Crocuses and Bulls

Before CLH comes in here and tells me that using my laptop in bed is bad for the machine, and before the guilt for not posting dissipates into "awww, eff it", here are some things I have been up to lately, in no particular order. Consider this my long-winded Facebook status update. And no, i still don't have a Facebook account.

Here goes:

Crossword puzzles. Thanks to CLH's awesome birthday gift and to Will Shortz's humongous brain, I have been doing one a day. The New York Times has a very smart thing going with their online puzzle subscription. I have a fear bordering on hypochondriasis of Alzheimer's. I read somewhere (I CAN'T REMEMBER WHERE. NOW DO YOU SEE?) that keeping the brain limber via mental exercise is a good way to prevent Alzheimer's. And since keeping track of 12 clients and their appointments and memorizing at least three passwords for each of those clients, as well as the passwords for my own set of books and the password for my phone, my computer, and several other devices that need to know my mother's maiden name to operate WASN'T ENOUGH, I have prescribed myself a steady diet of crossword puzzles for the next 365 days, at least.

I bought this phone (you remember when I made the leap, don't you?) mostly because my clients, having updated THEIR phones, were now contacting me via text about our appointments, and well, the telegraph office was too far away by rickshaw, and I needed a way to stay in touch that wasn't so... y'know, 1981. I also wanted a way to take quick, cheap pictures of stuff I saw out in the world that seemed blogworthy. Like the time the supermarket near my house was visible from space because of the giant wall of PUMPKINS it had built around its front entrance. Or the time that guy left his dog in the front seat of his car while he ran in to buy a taco from the Mexican place and the dog looked he was leaned back in the seat smoking a cigarette. Of course, as soon as i bought the phone, I forgot all about that plan and used it to just to call people. How Plebian of me. Now that i have a few spare moments to myself every day (tax season is mercifully behind me now), I can get back to the ridiculous in life and start taking pictures of the really important things in life, like menu typos and puddles of water shaped like Gorbachev's birthmark. Here is a recent one:

Crocuses have a way of being so heavy with metaphor for me they practically bend over with the weight of it. They're somewhat whimsical, somewhat oblivious to anything but the great ball of gas in the sky (which is why i feel such kinship with them). They get the tiniest glimpse of the sun in freezing cold February and they're all "WHAT? I WANTED TO COME OUT, ALRIGHT?"

I went back to Jersey recently to attend a wedding. It happened to fall on the weekend of my brother's 30th birthday. I threw him a little party (which he thanked me profusely for with ribcage-crushing hugs).

Nothing says "Happy 30th!" like a little plastic bull fornicating with an oversized carrot made of sugar and butter. That's just how we roll in my family. Heavy drinking and karaoke followed.

I have been working, working, working. Nonstop. Weekends. Weekdays. All the time. My work schedule has FINALLY slowed down now that the federal deadlines have come and gone. Now I just have to work on filling jump drives and mailing them off to various CPAs so they can do their part of the work. It's almost odd (and, frankly, sad) that i don't know what to do with all this spare time. It's like i have a normal life now or something. I'm looking forward to catching up on reading, hemming some pants, and baking bread. Y'know. The sexy, glamorous things in life.

A good friend recently gave me a sourdough starter to bake bread with.... and that little jar intimidates the hell out of me. I mean, I've lived with pets that have required less care than that blob of yeast. I'm scared of killing it. It doesn't make any sense. It's twenty freakin' cents worth of flour, FREE tap water, and a recycled peanut butter jar. If i kill it, so WHAT? Just start over, right? Well, I'm having some guilt over the houseplants i recently froze in our laundry room. We call the laundry room the "meat locker" for obvious reasons. You could hang a side of beef in there and it would keep for the next ten years it's so damned cold. The guy who built this house opted for the "keep the kids on their toes by not insulating their bedrooms" package, so the laundry room is always a crisp 29 degrees or so. It's definitely not a place to put tropical plants. In the summer, plenty of sunshine gets through the windows. But, in the winter, the only thing that gets in is eighteen degree air. I got lazy and didn't move the plants to a warmer location before I went on vacation and so they offed themselves when the first snow hit. I've had some of them for YEARS. I was so MAD at myself (and at CLH who kept asking over and over again if maybe I had "just forgotten to water them". I later apologized for clawing out his throat). So, now I'm afraid of killing even bacteria. I'm going to feed the starter tomorrow morning and, if all goes well, start baking bread tomorrow night.

