, a white ski cap, a fisherman's hat, a black beret, a bandana, a military insignia hat, a light-blue canouflge. James Madison, 50, alternately dubbed The Hat Bandit and The Mad Hatter, had a clean-shaven head. The hats protected his identity when he robbed 19 banks in ten months. But finally New Jersey police caught up to him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

496 days, 13 hours, 48 minutes, 21 seconds

Set the clock ahead. Please set the clock ahead. George Bush is no longer president. Soldiers are still being killed in Iraq, but that no longer interests him. Medicare no longer interests him. Very little interests him. He no longer goes to church. He stands in front of a mom and pop drugstore, one of the few ones left in a small Texas town, trying to guess at the number of jellybeans in a huge jar.

496 days, 20 hours, 59 minutes, 51 seconds

On www.whitehousekids.gov she finds The White House issued a math challenge for kids in elementary school:

How many Marbles?

* What is the smallest number of marbles when: grouping the marbles by fours leaves 2 extra marbles, grouping by fives leaves 1 extra, and there are more than 10 marbles in the collection?

Contest problems and answers are provided by David Rock at Columbus State College and Doug Brumbaugh at the University of Central Florida.

496 days, 21 hours, 8 minutes, 9.2 seconds

Doling out the pills once a week. She thought it would be like playing with marbles: you go here, you go here, you go here. All the different colors. But now there are too many pills to count. They all seem to look alike. A bottle falls from her hand. A tray tips. She has a mini seizure. None of the pills are working. She's down on her hands and knees on the patterned tiles of the kitchen floor, trying to salvage what she can, figure out what's missing. Might as well stay here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

497 days, 11 hours, 42 minutes, 32 seconds

Transformations. Or transformers. On his birthday weekend, while he was in Rhode Island with family, the lights in her study blew out. Lights on Transformers. Because she can't tolerate the heat. His gift to her. And so she's managed in poor light, one week, two weeks, straining at the keyboard, putting on hat after hat, expensive hats, cheap hats, hats she's transformed with pins, trying to transform herself. She thinks of those cars that transform into robots. They came out long after her childhood. And she never had need of them. It's taken her this long to be able to write about any of this. Even during the day her eyes strain. In the middle of chemo her glasses break. God knows what these new medications are doing to her. She doesn't want to know. She doesn't want to see. She wants to put a hat on her head, cover her eyes, transform sickness or shame into dignity. Fashion, she calls it. But there's never been a mirror in her bedroom.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

499 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, 14 seconds

Peacock feathers. Her mother wasn't the sort to wear any feathers, but she remembers this full-feathered hat in shades of mauve and purple that someone (probably her aunt) convinced her mother to spend a lot of money for. She doesn't recall her mother ever wearing it. She thinks to ask her father where it is now, then realizes she wouldn't have nerve to wear it either.

Friday, September 7, 2007

500 days, 1 hours, 41 minutes, 1.3 seconds

She' s dreaming her hair came back. Two long thick clumps at the base of her skull, some frizzy curls on the top. Then her father calls.

500 days, 11 hours, 25 minutes, 45 seconds

The 500 mark. This used to mean something. She forgets what.

500 days, 12 hours, 4 minutes, 45.7 seconds

She remembers the regulation white camp hat, and her mother sewing those little plastic charms all over it. You could get a child's handful for a quarter from the machine at the Food Fair. She always loved charms. She never had charm.

500 days, 13 hours, 10 minutes, 27 seconds

Seventy miles south-east of Dallas. Four days. Six thousand people. An ugly butt-crack contest. A spam eating contest. A mudpit belly buster. A mattress-chunk contest where two men drink a 12-pack of beer, get into a pickup, drive, climb into the truck-bed and toss the mattress as far as they can. This disturbs the neighbors.

500 days, 13 hours, 18 minutes, 29.6 seconds

Redneck: a member of the white rural labouring class of the southern States; one whose attitudes are considered characteristic of this class; freq., a reactionary. Originally, and still often, derogatory, but now also used with more sympathy for the aspirations of the rural American.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

501 days, 1 hours, 4 minutes, 57 seconds

Scarves in the hatbox. Rash.

501 days, 20 hours, 7 minutes, 41 seconds

Man leads normal life with tiny brain, the headline from July 22nd read. Forty-four years old, married with two children, an IQ of 75. As an infant he'd had fluid in his skull. There was little more than a thin sheet of brain tissue. The whole brain was like those shrunken skulls boys tormented girls with in second grade. And yet, doctors say, the brain somehow adapts. If something happens very slowly over quite some time, maybe over decades, the different parts of the brain take up functions that would normally be done by the part that is pushed to the side, said a doctor not involved in the case. The brain is very plastic.

501 days, 20 hours, 48 minutes, 22 seconds

The MRI confirms that the stereotactic lesion's shrunk, leaving swelling all around it. And here she's cutting back on steroids, her hand bad again. But she hasn't spoken to the real doctor yet.

Meanwhile, the Rings of Saturn paperweight arrived yesterday. Nowhere near as nice as others in the celestial series. It looks like a top, and seems as unstable as she's been feeling. Topsy Turvy. It needs a stand to stand. The vacant white rings on this particular piece are heavily flecked with gold, so the swelling both stands out and fills in. Silence is golden. So is Hell paved over. It all depends on the angle. She feels like she walks at an angle. Falls at an angle. She'd expected, no, wanted, just emptiness.

