Friday, June 29, 2007

570 days, 11 hours, 35 minutes, 28 seconds

She washes her hair with Suave Kids' Dragon Fruit shampoo. All she could find up here. And she thinks of Dungeons and Dragons. All the roles we play. And she thinks of the museum last week – was it just a week ago? It was exactly a week ago. – how she looked at the unicorns and mermaids but skipped the dragons. Still confusing dragons with dinosaurs, boys' toys. And this is, she supposes, a shampoo for little boys, nothing like she expected, her hair wild, sticking out every direction. For all types of hair, they said. And she believed them.

570 days, 11 hours, 37 minutes, 27 seconds

Yesterday, she swears, the Backwards Bush site headlined The End of an Error. Today that's gone again.

570 days, 11 hours, 47 minutes, 32.5 seconds

Devil, be gone! In Borders yesterday, she found a George Bush voodoo doll – he stuck it to you, now you stick it to him! She was on the verge of buying it until she noticed, two shelves up, a Hillary Clinton voodoo doll. Nothing but a slick marketing gimmick.

She thinks of one of her students, a former teacher. The assignment was to write about dolls and stuffed animals, and he wrote about the voodoo doll students made of him. Still haunted by it.

They say be careful where you stick the pins. The curse can cycle back to you.

She bought her own voodoo doll, years ago, when his mother was still alive, from the Voodoo Museum in New Orleans. Or a voodoo doll kit, rather. It was a white doll in a blue robe, used for healing. And she thought to set up a shrine around her headaches, to protect herself from headaches, but she never did. She could always see past headache pain when she needed to.

570 days, 12 hours, 1 minutes, 14 seconds

She's up here pretending this is a normal summer. The temperature down to 54 last night. And when she just looked at the thermometer in the kitchen window, it was 666. Devil, be gone! It was 62.5 outside her bedroom, shaded by the porch.

She remembers fights with him other mornings like this, other summers – her refusing to put on the heat with the windows open. But that was when his mother was still alive. That was before she bought the new windows.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

571 days, 21 hours, 45 minutes, 28 seconds

She turns out all the lights, goes out on the porch to see the full moon, sits down just in time to watch the orange disk fade behind the overgrown lilacs. She stays there counting the fireflies. Standing up, she can see the top third of the moon again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

572 days, 5 hours, 31 minutes, 57 seconds

Riddled. It sounds like a child's guessing game.

572 days, 5 hours, 53 minutes, 43.2 seconds

Unable to stay awake, despite a nap after lunch (naps are for two-year-olds). She snacks on grapes (screw the diabetes) then grabs her second iced tea of the day (screw the headaches). Actually it's diet Lipton white tea with raspberry flavoring. And quite possibly less caffeine than regular tea (last summer she was drinking green tea, thinking it had more caffeine, not less). She thinks of afternoons like this, thirty-five years ago, when a friend who lived nearby often stopped over on his way home, and she'd make tea, and they'd sit and talk. Like old women, she thinks now. She was maybe twenty-five. She experimented with different teas back in those days – black teas, flavored teas, herbal. He taught her how to boil mu tea. He glued a leg of her table that had come loose. Then he left town. Then he died of cancer. His body riddled with it. Actually living years longer than anyone expected.

572 days, 12 hours, 48 minutes, 37 seconds

She turns to each day's news, especially now, to move the focus away from her petty aches and pains. Mostly the news is political. Bush, at least, gives her a good laugh. But today she's buried her head in another story: Florida Man Wakes Up With Headache, Later Finds Bullet in Head. It was 4:30 a.m when he woke in agony. His wife drove him to the hospital. When they found the bullet they immediately thought it was a stray, rare in his upscale neighborhood. His wife drove home to see if she could find a hole in the wall where it entered. Doctors said the bullet had been shot at close range. She claimed it was an accident.

And here she is, in her country house, alone, for this week between surgeries. She thinks of her husband taking off work for every doctor. Her husband waking at three a.m., four a.m., five a.m. just to hold her. Her husband not wanting to leave her side. Not wanting her to leave him.

So much for getting away.

