Friday, June 27, 2014

The Inside Elevator

These are not the worst of times, nor are they the best.  It’s just the morning again
after another restless night.

I clean up after my babies and I clean myself up, indicating to all of us
that Mommy has to go.
There’s no choice: if we want to keep insurance,
the most independent of us has to surrender.

We stopped drawing straws years ago.

Driving through the streets of Phoenix,
trying not to cause carnage like I have seen on the news,
I finally reach my doctor’s office.

I park in the six-story structure that I know one of my students has been cleaning for years.
It’s nice to be on the inside elevator again with two mothers and six children.
I make a joke about how we could have our own kindergarten.  I always make a joke.

All of us sit politely in the same waiting room.

I feel bad for Mark Wahlberg because Kelly Ripa is missing today.


Still not recovered from the Sinus Infection of 2013, I sit non-violently in my chair
for an hour.  Every fluid that has ever passed through my body is still draining
from my ear down my throat.

But I’m here for something else.

I have brought my own book.  I have turned my phone off.  I have my own water. 

All of these good things are sorely negated when the fire alarm system goes off.
The right side of my face is at war again.
Get me out of here, it says.

I give more credit to the other patients,
the mothers of the kindergarteners,
the one older lady. They just keep sitting there.

I myself have to exit, trying to keep the noise out of my head.
My ears are crying.
I think the hallways will be better,
but they aren't.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The First Time Two Men Saw Me Naked at the Same Time

There are some isolated incidents in life that should be protected and kept in the shadows, much as I imagine a grandfather would desire at his first grandson’s birth.  There are just some things that should not be shared, so you have to curl up your ears and shut your eyes and tell everyone you’re praying when in fact you’re just waiting for the moment to pass.

This happened to me one time when I went in for high-end surgery.  I was not giving birth, and it was not when my gall bladder went out.  It was actually a fun time, the Hee-Haw in my semester of life: the day I had liposuction.

When I tell people who I know carefully about the time I had liposuction, they often shudder and take themselves aback.  What language are you speaking? comes to my earflaps, my sphincters, my geographical tongue.  I get this question all the time: Why would you have liposuction?  The answer, which I did not know at the time, was simple: I just wanted to be seen naked by two guys at the same time.  I mean, that must have been it.

I had sat around my kitchen table for years and hours, hunched over stacks of student papers, running at night in the dark, very unsafe.  My right arm kept drawing itself to my belly, which I would pinch and squeeze.  One day I decided to look in the yellow pages for a doctor who might suck the fat tire off me, the one thing that kept me afloat—the only thing wrong with me.  Courageously using the Yellow Pages in the year 2000, I called up and made an appointment for the fat to be sucked off my stomach and what I learned were my flanks in the next week. 

If I could have been beside myself, I would have been. 

Instead, there were two men.

I had never been drawn on before.  I’d been drained and borrowed from, but not really sucked and dried.  These were the old days.  I just had to stand there and get drawn on in purple by the doctor, my fiancé by my side.

The anesthesiologist was my best friend that day; he took away the discomfort of my having to stand naked before two men.  Three men were suddenly better.  I got the hairnet and the white sheets and soon, I was being trafficked back home.

“How long until we get there?” my absent belly and flanks said to my fiancé.

“Not much longer,” he said, driving the car that I would pay for for the rest of my life.

It’s interesting when you choose to change your body.  It’s like you tell God no.  You choose something that was not given to you, you weren’t born with, and you step into a different line. You make a choice, and sometimes that choice includes the exclusion of something that used to be intrinsically you.  I wore t-shirts for a month with strappings around my middle, my belly and my flanks, reaching down with Vaseline to moisten up the missing parts.  It was an uncomfortable time.  I would call my doctor and ask him if this was normal, and he always said yes.

