Sleep had been slow in coming as the night began, and now a sideways glance at the morning clock shows that it is quick in ending. For I have heard the Caltrain sound, the diesel equivalent of a cock crowing, know that it is after 5 AM when the first northbound rumbles by and have known this for at least half an hour, not quite looking the time full in its face. Splendid. 6:35 AM, and the train sound was not the first but the third of the day. I swing my legs off the edge of the bed, gather my strength, then kick the working right foot in the general direction of the Aleutian Islands, do this again until I can coordinate the activity of my stomach muscles into a sit up, me rising to perch at the edge of the mattress, the edge of the day. For a sobering moment I take in the bad news. The glance at the LED clock face was a bit too fast, and myopic morning vision straining sideways has distorted a 5 into a 6. The real time is 5:35 AM. I am up too early, with little strength and no will to do much. Safely making my way through the bathroom and its cold porcelain perils feels like scaling Annapurna.
I really must change the heat settings. It is cool these California mornings. And because the quadriplegic body can get cold before it feels cold, driving muscles to behave oddly and making sensation uncertain, some warmth would do. I flick on the electric heater under my desk, one of the three sent to me in a mistaken UPS volley. And turn on the computer. What could be more modern, that is to say, more taken for granted, than this electronic portal? Everything is here, or will soon appear here, in glowing pixels. My cousin Bob in Paris discussing the former editor of Punch, no less than two e-mails devoted to the topic….for which I am particularly grateful. Life is catching up with Bob, no more being a big macher in economics past age 65 in his current post, so he’s catching up with the rest of life. Maybe I will catch up with him in June. But not now. Now it is March, and contrary to reports, the cruelest month.
The rain seems unrelenting, particularly when it gets light enough to see. For the time being, it can only be heard. I make tea and open all doors. Cold stormy air blasts about the apartment. No matter, I am a quadriplegic and immune. I sit in the kitchen in the dawn darkness, staring at my tea. Good intentions are turning to bad in Libya. I stir in some milk. A little cactus sweetener. Back to the computer. It is too early to undertake anything substantial, not to mention the fact that I am too tired. Menchu will arrive in an hour…I have a go at the iPod. It is still broken, and I can’t understand why. What have I done to this thing except drag it over the pavement, trolling hundreds of dollars of compact electronics through a puddle or two. So why doesn’t it work? I am a consumer and know my rights.
Oddly, and quite incredibly, I managed to resurrect Marlou’s old iPod. Not only does the thing function, which is to be expected, having been safely shelved as opposed to immersed and battered. But I learn something new. At 64 years old and 6:55 AM on a sleep-deprived morning, I discover a much easier way to sync the iPod. Forget the way I used to do it. Never mind. It was too tedious for words. This is much better.
Why am I not sleeping? Or why have Jane’s slightly altered comings and goings thrown me into such a tizzy? No, that is the judgmental, dismissive account. Now in the gray morning light it almost makes sense. That one relaxes and releases deep into the trusting possibility of a relationship…and there is hell to pay. Old fear, core fear…. Hell to pay, right now, no monthly installments. And speaking of that sort of thing with Menchu just over the horizon, better head for the bathroom…but lo, what star is this? It is a small one, barely visible and almost capable of being ignored. But I know better. Besides, these events are so fearfully compelling that they not only demand attention but the entire marquee. If this heads in its usual direction vision will not quite blur, but go slightly wonky. Then there is the star development, the arcing nebula. At least I’m used to it, this thing that only made sense as a brain tumor the first time or so. Which is actually an optical migraine, and as bathroom events unfold takes its usual course, from a sort of abstract star, a slightly askew line drawing with four or five points, to a jagged neon ring of shark teeth. All pointy and wavering at the edge of my peripheral vision, as I now reach for the toilet paper.
Does this really interfere with anything this morning? No, I have decided, sleep having been badly interfered with already. I shall get on with things, go about the day, as long as life and limb are not threatened. And they aren’t. In fact, the shower feels most warm and welcome. Hot needle blasts into my neck and shoulders, enlivening and soothing at the same time. I’m aware that this is the most dangerous room in my house, all tile and porcelain and naked quadriplegic skin and orthopedics. Mixing successfully so far. And none of this can be accomplished without great care, such is the risk. I know this too. It is not my usual or natural bent, being kind and patient with myself at an annoying juncture. But in the face of danger, this is the way, the gentle way. Have a gentle morning, Jane would say. And I remember that thing tried once before standing before the mirror. I raise my hand to give my own face a caress. A soothing touch. Private, even secret, and feeling slightly ridiculous and daring and right.
I even remember something Jane said as we walked home the other day from Trader Joe’s. No, we did not both ‘walk,’ but such distinctions have long fallen away. Jane was talking about presenting the concept of healing in prayer to the more skeptical parishioners. It’s really very simple, she said. It’s all about love. I swing my legs, for the second time that day, over the edge of something, this time the shower chair, rise from the bathtub…and let the day begin.
True, by 12 noon I am berating myself. Why can’t I get the jacket around my shoulders? The rain is pouring, Alan is waiting for me at the local pizza joint. I throw the jacket one way, a one-handed swing over one shoulder. The jacket simply does not cover my back. In fact, I wonder how this has ever been done before. The answer: someone does it for me. I am stupid. Fuck you, I say to myself. Stupid. Stupid. Time is wasting, and I’m behind. I look forward to the moment well I am finally out the door, neuropeptides subsiding. It is raining so hard that crossing one intersection, a small tsunami swamps my shoes. That makes the rain about seven or eight inches deep at this juncture. I am getting soaked, but not yelled at. This is better.