Monday, June 25, 2007

574 days, 0 hours, 23 minutes, 49 seconds

One more weak week. Then the cycle begins again. The moon three days the other side of full by then.

574 days, 12 hours, 46 minutes, 33 seconds

Enter the elevator of any NYC hospital and see all these bobbing black heads. Men who haven't worn their yamalkas since they were thirteen have found them deep in some closet. They smell of mothballs. Another man in the waiting room alternately cleans his glasses and fingers a rosary. Her husband, up since 3:00 a.m. with a crisis at work, naps beside her.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

576 days, 23 hours, 6 minutes, 24 seconds

He reminds her that a year ago she was making herself sick over her dead computer. As of tonight, the new one's out of warranty. Six weeks ago, his biggest worry was the refrigerator making strange noises. The lemon law's expired. There are no guarantees.

Friday, June 22, 2007

577 days, 1 hours, 13 minutes, 56 seconds

One nut. Or is it a bolt? Like a lightning bolt. It's a nut. It came loose when they were unscrewing her head brace, fell into her bra, she thought, but she couldn't find it. No, she isn't nuts. At home later, undressing, it falls on the floor. She has only one hand to pick it up with. She put it on her desk, she thought. Or in her pocket. A week later she finds it on the bathroom floor.

577 days, 11 hours, 29 minutes, 17 seconds

She stands behind a pregnant woman in line to see the Mythological Creatures show at the Museum of Natural History.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

580 days, 1 hours, 44 minutes, 35.6 seconds

The Ben Casey bobble head est arrivé. Her E-bay special. He takes his place on the one shelf devoted to figurines – Dopey with his cymbal still on the shelf beside him, three dachshunds (one pewter bought at a craft fair; one a Hummel sitting and looking at a book with a little girl, bow in hair, that her husband bought her in Sweden; one sitting up and begging who looks exactly like Peanut did, down to the bone jutting out of his chest). Further back on this same shelf – a pottery mask sculpture made by her closest friend and a deconstructed Ginny Doll, arms and legs pulled off the torso, groping in all directions from that wire basket she's tossed them in. Ben's not perfect either, you know. There's a chip out of his shoulder, another three chips out of the base of his skull, none of which can be seen from the front. She finds this appropriate.

Monday, June 18, 2007

581 days, 0 hours, 31 minutes, 52 seconds

Now he says she should have saved the duck. If she didn't want it she could have given it to the whining child at the next table in Brooklyn Diner, where a hot dog costs $15.95. It strikes her as a long way from Brooklyn.

She thinks of Dick Cheney, wonders what the difference is between duck and grouse. Last spring a duck lay nine eggs in a pile of mulch next to the Treasury Department. One duck (named Duck Cheney) and nine eggs, guarded by the Secret Service.

581 days, 5 hours, 9 minutes, 46 seconds

Once a dead duck, always a dead duck. Three ducks dead beside her pond, then more fish than she could count. Only frogs and mosquitoes survive. This summer it hardly matters.

581 days, 5 hours, 39 minutes, 35 seconds

The taxi to Town Hall (where she doesn't really want to go) almost doesn't see her and starts to turn the corner, then backs out. She slides the door open to see a white stuffed animal (duck, she thinks) with a red head and yellow bill. She's nauseous but keeps writing. She's sick. Animals offer comfort. Does she have any right to this?

581 days, 9 hours, 34 minutes, 38 seconds

She drops everything.

Friday, June 15, 2007

584 days, 13 hours, 38 minutes, 46 seconds

Her cousin sends flowers, accidentally, twice. Her husband sends a mermaid.

