One day not long ago, I got very sick on an airplane.
As it turns out, something inside my body had ruptured. Is there any more terrifying word that “rupture”? So close to “rapture” you wonder if someone was joking. What ruptured wasn’t an appendix (there’s just one, right?) and it wasn’t my spleen, but it felt like I was dying when it happened. Considering my history of being quite sick for long stretches with ulcerative colitis and complications from it, I not only felt like I was dying, I recognized the feeling of feeling like I was dying and this made it all worse.
You need to know that this story has a happy, funny ending. But I have to tell you how bad it was before we get there because it’s part of how we get there.
I was bent over so far in my seat, clutching my abdomen, that my head was almost under the seat in front of me. White as freshly fallen snow, I vomited once, twice, almost three times, that’s how bad the pain was. When you’re involuntarily barfing from agony, you know something is very wrong. The people next to me shot out of the their seats (honestly, it was more to help and less because of the vomit, but the latter probably contributed) and before I knew it, I was laid out on the three seats and I heard over the PA, “Is there a doctor on board?” Really, they said that!
A man came up to me, looked extremely concerned, asked me if I might be pregnant, I squeaked out a “No, I don’t think so” and then I passed out a little. I say “a little” because I don’t remember anything else before suddenly being in a wheelchair at my gate with paramedics looking at me and writing things down.
I got pain medicine in my body and felt markedly better and really, the whole thing kind of cleared up pretty quickly, though I was bone tired. If you really want to know, which you maybe don’t but I’ll tell you because I don’t want to confuse you: I had an ovarian cyst. A largish one. And it raptured.
So then came Verda.
Verda was fifty-something employee of the Atlanta airport (ATL). Verda was charged with getting my gimpy self to my connecting gate. The paramedics, deciding that I was actually okay, cleared Verda to whisk me off. Whisk me off, she did.
“Honey,” Verda said, “You thirsty? You need a snack? Let’s get you something, honey, you’ve been through a lot.” She was a true Atlantan, a black woman, a mother with a southern accent. She wheeled me into a Hudson News and I was eye-level to the chips and candy.
“Get you some chips, honey. The salt will be good for you. You like potato chips?” I said that I did, sure, and reached for PopChips. Verda nearly smacked my hand.
“Mm, no, no. You want those?? Honey, get the regular. They’re better.” She grabbed a large bag of Classic Lay’s and put it on the counter. I got a Gatorade, too, and Verda got me her employee discount. As we moved out of the shop and into the stream of airport traffic, Verda began to talk. Totally unprovoked, she told me about her current situation. I listened with rapt attention and cracked the bag of Lay’s. She was right. They were way, way better than any PopChip and my body nearly screamed, “Oh God! Thank you!” when the salt and fat hit my tongue.
“Honey, I got problems,” Verda said. “I tell you what. This young man’s after me! Right here at work! He’s sayin’ all kinds of things. Honey, I’ll tell you right away: I’m a married woman. This young man, hm! he doesn’t seem to mind that, and I’m tellin’ him, ‘What do you want with some married woman!’ And child, I am twice his age! But he keeps after me and I just don’t know.”
“Verda!” I exclaimed, instantly all in, “What are you gonna do?”
“Nothin’! Nothin’ at all!” We were passing through the C terminal when Verda paused and lowered her head down to mine. “I ain’t the kind, but lemme tell you…” Pause, then with a keen eye on mine: “You open-minded?”
I nearly choked on a chip.
“Yes,” I said, swallowing, thankful I was faced front with Verda behind me; she couldn’t see my ill-conceived glee. This was the most brilliant code for “Can I tell you something I shouldn’t? Something of a prurient nature?” I had ever, ever heard.
“This young man, he’s sayin’ he’d like to do things. To me!” Another pause, then again, “Now… You open-minded?” I nodded vigorously. I am, after all.
“He’s tellin’ me how he’s gonna make love to me and all this kinda thing. I have had it. I shouldn’t have listened to it for so long! And let me tell you somethin’ else: there’s another man trying to get after me, too! Now, he’s not as young as this young man, but I tell you what.”
“Verda!” I exclaimed, “You’re beatin’ them off with a stick!” I was halfway through the bag of chips. I never eat chips.
We got to my gate and Verda made sure I was gonna be okay. I sat slumped in my wheelchair till it was time to board. Wobbly, I got to my seat and the second leg of the trip was uneventful. I never told anyone about what had happened. I was okay and I would see my doctor, but no use in frightening the mother unit or the rest of the family needlessly.
I did tell several people about Verda, though, however obliquely. I just told about the “You open-minded?” part because it was so delicious. And now I’ve told you.
Ye, the wheel of life.
It turns, it turns, the relentless, uncaring wheel;
Blind, wise; a soundless roar rushing in the ear of every man —
Hark! The child’s cry, the mother’s soothing;
These be the sounds of Wheel’s beginnings!
And woe! For even in the tend’rest eye:
Death minds with patience — or alas, for some, with none;
The wheel shall shudder, in time —
For to close the old mill down.
