People on the Bus
From Andrea on the Left Coast:
"Today on the bus a lady came and sat down next to me on my right. A big lady so her arm and jacket bumped me and caused me to take notice. She was left-handed and hand-writing a letter to an Honorable DA. She was writing on behalf of herself and her 5 children, pleading for the maximum punishment for her brother who had strangled her father on Oct. 11. She wrote in large, sloppy, childlike writing so it was easy to read even though I knew I probably shouldn't be. She was writing about the affect her father had on each of her children and how her brother (and I swear his name was Billy) took him from them too soon.
It was a really weird experience."
On Saturday, I participated in my fourth octogenarian-bathing session.
I feel bad. My grandmother is getting awfully frustrated. And they don't think the cast will be off for another 4 weeks.
Brian and I then went to see our favorite Swedish pop star — Jens Lekman — in concert. This is our third time seeing him. He is so wonderful and charming. We had a really nice time.
The New York Times had an article about the concert. It looked like this.
I took a picture of Jens with my dumb camera phone. It looked like this:
On Sunday, Brian slept late. He woke up feeling lousy. He looked lousier and lousier as the day progressed. He went back to bed. When he woke up again, his face was flush. He had a temperature. He could hardly stand up.
Of course, he went to work today. I'm a little nervous I might get sick too. But I've been taking multivitamins.
On his way out, Brian grabbed a sweater. One of his favorites, a cashmere number I had bought him several years ago. As we walked to the subway together, I could see it ... see the hole in the arm. Moths!
He held up the sweater. Moths had made awkward lacework out of his nice sweater. I felt so angry and chagrined. Brian mostly felt cold.
I bumped into a coworker on my way up in the elevator. She said how refreshed she felt that it was finally getting cold. I told her that I usually looked forward to brisk weather, but that because of moths (and our naivete) many of our winter clothes had been ruined. I told her about Brian's sweater. About my favorite wool skirt. About how all our favorite winter clothes were now garbage.
My coworker looked at me and made an extreme pouting face. It lasted for about a minute. I thought she was being comical, so I said, "I know it was dumb, but I've never had a problem with moths before. Now losing all these winter clothes makes me feel real low."
"I know," she said. She was not being comical. Her eyes were red now, and her eyebrows knit in anguish. She said, "It's just so hard to lose things like that. They're just things. I know. But it's difficult. When you liked them so much."
While I had been thinking of that hot department store on that cold, cold day, running my hands over a charcoal gray cashmere sweater, flipping over the price tag, feeling it was worth it, seeing Brian's smile, seeing him wear the sweater, really liking it, and then seeing the sweater years later ravaged by moth holes, my coworker had been thinking about something very different. But our heartbreak was the same.
Brian and I spent the better part of last night arguing.
This morning, we both felt exhausted. We had trouble getting up. Brian left the house before me, and he left the clock radio on. When I went to turn it off, I noticed a drinking glass on the night table by the radio was sitting on its side. The glass was now empty. The drawer of the night table was open, and all the water had pooled inside (the floor was dry). Nothing in the drawer looked too terribly valuable. Except in the back was the case for my old Pentax K1000 manual camera. I pulled it out, and it was soaking wet. I pulled the camera out of the case, and it too was soaking wet.
I felt deflated. I laid it out on a towel to dry, hoping that everything would be okay when it dried. Then I started to dress.
It was finally getting chilly out, so I put on my favorite wool skirt. The one I had bought in a thrift store while I was still in high school. Skirt, shirt, tights, boots. I went to the mirror to see how I looked. And that's when I noticed the holes. Holes all over my skirt. Moth holes.
I'm from Florida. I think I owned one sweater growing up. I really don't know anything about moths. What's more, I've been in New York City for over six years now, and have never run into this problem.
I thought about the light sweater I wore on Saturday to the Sheep and Wool festival, how I had noticed all these little holes in the front. And that weird hole in the rump that ruined Brian's wool suit pants. We had chalked up the a dry cleaning mishap.
We obviously have a moth problem. Who knows what else of mine has been ruined. I sat down on the couch with my favorite skirt in my lap, the one ravaged by moths holes. I sat across from where I laid my soggy Pentax to dry. I sat down on our futon and cried. I was having a lousy morning.
And here are some pictures from the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival:
Oh, and one more thing: I got a legitimate email which wound up in my spam folder. I was attempting to move the message from my spam folder to my inbox, but then someone started talking to me, and low-and-behold, I accidentally emptied my spam folder and deleted the message forever.
I haven't abandoned you.
It's just that I've been so busy lately. I'm finally posting pictures from my cousin Dina's bat mitzvah. Here they are:
This weekend, Karen and I went to the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY (which is near Woodstock). It was kind of like a 4-H convention meets a county fair meets a reunion of birkenstock-wearing, long-gray-braided-hair-having, elastic-waistbanded, hard-core knitting ladies.
We didn't have much time, so we spent the larger part of two hours running from booth to booth, pushing aside people as they were doing a spinning demonstration.
