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.