From the story card: Saturn's light rings are composed of ice chunks and rocks ranging in size from as small as a dust particle to as large as a car. Rocks in her head. Rocks banging together like lobster claws. Tired and seeing double. Some artist's vision. And last fall, when maybe all this was maturing in her body, she lost her three color gold wedding ring, only to find it days later tangled in the bedsheets.

501 days, 22 hours, 48 minutes, 8 seconds


She needs her head for something other than a hatrack. So she buys a hatrack. If you've got it, might as well flaunt it. Her latest work of art.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

502 days, 21 hours, 59 minutes, 51 seconds

A blip on the news tonight about "popcorn lung," a disease that's been affecting factory workers since 2001, mostly in California (where that worst headache in years began, where she didn't attend her uncle's 4th of July 90th birthday party and hasn't mustered courage to call him). This isn't cancer, it goes in and destroys the lung, leaving only the hope of a transplant. $17 an hour jobs. It has to do with the chemicals in the butter flavoring of microwave popcorn. Masks don't seem to help. But only one death has been confirmed and OSHA doesn't know what to make of this. Now a consumer has been stricken down. But it's his own fault, he should have known better than to spend years microwaving popcorn several times a day. Breathing all those fumes as the bag swelled. Fun to stay and watch. Putting itself on display. And at the oncologist's this afternoon the snack basket was visibly depleted and there were no bags of cheddar-flavored popcorn. She settled for veggie chips.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

503 days, 11 hours, 14 minutes, 22 seconds

A news article she can’t seem to find right now – how Bush showed up to greet troops in Iraq, or maybe it was Afghanistan, wearing his old Army Reserve uniform. It was too tight.

Monday, September 3, 2007

504 days, 22 hours, 41 minutes, 55 seconds

They had lunch in Greenwich that day, at a place called Glory Days diner. He stopped there again last weekend with his brother. His brother served in Vietnam and rose to the rank of Colonel. Two years ago, in Galveston, he took them to a military surplus store the likes of which they’d never seen before. Even WWI items. She supposes she should buy a fatigue cap, for the bad days. You can buy them new on the Internet for undder $10. But they’re only caps, so would she still be covered? Glory Days. That’s how she desscribes them.

504 days, 22 hours, 54 minutes, 4.3 seconds

He reminds her that the last time she got gas was the day they just took a drive. She was fine for about three hours, driving back roads, then all of a sudden she was maybe fifty miles from the city and this unbelievable fatigue set in. Fatigue is a hat, he tells her. No, it isn’t, she says, he’s thinking of fatigues, the military combat uniform which includes a hat. Camouflage. Like they wear in Iraq. Or are supposed to wear.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

505 days, 6 hours, 28 minutes, 22 seconds

And the Toyota, Jewish American Princess that she is, confused at not being driven these past three months, turns on her check engine light at ten o’clock at night, ten miles from the country house. One more thing to panic about. Last time this happened it was the transmission fluid. But it could be anything. And she needs an oil change. Sunday of Labor Day weekend, last day of his birthday week, most of the car places closed. At last an Auto Zone that can quickly get a computer readout: evap. Meaning, and yes, they double check, she’s lost the gas cap.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

509 days, 9 hours, 32 minutes 9 seconds

There’s an abstract print of big floppy hats facing her when she lies down in the E.E.G. room. But she has to take her hat off. The technician wants to know why she shaved her head. He tells of his sister who went through three rounds of chemo for lung cancer. It spread to her brain, then her liver. He scrubs her head with what feels like Ajax. Have to make good connections, or there’s no point. Wire afteer wire after wire after wire, pale, multi-colored wires. He tells her to relax, to close her eyes. Lights flash, slow then faster. If this doesn’t bring on a migraine, nothing will. He tells her to open her eyes. He asks if she’s right or left handed. He tells her to close her eyes, then to try and sleep, and she sleeps for once. She’s been up since six again. He pulls off the wires, scrubs down her head again. She has to remind him to dry it please. She doesn’t want to catch cold.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

510 days, 3 hours, 5 minutes 19 seconds

"I make Tylenol and I promise, I'm not just making it for your kids, I'm making it for mine." This is about the fifth time today that this ad's popped up. Each time a different Tylenol employee. All men. Anyway, she went back and got the hat. And she ordered two nylon stocking caps made especially for under wigs. That's when the last ad popped up. So she no longer has to be afraid of vintage. Or Tylenol. But these days it's more often Vicodin or Percocet. She longs for those days when Tylenol was enough for her. Of course this makes her think of the Tylenol murders. The first person to die was a 12-year-old girl. She'd thought it had been someone's fiancé. Her memory failing again. Her father's old age.

510 days, 10 hours, 47 minutes 21 seconds

Another day, another medical test, another hat store. This one’s just a few blocks down from the other store and she thought she could walk there except it was hotter than she thought and they only had summer hats. Give it another month, they say. Things take time. Chemo takes time. Health takes time. Meanwhile she had to get out of the apartment on account of the terrorist cleaning there. So she goes around the corner on 72nd St. and stops in Tip Top Shoes where she’s been meaning to go all summer, except it’s in the middle of renovation with almost no stock. Then she stops to look at hats in the thrift shop where all the actresses, especially from soap operas, leave clothes on consignment. And the first thing she sees are magnificent jeweled turbans, and she wonders how many actresses suffered hair loss. Or were these used for putting on makeup, the old glamour image? But then of course there are also vintage felt hats and one rose hat with a feather made by Bonwit Teller that she’s absolutely mad about. Does she dare wear a used hat? With canccr? It looks immaculate. Bonwit Teller. William Tell shooting the apple off his son’s head. Jean Vollmer with a glass on her drugged head. Some women will do just about anything. With cancer?

