Tomorrow, the doctor. Until then, enjoy the above picture from the National Archives of one Miss Elizabeth L. Gardner, WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilot) pilot of Rockford, IL, as she “takes a look around before sending her plane streaking down the runway at the air base” at Harlingen Army Air Field, Texas. Photo taken sometime around 1943. Isn’t she something?
And for those who want more, more, more, how about this quote from Rebecca West, which I had tacked up on my bulletin board in Chicago for the better part of two years after ripping it out of my planner from the year that came before that. I think there was one period of time I heeded West’s inferred point (that a life lived pleasurably, even hedonistically, is a solid choice) but I don’t recall people around me liking it very much.
“I take it as a prime cause of the present confusion of society that it is too sickly and too doubtful to use pleasure frankly as a test of value.”
Yuri either has terrible allergies, a cold, a sinus infection, or he’s been possessed by a jinn specializing in cruel bouts of sneezing and mucus production. His stuffy nose is the kind that alternates one nostril and the other. It’s a “half-stuff.”
We tried 24-hour Claritin; it made Yuri feel worse. He tried Sudafed; same. He got plenty of rest over the weekend, since I was working the whole time, but he’s still sick or allergy-ing terribly, whichever it is. We did a dollop of VapoRub in a big bowl of boiling water and he steamed his head over that, under a big towel, just like my dad used to do. He neti-potted. He nose-sprayed. He got some of the little bands that stick to the bridge of the nose and open the passages while he sleeps and those help a little, but not a lot.
Yes, there’s always the doctor. It’s the next step.
Until then, educated, intuitive, Dr. Quinn-was-my-homegirl reader, what home remedies might you have for clearing a stuffy nose — or for at all relieving the symptoms I’ve outlined.
Surely none of your suggestions will involve honey suppositories or bathing in tomato juice or anything weird like that.**
**Fine: the weirder the better — but we do want something to work. Go!
I leave with my suitcases, I cry that I gotta go. I come home, I get crazy, wanting there to be something here there just ain’t. I miss Yuri. I probably just need to eat a square meal that I made on my own stovetop and kiss my boyfriend. Both, probably, but I can’t have both.
Let me tell you something I learned when I was very sick. A serious warning: if you are squeamish, you should go.
* * *
When I was very sick after my first surgery, there were a lot of things going wrong. The surgeons at Mayo Clinic removed the whole of my colon and gave me an ileostomy. (I’ll let you go ahead and google image search that one on your own, dear.) The surgery didn’t go well. When surgery doesn’t go well, entropy sets in. Your organs cannot possibly imagine why they’ve just lost one of their own, and this leads to riots. The magnificent — albeit deeply distressed — body then reacts to both the loss and the incoming foreign invaders, fighting back with inflammation, abscess, and government shutdown. You are in another land when you are that sick. Nothing you knew makes sense; you carry nothing into the New World.
There was leak in the revised plumbing the doctors crafted in me. Trust me on this one if you trust me at all: avoid the experience of leaking internally.
I won more in the lottery: my fancy new ileostomy was suppurating on the inside andthe outside within a day of my surgery. Among other problems, I had a separation, which meant the skin around the stoma (look it up) was pulling away from the stoma itself. This extraordinary maneuver created a nightmare moat around my stoma where bile, blood, pus, and sh-t did collect. It occurred to me on several occasions that if I were born just a handful of decades earlier — and definitely a century earlier — I would be extremely dead from my predicament. But I would’ve been dead before that. It was cold comfort.
All that bile and blood and sh-t, all that humor had to be cleaned out, darling.
And so it was that a nurse would come to change my ostomy bag and clean out the moat. This would involve taking a long, long Q-Tip and gettin’ up in there. The moat needed excavating. Frequently. Nurse had to insert that long swab into the crevasse between my intestine and my tummy and wick out all the muck.
