Ah, what a relief to finally complete one small bit of writing…a chapter in my so-called book…allowing me to now hit the blog trail. Yes, it’s hard to do the discursive, free-for-all narrative that constitutes blogging, when hanging over your head is That Which Must Be Done. Well, it is done. And I am done with worrying about things for the day. No, I’m not. But it sounded good for a second. I’m not worrying about writing, for once, which makes room for mortality.
Too many people have been dying in my life, including Bob, distant cousin and close friend. Life threw us together at a certain juncture. 1969. I had just been crippled and was limping around lost. Bob was trying to find his way in a career. We lived close to each other in West London and shared certain essentials. Humor. Curries. The arts. And that essential, and then very new show airing in the TV graveyard hour of 10:40 PM Sunday nights on BBC 1: Monty Python.
He is gone. I am here. And I don’t like the situation. Anxious, not sleeping well, irritable…I try to absorb what everyone has to absorb, the most inevitable and universal of human experiences. The end.
And how? What is the modus operandi? Beats me. Moment to moment, I take it. Or try to. Which explains why, fresh from the morning’s enervating round of physical therapy, I emerged on the street at 9:30 AM with only the vaguest plan. It did involve the #36 bus, although it did not have to. The plan did include coffee, a nonnegotiable component, but that was known to be available down the hill around Glen Park’s neighborhood crossroads, a.k.a., BART (subway) station.
Note that my car was sitting dormant just up the block. I rarely drive it. I need to drive it. Problem is, I drive myself pretty hard, and since car operation puts me excessively in touch with visions of the Grim Reaper, that explains the bus. Mind you, on the street, even at the last minute, I didn’t know what I was doing. Which is good. In other words, I am looking for ways to take pressure off.
It is a strange experience being the lone passenger on a city bus. But everything is a strange experience these days. Bob had a pretty horrible death. But then many deaths seem pretty horrible. Why? Actually, and interestingly, as Bob’s cancer approached the end, there was a plan. Bob fully intended to fly to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal. He didn’t make it out of the Paris hospice, however. A Catholic institution, so one has one’s suspicions.
But while that is in my mind, I am actually in the Mission District with mercantile fish to fry. I buy three bran muffins. In the drugstore, I stock up on the usual. Money from the bank. Then at midmorning, chicken quinoa soup, a cappuccino…a three-minute ride on BART…then up the hill where I live, with 90 seconds at the hardware store to buy batteries. Then home. With enough human interaction along the way to remind me that I am, well, human and interactive. Nice friendly woman at the cooperative bakery. Bank guy who somehow remembers my account number. Then after some soul-searching examination of my daily caloric load, a rejection of the Mexican restaurant on 22nd St. steaming with huevos rancheros, in favor of the infinitely more gringo, neighborhood-gentrifying Mission Pie. Settled for soup, I did. The cappuccino, unfortunately, arrived with a lot of baggage. That’s the way we talk in California. Actual baggage is mostly confined to airports. The other kind, it is generally understood, is transported by one’s psyche. The cup was hard to lift. Very hard. What to do? Get angry at myself, unfortunately, being the usual fallback. But I managed not to give into this temptation. Instead, time passed, the cappuccino cooled, and I went for a five-fingered clasp of the main ceramic cup.
A satisfying little outing, and I was much renewed at its closure.
Of course, it doesn’t compare to the high-drama Monday evening adventure. That had a benign ring about it, the monthly meeting of a local synagogue’s social action committee. I was getting antsy after the 90-minute meeting was well into hour two. So I volunteered for a couple of things and hurtled out the door. A wise man would have stopped at the toilet. But I was feeling something that somehow didn’t feel quite right in the local shul. Angry. The elevator, a rather frightening and old affair, requires turning a key and pushing a button. Changing this is, I have been told, expensive. Doubtless. Everything in San Francisco is expensive. But I didn’t care that particular night. I was just too angry, and also humiliated, to ask for help using something so basic. Though I certainly should have.
Because two blocks away, I had to pee. I had to pee badly. What to do? Bouncing ones wheelchair across the urbanscape, urinary opportunities tend to be infrequent. Rolling up an alley has substantial precedent, which also makes it ill advised. Excellent way to get arrested, I would surmise. Not that I know. What I did know was that the Pakistani restaurant on my left had a wide open door. I blasted through it and hurtled toward the accessible toilet in the back. Where I didn’t quite make it in time. But almost. After which, I was just as angry and determined to get home fast, so I blasted back out toward the front door. Where a young and rather beautiful Chinese-American woman happened to be standing up, thrusting her foot in my path. Or to be more precise, under my wheels. She screamed, protested, and I simply waited. She examined her foot, decided she had survived. I did the same. She had a nice foot. I hurtled home.