Monday, August 27, 2007

511 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes 44 seconds

She knew a poet years ago who'd been a Bloomingdales model. Everyone joked about that. No one took her seriously as a writer.

511 days, 11 hours, 22 minutes 32 seconds

A little cooler today. His real birthday (which she keeps forgetting). After a ten minute visit to the dermatologist, she walks to Boomingdales to check out designer hats. She could have had her makeup done there. She shuddered at having her makeup done there. Along Third Ave., today, she passes stores like Sephora and Face. She looks in the windows.

Friday, August 24, 2007

514 days, 5 hours, 9 minutes 46 seconds

Even a little girl's choice of shampoo comes back to haunt her. She wonders how long her head will remain a watermelon.

514 days, 5 hours, 28 minutes 16 seconds

Two hours working alone in a café and already she's seeing things. She glances a Nemo storybook in Duane Reade and doubles back to see if it's a chemo hat. The pharmacy from hell.

514 days, 9 hours, 16 minutes 1 seconds

Jackie's pill box.

514 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes 39 seconds

This is a blog about language. This is a blog about politics. When George Bush reminds people they're working hard to put food on their family, where's the food really going? Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease, he informs us. He tells us he doesn't think we have to be subliminal about our views on prescription drugs. Subliminal --Below the threshold of conscious perception.

514 days, 12 hours, 40 minutes 22 seconds

With these new hats, with this new style, suddenly words like control and remission don't seem as bad. All her life fighting for words, rejecting anything feminine.

514 days, 13 hours, 5 minutes 15 seconds

This is crazy. After a week of nothing but sleep, all of the sudden she can't fall asleep. Up till 4 a.m., 5 a.m. then awake again before nine. She kisses her husband goodbye. She kisses his brother and sister-in-law goodbye. She packs up prescriptions to take to the drugstore. She washes her face. She puts the cream on. She runs off to buy one more hat. She doesn't have time for makeup.

514 days, 13 hours, 12 minutes 10 seconds

So it was a few days before his birthday and his brother and sister-in-law were coming into town before going to Rhode Island and staying overnight and frankly she'd been dreading this. And even though she knew she'd be alone for the next two days, it was first day it wasn't raining and she had to get out of that apartment before it killed her (and not to another doctor). So she took off at 10 o'clock and ran down to the hat store on Columbus Avenue she'd remembered looking in years ago, totally unaffordable. But the first place she thought to go now. And she bought two hats for $500. And she tried on 50 hats. And they were felt, vintage look with pins and feathers and buttons, and they were comfortable. As she tried two more stories and she got Starbucks for lunch and she got a gelato at a place where for once she didn't have to wait in line (she's within 5 pounds of what she weighed when she met him) and by the time she got home they were at the door, their car already in the lot across the street. And her sister-in-law (Southern Belle) adores hats. She'd forgotten that. She's worked with cancer patients and she said nobody ends up wearing their wigs but she modeled it anyway and she said it looks good it just doesn't look like her. She knew it. She knew it. She knew it. When they went out to dinner she decided to wear the hat. And she held her head up. And she decides she wants one more hat now, one more exotic blue hat with pins and flowers and ribbons that she can wear with denim. Not only now, but always. No more bad hair days. No more wanting to hide. No, actually, these hats have brims like that Totes hat. It's getting closer and closer to September. There are people she has to see. There are people she wants to see.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

515 days, 21 hours, 52 minutes 59 seconds

Her desk is piled as high as her father's bed.

515 days, 22 hours, 58 minutes 56 seconds

1960. She wasn't quite 12 years old. It was the first year she followed politics. Kennedy and Nixon. And the first of the televised presidential debates. It was said then that one of the reasons Kennedy made such a good impression was because he understood to wear a powder blue shirt, realizing the white shirt would be greyed out against the bright TV cameras. Clothes matter.

515 days, 23 hours, 9 minutes 55 seconds

Three weeks ago, on his first visit to Texas, Bush presented the straight laced, suit and tie wearing British Prime Minister Gordon Brown with a fur lined leather bomber jacket. She remembered the media laughing, but thought it was a khaki safari hat. That's the way it's been of late, she'll remember pieces, but get some of the facts wrong. Her grandmother was like that. It's probably going to get worse.

515 days, 23 hours, 43 minutes 25.5 seconds

Downstairs her husband's asleep with a TV movie on. One in the morning, and he often does this. For the past hour she's been hearing bits and pieces of some 40s or 50s film she vaguely recognizes. She saves this file. She puts it up online. In your Easter Bonnet can be heard clearly. She hears her husband yawn, stretch, and get up. He'll be coming to bed soon.

516 days, 0 hours, 22 minutes 20.3 seconds

Use your head for something other than a hatrack. (Misspelled, for a moment there, hate rack). It's a cliché that for some reason she recalls her mother using.

