Saturday, February 24, 2007

695 days, 9 hours, 52 minutes, 19 seconds

A performance artist, in town from London, is crawling Manhattan streets in a suit, knee pads, George Bush mask, and a sign saying kick my ass. Just wanting New Yorkers to feel good, he says. It calls to mind a Halloween parade over a decade ago. A man in a cart was dressed as Jesse Helms and a woman walking alongside him passed out rotten tomatoes for people to throw. It was her first Halloween parade. Clinton was president. Helms was about the worst people could imagine.

695 days, 9 hours, 59 minutes, 39 seconds

It's two o'clock and, if you believe her pedometer, she's taken 695 steps so far today. Not a very auspicious start to weight loss. There have been days when she doesn't even hit the 2,000 mark, and she's never yet made it to 10,000. Sort of a lame duck poet.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

697 days, 6 hours, 34 minutes, 33 seconds

No matter what, no matter where, no matter when. It seems like her major computer problems begin after midnight. Long after her father's in bed. He said he was looking forward to retirement so that he could sleep late, but after a month or two he realized the whole day was gone by the time he got up. The whole day, by his standards. She needed to work late and sleep late, to prove her life wasn't his life.

Her husband's usually up until one or two. When she has problems like that he shoves toothpicks in his eyes and tries to help her. The last thing she wants is his help.

697 days, 7 hours, 0 minutes, 51 seconds

She pauses from work for a few minutes to watch her computer disk finish backing up, which still seems the most interesting thing she's done today.

697 days, 7 hours, 15 minutes, 52 seconds

George Bush even punched his father once, her father says. No way he could vote for a man like that.

697 days, 7 hours, 28 minutes, 36 seconds

Four years ago. December, 2002, to be exact. Or maybe November. Just before or just after her birthday (there was a blizzard on the day of that welcome party). She came home to find a message from her father on the machine. Upset not at what she'd written, but what a critic friend wrote about her poems. Most sensitive essay she's read, she told him. She has no right to write about his life, he told her. And she said it was her life, not his. But let's face it, they needed each other. Especially now, with his lady-friend dead also. Him in and out of the hospital. He still reminds her that reviewer should be shot. She still keeps him uninformed about her new work. It doesn't win his praise, anyway, he only knows success in terms of money. He clings to life hoping her novel's made into a blockbuster movie, like The Firm. Which reminds her that Billy Collins is Bush's favorite poet.

697 days, 7 hours, 38 minutes, 46 seconds

Some things are just naturally a waste of time. This new flash computer disk, for instance. Slowest damn write speed she's ever seen. She was up until 6:00 a.m. trying to cope with it, then lay in bed unsleeping. So okay, plan revised: use this for unchanging backup files, keep the old flash disk (too small for all her files) as her main daily backup. Over four years old now. She remembers the day he bought it for her – teaching, then meeting to plan a party for the arrival of a friend's adopted daughter, five or six now. Denting the car on the way. Then this disk wasn't the one she'd planned on buying. But it's served her, perhaps, better than the friend has. People's needs change. People's interests change. We have to set priorities. Sleep, for her, has never been one of them. Cursing every minute of work time sacrificed.

Monday, February 19, 2007

700 days, 22 hours, 50 minutes, 42 seconds

Seven hundred. That's what her blood sugar readings seem like tonight. Two hundred or seven hundred, one's as bad as the next. Before dinner and again at bedtime. The lowest possible dose, her husband reminds her. The lowest common denominator. Sometimes she feels there's just no use in counting.

Friday, February 16, 2007

703 days, 8 hours, 16 minutes, 6 seconds

The mayor decided alternate side of the street parking was in effect yesterday. After all, there were only two inches of snow. And the streets had to be cleaned. No room for wimps in this city.