584 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes, 7 seconds

On the news the other night, photos of a very special high school graduation: from Sloan Kettering. Patients with volunteer tutors to help them keep up with classes they'd previously attended. Fifteen this year, clad in bright purple robes, some using canes, at least one dragging an IV pole along. They seem happy here, but she wonders how many return to their former schools during remissions or on breaks between surgeries. How many are in special ed. How many are taunted by classmates. On the way home from Columbia Presbyterian two days ago, they passed the New York State Psychiatric Hospital. She almost went to school there.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

585 days, 23 hours, 52 minutes, 17.8 seconds

A colander, she thinks, never certain if that o is long or short. The silver pot for draining pasta. All the holes for water to run out. Drianing vegetables, but she never cooks fresh vegetable and never thinks to wash salad. Years ago she gave her friend a beautifully crafted pottery colander as a gift, then found a similar one for herself at a yard sale. Better than aluminum. Better than plastic. It sits centered on her table, sometimes holding fruit. But none so polished as this one. Probably glows in the dark. 201 very precise holes, the nurse explains, testing her head for the size of it. And she thinks of children growing up in the 50s, glued to the tv, Vic Morrow starring in Combat, handsome Vic Morrow, years before Dr. Kildare. One of tv's good guys. Troops of children prowling the backyards after school, colanders upside down over their pony tails.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

586 days, 17 hours, 22 minutes, 34.3 seconds

They use a scissors to pin the top of her gown together. Cut throat, cut rate, the cutting edge. Don't move, a man tells a woman in every crime drama she can think of at the moment. She watched them all, then turned to the medical dramas, closing her eyes or running from the room at each procedure. We can't let this woman die, the doctor says as the credits roll on the afternoon soap her friend scripted. No, he says, he didn't write that. His own words on the cutting room floor. In the holding cell next door, they're calling ouot directions for some of the helmet holes. Sounds like they're playing bingo. Or Russian roulette.

586 days, 18 hours, 25 minutes, 28.7 seconds

She's following the stars. He's following her.

586 days, 18 hours, 34 minutes, 18 seconds

Oh, he says. Ronald Reagan.

586 days, 23 hours, 19 minutes, 29 seconds

She'd wanted a helmet, like the space men wear. To keep her cool all summer. To save her from darting from one airconditioned shop to another, making herself sick. To save her marriage. She bargained, cajoled, and pleaded. But she never imagined it permanent, never feared mad physicists drilling into her scalp like this.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

587 days, 0 hours, 20 minutes, 26 seconds

Find Waldo. Whale watch. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Bush watch. They say it was just a $50 Timex. They say it was in his pocket. And she's still upset she lost Cinderella.

587 days, 4 hours, 39 minutes, 21 seconds

In Albania, President Bush is mistaken for a rock star. He stops to greet the crowd in a tiny town, emerging from the trees near where his car's parked. They call his name, they reach out to shake hands with him (though you can see this every night on Jay Leno, people crowding the stage as the star prances on). Bush moves further into the crowd. Leaves are left behind. Monkey see, monkey do. People grab his arms. One woman plants a kiss on his cheek, another ruffles his hair. People wave little American flags. He climbs up on the running-board of his limo. He blows kisses just like Marilyn Monroe did. Suddenly his watch is gone from his wrist. Men in suits close in around him. He's lost track of time. His hands keeps shaking. Follow the stars.

587 days, 8 hours, 59 minutes, 4.3 seconds

Not just gamma knife, Leksell gamma knife. Invented by a neurosurgeon in Sweden forty years ago. She was in Sweden three years ago, the wedding of her husband's friend's daughter. His closest friend. Dead now.

587 days, 9 hours, 29 minutes, 5 seconds

Follow the stars, the receptionist tells them. Go in the Children's Hospital entrance, follow the beige and brown stars set into the floor, past the gift shop, past the live performance area and snack bar, past the outdoor garden. They get larger and more colorful as they approach the elevator, then the elevator itself with bright red, blue, and yellow stars, leading directly to the gamma knife. God's ray gun.Glow, little glow worm, glow. Glimmer, glimmer, dimmer, shimmer. And she thinks of her sophomore year in high school, a boy running for student council president that she had a crush on. She'd given him her sorority key for good luck, but it wasn't good enough. Keep looking at the stars, kid, he told her, slipping it over her head in the hall back by the lockers. Four months later she dropped out of school.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

589 days, 14 hours, 37 minutes, 49 seconds

Sheila Ballantyne, 70. Larry Leon Hamlin, 58. Harvey R. Colten, 68. Steven Billiard Jr., 42. Charles Maynes, 68. Samuel A. Garrison, 65. Jörg Immendorff, 61. Two months ago, she'd look at the New York Times obituaries and notice all the people who died in their nineties.