For years she wore a man's Totes gray and white hat that she traded a copy of her book with another poet for. She thinks it was also a rain hat. It was way too large and she loved the way the brim fell over her forehead, hiding her face. It protected her. She has pictures. Lost somewhere years later, she thinks in a ladies room.

The first year she and her husband were together she bought an expensive funky hat at a Christmas craft fair. A woman's hat. Reversible. It covered the full head, buttoned under the chin. She's needed the buttonhole replaced several times but still adores that hat. Hard to explain how important it was, that willingness to accept herself as a woman, her desire to stand out, be noticed. (Misspelled, for a moment there, he noticed).

When she picked up the beaver she also bought four chemo caps. To protect he shaved head. Not to get cold. Not to itch. Not to bitch. Today she even wore the dressy one to the doctor's. And put earrings on for the first time in three months. And part of her feels proud, different. These past three days, her energy finally returned, surfing the Internet to see what else she can find. Instead of working.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

516 days, 23 hours, 37 minutes 34 seconds

The world's starting to become a better place again. She can concentrate on solitaire.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

518 days, 0 hours, 8 minutes 46 seconds

Bob Leroy Head of Maquoketa, Iowa threw out the first pitch at the Portland Beavers baseball game Saturday, the result of a months-long promotion for Bob L. Heads around the nation. His motto: No matter what the score, I am always a Head. He also said he's been pitching hay and pitching manure and thought he could pitch a ball. The first 2000 fans were given free bobble head dolls of him. The Beavers, playing Las Vegas, staged a late inning rally which left fans nodding in approval. So the beavers won.

Her mop was adjusted today. It still feels more like a dead beaver.

Monday, August 20, 2007

518 days, 15 hours, 49 minutes 18 seconds

Ben bobs in front of the books she's written. All head and no heart.

518 days, 16 hours, 18 minutes 55 seconds

Then there was the prism they tried to put in her glasses once. It was a disaster. She bounced as she walked. Her head bobbed. Ben still bobs, sitting on the shelf with her books now.

518 days, 16 hours, 41 minutes 58 seconds

Soon it will be cold enough to bob for apples, he tells her, trying to cheer her up about being in the city in August. The first time since he’s known her. Yet another horrid memory – Seventh grade? Eighth grade? Her parents decided she was too old for a birthday party so threw a Halloween party instead. Everything took place in the garage they cleaned out for her. They had to bob for apples. The only girl who made it into the house was someone whose costume tore. She was crying. There were no boys. She was small for her age. She doesn’t think she’d ever heard the term migrant worker, but her teacher was all excited about Laos, the newest country to gain independence. It was even on the Safety test.

518 days, 16 hours, 51 minutes 37 seconds

Maybe it was a year or two after they married. Things are starting to run together here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

519 days, 1 hours, 37 minutes 18 seconds

The clock fell on her foot today. The ten-ton, hand-crafted, steel Wonder Woman, Wizard of Oz music box clock. At first she thought it broke two toes. It didn't matter. She'd been reaching for the computer. At least she didn't drop the computer. They were meeting a friend for brunch. Same place as last week. Different friend. Even now she has friends. She shoves the dead animal on her head, doesn't have time to cover the rash, and limps off. Wonder Woman.

519 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes 18 seconds

Hamster Brain. It was their favorite commercial years ago. The sister calls her brother a hamster brain (or does the brother call the sister that?) while the mother soaks blissfully behind the closed bathroom door in Calgon Bath Oil Beads. And she made up a song for him:

Employee of the Month
Employee of the Year
Hi Ho Delario
The Hamster Brain is here.


He was Employee of the Month, then tied for Employee of the Year. It was before they married. They went to Tavern on the Green to celebrate. And he was given a desk clock with a little plaque which sits above her computer.

519 days, 3 hours, 26 minutes 0.2 seconds

U.S. paid $1 million to ship two 19-cent washers. Anxious to get soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan all the tools they needed, they let twin sisters, South Carolina women in their forties, dupe them. Luxury cars, boats, jewelry, vacations. One sister committed suicide in her beach house.

She knows what it's like in the Deep South. Jerry Falwell always on the lookout. Bob Jones University in Greenville. It was the first place she taught Poets in the Schools, nearly forty years ago, when there were separate Black and White teachers' lounges and the kids were paddled. Then she moved on to Oramgeburg. Warned not to walk the road at night.

Lock washers place tension against a nut after tightening, to help prevent the nut from loosening. She thinks of the single washer caught in her bra two months ago, how it had been just one more tool to keep her head straight, how a few days later she retrieved it. Her only souvenir. She keeps it with the marble-brains he gave her.

Friday, August 17, 2007

521 days, 4 hours, 44 minutes 23 seconds

Her parents would have been delighted had she gone to college. Any college.

521 days, 10 hours, 51 minutes 10.6 seconds

You're supposed to be a wreck, he tells her. This is what chemo does. My favorite wreck, he calls her. My Beautiful Laundrette, she thinks but doesn't say. She thinks of that 1,500 pound wrecking ball that broke free in Pennsylvania last week, rolling downhill, smashing cars, landing in the trunk of a Taurus, right near Allegheny College.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

522 days, 9 hours, 29 minutes 53 seconds

She thinks of St. Rudy's first inauguration, eight-year-old Andrew up there on the podium, hamming it up for the cameras. That boy ought to be spanked, a friend said. Father and son no longer speak. His daughter's campaigning for Obama. Both children loyal to their mother. He announced his divorce to the media before he told his wife. And this man wants to be president. Republican. Family values. Leave my family out of this, he tells a woman in New Hampshire.