703 days, 10 hours, 10 minutes, 40 seconds

She's determined to tolerate Glucophage, despite everything seemingly stacked against her – the pharmacy requiring special permissions (from insurance, of course), the doctor insisting he doesn't want generic, the abdominal pains, the possible nausea, the huge snow mounds, the uncut corners, the possible loss of appetite. Other meds might make her gain weight, she's told. And this is only at bedtime. Two weeks and most of the side effects should vanish. There were none at all the first night, though she lay there imagining her stomach coiling into fists. She's got to tolerate Glucophage, has to make its lowest dose work for her, has to prove she cares enough, loves enough, trusts enough, is trustworthy, is worthy of love. Don't tolerate, exterminate – her father's words.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

704 days, 12 hours, 42 minutes, 58 seconds

Maybe twelve minutes away from seeing the doctor. Diabetes medications start today. Or tomorrow. This is the day she's been dreading for the past five years. But she's past controlling. Three inches of snow on the ground, and it's crippled the city more than a foot normally does. It's insane. Leaving the apartment this morning, she saw a penny on the hall carpet, got as far as the elevator before going back for it. Maybe everyone's luck will change.

705 days, 6 hours, 2 minutes, 20 seconds

A man comes in with a large bouquet of flowers. With coat, scarf, and computer case, it's hard to know what to do with them. She recalls another man she saw with flowers. It was in October 2000, at the airport, in Minneapolis, and they'd missed the connecting flight. These were for the lady back home, a single rose. They chatted on the van to the hotel -- he, she, her husband, and two Arab pilots they picked up at the Mall of America.

705 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes, 40 seconds

As Hamlet would say, the play's the thing. Still, they like to eat well. She orders wine, gets the bread, waits for him. A Valentine's Day menu, then the regular menu. Steak, she supposes. Sirloin or rib eye. Outside, on Central Park South, a man delivers flowers. It's early yet. Tulips, not roses, on the table, but at least red tulips. Filet mignon is only on the specials menu. And no chateaubriand. She remembers, forty years ago, the country restaurant and the boy-man who tried to teach her this steak for two was what love is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

705 days, 23 hours, 20 minutes, 41 seconds

Valentine's Day. And off to another roaring start. Remember the Tylenol murders? That's all she can think of. The first person killed was a woman at her fiancé's mother's house. It took months for people to believe that he (or his mother) hadn't been trying to kill her. And she doesn't know what to believe. That he was out of vitamins, yes. That she ran out of the Tylenol in her purse, yes, but that was because he kept taking them. Then she saw the bottle on the kitchen counter. A pale brown capsule, not the expected red and yellow, but it said something about a new, quick-dissolving formula. It certainly wasn't quick yesterday. Unstoppable headaches sucking out all her energy, she could barely hold her head up. How easily the body remembers. And if, as he insists, these were the vitamins he'd kept in his suitcase, why didn't they at least give her energy? Ultra Man vitamins. At midnight he hands her sugar-free Godiva chocolates. Her voice sticks in her throat as she tries to say I love you.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

706 days, 8 hours, 41 minutes, 15.2 seconds

This pedometer screws up. If it's not placed exactly on the hip, it might not count the steps. Thus a walk to the mailbox on Broadway, stopping in the bagel shop for a low-carb muffin, doesn't count. And sometimes longer walks, such as yesterday morning. She can't be checking and rechecking it every minute, especially when she has her coat on. But she walks fifteen steps in the apartment, watches it count eight or nine. Other times it seems to count more steps than she realized. Going to the bathroom, pulling down her pants then pulling them up again, counts as two steps. Standing up from her typing chair then sitting down again doesn't count, then counts two steps the second time, one step the third time. So she supposes she has to accept it all as just an average. And she looks again at the Backwards Bush clock.

Monday, February 12, 2007

707 days, 4 hours, 35 minutes, 17 seconds

Four hours, thirty-five minutes until VD Day. The countdown begins. All the large pink and red animals have disappeared from the window of Duane Reade downstairs. Computer sites warn not to open any email that even hints at love.

