Shadow Self


(google image)

It’s all the bright I cannot see

when it’s right in front of me

Shadow Self

Bursts of light make it through

in spite of themselves

like a fragile shoot birthing through

the crack of a New York City sidewalk

The will to live

Remains

only altered, and strange

beautiful in a different way

Shadow Self

Let Me Breathe

(google image)

Pulling myself out of the earth
grasping at crumbling bits of clay
choking on each bit as it slips
through my fingers and
into my mouth

Let me breathe

two steps forward
three steps back

Let me breathe

Your opinions are not welcome
a listening ear will do

Have you been living in the dirt
with me?
have you seen your husband die
alongside I-95?
then shut up
and let me be

Let me breathe

 

 

A Waiting Room with a View

HSS waiting room

This is the view from the Hospital for Special Surgery’s (“HSS”) Radiology Department waiting room. A waiting room with a view.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, HSS is ranked the best hospital for orthopedics in the U.S. Luckily one of the doctors there takes my insurance too.

The radiologist who x-rayed my knee had matinee-idol good looks, like Ricardo Montalbán. My first thought was, Why isn’t he in the movies?

ricardo-montalbans-quotes-1

(google image – Ricardo Montalbán) 

He was a tall, clean-shaven Latino with salt and pepper hair and a winning smile and sense of humor. What more could a girl ask for at 8:30 in the morning in a striped hospital gown?

He asked what was wrong with my knee.

“Seems I have no cartilage,” I said.

“Ah ha. My mother’s coming here for a knee replacement soon,” he said.

“That’s probably what I’ll need. I’ve never been to this hospital before, but my friend told me it’s the best for orthopedics,” I said.

“She’s right. I bring all my family here.”

“Luckily I found a doctor who takes my insurance.”

He laughed. “Some of the doctors don’t take our insurance either, but we’re supposed to get a discount.”

For one of the final x-rays, when the machine wasn’t cooperating, he said, “This machine is very sentimental.” I think he meant “sensitive.” Or maybe he meant “sentimental.”

Who knows, maybe the machines are sentimental. Who’s to say they don’t recall past patients and absorb some of their discomforts and pain after years of photographing injured parts.

He said from the control room, “It should be working. It’s new.”

And finally, it did.

“Okay, you’re all done,” he said.

On my way out, he said, “You look like that actress. Uh, let me think . . .  . It’ll come to me later.”

“Okay, see you later then.  Thank you.”

I went into the dressing room to get changed.

After I saw the PA and the orthopedist, a guy named Buzz who was in charge of shuttling patients to and from exam rooms, said, “You remind me of a young Ellen Barkin. Has anyone ever told you that?”

220px-Barkin-crop

(google image – Ellen Barkin)

“Yes, they used to tell me all the time,” I said. “She’s from Queens, I think, like me. I grew up mostly in Jackson Heights.”

“Oh, yeah?”

Buzz was a charming and speedy 60-something who sported a red vest and almost lost me on the way to the exam room.

He said, “Dr. W, he’s a good one.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Good to know.”

It may sound odd, but there was a homey vibe to the hospital. Like people worked well together and the pieces fit.

Not a bad way to spend the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Roommate Is Dead

The mattress was gone and all her belongings except for a Town and Country magazine laying across the metal rungs of the bed frame. Mom and Florence* had been roommates since Mom moved into the Actors Home in September 2014. I met one of Florence’s daughters and her son. Her daughter said she had had a stroke which had affected her speech and motor ability. She was a thin African-American with close-cropped salt and pepper hair; when she spoke, her voice wavered, but she had very expressive eyes.

Mom said she died two Saturdays ago, the last time I visited, when we watched The Hustler on TCM. It was also the day Mom told me she had been proposed to.

“We were watching The Day the Earth Stood Still and All About Eve.  I was laughing at something, but I didn’t know she was dead,” Mom said. “I feel bad. I miss her.”

