October 12th, 2021
Who’s To Say Whether It’s Good Or Bad Or Something Else Entirely
The last time I saw her they were wheeling her down the white corridor to cut her open. Moments before that she was writing out her will.
She was sitting there, curled up next to me with her phone in her hands and every so often she’d pause and stare straight ahead as if looking far off in the distance. I knew right then with certainty it was possible to be in more than one place at a time.
What was she looking at? What did she see? A home for Millie? Her camera equipment? Her house? These were probably her first thoughts. But then again, I like to think she was in Iceland. Or Brazil. Thailand. Crossing the Pacific Ocean in a single boundless thought and back again without effort. I like to think she saw her favorite people in that instant and felt the love bursting forth from the center of her being and have it pour over the world and wash us all in that magnificent light. I knew whatever it was it wasn’t things but people, and places, and moments.
And I knew then that whatever was going through her mind it wasn’t a thought anyone else would have in that moment.
It was her, completely. Whatever it was it was going to be playful, even with Fear curling out from the corners of the room. She may have been thinking to herself, “Who gets my mirror balls?” Who gets to keep her spirit alive when she’s gone. Who gets to reflect her light. Who gets to see all sides of her and find their own reflections within them. Who gets the good stuff.
On Monday I came home from the bindery in the early afternoon and found a few empty pots on the front porch, soil strewn all over the place, as if whatever she was doing became irrelevant and then forgotten. I entered the house and found her grey and sullen and lacking the verve she’d had that morning. She told me the doctor called with new information. Everything she thought before was not. Instead of one ovary it was possible they would have to remove both of them and the ramifications of that procedure would change her physical and emotional health for the rest of her life.
“I did some research and found out it affects my heart and lungs and my respiratory system. It affects my sex drive and can send me into menopause early.”
This was not good news.
We walked around the neighborhood and she shared her fears with me. All the thoughts whirling around in her mind. I listened. There was nothing else I could do. What did I know about anything. I’d never had surgery. I’d never lost anyone truly close to me. Here was someone who’s been through it all, who knows loss and pain and the terrible dispositions life tends to throw our way and she just let it out as we walked and I listened as best I could.
When we got home we played card games for the rest of the day. We played games we’d collected from thrift stores and garage sales and piled into a cupboard above our fridge. We sat down and learned them and played and we fought and we argued over the rules and quickly forgot about it, because after all, they were only games, and it was fun losing to her and seeing her get excited, throwing her hands up in the air, screaming with her eyes closed. She had proven her hypothesis that instead of getting in an argument like a ball of snakes we would argue over trivialities and so leave room for love and appreciation.
In the morning it was dark and quiet. The roads were empty. When we arrived at CHI Immanuel the parking lot was empty save for a few cars.
Inside there wasn’t a soul, only an empty lobby and a phone placed outwardly on the front desk.
Beside it a sign telling patients to “dial 1 if there is no attendant on duty”. Guff picked it up. Pressed the button.
“Hi. I’m at the front desk and there’s no one here . . . Uh huh . . . I forgot where I’m supposed to go . . . Oh, ok . . . Hello? . . . Hi . . . Yea I don’t know where I’m supposed to go . . . I’m having surgery . . . There’s a waiting room ?. . . Yea, I see it . . . Ok . . . Thank you.”
She hung up.
We walked down to the right past the pharmacy and the waiting room was just there on the left. An elderly woman in a wheelchair and possibly her daughter were the only ones in the place. We walked up to desk.
“Hi. I’m here for surgery.”
Guff gave her information. The receptionist fingered some paper work.
“You’re not supposed to be here for another hour.”
“They told me to come in at 5:30.”
“Hmm. Oh yea. I see it . . . Sorry I haven’t woken up yet.”
We took a seat and waited and that’s when she started on the will. I sat beside her. Waiting. There was nothing else to do. Then someone came and got her and she followed them to the back. About thirty minutes later they called me back. When I entered the small room #25 Guff looked scared with her mask and hairnet crooked on her head and the large gown loosely about her little frame, tubes and wires going this way and that as she lay there in the bed. I could see the fear on her face. I tried making her laugh. Mocked the nurse who talked a mile a minute and did a strange dance when she left. I leaned and kissed her through our masks and asked her how she was doing. Her eyes reddened and teared and I knew I’d hit something.
“I don’t like all the attention.”
I listened. Sat back. Noticed how the nurses and anesthesiologist and technicians and anyone else who came into the room spoke to her in an over-protective tone. As if their words could soothe the possible tragedy. Again her mind was reeling.
“Should I be more concerned?” Her eyes seemed to say though she was stygian and calm.
Then they rolled her away.
Three hours later I was in a Consulting Room, alone. I looked around the place. Drank my coffee. A nurse came back and told me the doctor would be with me shortly. Time dragged. He didn’t come. My mind began to lean toward the shadow. I looked at the floor. At the couches and chairs. Followed the pattern with my eyes to keep the thoughts out of my mind. Anything to distract myself. Anything to keep the darkness at bay.
I wrestled with the thoughts and then it hit me. Wait! What’s going on here! Why am I in a Consulting Room? Why are the doors closed? What’s taking so long? A room with no exits becomes a purgatory. On one side there is the waiting. And on the other, the results of the procedure. I thought about the events that led up to this moment. The last minute change of information. The effects. The long walk around the neighborhood. Why did I buy the flowers? For what end?
We tend act towards the results we desire, but that’s not always the way things go.
I tried to think of her outside this place. To see her face in another context. Like the first morning in her bed. Or riding bikes through Manhattan. The night we returned to Omaha and our new home. Her first gallery show. I shook the thoughts. No. This wasn’t a reality. It was only in my mind. I picked up my book. Fanned the pages. Read words that never registered. I got up and moved around and then sat back down in the same seamless movement. And then the door opened. The doctor entered. Closed the door behind him. He sat down and looked at me intensely.
“The procedure was perfect. She’s doing great.”
I breathed easy. A sense of relief and joy came over me as the doctor showed me pictures of the operation. The contents extricated from her body. He was proud of his work. I was too. When I went in to see her she was full of life. Her hair was down and she talked as if nothing had happened while eating a cup of applesauce.
“They have free applesauce,” she whispered. “And ice cream too. Do you want some ice cream?”
I laughed and shook my head no.
“But it’s free!”
She walked out of there and into the light and we talked about things that have not yet come to pass as if they would and that’s just the way it is.
November 3rd, 2021
Nine months. That’s how long it’s been. That’s how long I’ve been here on Fowler Avenue. Between these walls. Sitting in this room. Staring out the window at the bare limbs of the Ash tree, at the snow and the green things and now the fallen leaves covering the earth, the tree bare once more…
October 27th, 2021
It was on the corner of 50th and Radial Highway at the gas station there. He was standing outside the white van screaming at the top of his lungs to the woman behind the wheel…
October 20th, 2021
Sometimes there’s nothing to say. Sure, there’s the want and need, perhaps, but nothing comes all the same. There is silence. A great torrent of nothingness sweeping through the mind. Why not…