Friday, June 8, 2007

591 days, 3 hours, 48 minutes, 5.8 seconds

Boy, it's good to see this guy back, her husband says, sprawling on the downstairs couch, the Yankees game on tv . This guy is Bobby Murcer, former player, now broadcaster.

591 days, 9 hours, 9 minutes, 18 seconds

She blow-dries her hair. Not wanting to get sick again. And thinks again of Tony Blair spending over $3000 on makeup. In recent news, a principal is in trouble over dragging a high school boy to a barber shop. A straight-A student is expelled from 8th grade because of her hair color. And a four-year-old is banned from pre-school because of pink hair. She thinks how not much has changed in the past fifty years, not really. Except maybe that parents go to bat for their kids. In their first correspondence in the three weeks she's been sick, her father reiterates that he wants a plain pine coffin, nothing fancy. He also might have paid for the funeral in advance, but he can't remember.

591 days, 9 hours, 32 minutes, 54 seconds

No more tears, no more tangles, no more stitches, no more dried blood. Looking in the third drugstore, she comes up with L'oréal Kids extra gentle shampoo – no knots! More conditioning! With a burst of watermelon. For thick, curly, or wavy hair. She'd been hoping for Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo, but God knows if they even make that these days. Watermelon, evident the moment she opens the cap, she decides is enough of a reminder.

591 days, 15 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds

A stitch in time saves nine. She wakes up confident all the pain's from the stitches. Coming out today. And not stitches, staples. She probably shouldn't have fought so hard all her life to be writer, not woman. All her teenage angst catching up with her. And her mother dead, and her father dying. No one else to blame. Unless you count Bush, of course.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

592 days, 14 hours, 24 minutes, 37 seconds

Yesterday was the the anniversary of D-Day. June 6, 1944. The day world allied forces invaded Europe and stormed the beaches of Normandy. Her husband reminded her yesterday. She meant to ewrite about it yesterday. Yesterday she didn't even go so far as to open a newspaper. Yesterday it was as if there was no larger world around her. Just her own pain.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

593 days, 9 hours, 36 minutes, 5 seconds

Percocet in the middle of the night, but she woke up feeling good enough to get some work done. A nap then, heading out for lunch, she decides to wear the shoes with a slight lift, making her an inch or two taller. Keeping her back straight. One of the orthotics has come loose again, a small patch put on last fall to see how well it worked, worked, but she never took it back for a more permanent attachment. Every year around May or June, right before she leaves for the summer, her orthotics seem to wear out. today she just attaches it again with double-sided tape she bought to mount photographs. Not planning to walk very far. Holding her head up.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

594 days, 1 hours, 53 minutes, 42 seconds

Dr. Susan Penullo. One of the few doctors she's had who isn't Jewish. And she can't help thinking about Joseph Perilla, family-owned tours to Italy since 1945. They used to advertise on CBS radio all the time, she'd hear their syrupy ads before she started with audio books. Her husband took her to Italy the year she turned 50. No tour. No group. Nobody telling her what she has to do and see. No compromising her intelligence. The ad said give them a call. Come talk to Pappy.

594 days, 12 hours, 51 minutes, 1.3 seconds

Staple? Dried blood? Her imagination? Only her hairdresser knows for sure. Her grandmother's hand-mirror is upstate. Just her luck, she can't see herself. Luckily, she can't see herself.

Monday, June 4, 2007

595 days, 7 hours, 45 minutes, 8.1 seconds

She thinks of the Staples Easy Button. She thinks of Staples, by far her favorite store. Thinks of the first Staples she saw, on Sixth Ave., a block up from the library. Their huge signs about discount office prices. And how they opened more stores, and had just about everything in stock. Then she thinks of his brother, in the office supply business in Houston, and how chains such as Staples were killing him. His brother doesn't know about the cancer yet. Neither of his brothers knows.