My car *almost* got stolen a month after our house got broken into. I say almost because the thieves got so far as breaking the steering column and stickin' her in reverse. Then they figured out the steering column was locked, so they couldn't turn the wheel after they'd backed out of the driveway. And that's why they left my car, after they'd scraped the side of the neighbor's parked car with it, parked in my neighbor's hedgerow. That's right: i said "IN". Those idiots drove it right into the hedge, got out, and left it idling there for nearly two hours. My roommate was the one who found the car when we came home from work and came in and told me about it. I am lucky to have my car back after only $50 in repairs. I still think it was the David Byrne that was playing at top volume when they started the car that scared them away.

We're moving out!! CLH and I have had enough of commuting and having major appliances stolen, so we're moving back in to the city proper in the next few months here. I cannot wait. My sister gave us these beautiful owl-shaped salt and pepper shakers for Christmas, and I swear, I am planning to decorate our new home around those two lumps of ceramic.

So, that's the less than complete recap. I've really got to exercise my writing muscles more often. I've got a bet going with a friend that I can't complete a whole chapter of a book before month's end... and I intend to win. So far, I have an outline. It's something, at least. I'm hoping to share some of the more thought provoking things I've scribbled in the notebooks stashed throughout my life soon.

If I can't, maybe I'll just post pictures of dogs and assorted members of the squash family.

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December, Part 2

Let's talk about theivin'. In the past 30 days, I've witnessed and/or have been told about more break-ins and robberies than I have ever experienced in my whole life. Seriously. I'll say it again because I can't believe it. In the past thirty days, I have experienced more theft than I have in my whole lifetime. I'm trying to figure out what it is, exactly. I mean, I know the economy's in the tank. I know people are hard up for everything from groceries to gas... but, honestly, I feel like the whole world is going out of its way to prove that old economics textbook inverse corrolary between the economy and crime. It goes: when things get bad, the theivin' starts.

So, the first incident, of course, is my house. I'll get to that. But, first, I just HAVE to tell you about what happened to two clients of mine. The first one was moving her office from the first floor of a building to the third. She works for a larger company and that company was moving all its offices to the third floor as well. The company hired a moving company to move the heavy stuff like filing cabinets and furniture. The moving company told my client's company this: they, the movers, would be responsible for everything but laptops. The movers were NOT to touch laptops. The owners of laptops were told to have them OUT of the building on moving day. Moving day came and my client showed up to loosely supervise. When she saw the crew come in, she knew something wasn't right. They all looked a little shifty. One of them approached her while he was on his cell phone and asked her the address of the place. That was a little odd since he should have known that... having shown up for work that day at said address and all. Well, within seconds, the guy had swooped into the empty room where she had her purse and her laptop bag (she ignored the caveat about laptops) and was out the door, literally hopping into a getaway car (the thief was on the phone with the driver; that's who needed the address). She did an equally brazen thing and ran up to the supervisor from the moving company and ordered him to get into his car and pursue the guy. They tried, but they weren't able to catch up with him in time. Within hours, they'd gone to the Sprint store and racked up $2800.00 in sales with her stolen credit card.

Then, I get into work this morning, check my email, and discover that another client of mine, traveling in South America, had his car broken into while he was sitting in it. He was stopped at a red light, minutes from the airport, when a man broke the window behind the driver's seat, reached in, grabbed a camera, a phone, and a bag with a passport and credit cards in it, and then sped away on his friend's motorcyle. It all happened in seconds flat. Unbelievable, huh?

When I rifle through the Rolodex in my mind and stop on "image of thief", I've got a guy dressed in black wearing a ski mask, almost comically sneaking-around-on-tiptoe in the night and carrying a cinched burlap sack. Ten blissful years in front of a TV on Saturday morning is probably to blame for that. Now I don't know what to think. Could be "guy at barber shop". Could be "dude next to me on bus". I have no idea. I do know that he's brazen enough to freakin' ASK HIS VICTIM the address of the building he's about to rob, and I know he's quick and strong enough to punch through a car window and yoink a couple thousand dollars worth of electronics and cash in the time it takes a light to go from red to green.

World, have you gone crazy?