I left my body during this procedure. This Westerner, this white girl from Iowa had a mantra, a monotone “da-da-da-da-da-da-dummm-da-da-da” that she chanted as she lolled her head from side to side, almost autistic in her zoned-outness, while the cleaning happened. We joke about “going to [our] happy place” but you do, when you have a 8” cotton swab in your abdomen, you do go someplace. And anyplace will do, any place is happier than where you are. It hurt a lot and it was terrifying to experience.
One day, the nurse on duty came into clean my separation. She was but one of the extraordinary GI nurses at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Upon seeing me retreat, emotionally, mentally, spiritually into an almost catatonic state before she began, she stopped.
“You should do it.”
Like someone flipped a switch.
“You should do it, you should clean it out yourself,” she said. “It’s not as bad in there as you think.” She took the swab and put her fingers about an inch up from the cotton wick. “This is as far as it goes down. It’s healing. It’s way better than it was last week. I think if you clean it yourself, you’ll feel better. You won’t be so scared.”
No way did I have the courage. But within a week, that nurse convinced me to clean my own wound. And she was right. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was beyond disgusting. It was laughably hard. But I did it. And in that beautiful, rare tone that comes from experiencing something truly humorous in the true gallows, I put a sticky swab (4 of 5) on the tray next to my bed and my thin voice creaked out with a chuckle,
“Hey, this stuff builds character, right?”
The nurse, who was not the friendliest nurse in the ward, actually, said, “No, honey. It reveals character you already had.”
I’ve never forgotten that. Don’t you forget it, either.
Saturday night, my body refused to be told what to do any longer; I was forced to visit to the emergency room. I ended up at historic Bellevue Hospital’s ER from about 1am till daybreak. This is my tale.
Earlier in the day, I had found it difficult to walk. My guts were churning toxic waste and my tummy hurt a lot. My bathroom trips were numbering in the ridonkulous. I rallied enough to make dinner for Yuri and myself, but I ate very little. When every morsel you put into your body winds up a punishment, you’re don’t get too hungry. I was weak and sad. We went to bed. I woke an hour or so later and, like a wounded/dying animal, I left the bed to try and curl up with my pain alone on the couch. I found no relief there, so I scraped myself up and went to deliver the bad news:
“Yuri,” I said. “I need to go to the hospital.”
Yuri bolted upright and mobilized quickly. I made sure he packed his laptop and brought anything else he’d like to have for the next 6-8 hours. I’ve done middle-of-the-night hospital trips plenty of times; he hasn’t.
I knew from riding the subway that Beth Israel Medical Center was on 1st Ave. and 16th. (There’s a tiled sign in the subway that says, “Beth Israel, 1st Ave. & 16th”.) We’re staying just down the street, so it was okay that when we went outside we couldn’t get a cab. I shuffled along the sidewalk as Yuri tried to hail one, but I knew he’d fail. Saturday night in the East Village means taxis, taxis, everywhere, and not a ride to catch. The cabs are full of nightlife already; nothing is available. And since the East Village in way down on the island and 1st Ave. is a one-way going uptown, you’re pretty much out of luck unless you catch someone coming out of a taxi and you slip in before it leaves again. We reached Beth Israel-Mount Sinai in about 15 minutes on foot.
When we found it, though, it appeared to be closed. Like, closed-closed. We went to two different doors. I know it sounds crazy, and a New Yorker might scoff at me that I didn’t “just go around” or something, but I’m telling you, that hospital was not open. Doors locked. No people. At this point, I was kind of hunching over, too, so if there was an arrow someplace, I missed it. A taxi driver was passing slowly and we caught him.
“Is this hospital open?” I asked at the window.
“Uh…” The driver wasn’t sure what I was asking. Or maybe I just looked that scary.
“Do you know if it’s open?” I asked again, and then, seeing there was no one in the backseat, I opened the door and asked a way better question: “Can you take me to the nearest hospital, please?” Yuri jumped in and we were off, headed to the other nearest hospital, which was at 1st and 27th St.