For me, the most interesting part was viewing a real live Angora rabbit. Wow. I had no idea. It was the Beatles circa 1968 of rabbits. It was as if the a normal rabbit had gone off to college and didn't get a hair cut for a year. I could picture it's mother, saying, "You look like a bum," and the Angora saying, "Jeez, Mom. I don't have time for your bourgeois demands. I have to go to Philosophy Club. Then I'm meeting friends at the Student Union, where I'll buy lunch on my student debit card."
I took pictures. Hopefully I will post them soon.
Internet stalking: Sometimes I feel I'm just a little too old for it.
I'm not trying to suggest I'm too mature to want to know what my old school peers are up to these days. But I think, at thirty, my contemporaries are not as plugged in to the Internet as I would like.
For the most part, when I look for them, I don't find blogs or online photo accounts or entries on networking sites. I've done my part. For someone who has accomplished as little in life as I have, I maintain an enormous internet presence.
Of course, sometimes I do find people from back in the day, and they are doing fabulously well for themselves. This makes me feel kind of lousy.
But sometimes the people I find aren't doing so well. Sometimes I find them because terrible things have befallen them. Then I feel even more lousy.
Why do I look for people when it often makes me feel bad?
I spent the weekend with my parents at a cousin's bat mitzvah. My mother often remembers the kids who wronged me better than I do. Maybe that's what got me thinking. I googled Scott, a kid from first and second grade school who used to tease me and tell me I looked like a boy. At the time, I was in the first-highest reader and he was in the second-highest reader. He would tell me that he knew I was really very stupid, and that he would reveal this to the entire class. When I would come home crying, my mother would say that Scott was just jealous of me. But even if he were, it didn't stop the things he said from hurting.
I feigned illness. I stopped reading entirely, letting even the slow kids lap me. And I carried around hate in my heart for Scott for at least another decade.
Today I thought of him and googled him. And there he was. Big as life. An enormous head shot from a University of Florida medical school residency webpage.
I didn't really feel anything. Nothing. Maybe I should stop internet stalking people. It sounds like a good enough idea, but I fear it might be hard to implement.
Besides, I think what I love most is the thrill of the chase, the thickening of the plot, the uncovering of details, like in a good detective story. And don't we all like a good detective story?
I helped Nonna bathe again.
I think we're bonding.
Here are some pictures from Karen's surprise birthday party:
So there you have it. Good times. Speaking of which, I'm bathing Nonna again tomorrow.
My grandmother needed to bathe.
I understood her pain. I had had knee surgery in high school, and for four days I vomited and sweat and felt generally miserable and gross. After four days, my mother concocted a way to cover my dressing with plastic wrap and help me shower. I think it was one of the best showers I've ever taken.
I could tell that after her wrist surgery, my grandmother was feeling similar. So I traveled uptown on Saturday, wrapped her arm is old vegetable bags (her idea, not mine), and helped her scrub up and wash her hair.
Of course, this meant more naked octogenarian. But she was enjoying getting clean so much, I didn't really mind.
I did, however, feel uncomfortable when she was running around the apartment afterwards screaming at my uncle, "WHY WON'T YOU HELP ME! I KNOW YOU'VE GOT AN ENORMOUS OEDIPAL COMPLEX, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN'T HELP ME BATHE WHEN I NEED YOU. YOU'RE SO GODDAMN SELFISH!"
Rich threw a surprise birthday party for his wife, Karen. It was a lot of fun, and I took many, many pictures. So many, I should probably delete about half of them, because they are horribly out of focus. I will most some soon.
My grandmother kept insisting that they were only going to give her local anesthetic for her wrist surgery.
I arrived at the hospital about one o'clock. She had said she was supposed to be out between two and three. At three I asked the people at the desk if they could check on my grandmother. A woman called around, then said that my grandmother was out of surgery and awake. But that they were keeping her a little longer because her blood pressure had been high. She thought they would release her in the next few minutes.
It was after four when they finally called me. I was escorted to a room in which my gradmother was sitting in a large reclining chair. She looked like a tiny, shrunken raisin in the enormous chair. The blue shower cap on her head was askew, and they had placed her in an gigantic sling that took up the entirety of her arm. The way she was scowling, she looked like she was trying to kill with her eyes.
She narrowed them at me and said, "I feel like sh*t."
"You look like it," I said.
She told me that while she was still in the recovery room, she had vomited all over the place. She said the pain killers were wearing off or maybe she hadn't kept them down long enough, but her arm was hurting so bad she couldn't think straight. She exuded misery.
I spoke to the nurse, who said, "She told me her pain was zero."
"WHAT!" said my near-deaf grandmother. "WHAT DID SHE SAY?"
"She said you told her that your pain was zero."
"I NEVER SAID SUCH A THING. WHY WOULD I SAY THAT. I FEEL LIKE I'M DYING."
I looked at the nurse.
"It says here on the chart --'Pain. Zero'"
"Well, she's obviously feeling lousy now. Is there something you can give her?"
"We just gave her a percocet upstairs."
"She said they gave you a percocet upstairs."
"YEAH. AND I VOMITTED IT ALL OVER MYSELF."