And don't we all wish we could leave our families out? Her father getting all the details confused. A stomach tumor. Five hours at the doctor every day. Calling every other night to see what the doctor said, sometimes forgetting he just spoke to her. Sheer promotion for the MCI friends and family network. Whoever is left now that he's nearly 91. She's his only daughter.

And his father 93, planning the birthday party. Knowing something's going on, but not what. Ready to announce whatever it is to the world, highlight of the evening. She'd almost prefer he tell them they're getting divorced.

522 days, 10 hours, 35 minutes 26 seconds

When he turned 50, she threw him a surprise party that's remained one of the high points of their life together. Now that he's turning 65, this is what her body does to him.

522 days, 23 hours, 56minutes 8.1 seconds

Sign of hope at Utah mine. Geophones picking up a series of noises over five minutes. Another falling rock? An animal? A miner struggling to breathe? If one of her loved ones were down there, nine-tenths dead, with little chance of a normal life again, what would she really be hoping for?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

523 days, 11 hours, 27minutes 34 seconds

Penny Whistle Toys is, she thinks, open again. It had been closed by the court over a month ago, a large red and yellow sign on the window saying don't worry, kids, we'll be back. But this is what we teach the kids she doesn't have.

When she first moved in with him one of his nieces and one great nephew were still young enough that they always looked at toys for Christmas, and this was the best store around. And the most expensive. But he hated chain toy stores as much as he hated chain restaurants (except for the Toys 'R Us near Times Square with its indoor Ferris wheel that he never got to go on). That will be closing soon. Now there are other small expensive shops on the upper West side and they know about one in the village. Now that niece has two children of her own. That's how long it's been.

Meanwhile, Mattel is recalling nearly 19 million toys built in China because they didn't use the paint they were paid to use and there's possible lead here. All over suburbia mothers are digging through toy chests, checking serial numbers, throwing out toys in large red plastic Neiman Marcus bags that can't be seen through. Day care centers are replacing everything. Children in day care are being checked for lead. Children out of day care are throwing tantrums. Or she would have been, at least. Then again, even her Barbies probably weren't Mattel.

She thinks of the windows at Penny Whistle after 9/11 – some of the best in town. For Valentines Day, a red heart with stuffed Dalmatians inside and surrounding it. A white USA plane, American flag on its wing, seeming to fly into a building when we first attacked Iraq. She has the pictures to prove it. Don't worry kids, we'll be back.

523 days, 11 hours, 27minutes 34 seconds

She's angry. Of course she's angry. If Bush had done one interesting thing instead of just bidding goodbye to Karl Rove and hanging on to Gonzalez; if a straw poll in Iowa had included at least one candidate she recognizes; if Bloomberg weren't going round and round and round on his pay to drive in Manhattan scheme; if the Democrats could just get down to five or six candidates in five or six debates a week, this blog might not be so damn personal. Still, she combs the news every day. Maybe it's just her lack of energy. And not being able to comb her hair.

523 days, 12 hours, 11minutes 41.6 seconds

She dropped her camera yesterday. But she managed to take over 40 pictures, some of them butts in the flower beds, one butt in a plastic glove. She wasn't even sure she'd be able to press the shutter. She had an hour before the doctor. What was she supposed to do, walk around in the heat responding to just the heat? Anyway, the camera's okay. With all this is costing her above and beyond insurance, and in another $2000-$3000: say it's for the latest technology.

523 days, 12 hours, 23 minutes 21 seconds

Bon Pain again today. But then she expected this. She was here just nine days ago helping a friend pick out a Toshiba from J&R. Sleek, 17 inch screen, no needless trial programs loading, no need to connect to the Internet just to set it up. This is the machine she should've bought herself. This is the place she should have bought it. Needless/needles. And a glass of water. She hasn't even had water yet today.

Her face is dried from all the creams last night. Her fingernails pick up crud every time she touches it. She doesn't even want to go near a computer, so she picks at scabs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

524 days, 10 hours, 45 minutes 50 seconds

There was so much more to write yesterday. But She needed Percocet for headache, before the headache got too bad. And she needed water to take the Percocet. And of course the water was on her left side and of course her hand can't feel when it's touching something and of course the water spilled all over the left side of the keyboard. She dried it off with her T-shirt. The nurse dried off the water under the computer with a towel. So it's working and then not working, working then coming up with crazy characters, menus she hasn't pressed. She was able to surf the Internet using just the mouse. She brought it home, called 4G data, grabbed a cab down there at seven o'clock at night (they're open until 10 plus weekends). The keyboard shorted out, he said. They ordered a new keyboard. Maybe they can get this done under warranty. If not how much is this going to cost? $300? $400? The cost of two or three dinners or one medication. She could have bought the Rings of Saturn paperweight, plus the one for a Christmas gift. But she'll buy those anyway. And at least the Percocet worked.

Monday, August 13, 2007

525 days, 10 hours, 26 minutes, 30 seconds

One doctor at 10:30, an emergency, who doesn't see her until 11:40, making her late for her noon drip, and the nurse has to leave on time tonight, and the doctor's on vacation again this week.