I remember the first time I stepped out without all the harnessing, like a free child. Something I regretted had been forgiven, like I didn’t have to sit at my kitchen table for the rest of my life.  I had to be careful at first because you don’t want to screw up a $5,000 surgery.  But when I stepped in front of the mirror without my bandages and looked at myself in the way I had imagined myself for twenty years, my pride rose.  I was probably prancing when my fiancé said, “You have the body of a seventeen-year-old.”

I had been slowly waltzing around this man for a year, maybe two.  He would never have the body of a seventeen-year-old.  I would walk through the house for the next two years asking myself if I was in, or if I was out.  Was I in, or was I out.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Heart Returns

Since the doctor made me bring my heart home because she wouldn’t remove it like I had suggested and thought best, I’ve had to pull my heart around with me all week, everywhere I go, in the wagon.  I don’t have children and really don’t appreciate seeing them in stores or other places, but I’ve had to bring my heart along wherever I go, mostly because of the icky tendon thing that connects us.  It’s been messy in places like the grocery because she cries and kicks sometimes—like right in the middle of the chip aisle—and I have to pull the cellophane back over her, just to keep her hydrated.  I continue to squirt my water bottle on her because I know she needs it.

I was attempting to garden last night when she lurched in her wagon again.  I sprayed her with the hose, but she was having none of it—she just cried and cried.  I sat next to her on the ground, our cord muddy, me wiping it off with my hands.  “What’s the matter?” I said, patting her robust red heartiness.  She squirmed as if she hadn’t been touched in years.  She turned over in the wagon, which was a sight to see under the mesquite where we were sitting, just her and me.  My heart doesn’t know language so she pantomimes everything.  I like charades, so we get along. 

“Baby, you’re going to chafe yourself,” I said, wanting to use my spit on her like a mother would.  She started playing in the water like an Olympian, using only her left ventricle.  She just kept flopping around, having the time of her life there in the wagon next to the mesquite and in the garden hose water.

“Do I know you?” I said, finally sitting down in my pajamas in the dirt next to the wagon.  I propped my shears against the house and really looked at my heart, beating heavily but regularly in the wagon.  She could have cardboard over her and it would make her happy, if it kept her warm, if she thought she was safe.  If she thought she was camping.

The problem with my heart is that she always thinks she’s safe, which she somehow metabolizes into feeling happy under the worst of conditions.  My heart makes do.  She doesn’t listen to me, which is irritating.

I note the gravel that has stuck to our cord, the little white pigeon feathers that now stick to her.  She’s already napping again.  In a way, she’s cute—in the way you see anything living innocently before it dies.

I heave myself up, brush myself off, make a mental note that my tulips will never bloom, all of this while keeping my cord intact.  I spit on my fingers and rub them up and down the sinew that still connects me to my heart.  She’s still sleeping.

“C’mon baby,” I say, pulling my napping heart in her wagon to the back porch, shading her ventricles from the sun with my body.  She is kind of slimy and a little smelly by the time we make it to the back door, but so am I.  I wipe my hands on my now disgusting shirt before picking her up, her enlarged warm beating bloody self, and move us back into the house.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Click here, then read:

This morning was a nonchalant morning for me: the routine cleaning of cat boxes, breakfast distributed, a doctor’s appointment.  TV shows would come on later, but it would be much later, more towards lunch or dinner.

In the summertime, sometimes I let myself and the members of my household slide.  It could be a slippery slide; it could just be a new toy.  A new day shopping at a brightly lit store could make my entire summer.  It’s never been hard to keep me happy, and my cats feel the same way.

So last night after I did my jiu-jitsu training on my mat in the safe harbor of what I like to call home, I heard Sara crying.  I threw my head back and nostriled in all of the day’s worst events: the Russians, the pipeline, my parents.  I strolled over to where Sara was standing on top of one of my cinder block walls, and my world was taken aback.  Why are you up there?  How to get you down?  I am angry and concerned.  I will now come and take care of you and you’ll spend the rest of your life in the laundry closet.

I’m not saying I wasn’t compromised at the moment.  If Sara had been an elephant I would have simply leapt onto her and started swishing her inside the garage.  But Sara is a cat, my oldest one…at six and a half, they get a little reedy.

