Went to the doctor for the most routine visit; an obligatory check-in to keep my rainbow of medications bright and shining. Then my P.A, Kim, said I didn’t look right.
“You’re off today, aren’t you?”
Was I? Before she asked, I had just stopped mid-sentence and laid my head against the wall, because I couldn’t remember the rest of what I was going to say, simultaneously realizing it just wasn’t worth saying, whatever it had been.
But she had talked with me in distracted mental and physical states for years, listening to me whine while squatting on the linoleum, barely acknowledging her while spinning listlessly on the stool, or moaning draped in defeat wrong-ways over the exam table.
But she saw something different today. I was off. And to my surprise I was. I opened my mouth and problems thrashed out, a chaotic stampede, senseless and disconnected. And I was crying, hard.
What problems? Doesn’t matter. They’re the same as yours. The drinks are mixed different, but we’re all buying from the same bar. That day I’d had one cocktail too many, and now I was throwing them up all over the exam room.
It was because Kim is maternal, I think. That arrow, of eyes crinkled just a bit in reaction to the pain on your face, that body that could hug and cradle, will never miss it’s mark on me. Her softness wilted my own thin rigidity, and I crumbled down.
I left there and I drove my car down the gray roads that checkerboard the fields, found a wide spot on the shoulder, and stopped.
I began thumbing down my contact list in phone, tears making little drops of pixelated rainbows on the screen. When I hurt I want someone else to help me feel it. To comfort me by taking, or pretending to take, a slice of the sword into their own bellies, just one.
In your 20’s, you can call so many people. Your 20 year old friends are programmed for drama and have the time and energy to share yours. But now all my friend’s lives are filled up. There isn’t a spare bit of space that isn’t filled with their own hurts and stress, their children and careers and relationships. They would make room for something big, a death or disease, but not for this babbling fray. This stuff is for family, or no one.
The weirdest thing was I kept shouting out, “Mom!” inside my car while I cried. Not like a desperate wail of mourning, a shout you know is going to hit hollow walls, which I’ve done plenty of. These were more like…calls. As if I was 8 years old and hurt, limping into the house with blood on my toes, scared and needing a mother’s unquestionable power and strength to take care of me. I think I just liked the sound of it; how it infused the air with not only my mother, but the faintest memory of problems that weren’t up to me to solve.
Crying deforms my face in a way that doesn’t wear off until two days pass. There on the side of the road I tried to call my babysitter. I wanted her to move the kids out of the living room, take them outside or to the park, and give me a clear passage to blue dark of my bedroom. I didn’t want them to see me like this.
I saw the cop pass me, but at that point I was emptied out, whittled down to the basic physical relays it would take to bring me safely home. When I saw his lights in my rear-view as I pulled back onto the road, I didn’t care. The first time in my life I’d seen those lights with no accompanying adrenaline. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I was sure, and if I had I. just. didn’t. care.
I’d drawn his attention by being stopped (legally) on a wide shoulder. So I could (cry) and (legally) use my cell phone. But it’s a small, clean town, with so little to justify the officers place, and my license plates had expired. So he stopped me. I rolled down my window and thereby showed him the reason I’d been pulled off, my swollen face damp and empty. I didn’t have anything to say, except “No,” in a throat-caught whisper when he asked if I knew about the plates.
He moved unusually fast for a pull over. Maybe he was embarrassed, or wanted to get away in case I was the kind of woman who would make my drama his drama. Written warning on a strange fast food printed receipt. My only other words, “Thank you,” whispered again.
I didn’t get a hold of my sitter. She was playing with the kids and hadn’t heard her phone. I walked in and was grateful that my daughter was still about a year away from noticing that grown ups can have problems. I dropped my keys and pressed some curled and twisted bills on the cluttered table.
“I don’t know what I owe you honey if it’s more than that tell me. It’s one of those day so I’m going to my room I’m really glad you’re here.”
I went to my big blue bed. I didn’t cry for my mother, or even myself there. The solidness of the bed, the huge one I hunted for, tracked down bought and installed. The sheets like a creek running over my legs. My brain pulling one thick ancient electrical cord from its spitting socket, one at a time, until the whole matrix could cool. I could take care of it. Of me. I just have to go slow, and go my own way.