A friend she seldom talks with on the phone thinks the purpose of waits is to be sure you understand who's in control here. She tells him about her student and how much that suddenly means to her. She tells him of her last drip. And he says he sees another Ratner anthology in the works.

525 days, 14 hours, 51 minutes, 17 seconds

Seeing the tall, thin baby, head wrapped up, in the oncologist’s office was bad enough. But to see the fat sobbing baby this morning in the neurosurgeon’s waiting room hurt even more. Water on the brain?

She knew a seven year-old with a brain tumor once. At four he couldn’t walk or talk intelligably, but they were living in rural New Hampshire and doctors there didn’t even think to look. They say that at ten or twelve you could still detect brain damage, but she was out of touch with his parents by then and only saw him once.

525 days, 14 hours, 51 minutes, 17 seconds

Despite several orthodox Jews plus one Jew for Jesus praying for her, and two Buddhists chanting on her behalf, she really doesn't think God gives a damn.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

526 days, 5 hours, 51 minutes, 50 seconds

Now that she's lost most of her hair, the cranial prosthesis needs to be tightened. They said this would happen. She wears it to breakfast with a friend from out of town. It feels like a big wool hat, and too hot for this 80° day. In between bites of eggs she doesn't usually like finds good today, she's idly tipping it, turning it, adjusting it. God knows what she looks like.

526 days, 7 hours, 11 minutes, 48 seconds

She almost forgot: she can't hold things in her left hand without dropping them. So now Ben's got another chip in his skull. God damn fucking brain surgeon – how appropriate. At least it wasn't the Hummel. At least it wasn't poor Pluto.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

527 days, 10 hours, 45 minutes, 58 seconds

Her father tried to interest her in the heavens once. There was a man up in Ventnor with a high-powered telescope who set it out on the street whenever anything interesting was about to happen and invited friends and neighbors to watch along. He tried to interest her tripping over sticks on some mosquito trail to look for birds. He encouraged her to get up at six in the morning to ride bikes on the Boardwalk with him. And of course there were always his flowers.

527 days, 12 hours, 17 minutes, 9.2 seconds

Pluto arrived last week. A paperweight from Glass Eye Studios in Seattle, part of their Celestial series, each piece handcrafted with ashes from when Mount Saint Helens volcano erupted in 1980. But Pluto's been demoted. He's being discontinued next year. Especially at this moment, she feels kinship with what they're now calling a dwarf planet. She saw these paperweights last year and almost bought one for a friend who's always running out to view the stars with binoculars, some of the most beautiful artwork she's seen. Even more exquisite to hold in her hand. And now, greedy child that she is, she woke up this morning anxious to buy another for herself: the Rings of Saturn. The small disk in the center. Black lines swirling around it. Last night's midnight panic. The brain swelling. Movement, her husband says. Health, he calls it. And she wants to hate him. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. She didn't even know him in 1980.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

530 days, 21 hours, 22 minutes, 38 seconds

What beautiful hair you have, they told her all through childhood. And she thought of Little Red commenting on grandma’s big teeth. That curse. That fear. That mother she didn’t want to look like. Little Red. Now she sees her scalp is red. Or maybe pink. It was white, she always thought. Another illusion biting the rim of the waste basket. Curls so thin she can see through them. She feels as if she’s giving it up too soon – the hair, the anger.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

531 days, 13 hours, 32 minutes, 7 seconds

A glucose reading of 88 yesterday morning and again at bedtime. Does this mean she should learn to play the piano? She hasn't written for five days, she sure as hell better do something.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

536 days, 4 hours, 3 minutes, 27 seconds

Bush sneers at balding reporter, the headline reads. Nick Robinson from the BBC, who can't vote anyway. They've locked horns before. Such a silly country England is. Judges still locked in debate about whether or not to wear wigs in court.

536 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes, 50 seconds

It's been a long, hot summer. Only the start of August, and already the Madison Ave. topiary's losing its hair. Then again, she's not usually around in the summer. And most summer's it's the last thing she'd notice, but it's like he's waving her over. Or saying stop. Right now. Stop this.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

537 days, 9 hours, 52 minutes, 28 seconds

Five days ago the Special Olympics stopped at the White House rose garden and, accompanied by police, had its Flame of Hope relit. The games are global now. Athletes from China were on hand to be photographed. The president and the first lady were there to welcome them (and also be photographed). The president talked about sponsoring the games when he was governor of Texas, and how these intellectually challenged athletes inspired him to forge ahead as well.

537 days, 10 hours, 29 minutes, 1.6 seconds

Everybody brings her flowers. And she's delighted by what people choose. This last bunch has long purple spikes, as if designed for the one pottery vase she has. And she only has this vase because she bought it as a Christmas gift, then chipped it. When she was in the hospital her parents bought her a huge bouquet on the street, not stopping to think there wouldn't be a vase. But that was Sinai, sixteen years ago. Her mother was alive. Her father still spent hours tending his rose bushes. Hour after hour after hour.

And here she is, a teenager yet again. Her favorite song is Bobby Darin's "Artificial Flowers." She writes rhymed poems about crying clowns and dead roses.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

538 days, 13 hours, 50 minutes, 28.7 seconds

There's soap caked up under her wedding ring.