595 days, 9 hours, 42 minutes, 13 seconds

You can't go home again, Tom Wolfe wrote. Oh, but she does go home. Despite walking hospital corridors, the two block walk to the coffee shop becomes unmanageable. She orders the wrong lunch. She stayed an extra day to get diabetes under control, and now she's not sure. It seems as if every doctor's on vacation. She wakes up with her head pounding, or the staples pounding, tight, digging in. And everyone so happy that she's home.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

596 days, 4 hours, 35 minutes, 43 seconds

Some men go to church on Sunday mornings. Some volunteer at a hospital.

596 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, 47 seconds

The indignity of diapers. The woman beside her, even at her most rational, screaming that she has to go to the bathroom. Her bones too fragile to let her risk getting out of bed. Nurses having to change her, like a baby. Her daughter trying to change her.

596 days, 13 hours, 17 minutes, 13 seconds

Stereotaxic. Stereo opticon. Who could have understood, when they bought that fanciful clock, how much meaning it would have. The slide made to look antique. The world in focus. And her husband, he's the one with the stereo equipment, the one who can tell when a level's slightly off, the one who listens. Their whole living room a comfort. She married him for...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

597 days, 1 hours, 24 minutes, 18 seconds

She supposes she should be grateful to that pediatrician. He's the one who filled her with distrust of doctors. Were it not for him she might be butchered now.

597 days, 2 hours, 5 minutes, 24 seconds

When they first moved her here from ICU he was positive he heard a baby cry. But it wasn't until the next day, getting lost on her way to the vending machines, that she wandered into pediatric intensive care. The lounge right outside it (with the vending machines) filled with Legos and other quiet toys. For the brothers. The sisters. She thinks of the asinine pediatrician they took her to, insisting on weekly iron shots, two people holding her down. She screamed from the moment she entered that office until the moment she left. These toys were not for her. That much was clear. And she had, they told her, paratyphoid fever as an infant, but got well before they could confirm the diagnosis. And that doctor, they told her, was the first person she smiled for.

597 days, 2 hours, 13 minutes, 23 seconds

It's Saturday night, for God's sake. People are supposed to be out on dates. Young couples are supposed to hire babysitters. Don't they have better things to do than surf the Internet? Yet for nearly a hour now Earthlink hasn't let her on. She imagines half the city on The city that never sleeps. The woman beside her finally given a sleeping pill.

597 days, 2 hours, 29 minutes, 26 seconds

And she pictures the doctor, or maybe the nurse practitioner, standing over her head with a staple gun, saying here, and here, and here, and maybe one for good measure here. All the staples that are pulling at her scalp tonight. And she recalls their apartment being wired for DSL, how the technician ran out of staples but came the next day with a better plan. These were the days before wireless. Before stereotaxic brain surgery. In one ear, out the other. Until the staples hold.

597 days, 2 hours, 56 minutes, 17 seconds

Her last day here, her roommate seems a little better, and they have the nerve to ask. Stroke. That's when the delusions started. And before that, nine years ago, the osteoporosis got really bad. That's when she moved in with her daughter. Such devotion gets rarer and rarer. Her nephew (really his nephew) has already said he'll pay for his parents' care, it will be up to his sister to care for them. And here they are, with no children. And here she is, in the hospital. Friends talk of moving to Brooklyn, for their daughter's sake.

597 days, 11 hours, 56 minutes, 30 seconds

Great news – Kevorkian has been released from prison after serving only 8 years. One photo shows him smiling next to his suicide machine. It could be any IV, in any hospital. Three bottles draining.

597 days, 12 hours, 30 minutes, 10 seconds

One more day, she asked for. Is that such a crime? And her husband reminded her that one more day might cost the insurance company another $10,000. Then, two hours after she says she doesn't care, she reads a "weird news" story about four people charged in twenty false brain surgery insurance claims. GHI paid out over $300,000 in reimbursements. A 36 year-old man, his wife, and two sons. She wonders what they were thinking.

Earlier today she read a story about a Dutch tv reality show where three people competed for a kidney transplant from a woman dying of an inoperable brain tumor was revealed to be a hoax. The brain tumor woman was an actress. The three contestants really do need kidney transplants, but they understood this wasn't real. The plan was to raise public awareness on how many people are in need of transplants. Fhat's all. And she thought okay, she'll save this story for someday later. Diabetes can also affect the kidney.

