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 clich├ęs, 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?

551 days, 23 hours, 25 minutes, 29.7 seconds

The kitchen faucet drips. Few sounds, if any, drive her so crazy. And this time her husband doesn't even hear it. But this was earlier tonight. His brother was visiting. He's probably the one who left the faucets on. Both of them. Hot and cold. Luke warm. And he came all this way to see her.

Elsewhere in this city, there are office buildings hauling in tanks of ice, storing four floors of ice to take the place of air conditioning during the height of the summer. Or at least pump it through the building so the energy won't be taxed as much. And in New Orleans, two years after Katrina, they're finally melting down tons of stored ice FEMA thought they'd be needing. No other locality would take it off their hands. Drip. Drip. Even this far off she can hear it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

552 days, 13 hours, 31 minutes, 8.2 seconds

Mayor Bloomberg's plan to charge traffic coming into Manhattan has been rejected without even a vote, without much discussion. Clear to some this was Bloomberg testing the waters of national attention, feeling out a run for president. But he's probably too short to be president anyway. Maybe next year they can vote on a modified plan proposed by Sheldon Silver, after the MTA has announced its expansion plans. This 90 degree heatwave won't continue forever. Not that many people walking in midtown will be overcome by fumes in the meantime. Easier to jump in front of a train, when you come right down to it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

553 days, 11 hours, 31 minutes, 32 seconds

She’s been fat, crazy, scared, uncoordinated, uncooperative, antisocial, insecure, agoraphobic, angry, depressed, reclusive, nauseous, an insomniac, weird, wired, clumsy, self-centered, a hypochondriac, vindictive, respected, eccentric, greedy, a drop-out, pessimistic, befriended, anorexic, exhausted, bored, shy, frustrated, ambitious, competitive, happy, uncertain, nervous, hysterical, gullible, over-medicated, restless, immature, optimistic, sick, mad, worried, ungrateful, boastful, a good driver, ultra-responsible, ignored, cherished, a picky eater, loving, small for her age, ugly, disgusted, lucky, a dreamer, loved, terrified, jealous, a workaholic, preoccupied, teased, an outcast, hot, shivering, frigid, lonely. But she’s never thought of herself as a drip before.

553 days, 12 hours, 8 minutes, 2 seconds

Today’s the deadline for getting senate approval for Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for charging cars and trucks coming into Manhattan below 86th St., If he wants to tap into five million dollars of federal funding. He says it will encourage people to take subways and buses. He says it will reduce congestion and pollution. He says we’ll all be healthier.

553 days, 13 hours, 5 minutes, 37 seconds

She’s starting to notice the art in doctors’ offices. Her neurologist with paintings by his wife and landscape photos he took up in Westchester near where he lives. Mostly it’s generic, though. Reproductions of masterworks, often flowers. Announcements for exhibitions. Here though, over the desk, right across from where she’s sitting, beside the black phone on the wall, is a photograph. Shades of a veined green leaf, enlarged out of proportion, blurred, with a caterpillar-like insect attached to it. One eye looks straight at her. He looks like something her father used to kill.

553 days, 13 hours, 16 minutes, 47 seconds

IV in, blood out. Squirting all over the opposite leg of his pants. She means all over. This is not her. It happened to her husband once, though. In the emergency room at St. Vincent’s, the night he sliced his finger. Something he’d rested it on at Second Ave. Deli (closed now, after over fifty years). There’d been a rush of activity that same night, after a woman drove her Mercedes out of a garage and into the crowded restaurant across the street. So they came to stitch him up two hours later and still he squirted. Even the technician jumped back.

553 days, 14 hours, 11 minutes, 12 seconds

Short sleeves (displaying scarred arms) or long sleeves (hot as hell, having to be rolled up)? Dressy or casual? And just how casual. As always there’s the question of what to wear. As if she’s meeting a lover here.

553 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes, 36 seconds

Pretend it’s the night before childbirth. Your first child. A C-section. A few hours’ pain. Twenty years of pain. Pretend.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

554 days, 8 hours, 6 minutes, 24 seconds

Seems like Hairy's not the only one.

So okay, time to come out of herself, time to look around her. In the coffee shop, two mothers (maybe sisters), one fat, one thin, with two boys, one fat, one thin, the fat one maybe ten years old. Old enough to be civilized. They've got skates on, no, those sneakers with wheels in the heels (meals on wheels, she thinks). They go sliding up and down the aisles, the mothers doing nothing to stop them. Then they go outside, staying within the mothers' field of view, skating into guardrails, swinging from guardrails, running in and out the emergency exit, pounding on the windows. The fat mother orders French fries and couldn't care less.