It starts with a rabbit and ends with a rabbit. There are rabbits that live on our property. Maybe they are the offspring of the previous owners' rabbits. Maybe they've just always lived under the rhododendron on the side of the house. I don't know. I do know this: on some mornings, when I get ready to leave for work, there is a black rabbit sitting near my car. Sometimes he's on the lawn munching our weeds. Most of the time, though, he's near my wheels. It's like he's waiting for me. There's another rabbit, a white one, with black feet, but he doesn't come around as much as the black one does. The black one just sits and waits. When I get close, he takes off. When I found him the day of the robbery, I had this thought: He is the only bright spot in my life right now. Every morning, when I stepped out of the house and I surveyed the mess under the carport, or the spiny, dead, brown boughs of the monkey tree all around the front porch, or the muddy, scrubby incline of the driveway, I would just sigh heavily under weight of all that ugliness and work to do. And then I would see Black Bunny (as I took to calling him). And suddenly, everything was okay.

The day of the break-in was an odd one in that all the rules of routine were broken. I took the day off work- unusual for me- and the housemates were working at the same time, away from the house- unusual for them. CLH was spending the first half of the day at home and the second half away. We got up early (again, an anomoly for me) and went shopping for some last minute things so that I could pack up the box of Christmas gifts to be shipped back to my family and the suitcase to be brought to Panama. CLH and I came home, did a few things around the house, and then we left at the same time- he in one direction and me in the direction of the post office. I was so relieved to check "mail 50 lb box across country" that I almost didn't notice the dark mound in the front of the house when I pulled up. It was raining out. It had been raining for days. The ground was muddy; since we don't have sidewalks in our part of town (cue banjo music), i was able to see clearly that the dark mound was a rabbit. And it wasn't moving. It was Black Bunny. He was lying on his side. There was a small pool of blood behind his head.

I went inside and called CLH. He chuckled a little at my calling to report dead wildlife, but he stopped when i started to cry. Softly at first, and then the heaving sobs came. And then a great tidal wall of revelations hit me. The first revelation was this: I really loved that damned rabbit. The second was this: dead rabbits, pets or not, in the front of one's house, are not an omen of good things to come. In fact, they are an omen of horrible things to come. I said as much to CLH. "I don't think we should get on the plane", I said. We were scheduled to leave, at the point, in 12 hours. "We can talk more about it when I get home", he said. He said it in that way that suggested he knew that even though the idea of not getting on the plane because of a dead rabbit sounded ludicrous, he'd experienced firsthand too many accounts of my intuition being right to dismiss it.

I sat in my office and finished working on the project I had for the next three hours. Every once in a while I would look up from my work and stare across the front lawn to the dark spot. The rain was falling, and it just made the day seem all the more ominous. There was a heaviness in the air- there was a potentiality that I couldn't name, and in the absence of knowing, I started constructing the story of this rabbit's life. And this made me cry harder. Firstly, I knew it was a male rabbit. I didn't know this for sure. I just felt it. I knew his name was Black Bunny. I knew he felt safe at our house. He was my little spot of sunshine. The white bunny was his bunny wife. They had bunny children. I'd never seen them but CLH and the other housemates had seen them. He was their provider. He scoped out the lawn in the morning and came back and told them all where the good weeds were. And then he was dead. Some careless driver, probably, speeding down our residential street, had run him over and he'd limped to our front lawn to die. He was dead. His family missed him. It was raining, and I was alone, and I was staring out my window at his body, and he was dead. Thinking about his little white bunny wife... thinking about the white bunny finding his body out there in the rain... well, that just made me cry harder. The word "innocence" kept running through my head. I couldn't shake the feeling, the word. I had to. So, I decided to leave the house.

Around 6, I finished my work, took a shower, and got ready to leave. Again, completely out of sync with any normal routine, I was going to do the following: I was going to go work at a client's place for a few hours, then go to a party to see off a friend who was also traveling the next day, and then go home around midnight to catch a few hours of sleep before getting on the plane.

I left the house at around 6:30. I stopped at a store to do some last minute Christmas shopping. I got to my client's place around 7:30. At about 8:15, CLH called. "Someone broke into the house", he said.