It turns out they had given her general anesthesia, which was one of the reasons she was feeling so discombobulated. We finally got her some more painkillers. She seemed okay at first, saying she felt a bit lightheaded. I escorted her to the bathroom, where she did her business, then vomited repeatedly in the trash can. It was kind of scary.
When we got back to the chair, I helped her dress. She kept trying to strip off her gown while the curtain was still open. It took me some time to get her downstairs and outside, because whenever I would loosen my grip on her, she was begin wandering off in the wrong direction.
We got back to her apartment, and she was still feeling awful, sick and lightheaded. My mission was to help her change her into nightgown. But as soon as I helped her out of her clothes, she began running around the apartment naked.
Eventually, she looked down and said, "Oh. I guess I should put something on."
Later, her head began to clear and she seemed like her old self again. She laughed a little and told a few dirty jokes. She tried to eat, but was very cautious, because she was still feeling rather queasy. When I called to check in on her this morning, she had vomited again. But the pain wasn't quite as bad. She said I should stop worrying about her, because my uncle is on his weekend pass and is able to take care of her. Then they began screaming at each other. But by the time I hung up, they seemed to be getting along okay.
My 89-year-old grandmother fell and broke her wrist. In three places.
She said she had been at the computer, printing out emails. Then she got up, started walking away, then turned to go back and pick up the email messages from the printer. But she misstepped, and fell. She put her left hand out to catch herself, but when she hit the floor, pain shot through her hand, and she knew something was wrong.
The doctor felt the only way to set the bones right again was through surgery. She has an appointment for outpatient surgery at noon tomorrow. They think she'll be ready to go home by two or three.
I volunteered to escort her to the hospital and to take her home after the surgery. "Don't even think about coming to the hospital before two o'clock," she said. I told her that if my father found out I let her go by herself, he would be very angry with me.
"So?" she said. "You're in my will. I don't even know if your father has a will. But if you want to stay in my will, then don't even think about getting to the hospital before two. One-thirty, maybe, at the earliest. But NO SOONER!"
I told her she was going to have to discuss the matter with my father. So she called him, then called me back and said she screamed at him until he gave up.
You've got to know when to put up a good fight with the elderly. But you've also got to know when to fold.
When I was checking my website email, I saw something weird.
It was an email message from "PRINCESS REGINA" with the subject line "HELLO."
For a moment, I freaked out.
One of my mother's first cousin's had a daughter named Jessie. She was several months younger than my sister and lived in Brooklyn. We were in South Florida, and didn't get to see her too often. She was always tiny for her age. And quiet. But extremely cute, and she had this thin little devilish streak that made us all love her.
Once, when she was visiting, she starting telling us about her best friend. Maybe Jessie was 6 or 7. With her small child's voice, she told us her friend was rich and beautiful and had all these wonderful things. We knew she was lying, so we asked her for the friend's name. "Regina Princess," she said.
I think it must have been my brother who said, "Don't you mean 'Princess Regina?'".
"No," Jessie insisted. "She's a princess, but her name isn't Princess Regina. It's REGINA PRICESS."
She knew now that we had caught her fibbing, but instead of backing down, her stories about her fictitious friend became even more fanciful. I was almost dumbfounded that someone so quiet and meek would have that much chutzpah.
For years, Regina Princess was part of a long-running joke. Once, we made a fake detective agency. My brother made sketches of criminals to hang on the walls. He also made one "missing" sign. It was a picture of a little girl wearing an oversized crown. Under the picture, it read, "MISSING: REGINA PRINCESS" and then "also answers to the name 'Princess Regina.'" At the time, we thought this was hilarious.
When Jessie entered high school, things changed. She became increasingly withdrawn, sullen, paranoid. Once, when she came to visit us, she hardly said a word.
At some point, she simply refused to go to school. She wouldn't leave the house. Her depression was all-consuming. I can't remember when the first suicide attempt happened, but she was maybe 16 when she was institutionalized.
I still don't understand what happened exactly, but we rarely saw her after this. She was severely depressed. She cut herself. Medication wasn't helping. She made another suicide attempt.
Brian and I moved to the city in 2001. On September 17th she came to visit our apartment in Queens. She said, "I keep seeing pictures of the burning buildings, and people keep saying how awful it is, but I don't care. I don't feel anything." She said, "I don't feel anything for other people, and I don't want to feel anything. I just want to die. I don't know why they don't just let me die."
In the Spring of 2004 she succeeded. I hadn't talked to her in over a year. I had nothing to say to her. What could I say? What could I have said to that? Why don't they just let me die. I know her problems were tremendous, but still, her death—and her life—haunts me still. In my heart, I feel I failed her.
When I saw the email from Princess Regina, my blood ran cold. "HELLO." I don't know what I thought. Not a ghost. Maybe the cruelest joke. From whom?
With trembling hands I opened the message. It went as follows:
Dear Sir/Madam Good day and Compliments, I got your contact from the internet name search, and picked interest to write you.I am a female student of University of Botswana, Gaborone. I am 26 yrs old. I will love to have a long-term relationship with you and to know more about you. I would like to build up a solid foundation with you in time coming if you will be able to help me in this transaction.The message went on to ask me to wire money to a suspicious-looking bank account.
Wow. Spam. Wow.