And the other day, in front of the Whitney, she saw all the paparazzi in wait. Amateurs, mostly. And some blonde haired woman came out with a fat old man who couldn't protect her and they started flashing. And she darted back in. And he came out alone and got a cab and they flashed again, trailing the cab down the street, trying to peer in the windows. She has no idea who the woman was. Probably someone connected with the "summer of love" show now at the museum. She has no idea what the show might be. It was her first summer back from vegetation, and she couldn't have cared less about whatever love might be.

Aren't you ashamed of yourself? the immigrant fruit vendor chided one of the photographers, kneeling by his stand, packing up his camera.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

558 days, 22 hours, 40 minutes, 6.3 seconds

Tonight again, like so many nights over the past two weeks, he tries to get to bed as close to midnight as possible, knowing he might get a call from London at 3:00 a.m., when the stock market opens there. His program for the Futures is fucking up.

Monday, July 9, 2007

560 days, 8 hours, 57 minutes, 6.8 seconds

She's not going to find many cigarette butts next to flowers if she looks in parks, she realizes. In parks they work hard to protect the flowers.

560 days, 9 hours, 11 minutes, 44 seconds

It's so hot even the pigeons in the park across from the hospital are lying down, some on the parched grass, some on the cooler concrete posts of benches. Sitting ducks, she'd call them, if she hadn't already killed the ducks.

560 days, 9 hours, 47 minutes, 15 seconds

She can't get the image of musical chairs out of her mind. Four chairs. Four IV poles. The small room with not much space to run around in. The blanket on every chair. Set to cover the body, she supposes. She didn't have to fight for a chair this time, but by next month, who knows?

The record player's scratchy needle. The boy with pointed finger. Bang, bang. You're dead. And she can't get up till he tells her to.

Then there was the musical chairs of all those childhood parties. At least the ones she was invited to, along with the diabetic girl who wore two hearing aids and the sweet retard who was her doctor's daughter.

560 days, 10 hours, 4 minutes, 39 seconds

This isn't the Bush League, she has to remind herself. These are doctors at the top of their game. NYC will soon be back at the top of its game again. The Amazin' Mets. The Bronx Bombers... Shit. She covers her head in terror of the explosion. She runs to hide under the nearest desk, but there's a waste basket and paper shredder there already.

560 days, 12 hours, 40 minutes, 58 seconds

81 degrees when she wakes up, going up to 95 today (if you believe the underground weather site), 97 if you believe last night's tv. Last night they slept with the air conditioner on, something they haven't done since 1991, the last July she spent in the city. She was trying so hard, for his sake, to make it through the heat. Then, at about two o'clock, they gave up, shut the windows, put the air on, slept. It was probably not more than an hour later that someone jumped (or was pushed) out a window on the fourteenth floor. Because of her he missed all the action.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

561 days, 8 hours, 33 minutes, 45 seconds

She had a cat once. They hated each other. Still , she kept it until the week she moved in with him. Nearly sixteen years. He loved a cat once. It was in the barn, and every morning it would be there by the door, just waiting for him to pet it. He was too young to know it was dead. Every weekend, the pet shop two blocks away holds pet adoptions, and every weekend she stops to peer in the cages, and every weekend he has to hurry her along. Now he asks if she wants a cat, to keep her company while he's at work. He has to get back to work. She says it would probably grow to hate her. He says there's always the compactor. She looks out the window.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

562 days, 10 hours, 55 minutes, 35 seconds

She was headed somewhere else with that focus on the recliner, but her husband intruded (husbands always intrude). She was headed for the doctor's office once again, for the little room in the back with its own restroom, the wastebasket filled high with snack wrappers – potato chips, corn chips, all the rest of the gunk parents today say isn't good for their children. That little room with a VCR, personal DVD players, and four recliners. That's where she was headed. Is headed.

562 days, 11 hours, 51 minutes, 45 seconds

July 7, 2007. 7-7-7. This was supposed to be his lucky day. He was supposed to have flown from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. He looked forward to slot machines. He thought maybe he'd play some craps. If he had the time, he'd study more about poker and hit the tables there. Maybe he'd just walk around the strip, find a place outside where he could eat lunch and dinner. It's going up to 116 in Las Vegas today. He would have been so happy just to be there.