I got home in record time. The thieves had kicked open the front door, so the door didn't close quite right. They'd hit my office, then my housemate's upstairs, and then they booked on outta there. It was a rush job for sure. They hadn't even unplugged the computer; they'd just dragged it from the wall to the front door. The surge supressor that everything was plugged into was in the middle of the room. There is nothing like surveying the mess someone else makes of your personal belongs... it does two things. It raises your blood pressure and it fills you with the most overwhelming sense of violation. There was the party favor from my dad's uncle's 50th wedding anniversary, on the floor. There was the picture of my family at Christmas, torn from the side of my file cabinet, on the floor. There was the memo pad holder that my grandfather made me when I was a small child, on the floor. My adding machine, the paper unspooled. My pencil cup. Everything on the floor, knocked over, spilled out, trampled on.

They pulled the laptop out of its power strip, but not before crashing into my craft table- and two UNsewn 4"x4" canvas bags of unpopped popcorn. (I was in the process of finishing them for a game of Cornhole. ) I had to clean that up too. As I swept, I kept hoping all those hundreds of kernels crashing to the floor scared the bejesus out of them, even if it was just for a few seconds.

They made off with my two laptops and my desktop, and a few small electronics. They also got a few computers from my housemate. They didn't however, seem interested in the passports that were just lying there, in plain sight, on the desktop. I was absolutely amazed at either their stupidity, their haste, or both.

The police officer arrived soon enough. We were told by the 911 dispatcher that he was busy investigating a vehicular homicide down the street. "Joy!" I thought. All this just in time for the holidays, when humanity is at its finest. The cop, either recognizing the potty mouth that spills out of us native born New Jerseyans when the ish hits the fan, or picking up on my references to having to tell the East Coast family that Santa came early and TOOK presents instead of giving them, reveals that he was born not to far from where I was born. Go figure. He spends an extra long time fingeprinting the place. "Fingerprinting?" I think to myself. "Do they even DO that anymore? I thought that went out with VCRs..." He got a few good ones, too. My bedside table drawer was left open- apparently, the thieves were looking for guns in there- and we knew they'd have used their grubby little paws to pry open the clean lines of our Scandanavian design inspired drawer faces. Weren't they disappointed to find a giant red leather bound Webster's dictionary and a few tubs of shea butter?! Ha, you jerks. That's what happens when you mess with intellectual peaceniks. You look for guns and what you get is fair trade shea butter.

The cop spends nearly three hours fingerprinting. It is midnight by the time he leaves. We are all exhausted. We start thinking about that party we were going to go to. We look around, survey the damage, throw the last dustpan of corn away... and then we all pile into the car and head towards the party.

CLH and I don't sleep that night. We just stay up all night. We hit an all night diner and order eggs and toast at three in the morning. We go home, get our stuff, and head to the airport. We are missing our computers, but we have our passports. By the grace of some god, or because criminals are just too dumb to know, we have our passports. And that's all we need.

Am I leaving out the hatred, the rage, the wanting to gouge someone's eyes out with a spoon upon seeing my office the way it was? Yes. There are greater injustices in this world than having your machinery stolen, so I don't want to dwell. I was lucky. I had three machines to be stolen. For god's sake. The thing that stung more, of course, was feeling like I was walking amongst criminals for the next couple of hours. ANYone could have done this. Anyone could have kicked in my door. Guy waiting for bus? Guy in convenience store? I didn't know. And I hate not trusting humanity. I was on high alert for the next 24 hours. I couldn't let my guard down. It didn't happen till I was in the air for a good couple of hours.

We had an absolutely amazing time in Panama; I'll tell you all about it soon.

But, back the bunnies. I can't even describe accurately the scene that follows the cop leaving and before we head to the party. We go outside, all four of us, plus some relatives of our housemates' who drove down upon getting the call. It's raining. It's dark. Housemate and CLH have already scooped up Black Bunny from the front of the house and put him in a cardboard box. They've dug a hole in the backyard near the tulip tree. When the cop shows up, they come back inside to give their testimony. They are wet and their boots are covered in mud. There is a joke somewhere in all this... I want to tell the copy to add "murder" to his list of things to attend to. The victim is out in the yard...

But I don't, exactly. I am somber. We gather in the rain and in the pitch dark night to each throw a little clod of mud onto Black Bunny's grave. I am sobbing like I am burying the love of my life. The break-in, my dead rabbit friend... I can't deal. I feel the world is supremely unjust in that moment.

We return from our trip down south refreshed and renewed. All desire to gouge out eyes with kitchen utensils has passed. A huge snowstorm paralyzes the city for a week straight while we were gone and I am so glad to have missed it.

