Friday, January 29, 2016

Loading the Dishwasher

It all gets further from the truth as it's written down and yet it's truer in stories than I want to believe. I can think the right words and the sun is shining on the mountain and dogs are playing, but when I get home, the same dishes wait to be loaded into the dishwasher and the same sad book sits on my shelf. Do I really want to read one more meditation on the misery people cause each other? I'm reading 'Trash' by Dorothy Alison. So far, it's an agony to read. I'm not sure I can keep at it. Yet, it would be a betrayal to put it down.

When I was in high school, I read 'Sybil' by Flora Rheta Schreiber while I waited for my small part in a musical to roll around during practice. Worms seemed to gnaw inside my stomach as I sat in the back of the auditorium and read that book. Could anyone know the words on this page I was reading? Could they see in my eyes how awful that book was, how true?

Stories live inside me. I feel actual pain as I read or watch a difficult movie. Sometimes I have to look away, even from a book.

Tonight, we watched 'Cake' with Jennifer Aniston. Oh, she was good at grieving. It was alive on our small screen. Mike and I sat on the couch together and, despite my virus, I patted whatever part of him that was closest to me without actually snuggling my germs into his shoulder.

"This is hard to watch," I said.

"Yeah," he said and looked at me a few seconds longer than he needed to. I needed no more words than that.

"I'm glad I didn't try to watch this alone."

I pulled out my notebook and doodled in it, tortured boxes within boxes, vines with thorns, beauty and agony all twisted together. Oh, don't think I'm an artist. I am not. You will not find me on gallery walls or even on Etsy. I doodle on stones and toss them out my window as blessings and as wards. I doodle in my notebook when I can't sit still and take it all in, when I need to look away.

The agony. Dante could not have done a film better than this one.

Finally, at the end, I cried and Mike patted me before he shuffled off to bed. I wanted a hug so bad, but I've seen him with viruses like these. I don't want him to get a virus like this and hear his lungs fill up with fluid.

"You're going to leave me and go to bed? You're going to leave me with all this?" I pointed at the television, still scrolling credits. He was tired and I was not. Damned virus. I slept too long this morning and now it's time to go to bed. I'm wide awake and still dizzy from having my head clogged with snot. Surreal hours, these.

I followed him into our bedroom and tugged at the covers when he slid under. I patted his shoulder, his feet. I held off from falling onto him with my head on his chest the way I usually do when he's going to bed and I'm still awake. Germs. My elbows are full of germs. My face, a petri dish. I've been trying to keep my hands clean, but the dizzy-snot fog in my head obscures when I last washed my hands.

I picked up the cat, let him snuggle on Mike's chest for a minute, then unstuck his claws from the covers, and left the room. Before I closed the door, I put the cat down and stuck my hand through to wave at Mike. A more cunning cat would have snuck back through that crack, but Seth didn't. Mike would be asleep in ten minutes. I still had at least an hour before my melatonin kicked in.

In the kitchen, dishes, accumulated from too many days under the effects of my germs, spread across the counter and clogged both sinks. My turn. I wasn't that sick any more. I washed my hands yet again. I put away pot lids.

I thought about losing a child. Oh, I could imagine. I put away plastic containers with mismatching lids. Nick had pneumonia six times before he was ten. I remember my emptiness when I realized I could lose him. It was agony. I put away glasses and mugs.

Still, I couldn't say I had been a good mom, like Jennifer Aniston did in the movie. I slid silverware into proper slots in the drawer. I couldn't say it without qualifying it in some way. I am not patient. I am not always empathetic. I'm hardly neat or organized. I loaded plates into the lower rack. I haven't told Nick my story. I just don't think he's ready to hear it. I loaded glasses and mismatched plastic containers and lids into the top rack. He may never be ready. I loaded slimy silverware from the bottom of the clogged sink. I took a deep breath and pulled the strainer and tapped it's contents into the garbage. I washed my hands again and dropped in the tablet with the little red power ball in the center. That was it, wasn't it? It was all in the little red power ball.

I can imagine telling Nick, when he's an adult, that maybe I was an imperfect mother. Maybe I was impatient and messy and unsympathetic so many times. But I can imagine telling him that maybe it was enough because I always loved him.

There's a red-hot power ball in the center of that.

Thank you for listening, jules