538 days, 22 hours, 24 minutes, 11 seconds

Lying in bed while she's backing up her computer, he tells her of the first time he tried to shop online. It was at a place called the Screwball Mall, and he wanted to buy her a present. He thought it would be appropriate. But he couldn't figure out how to put in his credit card. It was sort of a porn place, he says, drifting off to sleep.

Monday, July 30, 2007

539 days, 13 hours, 8 minutes, 38 seconds

She looks at a photo of Hillary Rodham in 1969: long straight brown hair (possibly dirty), striped pants, shapeless tunic, large glasses. This she can relate to. Yesterday all the Washington Post could talk about was the v-neck blouse showing her cleavage. See, she tells her husband: this is why she doesn't like to walk on Amsterdam Ave.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

540 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes, 58 seconds

Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's being in the city all summer, around more people than usual. Maybe it's her skin all broken out. But she's been thinking of summer camp. How, when she was seven or eight, she scratched mosquito bites to the point where her legs were covered in sores. Horrified, her parents dragged her to the doctor. "See that, now you won't be able to go swimming," they told her. They knew she couldn't swim. They might or might not have known about the buddy system, how always two people had to stay together, and no one wanted to stay with her in the shallow water.

That's when the scratching habit started.

Just last night she was recounting the horrors of sleep-away camp, when a message would come over the loudspeaker every morning telling the kids how to dress, and counselors would yell at her for not putting shorts on. Then today she reads of a Shanghai company asking workers to wear shorts and tee-shirts to work to help save energy. Sitting a foot from the air conditioner replaced two years ago, she breaks out in chicken bumps. This is as bad as it was in the doctor's office when they tried to show her how to give herself insulin. She couldn't. Wouldn't. Won't.

And steroids, of course, would cure the rash.

Most years, in May, when anorexic women in the city wear less clothing, she walks around feeling ugly. Then, in June, she goes upstate, sees fat women with dirty hair and baby carriages in the supermarket, and starts to feel good about herself. But she's locked in the city this year. Maybe that's what depresses her.

540 days, 9 hours, 0 minutes, 50 seconds

Isolated thunderstorms predicted. The temperature's dropped eight degrees in the last twenty minutes. Thunder and lightning seem almost on top of each other. Her husband picks up an umbrella and heads for the coffee shop. She nibbles at a block of Jarlsburg the same color as that soap.

540 days, 11 hours, 38 minutes, 45 seconds

In a fit of anger, anxious to wash off whatever might be rash, this is what she does to a perfectly normal and reasonably new cake of soap.

There was other soap once, actually two small pieces stuck together. A friend called her into the bathroom to see how the two pieces, untouched by her, had formed a perfect heart. It was the week before her anniversary, two years ago now. Maybe three. She set the soap dish against the black background of her desk, and took a picture then, too.

The heart is a muscle.

540 days, 23 hours, 6 minutes, 4.6 seconds

Cheney Has Successful Heart Surgery, the headline reads. And photos show he and his wife waving to reporters as they leave the hospital. Old news by now, but her head was hurting too much today to read the papers. Cheney's had four heart attacks, a quadruple bypass, two angioplasties, and an operation six years ago to implant the defibrillator. If it senses an abnormal heart rhythm, this little box will deliver an electronic shock to the vice president's heart. Now they've replaced the defibrillator. The battery, they say, had gotten so low he was dangerous.

540 days, 23 hours, 57 minutes, 42 seconds

Monkey see, monkey do. Come look at the monkey face.

No. They say it's a wooden toe. Found on a mummy from around 700 BC. Found on a woman mummy. Found on a woman between 50 and 60 years old. It shows signs of wear, they say. It might be more than a burial adornment.

Look at the way the wood's worn down. Notice the hollow eyes, the flattened nose, the mouth grimacing in pain, the swollen cheek. This might be the world's oldest prosthesis. The question is: can a woman walk on this? Volunteers are needed.

Friday, July 27, 2007

542 days, 23 hours, 25 minutes, 35 seconds

In a Rhode Island nursing home (he's from Rhode Island) there's a cat named Oscar (her second boss was named Oscar). Some mornings he'll walk around sniffing at people, then choose one person and curl up beside them. Within a few hours, the person's passed away. This has happened twenty-five times now. It's gotten so the staff will notify the family, even if the patient shows no change. Oscar made headlines in a medical journal, he purred on the TV news.

He asked if she wanted a cat to keep her company…

543 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes, 21 seconds

Really, she understands. When everyone else in this office is a twenty-something Upper East Side single (or thirty-something and Botoxed in this very office) with long flowing hair and a cheery smile, even the doctor with the frizzy hair and backwards baseball cap isn't anxious to look at her.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

544 days, 14 hours, 14 minutes, 35.2 seconds

Another day, another dollar. Don't make her sick. The only way to work with clichés, she's told students again and again, is to get inside and transform them. Another day, another pain, pimple, wrinkle, loose hair, fear, doubt, kiss, back scratch, grain of salt, tooth brushed. 544 days. The nightmare will soon be over.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

545 days, 10 hours, 55 minutes, 41 seconds

Wrong again. Which doesn't make her feel any better.

545 days, 11 hours, 31 minutes, 45 seconds

In the doctor's office. She waits for a blood test. She waits for an iron shot. No way in hell she isn't anemic. Shades of her toddlerhood. She looks around the waiting room, but there are no toys here.