With snow comes tracks. And one morning, as CLH and I each leave the house for our cars, he points out a familiar pattern in the snow on the lawn. Two little round indentations, then an oval, in succession. Rabbits. I don't know how it's possible. I nearly leap for joy. I do the calculations in my head: rabbits + rabbits = rabbits. Where there was one, there are many. There rabbits have come back to hang out on our lawn. Maybe those tracks belong to Black Bunny.

And then, a day later, I see him. A black bunny. I don't know if he is Black Bunny, and that maybe Black Bunny wasn't the bunny we buried, or if he is just a black bunny, and Black Bunny is dead, but he is by my car. And he is waiting for me. And he is saying, in his telekinetic bunny way, it's okay. I'm here. I'm here for you. It's going to be okay.

And it is.

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December Interrruped to Bring You a Book Review

Alright. I am interrupting Tales of December to demand you read a book. I'm pushy, I know. Especially after I demanded back in Fall that you read "What Is The What", by Dave Eggers. But, it's a great book. A book primarily about a child who was given lobotomy in the 60's, but, ultimately, it's a book about triumphing over abuse.

I was driving to work one day when I heard the now famous NPR radio program about Howard Dully. At the urging of his stepmother, he was given a trans orbital lobotomy by Dr. Walter Freeman. The goal of the operation given to Dully, and thousands of others, was to relieve a whole slew of symptoms ranging from depression to violent tendencies, schizophrenia and migraines. In Howard Dully's case, it was unnecessary. He was a perfectly normal boy. The only thing "wrong" with Howard Dully was that he was being forced to live in a highly dysfunctional home. The emotional instability he suffered was not caused by chemical deficiencies or physical deformation of his brain, but by the combined rage and neglect of his unstable stepmother and his indifferent father. He suffered so much from their abuse that, at times, he thought that living in institutions and stranger's homes seemed preferable to living at home. He was made to feel unwanted, unloved, and "different" his whole life.

I don't want to eclipse the fact that this poor guy had a ego-maniacal doctor knock him unconscious with electroshock and then push two ice picks through this eye sockets to scratch at the connective tissue in his brain... there were a few people mentioned in the book who agreed that lobotomies were better relegated to the "most failed, most barbaric medical treatment ever devised" category. But, there is a much bigger thing, I think to take away from this book, and that's the gift Howard Dully gives us with his story.

He shows us how vitally important it is to feel loved by our parents, and how, without that love in the beginning of our lives, we are nearly always destined to a life of self destruction, violence, hopelessness and directionlessness. Obviously, this all fate can be triumphed over, as Mr. Dully so humbly, thoughtfully, and eloquently has shown us. But it took Mr. Dully nearly his whole life to reconcile with himself. It takes many people the world over that same lifetime. In the meantime, they are set to a course of self-destructive behaviors (including drugs and crime) which, very obviously has a ripple affect on society. One person is raised without love and attention, and the whole society suffers. I just feel like the connection between psychopathic killers and their indifferent mothers, drug dealers and their absent father figures, gang members and their overcompensation for clannishness caused by a lack of real family cohesion... speaks volumes and volumes about the importance of wanted-ness in a child's life. I'm not a psychologist, but I don't actually think I need a few letters behind my name to point out that, if you asked every person locked up in jail right now, every desperate person living on the edge, how stable his or her childhood was, I bet you'd get the same answer over and over again. Some would say we can't intervene in the life of every person (or can we? Just ask Geoffrey Canada. He'll tell you otherwise. I tend to agree with him...), but surely we can dedicate more resources, in this country and others, to ensuring we aren't raising the next generation of murderers, rapists, criminals, etc., right?

What I have to think is that, given the time this all happened (the 50's-60's) "talking about your feelings" was just not the psycho therapeutic approach it is today. Dully talks a lot about the pride his father possessed. It was this pride, and the inability to ask anyone for real help with his son, (and his inability to talk about anything "negative" because negative thoughts were "useless" to him) that caused Howard to be shuffled around from institution to institution his whole life. Howard Dully's step mom, especially, seemed to have a personal vendetta against her stepson. He was the target for all her unexpressed rage, her dissatisfaction with the world. She didn't seem to have an outlet for the hurt and pain caused by her own walk-out mom, her alcoholic dad, and, later, her alcoholic first husband. Dully brilliantly wraps up his book by acknowledging this cycle of neglect and abuse. He, even after all he'd been through, was able to see that his step mom suffered a lack of love in her own life, that this was her motivation in treating him the way she did, and that she deserved compassion just the same as he did. His father too, though he couldn't bring himself to say the words "I love you" to his own son during his interview (arguably the most powerful radio interview you'll ever hear) was still loved unconditionally by Howard Dully. THIS is my reason for loving this book so much. The author knows, now, how a procedure like a lobotomy can be allowed to happen. And he knows now, too, how to prevent one from ever happening again.

