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

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 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.