597 days, 14 hours, 8 minutes, 42 seconds

She should have started a new chapter on her computer yesterday. Better late than never. A day late and a dollar short. She's in the hospital. She's lost track of time. But she got her extra day, didn't she? One more day off the steroid, one more day on the new oral diabetes drug, to see if she can get her sugars down without insulin or lantis. Everyone shows her how easy it is to give herself the injections. She closes her eyes. She gets nauseous. One more way in which she doesn't measure up to what everyone else can do. Childhood revisited. Grow up already.

597 days, 14 hours, 13 minutes, 41.1 seconds

As she tells her husband: when she was young her mother would go out and bring some friend home to play with her. She'd set about making a party for her dolls. The other girl would get bored, eat her cookie and go home, while she was still involved in making the party.

597 days, 14 hours, 26 minutes, 54 seconds

Maybe she wouldn't be thinking about this if there hadn't been two stories in the news lately about elderly women, one of them 101 years old, the victim of muggings and beatings, but from the scattered mumblings out of this woman's mouth, she thinks she might also have been such a victim (the other two were in Queens, so neither would be in this hospital). But something about them wanting her earrings, the earrings her father gave her. And something about getting out of her house. She was nice to him, she fed him, get out of her house.

597 days, 19 hours, 20 minutes, 59 seconds

She made the mistake last night of talking to the woman in the next bed, of saying yes, she'll be here all night. And the woman, who couldn't get her name right, said they'll throw a party, and started planning what they'd serve, where they'd buy the best meat, and she tried to say we'll wait till we're home. The woman also didn't like her cough. Finally she put on her headphones, just to get away.

Friday, June 1, 2007

598 days, 0 hours, 4 minutes , 7 seconds

At midnight she calls home. He wants to know where she is. Then why she is. He thought she was upstairs. He had dinner and two drinks with Nina after the two of them left here together. The elderly Spanish woman in the bed beside hers sounds as if she'll scream all night, she's really scared here alone, without her daughter. Tied down. Now she screams for Mercedes who, by the way, has been really helpful to everyone. Then her other children.

598 days, 12 hours, 54 minutes , 7 seconds

Eleven o'clock. And he isn't here yet. Why today? Why isn't he here yet? Why doesn't he care enough? He knows by now that he's bringing her medication. And her glasses. She can barely see without them. Audrey called. Nearly blind Audrey. Her father's cousin.

598 days, 13 hours, 12 minutes , 15 seconds

609; the escort service. It isn't what you think. But they need someone on the other end of this stretcher. To get back to her room.

598 days, 13 hours, 12 minutes , 15 seconds

609; the escort service. It isn't what you think. But they need someone on the other end of this stretcher. To get back to her room.

598 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes, 10 seconds

He tells the nurse he'll be here in an hour. She says she hates him. She used to think 609 was the worst day of her life. This is what angry feels like. This is what married feels like.

600 days, 12 hours, 46 minutes, 15 seconds

15 seconds. And 15 years ago, just before he turned 50, she drove all nght from the country, rushing to see him before gall bladder surgery. Then she couldn't find him. Then when she did it was right as he was being wheeled off. They stopped for a second. She tried to kiss him, but the stretcher was too high. The last thing he did was laugh at her.

600 days, 13 hours, 7 minutes, 51.9 seconds

Nearly 10 a.m. They've been here since 5:45. She's not allowed to eat or drink, but all he's had is orange juice. Niether of them got enough sleep last night. He dozes beside her. She figures she'll get enough sleep after surgery, fights to stay awake. She suggests he at least go in the family waiting room for coffee, but he says he's okay. He'll go out after they take her to surgery, maybe find the hospital coffee shop. She tells him of the good places along First Avenue. She knows them all, since she used to teach right near here. Alzheimer's patients.

It's almost 11, not almost 10. She read the clock wrong.

600 days, 13 hours, 38 minutes, 43 seconds

Ben Casey was not a nice person.