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December, Part I

I know, I know. I left you hanging. What happened in Panama? How was Christmas? What happened with the break-in? Well, let me tell you now. All of it. Starting from the beginning. I'm just warning you right now that I may not get to it all. There's quite a bit to tell. But I will start.

Part One: The Faint

We start midweek with a fainting spell. I go to the doctor for a routine blood test. I faint. I faint real bad. So bad that it takes two nurses to hold me up after thirty seconds of unconsciousness. The one nurse looks shaken. She is saying something to me... something along the lines of, "It helps to put your head between your knees" and the other nurse responds, "Usually they can't move when they go out like this". I am so weak I can barely open my eyes. The room comes into focus slowly. Sounds are muted and strange and I can only hear out of my left ear. My body feels like it's been filled with lead. I look slowly to my left and see that my arm has flopped onto to the metal surgical table and that I've knocked over several empty plastic vials. I am trying to figure out when my arm got to the table. I am trying to respond to the nurse's suggestion to sit up, but I cannot move. I am so weak. I am nauseous. It takes all the energy in me to respond to my name. I am being held up in the chair by two strong nurses who are bracing the weight of their whole beings against my knees and shoulders.

After ten minutes, I am ready to move to the reclining chair, which is just a few feet away. The nurse chides that I should have told her that I was a fainter; she would have drawn my blood while I was lying down. I smile faintly and apologize. I don't have the energy to say anything witty. I feel sick. I lay down. After five minutes, I ask the nurse to hand me my phone. I call CLH. Luckily, he is in the neighborhood. I can hardly get my voice above a whisper, so he asks me to repeat myself three times. "I fainted", I say. I tell him to come get me. There is no way I can drive back to work.

In the meantime, a third nurse comes to the room. The first nurse has fed me a Tootsie Roll and some juice, but my body doesn't really want to eat anything. I eat it all anyway, knowing that I need to restore my blood sugar level. The third nurse is a senior nurse. I can tell by the way she tells the first nurse "no more Tootsie Rolls", and asks me what I ate that day. I sheepishly admit that I've only had an apple and some granola. I know I should have eaten more that day, but it's days before we are leaving for vacation, and when I get busy I sometimes forget to eat and I've been working long days to make up for all the days I will be missing and I am stressed out. The nurse shakes her head ruefully as I list what I've eaten that day and says that I just have super low blood sugar from not eating and asks if I will eat a protein bar if she brings it down. I say yes even though I hate protein bars. I still feel sick but know that I should eat to get my blood sugar up. She brings the bar back and I take two bites and cannot chew. I just let the brown gritty mass sit in my mouth and wait for it to dissolve.

Another ten minutes goes by. CLH arrives, calm and doctor-ly. He asks some questions, doctor-ly questions. I tell him what I've eaten that day. I try to take another bite of the protein bar. A few more minutes go by and I finally feel like I might be able to stand up. Well, not really. I feel like I could just sleep in the chair I am lying in. I was covered in sweat, burning with heat fifteen minutes ago and now I am freezing. I just want to sleep. I am so weak, I can barely bring the protein bar to my lips. The nurse and CLH help me out of the chair. My eyes are not right. Maybe they are dilated? It's like I can see the entire floor of the clinic in one glance. I can barely lift my head, so I am concentrating on my feet. Left foot, right foot. Keep moving. The car is not far away, I keep thinking. Just get through the door. Now just get through the hallway. Now to the end of the hallway. Now up the stairs. Go slow on the stairs. CLH is holding on to me and I imagine, from a distance, we must look like an old couple. I imagine that this is what it feels like to be really, really old. Like your body is full of lead. Like you just want to sleep all day long.

