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.