The day begins, as most do currently, far too early, with a 3:30 AM wake-up call from the psyche. With a reminder. The book. No, not the book of life, the one sealed a couple of days ago at sundown on Yom Kippur. The other book. The one coming out in January and authored by me. So what, you ask? Exactly. So what. Except that in my early morning musings I am in front of a group of well-wishers at the local bookstore. And they are asking questions. And as is often the case in dreams, or the post-dream waking state, there are no details. Who knows what questions they are asking? I am trying to answer and can feel myself sinking into a sort of quicksand, for there is no safe treading on these unstable grounds. A sinking feeling, that is what I have before my imagined bookstore friends. For strangely it is hitting me now, the very sort of thing that did not hit me in the writing process, that I have put a bunch of stuff down on paper…or to be more contemporary, on screen…that is really no one’s business but mine. Except that I have made it everyone’s business, there is no one to blame but myself, and now it is too late. Why did I ever write a stupid book? Thus, the general tenor of these early morning musings. Why?
By midmorning, the question is ‘why not?’ After all, I have just fought my exercycle through an uphill 40 minutes, largely in pursuit of Sandi Toksvig, or pursued by her, thus the power of BBC radio’s best acerbity. And when her show is over, fumbling with my iPod gets me only Puccini with Pasta, some old CD that now booms through my earphones. This is a day when I don’t have much patience for my own manual dysfunction. The iPod is a marvelously simple device, and changing podcasts and albums is an utter no-brainer. But it is not a no-handser. More precisely, I have to keep pedaling to maintain the digital readout and know how far I have come or gone in virtual exercise space, and doing this while one-handedly trying to work the iPod controls pushes me right over the edge. Worse, the silly bit of electronics cannot discern music from speech. Of course, there is probably some better way of organizing the content, but this would take years of study and a postgraduate degree. I don’t have years. I want things sorted out now, and I am very pissed off by the fact of my imprecise thumb movements aiming at Puccini and hitting Prokofiev. Nothing wrong with Sergei, by the way, but he just doesn’t have the stirring neuromuscular punch I need to complete my exercise regime. For there is no way around it, now being 35 minutes into pedaling, everything is beginning to flag, muscles, breathing, you name it. Meanwhile, I keep jabbing my numbed middle finger in the general direction of Turandot, finally get the right aria, and that gets me most of the way. I drag myself to my feet, somehow get both limbs unentwined from the machine, and into that other machine, which does at least have batteries.
Keep moving, that is the thing. For the psyche is moving faster than anything around it, and there is no sense in even trying to keep up. In fact, why not pour on the speed? No, not the wheelchair joystick, for it is already bent forward to the max. The coffee speed. I breeze in the door at Peet’s, thanks to the kindness of a stranger, an attractive woman who wanders over with her younger and even more attractive companion, chatting about how she thought I needed help. Thanks ever so much, I say, rolling toward the counter. A double mocha will do, thank you very much, followed by a quick trip to the men’s room. Note that only in my mind is any trip to any men’s room ever quick. I have to get inside, turn the light on, position my wheelchair in a certain relation to the safety bars, then deal with the general process of elimination, which to spare the details, involves dealing with a spastic bladder. Which, unlike wine, does not improve with age. Never mind. I am out and returning to my table only to find…what I cannot find. I had placed an article by Robert Reich right on the plastic surface, deposited my glasses on top of that, which is my common practice. After all, what is more personal than glasses? A computer printout from Salon may easily get chucked out by the cleaning staff, but one’s specs?
Something like panic. I look around the place, wondering if there is a lens thief trying to abscond. After all, beneath the surface, the entire economic system is cracking apart. Poverty, deprivation and hopelessness are already beginning to ooze upward through the widening fissures. I wave at one of the staff. A new girl, large, flushed and clueless, wanders out from behind the counter. She has my glasses, Robert Reich, and I have her number. Watch out, and don’t trust. Perhaps even revise the glasses-on-the-table ploy. I roll around to the far side of the table, my table, slap Reich on the surface and prepare to read.
‘Won’t you stop spinning around?’ This from the very woman who opened the door moments earlier. I take in her remark like one of those computers with the much touted dual processors. I know she is joking, trying to be friendly, and actually probably take the sting out of my disability…her reaction to it, mine, some combination thereof, who can say? At the same time, another processor feels I am being ridiculed, she doesn’t know the story of the almost stolen glasses and is being too familiar. Without making eye contact, I assure her that ‘I am here now.’ She resumes her conversation, and in the wake of this exchange, somehow I am all ears. She is organizing a conference, a quite progressive one from what I can hear. Left-wing economists, technology types, business leaders. The sort of thing that goes on in this area, think-tankish endeavors of all kinds. Okay, I am cooling out now, realize the error of my ways, the churlishness of my behavior and…do not know what to do.
Except not to do this again. After all, I go to Peet’s, at least in part, because it is a social environment. And here someone was trying to talk to me, get somewhat familiar…that is to say, neighborly…and I cut them off. Refused to play. And why? Because beneath the surface, I still carry a burden of shame. Ashamed of being disabled. Of looking disabled. Of taking up so much space with my wheelchair that my ‘spinning around’ is obvious. Even ashamed of having my glasses spirited away, as though I should know better. As though I am someone who can expect ridicule from a complete stranger…much as I ridicule myself. It is better if I don’t do this, much better, but so things have gone. And soon I will be gone, at least from Peet’s. And it’s barely midmorning, and the day is already so emotionally exhausting, I feel like taking a nap.