707 days, 4 hours, 55 minutes, 9 seconds

She thinks she's okay, with both hardware and software firewalls, plus the antivirus updated every other day. Today she feels like shit. She takes Tylenol. She runs all three spyware checks.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

709 days, 22 hours, 42 minutes, 41 seconds

And, live on the Internet, the cheddar cheese has been aging for 50 days, 1 hour, 16 minutes, 25 seconds, 784 milliseconds. If she drops by the website at ten o'clock any morning she can watch as the 55 pound block of cheese is turned.

Friday, February 9, 2007

711 days, 8 hours, 47 minutes, 39 seconds

Stopping for lunch in Saratoga, she's lured by a clothing store with a huge sale sign, buys a top way too expensive that she can't resist, discovers her favorite restaurant is reopening soon in another location, grabs a bagel with lox, returns to find her car parked behind a minivan from Alaska with ELF 585 for its license plate. She supposes this is what life is like where we drill for oil.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

711 days, 21 hours, 32 minutes, 42 seconds

Did you hear the story about the man who used to walk his dog past the White House every day? Every day he'd pause at the gate and ask if Mr. Bush was home, and every day the guard would tell him that Mr. Bush no longer resides here, Mr. Bush is no longer president. Finally one day the guard got angry and asked why he keeps coming back and asking to see Mr. Bush, when he tells him all the time that Mr. Bush no longer resides here, Mr. Bush is no longer president. And the man responds that he knows, he just enjoys hearing the guard say that over and over. And the guard snaps to attention and says yes, sir, see you tomorrow, sir.

711 days, 22 hours, 8 minutes, 39 seconds

711 days left until Bush is out of office. She can't even write that here without thinking of 9-Eleven. 911 used to be a call for help, but these days they ask people to call 311 if it's not a matter of life and death. 711. Iraq. Afghanistan. It's life and death, Mr. President. Convenience. Every Stewarts, Cumberland Farms, and 7-Eleven with at least two gas tanks out front.

711 days, 22 hours, 11 minutes, 43 seconds

Sick. Eating little. Out drinking with friends. She had friends then, thirty-eight years ago, some of whom she's still close to. But she was coming home sick night after night. The body she'd abused for years getting back at her.

711 days, 22 hours, 24 minutes, 43 seconds

Oh Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven. Don't make her sick. That jingle was introduced in 1969, the year she moved to New York. She didn't own a tv, she didn't listen to radio, she didn't have a car. God knows where or when she heard it. There was a Grand Union (willing to cash checks) and bodegas on every other corner. Those first months, living in a residential hotel, she bought a quarter pound of shrink-wrapped ham or salami, two rolls, and made that lunch and dinner. Once in awhile there was Tad's Steaks, $1.99 for a greasy steak and sensible baked potato. Edible then, as she doesn't think it would be now. Sick. But she was in New York. She was thankful. Don't tolerate, exterminate. That was her father's slogan.

711 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, 51 seconds

7-Eleven. Convenience. Quick in and out. Open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. back in 1946, that's how they got the name. But most are open 24 hours now. She would have said they're what she knew growing up in the 50s, but there were no New Jersey franchises until after she left. She knows there was Cumberland Farms, and possibly Stewarts, though Stewarts was only a hot dog stand, with root beer. Now, even in Granville, NY (population less than 7000) there's a 24-hour Price Chopper, with a 24-hour Super K-Mart less than 20 miles away. She stopped there tonight for batteries and garbage bags. Convenience.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

712 days, 19 hours, 8 minutes, 38 seconds

Nineteen hours and nineteen degrees out her kitchen window. Once again she's watching frozen soup spin in the microwave. This is all she has to do for the next nine minutes. No red phone on her desk, no red Staples easy button, no Internet, no newspaper, no radio, no war. Make that ten minutes. Still not quite unfrozen, then too hot to eat.