I knew I had neglected her for five minutes too long, just poking my plants that aren’t growing and listening to John Legend, feeding the pigeons.  I walked back to get her, down the galley of my own home, and there she was in all her glory standing on top of the cinder block wall.

“Sara you get right down here this minute,” I emitted.

She took a few steps and pretended to sniff the mesquite.

“Sara Mohler if you do not get down right now this is going to be a very sad tale,” I emitted again.  I could have grabbed her then but I don’t like to grab—it’s better when people make their own decisions—so I just stood there and watched her jump off the wall into the neighbor’s yard.

My heart flew into my face, my lungs blocked my throat.  How dare she and didn’t she know that Wondermama was coming right after her?  How could she not know?  Everything that was Meryl Streep and Steve Irwin flooded my blood chambers.

It’s not that hard to jump over the cinder block wall into Nabe’s yard because I have a utility shed under the mesquite and it works every time.  For instance if I’m just swimming over there, it’s a skip and a jump, la la.  But this time, I knew that Nabe had a doggy-exit door through which his dog could come out at any time and kill my baby.  This was not swimming. 

I think I turn into a monkey sometimes when it suits me; this is the only reason I can offer for my ability to hop onto a wall, throw myself down eight feet, capture myself and then start looking for a delinquent child. 
Sara walks in the high grass that could be hiding six dead people.  Does she know she could be killed by a dog at any second?

I grab my baby by the scruff of her neck and shake her a couple times so she can take in my repeated and angry phrase, “Don’t you do this again.  Don’t you do this again.  Mommy is scared for you and you should be scared too.”  I hold Sara by the scruff of her neck until she whines, then I toss her over the cinder block wall into our yard.  “And I will be there in two seconds missy so don’t try anything else,” I say.

I’m standing in my neighbor’s grapefruit yard, his pool off to the behind.  I have to get out of here because if there is one thing you don’t do is save your child and then not be there for her recovery.  I look up and down the fence line: concrete, wood, trees.  This is my neighbor’s yard so it’s not familiar to me.  I look at my body, what I’ve got on, and review my capabilities.

I take a running leap towards our shared cinder block wall, in the corner where there’s a little tree and he has a wood fence.  My toes dig in and I am a monkey again, up and over, back into my yard, unscathed because I am just that smooth.  I scoop up my cat and start telling her she’s grounded for weeks, for years.  My anger is so up in my head that I have to put her inside and just sit outside, alone, for an hour.

I go through my mind for the usual punishments and repercussions: Should I ground her?  Will she understand grounding?  I consider holding back snacks, but I can’t be like that.  I sit for a long while, considering punishments.  I cannot be WonderMama every day, and I don’t have a babysitter. My kids aren't even old enough to pop popcorn yet.

My babies in bed, myself undercover, I start patting my own body down for injuries.  Blood?  Tender spots?  I am not young anymore.  I feel behind my knees and down my legs, behind my ears and one place on my arm. 

There are bloodspots in my bed from yesterday, but not tonight.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bleeders and Bruisers

Your heart has been so heavy for months, you finally go to have it removed.  Doctors have warned you about this for years, but you’ve paid little attention.  Your platelets have always been low—that’s on record too—so you’re a bleeder and a bruiser.  But of late your heart has been unnaturally heavy, as if there could never be a bright day again, so you just go in to have it taken out.

Your doctor has been expecting you for weeks.  You’ve been in for smaller procedures: blood work, counseling.  You love your doctor because she’s young, she always wrinkles her forehead, and she gave you her cell phone number just in case your heart ever dropped out of sight.  As in the case of an emergency.

She comes into the exam room twenty minutes late, her forehead wrinkled.  You don’t mind.  It has given you twenty more minutes to pet your heart, which is beating next to you in a wagon.  Something like an umbilical cord attaches you to it, probably a fibrous piece of fat.

