For the first time in years I could see veins on leaves and recognize moles on faces, which was well worth wearing a patch and completing a month-long regimen of eye drops following cataract surgery, except something else went wrong—and it wasn’t my eyes. All I heard was: could be, may be, points to. You’d think that after three or four tests, they’d be able to make a diagnosis. The lab thought it had something to do with my heart, but why didn’t the doc have the presence of mind to order an EKG? He said first 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 hated needles, all kinds of needles. Passed out the first time I traveled overseas and had to get a tetanus booster; I even have to look away whenever my cat Knickers gets his shots.
I had no other plans for the day except to feed Knickers, named by my one-time tenant 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 with two dozen Darjeeling teabags on the kitchen counter.
Tea bags actually 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 I wanted clouds to open up the same way a three-year-old rips apart wrapping paper and ribbons on Christmas morning.
If I arrived at my 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. One leg raised high in the air, the mutt seemed oblivious to the outer world, thrilled to take a long piss on a weird piece of metal.
A friend had been recently diagnosed with malignant polyps; another had broken her hip. Up until my cataract surgery, I’d never gone under the knife, but at any moment, I could get that call from the lab telling me to make an urgent appointment. 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. Everything used to be about thrombosis. Certain diseases come and go like designer jeans with rips in them from waistband to ankles.
“How busy can you be that you can’t take care of your health?”
“Busy answering telemarketing calls.”
The doc wouldn’t believe me and I wasn’t going to explain. I’d been building an avatar for a video game called Top Dog Romano. How could I expect her to understand what I was dealing with?
My avatar girl had to be clever enough to go through a bunch of colliding mountains. If she didn’t get squished, then she had to 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 into a dungeon, and if she doesn’t have the right key in her pocket that she’d 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, bombings, and politicians moaning about the world situation, but doing squat-diddley to do anything about it. Don’t get me started. Look, I’m just trying to create a place where I’ve got an even chance. I named my avatar after my mother and father, Morgan and Rena to become Morena, but she gets all her good looks from me.
My deceased husband had excelled at collecting diseases; I’d always been the healthy one.
“Why do you always have to be doing something?” he’d say. “What’s the problem about staying at home?”
“Why can’t we sometimes go to the movies?”
“We can’t talk there.”
“We never talk to each other.”
“What are we doing right now? What do you call this?”
(to be continued)