I get to the outside and inhale deeply. I kneel down next to the car and puke up the apple. A man walks by and asks if I am alright, if we need help. CLH smiles at him and says we are okay. I stand up and inhale deeply again while CLH fishes for a napkin inside the car. I get in the car and feel remarkably better. I say that I almost feel good enough to go back to work. We laugh a little. It's been nearly an hour and a half since the nurse finished filling that vial with my blood. I tell CLH to call my client, tell him I can't make it back in. We drive home and I get right into bed. I sleep for two hours. When I wake, I still feel dizzy and nauseous and the feeling stays with me for nearly a day. The hearing never really returns to my right ear.


This is not the first time I have fainted this bad this year. In the late summer, I fainted while CLH was giving me a fancy cramp-relieving massage. It freaked him out (strangely enough, in all the years we have been together, he has never seen me faint). When I came to, he was holding me in his arms like a soldier holds his wounded buddy. We made a little Pieta right there in the massage room. Me, limp and feeling like my body was full of liquid metal, and him looking down at me, concentrating, and a little scared. That faint was the first really bad one of my life. The first one that took me a whole day to recover from.

I've fainted other times in my life. There was that time, that first fainting in a clinician's office- when my pet guinea pig received a little impromptu swabbing at his rump to remove the pus and scabbing... that sentence alone should make you want to faint. I remember something about a red tricycle going around my head real fast- like stars or birds around the heads of conked-out cartoon characters. And the next thing I know, my dad is smiling down at me telling me I fainted. I remember thinking that I was too young to faint, that that was for Victorian ladies wearing too-tight corsets.

Then there were the times when we made ourselves faint on purpose. One of us had learned that if you pressed your Catholic school uniform tie up against some one's trachea for just a few seconds, they blacked out. But just for a few seconds, and then they came to. And the dreams they had while they were out were absolutely amazing. I remember having it done to me, and I remember having about a dozen, cacophonous dreams, all vivid and loud... and being so confused and giddy when I came to. I remember feeling thrilled, euphoric afterward. It was like doing drugs without the drugs. And the high was just seconds, with no side effects.

There were noises and colors this time around too. But they all came together in a loud, dissonant way. Like a car crash of sound. All my dreams smashed into one another at high speeds and every image bled into one another and when I came to, I was in pain. I thought maybe I actually had been in a car accident. The sounds lasted even after I opened my eyes and tried to focus. The unconscious was bleeding into the conscious and I could not sort it out. I wanted the noise to stop but it wouldn't. I was confused and angry and couldn't do anything about it.


The lab results came back perfectly normal. My thyroid is behaving normally. My vitamin D levels are low, typical of folks who live under constant cloud cover. My iron is a little low too, typical of people who don't eat meat. No anemia. Just normal, normal, normal. A recommendation to take a vitamin D supplement, and maybe an iron tablet every now and again.

My naturopath said that, in Chinese medicine, it is believed that people who faint frequently are suffering from a lack of energy input because they are giving it away faster than they are receiving it. In other words, they are doing too much for too many people and not taking enough time for themselves. Like what I had been doing every day of my life for most of my life. Of course. I got it. I got it right then and there. I was standing in the library at the time, talking on my cell phone to my doctor about the lab results and about Chinese medicine. A stack of checked-out books was under my arm. I was checking them out because I wanted to pack them in my suitcase to take on my trip. I'm going to Panama in 24 hours, I told the doctor. I am going to a place where I will serve no one. Where I will be taking no phone calls. Where I will be unable to be reached by email. Where my task list will have nothing on it. Where there will be no fainting for a very long time.

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On Auto Pilot

I am just muddling through, marching with my eyes at half mast. Trying to get through to the end of 2008. Working, working, working. I am a robot, a robot in skin still peeling. Still in the midst of unpacking and doing laundry and sorting through my bills and getting my new computer up and running... the wrapping paper still on my desk, the clothes in heaps, the suitcases still in the hallway, the mail still not sent, the boxes still not put away. I am filling out police reports and trying to find a carpenter to repair our doorjamb and hunting like an animal every morning in our cupboards for food I don't remember storing there. I am constantly thirsty and exhausted and my head feels heavy. I am content, I am slow moving, I am just on the verge of being consumed by responsibility. I dream of the color blue and of the beach every night. I hear the ocean, the birds in my sleep. I wake with the sunrise now, something I haven't done in years and years. I want to go away again. I want to finish reading my book. I want to tell you everything in one sitting. I want to stretch out the telling to last for days. I want to be back on vacation.

The heat coming out of the vents feels odd to me, almost too hot. I am slowly, slowly acclimating.

Something did not come back with me. Something hurried. I do not want it to find me again.

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