Bellevue is the oldest public hospital in the country. Since 1736, the sick, maimed, crazy, indigent, burned, frozen, dying, pregnant, drunk, beaten, wounded, frightened, blitzed, and otherwise in-jeopardy humans of New York have made their way to Bellevue for help. The first-ever maternity ward? Bellevue. The first-ever ambulance service? Bellevue. But despite all that, despite the millions (counted and uncounted) who have received care at Bellevue over the centuries, despite being a landmark of American innovation and civilization, Bellevue’s reputation is not so great. This is probably because of the psych ward.
In New York City, everything is extreme. The poor are really poor, the rich are really rich. The food is really, really good; the garbage smells really, really bad. And the crazy people — sorry, the mentally ill people — are really, really nuts. Bellevue is where they go. And throughout the hospital’s history, tales of terror from the halls of Bellevue have kept Americans in thrall; suicidal starlets, frothing lunatics, axe-murderers, giggling perverts — they all end up in Bellevue. Add to that the occasional (and sorrowful) stories of mistreatment and abuse inside the ward and you get a place frequently referred to zero-to-little irony as “the hellhole” or “bedlam.” I was vaguely aware of this history as I entered the ER. I wasn’t going into the psych ward, but the buildings aren’t too far apart.
I was admitted quickly. It seemed quiet in there. I was hunched over in my chair while the triage nurse put the bracelet around my wrist and felt a surge of excitement push past my pain. I was going to get the inside scoop on a New York City emergency room on a Saturday night! This was gonna be great.
It might’ve been great, relatively speaking, except that I was injected with morphine and I am allergic to morphine. It wasn’t Bellevue’s fault; it’s been so long since I’ve even heard that drug suggested to me that I neglected to mention that I have a terrible, terrible reaction to it. When they asked me if I had allergies, I said no; I’m used to being treated frequently in hospitals that know me, and I was feeling so sick I didn’t think to mention, “Oh, yeah. A long time ago, morphine nearly killed me.” So when I was writhing in pain on my sickbed, the very capable and kind internist said, “I’m going to give you an injection; we’ll get an IV going soon,” I spluttered, “Yes, thank you,” and zip! There you go, morphine in my arm.
It’s a sad thing indeed to be injected with something you’re allergic to.
I wouldn’t feel that allergy/reaction immediately. All I felt was drowsy and in less pain, and that was okay for the moment. Yuri got a chair and sat near me. We heard people talking on the other side of the curtain to my left and tried to listen in on what they were saying. Our eyes grew wide as we realized…the guy got stabbed! We had a stab wound victim in the bed next to us! Holy crap! There was blood on the curtain, too! Wow! Then there were cops! Five cops! All grilling the guy about the stab wound! So far, New York City emergency room report = excellent!
From there, though, the Bellevue ER took off and I went down. It was nuts. I passed out and woke up, hella nauseated, to two Jersey girls screeching next to me; one had twisted her ankle and the other was furiously yelling into her cell phone. They were both roaring drunk. On my way to the bathroom, I passed four indigent men passed out on beds in the hallway; each of their pants were 90% off. When I got to the bathroom, I couldn’t use it. It was filthy. Fecal matter was sprayed around the back of the toilet. There was blood, dried and fresh, kinda everywhere. I turned on my morphine-woozy heels and Yuri helped me back to bed. I stepped around other gurneys and sick people and caught the nurse.
“The bathroom… It’s… I can’t use it,” I said, reeling.
“Oh, yeah. That’s why I hold my urine for twelve hours,” he said. “There’s another bathroom, though,” and he told us where to go. I don’t remember if I used it or not. By that point, I was quickly succumbing to my morphine problem. I don’t remember being released. I don’t remember getting home. I slept the entire day on Sunday and today was mostly lost.
Bellevue, you didn’t do me wrong. But I still ain’t right.