She went on, “I saw her mouth open and she looked like she was having trouble breathing. I didn’t know she had died.”

“She was young,” I said.

“Yes, she was.”

“Her daughter told me she had a stroke,” I said.

“Oh, I didn’t know that. She had arthritis, like me,” Mom said.

Mom said, “The two guys came to my room and we talked and had a good time, Florence too.”

“Was one of the guys the one who proposed to you?” I said.

“Yes,” she said, giggling like a love-stricken teenager.

It sounded like quite the party.

“Do the guys live here?” I said.

“No, they work here.”

“Oh, are they cleaners or nurses?”

“I don’t think so. They help us out here.”

“So they’re aides?” I said.

“They might be.”

“Maybe it was a blessing,” Mom said.

“Yes, maybe,” I said.

“We were watching The Day the Earth Stood Still and All About Eve. It was a good night.”

“I know, Mom. I’m sorry.”

“Me too,” Mom said. “She was with me all the time.”

“I know.”

“Then they did something at the window with the thing. They couldn’t get the window open. And she was dead.”

“Did they tell you that night?”

“Yes, the nurse came in and told me,” she said.

“That must have been hard.”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to go for a spin?” I said.

“Yes, let’s go.”

 

In memory of Florence:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee 
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; 
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow 
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. 
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, 
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, 
And soonest our best men with thee do go, 
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery. 
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, 
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, 
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well 
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then? 
One short sleep past, we wake eternally 
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. 
–John Donne

*Pseudonym.

Missed Connection

Missed flights. Make sure that the day of your flight, you set a few alarms, call the airline, and get to the airport in time to get through security. Missed flights are an expensive hassle.

google image

This time I missed the bus. It was going to be a long bus ride—maybe 6 to 10 hours. Not sure where I was going. Bizarre obstacles would impede my forward motion, and eventually I would go home with friendly people I had recently met, hoping not to miss the next bus which would depart in the wee hours of the morning.

This is my recurring dream—a missed connection. The night before I dreamed I missed a flight—deliberately sabotaged myself by leaving home 5 minutes prior to scheduled takeoff.

In another dream, I was going to a faraway land—another continent—and it was imperative that I catch this particular plane because it only departed once a day. My dad helped me pack a heavy steamer trunk and drove me to the airport. While riding the escalator which seemed to go on for an eternity, I noticed my luggage was missing. I had left it at home. I missed this very important flight. I was crestfallen, but somehow, not surprised—as if I expected to fail. It felt like a failure.

The missed connection dream used to occur once a week or so; now it’s been 2 days in a row. What does this mean? Google is always available to counsel me on such matters.

Psychiclibrary.com says this is a very common dream due to the fact that “the majority of us are under such stress to manage our time and multitask our waking lives.”

Interpretations (according to pyschiclibrary):

(1)        a sign of ambivalence, that you are waffling or having difficulty making decisions about new opportunities;

(2)        you may feel unsupported in accomplishing your immediate goals;

(3)        you may feel confused about making solid decisions for your future;

(4)        you could be feeling time is running out for making solid plans, or you will be unable to make all the appointments on your calendar;

(5)        may be indicative of profound and deeply rooted regret and sadness about a missed opportunity or decision not made;

(6)        may indicate you resent an individual who has influence over you at work or in your personal relationships;

(7)        you are over-worked or having anxiety about deadlines.

Whew! I have plenty to digest and mull over.

My husband and I have been making plans for the next chapter of our lives, and I admit to feeling overworked and anxious. I do feel pressed for time with a busy work day and a 1 ½ to 2 hour commute each way. More than I care to admit, I feel like I’ve been missing out on LIFE—the important things—as if it’s been rushing past me and I can’t grab hold of it, and it will slip away before I’ve accomplished anything of worth.

All I can do for the moment, while sitting on the NJ Transit bus at 8:52 a.m., knowing I’ll be late for work again, is try to stay positive and breathe.