545 days, 12 hours, 34 minutes, 38 seconds

31 minutes. Cheney's claim to fame. 31 minutes when he could have pressed a button, picked up a phone, and changed the world as we know it. But, president or not, they kept him out of Washington.

She had her first colonoscopy in 1970. She was twenty-one years old. Used to be, they didn't put you out completely. But the world was different then. There were only steroids to treat colitis. Sedation and the IV were the only things she feared. She, of the round face.

She read an article last summer about how a hospital ran out of colonoscopy scopes, patients prepped and waiting. But even tricky Dick didn't think of that as his hunting ground. Thirty-one minutes, five polyps, none of them malignant. Damn. But she supposes he'll get used to this.

545 days, 12 hours, 55 minutes, 28 seconds

Sixty-six degrees at ten a.m., but going up to eighty. She wears the tie-dye shirt with buttons down the front, the men's shirt, buttons going the wrong way. It's her favorite tee-shirt.

This is the shirt she wore to Philadelphia.

It's a short-sleeve shirt. A no-no, except around the house. But today, with blood tests and probably an iron shot, it will just make things simpler if she doesn't have to undress. And with her face broken out the way it's been since yesterday, she supposes glares won't be drawn to the scars on her arms.

This is the shirt she wore to Philadelphia. It was the same summer she bought the shirt (she'd tried it on the summer before, but it was too small then). Luckily, she lost weight. Luckily, the store still had it. She wore it to Jefferson Clinic in Philadelphia where her father was being tested for Alzheimer's. They'd all been so worried, but it was just an improper use of medication. He was so scared he'd have let them shoot his veins full of poison if they promised it would help. Might help.

Monday, July 23, 2007

546 days, 14 hours, 30 minutes, 37 seconds

Another bad hair day.

She wakes to the steady sound of rain, her head telling her it's foggy even before she sees. The sheets are drenched. Even at 10:30 this morning, cabs might be hard to come by. There were days not that long ago when she might have walked this. Meeting a friend, shopping for a cranial prosthesis. As if she wanted this. Still, her first shopping trip in months, unless you count the shoes. She thought she'd be walking more.

Another bad hair day, but at least she's prepared this time. A thin designer raincoat won in silent auction at a craft show, a Nova Scotia fisherman's cap, the only thing salvaged from that dreadful trip after the first cancer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

548 days, 23 hours, 58 minutes, 57.8 seconds

At almost this very second, the final Harry Potter is going on sale. People have been lining up for two days. It's not that she never paid attention, but the magic seemed to fail her by the start of Book Three. Instead, earlier tonight, without giving it much thought, she ordered chicken for dinner then lemon verbena sorbet for desert. She didn't know what verbena was, just felt her throat parched, didn't want blueberry sorbet. It came out green. Some mint, she guessed? Obviously an herb. All herbs have healing powers. She sticks her finger in to absorb the last drops. She looks in Wikipedia. Verbena was used to heal Jesus' wounds when he was taken down from the Cross, she reads. It protects from vampires.

Friday, July 20, 2007

549 days, 11 hours, 7 minutes, 46 seconds

She checks the "day of your death clock" again, though still refuses to list herself as pessimistic. Saturday, February 13, 2027. At first she thinks it hasn't changed, then rechecks her notes and sees it's cut off exactly one year. But there's still the twenty years she's promised him. This thing is bullshit.

549 days, 11 hours, 39 minutes, 37 seconds

From today's Times – a headline on how airlines will now permit the small, disposable cigarette lighters on flights. Had Richard Reid used a lighter instead of matches that bomb might have ignited , but what's done is done. Can't live in fear of the past forever. And trying to confiscate lighters (and small scissors, and screwdrivers) trivializes the security process. Small batteries can set off bombs also. She thinks of her husband, traveling with a walkman, an mp3 player, and a cd player, never knowing what he'll want, or need. She thinks of their first years together, when he still smoked, pushed to the back of the plane. Always the last to board and exit. But he'd never think to harm anyone.

549 days, 11 hours, 46 minutes, 6.9 seconds

Her father calls. Glad she answered the phone. There's something he wants to send her and he can't find her address. No, not another medical article, not another piece on the stock market – it's an article on someone she was mildly friendly with 40 years ago. He writes down her address again. He's glad she answered the phone, that she still has the same phone number. He thought she might have moved.

549 days, 12 hours, 31 minutes, 17 seconds

Of course Hairy's deflated. He's on chemo. She's losing weight, too – ten pounds over the past two months. She'd been trying for years to accomplish this. And she's still ten pounds over what she was when she met him.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

551 days, 8 hours, 31 minutes, 40 seconds

551 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes, 19 seconds

Au Bon Pain. Pain, he calls it. Bread, she corrects him. There's no such thing as good pain. A chain in every airport, and he hates chains. But she can always find something to eat here, and he finally admits he likes the bread. Just a block from their favorite computer and music store, convenient on Saturdays when most of that area's locked down. Pain. The bone pain. The shot yesterday to get her white blood cells moving again. Like there's a ghost inside her.

551 days, 23 hours, 1 minutes, 9.2 seconds

If he's asleep already (without any pills tonight), and she takes a shower, and she borrows his nail clippers, as she's done so many times this passt year, does that mean she's trying to cut herself off from him? And then what?