(Nellie Bly and Mary are seated at Les Halles on Park Ave., New York City. Nellie wears a two-piece dress and scotch Ulster coat; Mary is in a fashiony black jumpsuit and McQueen lobster booties. Both women carry large handbags.)
NB: You look good.
PG: Please, Nellie! I look drawn and pale.
NB: (Considers this.) Drawn and pale is good in New York City. People spend a lot of money to look like you. (Pause.) But you’re right. You look a little rough. I’m sorry — I lied.
PG: I don’t feel well. I’ve felt pretty terrible since Thursday.
NB: Gut problems.
NB: Okay, well, let’s… Let’s just briefly go over (Nellie takes out a pen and flips through her notebook) the history of your illness. I think there are new readers who will need context.
PG: God, Nellie, please don’t make me go through all that. They can read the archives.
NB: No, they can’t. The archives are all on the old server. A person might be able to dig and find them, but you’d have to have actual blog post titles to search and that’s impossible.
PG: Unless I have a stalker.
NB: (Nellie looks up from her notes.) Huh?
PG: I might have a stalker out there. He’d have all the old blog posts and titles and stuff.
NB: How is that helping new readers?
PG: (Chews on a fancy carrot stick.) I don’t know.
NB: Wait, wait. I’ve got the run-down. (She pulls an iPad out of her bag, opens document.) Here we are. Okay, “Level 3 ulcerative colitis diagnosis in 2008, Mayo clinic. Total colectomy with ileal pouch-anal anastomosis. Major surgical complications, including multiple internal anastomatic leaks, pelvic sepsis, multiple abcesses; stoma separation. Blood transfusions. Malnutrition. Hair loss. Extreme nausea, depression. PICC line. (Nellie pauses, flips papers.) Actually, two different PICC lines. Month-long initial hospitalization and several after that for various walls hit. Then in 2009, takedown of stoma.”
PG: That’s when the real fun started.
NB: “After takedown, loss of appetite, severe abdominal pain. Diagnosis: leaks still present in ileal pouch, abscesses. New PICC line. TPN for 10 weeks to try and ‘starve out’ the leak; you only made it six. Fistulae. Hospitalization. ‘Bio-glue’ inserted into leak. Bio-glue fix unsuccessful. Re-diversion surgery.”
PG: Yeah, my second stoma. Back to the bag. I had a stoma two different times.
NB: Which is not supposed to happen.
PG: Nellie, none of this is supposed to happen.
NB: (Continues reading.) Okay, we’re almost there. So. You had the stoma again for a couple of years. Then the second takedown in 2011. Things looked okay for awhile, but then you developed a fissure. And that had you in and out of the ER six or seven times over the course of 2012-2013. The good news is that you haven’t been in the hospital since… August. Is that right?
(PG, nervous, nods and sips tea.)
PG: I don’t feel good.
NB: Okay, well now we’ve caught everyone up so we can talk about that. What’s wrong?
PG: I can’t seem to get on top of feeling terrible. I’m going to the bathroom a lot — more than usual, which is saying something. I’ve been trying to ignore all week that I feel extremely poor. Weak and tired. Dehydrated. Achy. And it hurts to use the bathroom. It’s… It’s so unpleasant to talk about.
NB: You don’t have to go into all the details. It’s bathroom stuff, intestinal stuff. Everyone poops. We get it.
PG: Well, no, most people don’t. And that’s good. I would not want many people to understand my life vis a vis the bathroom. We’d have a very depressed population.
NB: Are you feeling depressed?
PG: A little, yes. And that’s a bad sign. My surgeon in Chicago, Dr. Boller, she would get frustrated with me because I rarely run a fever when I’m getting sick. She’d be like, “Dammit, Fons! Could you run a fever once in awhile so we can catch this stuff before you need major surgery?” I don’t get fevers but I do get depressed before I get really sick. I’ll be sitting on the couch feeling crappy and then just burst into tears. That’s when I know I need a doctor, not when I run a fever. Crying is my fever.
