For the first time in years I could see the veins on leaves and recognize moles on faces, which was worth wearing a patch and completing a regimen of eye drops, except at the end, the doctors decided to find something else wrong with me but it didn’t have a recognizable name like cataracts. The problem was they didn’t know what was wrong. I hated that. I’d spent years getting things right, moving around from one job to the next, love affairs, children, divorce, the usual stuff, and after surviving all that, now they wanted to find something wrong with me?
The hospital thought it had to do with my heart, but why didn’t the doc order an EKG? First he said he needed a blood panel. Fuck a blood panel. Vampires sitting behind an oak table with long needles, probing my arm for a juicy vein. I hate needles.
I had no other plans for the day except to feed my cat, Knickers, named by a one-time roommate from Great Britain whose feet were half brown, half white (the cat’s). He’d had earned an MBA at UC Berkeley, then moved back to take a job with Barclay’s leaving me two dozen Darjeeling teabags lying on the kitchen counter.
The tea bags had nothing to do with it. For months, there hadn’t been a drop of rain. Northern California was in the middle of a drought. Outside my window, trees slumped over the pavement, and even worse, ash from wild fires up north cast an eerie glow over everything. It’s like we were caught in a magician’s spell. The sunsets were gorgeous, but that’s not the point. I wanted clouds to open up the same way a three-year-old rips apart wrapping paper on Christmas morning, only in this case, it would be thunder and lightening.
If I arrived at my doctor’s appointment too late, I’d be sitting in the waiting room for an extra hour thumbing through old copies of National Geographic.
Outside, my neighbor’s dog did its business on a hydrant. With one leg raised high in the air, the mutt seemed thrilled to take a long piss on a weird piece of metal.
One friend had been recently diagnosed with malignant polyps; another had broken her hip. Up until cataract surgery I hadn’t gone under the knife, but at any moment, I could get a call from the lab. The doctor had said something about fibrillations and lectured me about not taking care of myself. Back when my husband was alive, none of the doctors said a peep about fibrillations. It used to be all about thrombosis. Certain diseases come and go like designer jeans.
“How busy can you be that you can’t take care of your health?”
“Busy answering telemarketing calls.”
He laughed but I didn’t mean it as a joke. The doc wouldn’t believe me and I wasn’t ready to explain. I’d been too busy building an avatar on a video game called Top Dog Ramono. For months I’d been setting her up, knew her like the back of my hand.
My avatar girl had to be clever enough to go through a bunch of colliding mountains, and if she didn’t get squished, collect gems from slime-toads that were actually people who’ve been turned into creature features by this Lord Grunion who thinks the world is his oyster. The problem is that Grunion’s got an army behind him and every time my spunky avatar drops glowing rubies into the crater of the volcanic colliding mountains, the army comes after her and locks her away, and if she doesn’t have the right key in her pocket that she hopefully won at an arcade game before reaching the mountains, she could die of hunger—shrivel into a stick of beef jerky. But I can think of worse ways to occupy my time like watching the evening news: shootings, bombing, and politicians clucking their tongues about how terrible everything is. I’m trying to create a place where I have good odds, where I have a chance of winning.
My avatar is getting better at fighting my battles. I named her after my mother and father, Morgan and Rena to become Morena, but she gets all her good looks from me.