Your doctor sits down with a heavy sigh and asks what has brought you to this, and why without asking her?  Why wait to the last minute?

“I couldn’t live with her anymore,” you say, looking fondly at your huge overgrown heart that you somehow bore into the wagon, you don’t know how.  You don’t know where that tendon or vein or whatever it is that keeps your heart attached to you ends up.  You think it might be something coming out your gall bladder scar, which the other doctors hid in your belly button.  Who can know.  You think it’s important that at least you got here and your heart is still flopping around in the wagon.

“I’d like you to put her to rest,” you say to your doctor, tilting your bad ear towards the wagon.  “I don’t want her to feel pain anymore.”

Your young doctor with her no-makeup face and creased forehead and sturdy shoes rolls over on her stool to your heart.  She stethoscopes one of the chambers.  You wince and she places her stethoscope on the other chamber, which is heartily and merrily beating away, as if it was still inside you.

Your doctor sits back, her white coat covered in blood, her face also smeared.  She takes off her glasses and starts cleaning them with antiseptic cloths.   “You know this is a no-kill shelter,” she says.  “You’re going to have to take her back home.”  She leans forward, her elbows on her knees, her glasses back on her face.  “Is there anything else I can help you with?  I mean, anything?

She looks you in the eyes.  You look down sheepishly at your Partridge Family shirt and your heart splish-splashing around in the wagon, making a mess.  You sigh your sigh and give your apologies and thank-yous.  You mean to come in earlier next time, and you will.

You are still not sure what kind of thread is attaching you to your heart as you pull it out to the car in the wagon.  You didn’t even know you had a wagon in the garage; you were going to do this with the wheelbarrow.  You should have thrown a tarp over your heart in the heat of the day; you can see that she’s already panting.  It only takes the time for your lips to part before your doctor comes flying out of the office carrying an Igloo with ice, her brows furrowed.

“I meant to give you this,” she says, kneeling at your car, then she flies back in.

You become a little parental and wistful, a little destroyed and possessive, there in the parking lot with your heart who refuses to go away.  You wheel her over to the shade and dump whatever’s left in your water bottle on her.  You lean against the wagon.  You look at her.  She is silly and funny and wet. 

You carefully lift your heart into the Igloo, where she splashes happily around.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Scared of Heart

The first time I felt absolutely white-faced frightened—when all of the blood and pigment in my head drained to my heart—I was five and being closed into a play-coffin.  The coffin was not exactly play, though; it was real, and I of course at the time had no idea why my playfriends would have one in their backyard.  My best friend Dixie who lived there liked to make Halloween houses all year long—not just for Halloween.  She’d get me to go in her closet and then she’d lock the door, telling me through the keyhole to look for the bowl of eyeballs, put my hand through the spaghetti guts.  One time she didn’t let me out soon enough and by the time she did, it was all I could do to scramble out from all the shoes, run down the stairs and out into the fresh air, heading towards my house two blocks away.

“Sorry!” I yelled to Dixie, who stood on the curb with her hands on her hips.  “I heard my mother calling me for supper!

“No you didn’t!” Dixie yelled back.

I took one more look at Dixie, a six-year-old with a coffin in her backyard, and Scoobie-Dood a block and a half home, under half-lit streets to where I knew Halloween wasn’t.


The other white-faced frightened times in the rest of my life come from such a variety of ages and spotlights that they are too much to revisit.  I would never fall asleep again if I had to think of them.

 I have been awake for forty years.

It’s hard to pick and choose all the disappointments and then get them corralled into the same fenced area.  “You, over there.  You, over there too.”  I pray in the morning, always take a shower, and then sometimes there comes a social event.

A white-faced frightened individual always shows up at events like these, even when she should not have.  It’s usually me.  I show up with all my miseries placarded on my face, a few pieces of evidence in my purse, tiny packages of Kleenex and gum to share.  I know I’m supposed to feel buoyant and pretty, perky and bold, but all I want to do at any particular party is write down the evidence that I have been loved.