NB: You should go to a doctor.
PG: I don’t have a GI doctor in NYC, yet.
NB: You should figure something out, Mary. Otherwise you’ll end up in the ER.
I incurred a serious injury last week, and not one of the metaphorical or interpersonal sense.
A drinking glass exploded in my hand while I was washing dishes at the sink. I had my right paw and a sponge inside the glass when it burst and my pinky finger was, uh, compromised. The story is coming now because I wasn’t sure if it was over or not.
Looking at my right pinky at press time, I think we’re gonna be okay. By “okay” I mean we’ll have a gnarly scar but no sepsis. Today was the cut-off (too soon!) date for the “I need to see a doctor” discussion with myself. If the disgusting-weird part on the top of the cut had not closed significantly, we’d go for a consult and probably stitches; this was the deal I made with myself in the bathroom, gritting my teeth (yet again) to pull back the gauze and the tape and the Band-Aid (yet again) to see what was doing under there. When I opened the bandage however, lots of white blood cell fairies had apparently come in the night. My pinky looked like a finger with a nasty-but-healing cut, not something from a “before” picture in a Red Cross how-to field guide.
Good people of Earth, I beg you: spend a little more. Invest in good glassware.
The glass I was washing was an IKEA special. I like IKEA. I like Target. I am down with K-Mart when I’m here in NYC because there’s a huge one at Astor Place and I can get coconut water and a spatula there, for example. Discount retailers like the aforementioned are awfully handy, especially if you’re a real-estate firm in New York who rents out furnished apartments. Setting up a furnished apartment to put on the market means stocking it with items that you’re absolutely willing to never see again. When faced with procuring drinking glasses for Unit A7 on the 5th floor of the building on the corner of 3st Ave and Yo Boulevard, a trip to IKEA is de rigeur. Any other option would be a waste of money, though I hardly need to state that I want nothing to do with any of it longer than necessary.
And here we have the perfect example of why I believe in spending even a little more for better quality objects.
Cheap glass breaks. It doesn’t last. It’s like cheap shoes. Yeah, they’re really inexpensive, but you will wear a hole in the sole in two months, which will then make you believe that a) people don’t make shoes like they used to and/or b) it’s time to buy a new pair of shoes. Your second assumption is correct, but not your first: people do make shoes like they used to, but you ain’t gonna get ’em at the PayLess. And you don’t have to drink your tap water from Waterford crystal stemware (note to self: do that) but when you buy cheap glasses, they’re gonna shatter sooner than even slightly better ones that cost more.
When the glass broke, it make a disturbing “pop” and I gasped as the bubbles in my hands turned dark red and pink. I turned around and saw Yuri and my face sort of broke and I said, “I just cut myself very badly,” and I dropped to the floor to put my hand above my heart.
Yuri jolted from his position on the bed and was at my side in an instant. When a vital, intelligent, athletic man looks at a wound and goes, “Oh my god, oh no, no, oh, baby, no…” you know you’ve got a lil’ issue. I’ll spare you the medical attention I got (it involved peroxide, a lot of blood, and several shots of whiskey) and I’ll also preempt your inevitable cry of, “Why didn’t you go to the hospital?!” by telling you that I was too afraid to go to the hospital because I saw Adventures In Babysitting ten million times as a seventh-grader and I didn’t want to camp out all night in a busy NYC emergency room for “one stitch.”*
The finger will make it. Love of Quilting viewers, if they look closely, may catch glimpse of a scar on my right pinky in a future show, though. My pinkies don’t show too much on TV but it’ll happen sometime. I suppose I should’ve gone in for medical attention for that reason, too: my hands are more seen than most people’s hands and I need to keep them nice-looking.