562 days, 12 hours, 4 minutes, 21 seconds

A poem she wrote a few months ago is up on the Internet today: "Recliner saves man who was shot in head." He was shot by his wife.

A recliner was what her parents bought her when they realized she was going to be doing nothing but sit in her room reading all day. They'd taken out the other twin bed, giving up on her having friends over. It was a green recliner, and she used it every day all day until she left their house.

The next time she had a recliner was over fifteen years later, when she moved into his apartment. They'd sit there and cuddle, like they did in bed this morning. He'd been up for hours. She'd been lying there awake, not wanting to get up, not wanting to start the day. But her cough gave her away, and he was there a moment later, fully dressed, cuddling her, tears welling up in his eyes. She could hear them.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

564 days, 1 hours, 1 minutes, 17 seconds

He gives her a hug. He pulls her hair.

564 days, 1 hours, 54 minutes, 19.8 seconds

It's hot and humid, but she wraps a thick scarf around her neck to hide the bandage, just in case they run into someone from their building. She walks on the wrong side of the street, past the guys hanging out there: she'd forgotten. If one of them should attack, or even reach out to her breast, like they did once, she can't run. She thinks of maybe grabbing a cab to a better restaurant, then remembers she's wearing short sleeves and all the scratches on her arms will be visible.

She can envision herself becoming agoraphobic once again.

This is all the wig's fault.

Freshman year of high school. She thought if her hair just wasn't so curly, if she looked more like the other kids, she'd have more friends. The wig, expensive at the time, a brown just a little redder than her own hair, was set in a perfect flip. She doesn't recall now if she ever wore it or not, but by the next year she'd quit school. She kept the blinds drawn in the house, didn't want to be seen.

And tomorrow she's off to buy a wig again. This one will be different, she tells herself. Closer to her own hair. Finally she likes her own hair. She might even bring in a photo of what she wants, and not some model's photo. Doctor's orders. Courtesy of Blue Cross.

George Bush bursts out laughing, then lies more about Medicare. He doesn't understand the costumes yet.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

565 days, 1 hours, 30 minutes, 47 seconds

Setback, she says, thinking of the end of daylight savings time. How easy it was to turn that little wheel in the back ahead sn hour, but how it only turns one way. Turning that small wheel with large fingers, going ahead eleven hours. It's ridiculous. And the chiming anniversary clock downstairs, how they have to make the chimes match, and how it's sometimes well into winter before they get it right.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

566 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, 35 seconds

July 3rd. Two a.m. She was supposed to be in California celebrating her uncle's birthday tomorrow. Ninety years old; in much better shape than her father's in. Sh's jealous.

566 days, 22 hours, 28 minutes, 37 seconds

The surgery got started very late. Then the nodes exploded. She spends the night, then goes home painless. Unless you count the migraine.

567 days, 13 hours, 22 minutes, 10.9 seconds

CNN is on in the patient waiting room. She looks at the set through the translucence of another patient's IV bag. News of the terrorist bombings in Glasgow and London.

CNN discloses that there were two doctors possibly involved in the Glasgow attacks. And possibly this will uncover a whole network of professionals. She thinks of her doctor. Of her father. How at least her father's concern for her has taken the focus off his own pain. As long as he remembers

Monday, July 2, 2007

567 days, 15 hours, 36 minutes, 7 seconds

Her father, in the hospital, telling every doctor how wonderful he is. Her father, at home, throwing out all the business cards. All these doctors saying come see them for follow-up. All they want is money. And he doesn't want to see any doctor who isn't American.

Her grandmother in the hospital, in a room the size of a closet (the size of her last apartment), but a private room, watched television well into Jack Paar and beyond. The nurses would come in and watch with her. She loved the nurses. Then she started to feel better.

567 days, 15 hours, 37 minutes, 32 seconds

Rots of Ruck.

567 days, 15 hours, 45 minutes, 38 seconds

The moon's been chasing her around all week. She woke at dawn to see the pale white disk between her and the other side of the building, still a full circle, pale, all the light drained out of it. The moon, a tumor.

567 days, 15 hours, 50 minutes, 30.3 seconds

Seven. Lucky Seven. She starts part seven the second day of the seventh month. On many slot machines, even one seven pays. Then she sees 567 days, so that's the third seven. When did these sections start coinciding with the months? It doesn't matter. What she needs is luck today.