Congrats, you guys!!
I am not new to blogging. From 2006 – 2011 and a little into 2012, I posted to my blog nearly every day. The long-term experiment was called “PaperGirl” and she was among my best of friends. Wanna see what roughly six years of blogging looks like on paper? It looks like that picture up there. As I begin this iteration of my blog, I have this probably unfounded and rather obsessive need to let everyone know that I’m not new to this, that this is like drinking water, that I’m not going to drop of the face of the planet, that you can trust me.
The reasons I stopped PaperGirl (unofficially but clearly, once it had been 6 months since my last post) was simple: life got complicated. My marriage failed. I got slightly famous in a small corner of the world and wasn’t so sure how to navigate the personal and private at first. I became the editor of a magazine, i.e., work heated up. There were reasons to stop blogging and they were all excellent. It was a matter of appropriateness and responsibility, of priorities and timing. I actually prioritize nothing over self-expression, so that didn’t go away: it just went offline. My volumes of journals will bear this out, but you won’t see those. Sorry — aside from being handwritten and hard to read, I think I have a moral turpitude clause in my contract.
It feels so good to be home. I mean, back. I mean home. I mean home.
I cannot be denied: I am a lucky girl.
Several people in totally unrelated situations have said to me relatively recently, “I’d rather be lucky than smart any day.” The first time I heard this, I was appalled. How could anyone wish to be anything but smart? But if you apply it to business at least, it makes perfect sense. All the brains in the world won’t make your business succeed if the economy tanks or someone beats you to the patent punch. Ah, but if you’re lucky. If you’re lucky, there’s a snowstorm the day you debut your new + improved snowshoe and bam! Congratulations, old chap. Lucky trumps smart and you’re laughing all the way to the bank, except that it’s closed due to the snowstorm. It’ll be open tomorrow, don’t worry.
Anyhow, I am lucky to have found my current home when and where I did. It was a steal and it’s 100% perfect for me, not the least because I live close to the Chicago Art Institute. I can’t lean out my window and spit on it, not that I would, but it’s a pleasant 10 minute walk from my building which means that technically, it’s real close.[Editor’s note: Sorry to digress, but I simply must share with you what I usually call The Chicago Art Institute, how I always see the words in my head: The Art Insta-Toot. It makes me laugh, you see, to call that venerable institution “The ‘Toot.” It’s like calling your beautiful daughter “Squirt” or the Hadron Collider “Binky.”]
I strolled up with a friend to see the latest exhibit, “Impressionism, Fashion, & Modernity,” and the whole thing just rocked my face off. It’s an astonishingly well-designed exhibit and I urge anyone who has it within their power to see it, see it. Please. It approaches life-changing. I took notes. I’ll likely revisit those notes again and again and you’ll have to hear about Manet and plackets and gouache from me, which is a dubious way to spend your time, but these things are up to you. Really, it’s wonderful and I commend the curators.
I learned a new word there at the ‘Toot: soutache. I saw this dress in one of the galleries and thought, “Hey! I know that motif! It’s in quilts!”
On the card next to this stunning garment was a note about how the “soutache embroidery.” I immediately thought of a sort of quilt, which, while it has variations and even different names depending on regions, makers, etc., is called “Lover’s Knot”:
See what I mean? The motif of interlocking, geometric loop-de-loops is clearly shared. So I thought, “Well heck, maybe soutache is the name for that motif. Maybe that interlocking pattern of lines is called soutache.”
Soutache is “the narrow, flat ornamental braid used to trim garments.” So it’s the trim, not the design of the trim. But that’s okay. I still learned the word. And it got me thinking about all the connections in textiles that exist. We human beings, we just love to make things. And from the prairie wife to the Parisienne, well, we love beauty, too. It was a neat connection to make in my brain and it made me feel so happy to be a person in the world who gets to see all the these beautiful creations mankind has wrested from the earth.
Toot if you love art.[toot]
Did you sleep well? You look amazing. Your hair is like, perfectly messed up. Very stylishly mussed. Do you know the word sprezzatura? It’s Italian, obviously. It means “studied carelessness”. A woman spending hours on her hair to make it look like she just rolled out of bed is working sprezzatura. That’s you right now, sprezzatura. Say “spretz-uh-TOO-ra.” Exactly.
Yes! Coffee! Here, I just made some. It’s French press; I don’t have a coffeemaker. No, because I hate appliances. All those cords and plastic; I can’t take it.
You did?? Oh no! Tell me. Oh, gosh. Oh, dear. Come here, darling. Oh, my, my, my. That’s simply awful. That’s an awful one. A wild boar chasing you is bad enough but not knowing the lines in the play on top of all that — yes, I’ve had that dream too, and it is just the worst. It was only a dream, though, and it’s over.
May I have a kiss, please? Thank you, darling. I do need plenty of kisses in the morning. Here’s the cream and sugar. Enjoy your coffee and I’ll get you a pastry. Take your time and we can think about what to do with the day. We have all the time in the world.
Welcome home, darling. I’m so glad you’re back.