When I had the flu the other day, I had zero appetite. The mere mention of eating was enough to make me holler in anguish from my sickbed. Except that one thing actually did sound good: chicken-flavored Maruchan Top Ramen.
Look, I don’t make the rules. I have no idea why a block of sodium starch is a curative for me, but when I am at death’s door, convenience store ramen noodles save the day. I can say with conviction because when I was gravely ill with ulcerative colitis and the first of the surgical complications years ago, Top Ramen kept me alive. Fine, okay, the horse pill antibiotics and the doctors did their part, but if it weren’t for the inexplicable deliciousness of cheap ramen, I would have had a feeding tube earlier than I did.
I would sit on my mother’s couch, an increasingly wispy wisp of a thing, dazed with morphine and woozy from the blood thinner delivered in my hindquarters twice a day via injection. I would watch something on television (I think?) and I would try and get up to walk because that was supposed to be important, but mostly I just waited till Mom or my husband at the time would come to flush my wound drains. I’ve described a fraction of it. It was horrid.
“Honey, what do you think you can eat?” my mother would ask, coming into the living room. She had new lines on her face.
We tried ice cream. We tried cheese. We tried pudding. We tried crackers. Chips. Soups. Cookies. I would take one bite and push it away and I missed my appetite. So many times as a twenty-something woman I had dieted for periods of time, fervently wishing I could have no appetite — it sounded so simple! — so that I could slim down my hips for the summer or whatever crucial event I felt couldn’t be fun or successful unless I was skinny. But when my appetite actually vanished, and for such a long time, I mourned it. Nourishment is not just about calories; it’s about vitality. I was not vital. There was no bloom in my cheek.
Then one day, I said, “Mom, I think I want some ramen noodles.”
I ate them. The whole block. They were salty and easy to swallow. They were fun to eat, those looooong curly noodles and the bullion broth was free of bits, chunks, vegetal matter of any kind. It is a benign substance, Top Ramen. There is nothing to avoid; there is surrender to simplicity. It is the anti-foodie food. The nutritional value is dubious at best, but dammit if there aren’t 400-something calories per block and at that point, that was 400 more calories than I was getting.
Every day, I ate ramen for breakfast, my sole “meal” of the day. I even looked forward to the moment when Mama would come in with my tray. It makes me cry to think of her now in her red robe, coming in with a chipper smile and the wooden tray with the big bowl. She always had a cloth napkin for me and a dinner fork. She’d place the tray on the big trunk we used for a coffee table and say, “Bon appetite, sweetie,” and I would say “Thanks, Mama,” and start to eat, slowly, bringing a forkful of noodles all the way up, high above my head. I’d tip my head back and open my mouth and the day would begin that way, looking up at the ceiling, at nothing but the moment and the noodle at hand. At that dark time, the moment was the wisest place to gaze.
The physical suffering for several months was greater than anything I had felt in four years of the fallout from my ulcerative colitis and multiple (botched) surgeries. The pain began to have a shape, a personality. Its tyranny was beyond belief, so bad I would giggle, sometimes, in the midst of an attack. One night I actually turned on the voice memo recorder on my phone when I was spluttering and screaming to have proof later that it was as bad as I thought it was; the most incredible thing about pain that bad is that you don’t remember how bad it was when you’re out of it, usually. This is a blessing, because you might start looking for the nearest set of train tracks if you thought it would happen again.
All that and ensuing hospital trips, lonesomeness. I have loved ones and friends aplenty, but I was stuck in a weird silence, longing for a different sort of hug in so many dark nights of cold snow.
And then an acute, Stage IV existential crisis slammed itself into my chest, which sounds sorta funny except that those aren’t, really. What is the purpose of life? Why does it have to be so beautiful and then end? How come I’m getting older? What happens when someone in my family dies? Why does my body have to hurt like this? What is the meaning of this? I’ve heard people joke about having an existential crisis, but I actually caught one last year and trust: they are no laughing matter. I would cast about each day, numb, going through the motions of work (glorious life-raft) and at night would try to sew, try to take a walk and let the cold sting my cheeks into roses. I felt the blues, the mean reds, and yellow bile in my throat, pretty much all the time. Primary colors.
But then something happened and I turned the corner.
I was walking down State St. one evening, wide-eyed and gaunt. I hadn’t been able to eat for awhile because it hurt to eat and it hurt to digest and it hurt to poop. I was a shell. There was still snow on the ground from the last storm. I went into a designer discount place that contains buried treasure if you’re willing to look. I was not interested in shopping that night; I was interested in not shuffling down State St. as the Ghost of Christmas Future. So I went in.
Up the escalator to the second floor. I floated around for awhile and got sadder. It was so depressing, all those lifeless corpses of clothes, all those clearance tags. And then, snapping through the hangers on the rack in the very back, I saw something remarkable. It was a dress. A white dress by Celine, my favoritest designer ever. It looked like paper. It was like a paper doll dress. It had a Peter Pan collar; it looked like a candy-striper’s dress without the stripes. And it was filthy. It had been marked down from $2,200 to $1,500 to $1,200 to $800 to $425 to $225 to $80 ($80!) and it showed every month of mark downs, every try-on, every grubby hand of every shopper in the store. That poor, poor, beautiful dress. I seized it and looked at the tag. A French 40. My size.
I raced down the stairs with it. I paid. The clerk shoved it in the bag and I hurried home as fast as I could. I felt strange and knew what I had to do. I had rescued the dress from the floor of the store and its fate: certain destruction. It was bound for the mill of damaged-out apparel, destined to become true paper, which is what they do with useless clothes, turn them into paper. I had rescued it and now I had to restore it, nurse the nurse dress back to health. My own vulnerability seemed tied to the dress; my health in the balance, too.
A garment so fine, even made from cotton like it was, cannot be put into the wash. In fact, the beat up tag even advised to take it to not just any dry cleaner but to give it “the highest quality of professional garment treatment.” I came into the house and took off my boots. I took the gentlest detergent I own from the laundry shelf. I ran cold water in the bathtub. I swished and swished and made a gentle, cool, soapy bath. I lay the dress in the water. It floated on the top and then slowly sunk down. I knelt at the tub. And I cleaned it. Like I was washing a baby bird, I tenderly rubbed the dress on itself, took a never-used soft toothbrush and flicked the dirt off. I rinsed that thing nine times, probably. I got it spotless. It was white as the newly fallen snow. I opened the window and hung the dress on a wide hanger on a jerry-rigged stand so it would touch nothing. It dried through the night, retaining its paper doll shape.
Then I made a small rack of lamb chops rubbed with rosemary and devoured each chop like I had been starving for a week. Not too far off. I got into bed and sank into sleep and that night, I didn’t wake up in a panic.
In the morning, I felt better. A lot better. I put the dress on. I pulled thick tights and boots on and wrapped myself up in a sweater; the dress is a summer dress and for it to work in winter, I needed accoutrements. I was warm. I braided my hair and went out into the world and I swear, the sun was shining.
This was my view around 8pm Tuesday night, except the date read, “Tuesday, August 13, 2013”:
My life is full of wonder and I often feel that I pay directly for it through physical suffering. Dazzled by the lights in the Chicago skyline every single time you look? For this awareness and understanding, you will pay…ah, yes. Keening in pain every so many days. Feel a surge of love for all humankind each time you board a plane and believe in the possibility of every individual, with compassion and without reservation? That’ll cost you…your colon.
Plenty of people have a beautiful life and don’t pay with their health, I realize. This is just my particular situation, my lot. And honestly, it’s okay. I’m okay with the trade. The good is just that good.
I’m home now, but haggard. More soon, and thanks to the well-wishers. The well fishers, well, it’s weird that you’ve been calling, but I’m glad you’ve been catching those fish.