It has come to my attention that not everyone asks their spouses to scratch their backs with a fork.
It has come to my attention that not everyone asks their spouses to scratch their backs with a fork.
I am about to turn…a number…It’s greater than thirty and less than seventy and for some reason it feels like a number that a man with a beard wearing a pair of overalls should be. Not a poor, innocent girl who was just standing there minding her own business. It’s so hard to believe this happened. I really don’t want a beard.
When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be thirty-six. I thought that sounded mature enough to get any job, to wear pencil skirts, to have a husband who wears suits, and to have two adorable children. A thirty-six-year-old woman runs in high heels, wears red lipstick and dances around town with a little perfume dabbed behind each ear.
When I finally turned thirty-six, I did have two adorable children and a husband who wore suits but I hadn’t quite lost the baby weight so a pencil skirt was entirely out of the question. Also, it seemed silly to run in heels after a four-year-old. The one time I wore red lipstick, my son took one look at me, burst into tears and said, “You look like a monster.”
Forty-six came and went too, and then… some other numbers. My daughter grew up and moved to LA, and my son moved to France. And yet I still haven’t grown into that vision I had of the woman in the pencil skirt. I grew into something else: A woman who is greater than thirty and less than seventy, who’s dancing around her room, because her two grown-up (and still very adorable) children came home for her birthday.
This is the oldest I’ve ever been.
I say that every year.
But, honestly, this time it’ll be true.
I like to think of myself as the type of person who would never hurt a fly, but, this morning there was one on my laptop. First he flew back and forth over my keys, and then he landed on my water bottle. He walked around for a while, checking things out, twirling his little mustache between his fingers, and then he flew up to my lampshade. He rubbed his little hands on the fabric, most likely he vomited on it, and then he took another spin around the room. He was young, spry and carefree. A “catch me if you can” type trying out his new wings. After I swatted at him a few times, he figured out that I was no match for him and he planted himself on my computer screen and just stood there reading for the longest time. I tried to shoo him away again and again, but at a certain point, he didn’t even try to get away, knowing he could. He just stood there motioning that I should get off his back.
And then I killed him.
Why did I do it? I wondered.He wasn’t a criminal. He didn’t try to bite or kick me. If someone were to ask me why I killed him, I would have to say it was because he flew around. That’s it! That was the cause of his death. Flying.
Afterwards I couldn’t get any work done. Hours went by. I made phone calls to distract myself, but I couldn’t get the fly out of my head. I wondered if he’d eaten anything that day. I thought about how thin he looked. Was he hoping to put on weight? Was he looking for something small to eat when I thought he was reading. Did he have a girlfriend?Who were his parents? Did he have any friends at all to speak of?
Why did God even make flies? I Googled “what is the purpose of flies anyway?” and learned they not only help decompose rotting matter, they are great pollinators.
It is now 6:17 PM and I wasted the entire day thinking about the fact that I took an innocent life. A great pollinator no less. I wondered how I could make it up to the fly community. At the very least I could make him a proper burial and put a little rotting matter on my doorstep for his friends and relatives. I think I will do that. I’ll make him a little shiva. Just as soon as I get rid of this annoying spider.
Lately I’ve been experiencing flashbacks.
I am in nursery school.
I’m miserable and wearing a blue dress with smocking.
Everyone else is wearing pants.
I’m wondering if there’s a bathroom nearby.
I am filled to the brim with the hundreds of tiny cups of ice cold water I’ve just consumed.
It seems the water cooler is the only toy that interests me in the entire classroom.
There are kids everywhere.
I do not want to play with any of them.
I yell out, “Anyone want to play ‘water cooler?’” to fool my classmates into thinking I’m one of them.
Next, I see my Kindergarten class in exquisite detail.
There are clusters of ergonomically sized tables and chairs.
There are colorful construction paper cut-outs on the walls.
I can’t identify the reason for the cut-outs.
They are oddly-shaped, meaningless blobs.
I focus instead on a bottle of Welch’s grape juice.
There are more children I do not wish to play with.
A lot of them are running.
I tell the teacher I would like to pour everyone juice.
I mishandle the bottle.
It spills on most of the children.
I’m in day camp, looking inside my backpack.
The backpack contains two pairs of clean underwear tucked into a baggie.
Back at school, I see the leafy path that will lead us from the main school to the art room.
I see my art teacher’s purple clothing.
She has painted an egg on a black background.
The canvas on which she painted the egg is leaning against the wall.
I can’t stop staring at it.
I had no idea she was an artist.
I tell her that.
I am back in math class reliving my inability to understand how to read a ruler.
I have a stomach ache.
I see my velvet shoes darken before my eyes.
I hear my mother’s windshield wipers as I sit quietly in the backseat of our car.
We are on our way to yet another day of school.
I’m hoping the pitter patter of raindrops turns into a massive tornado, the entire town floods, and my school collapses.
We are late.
My mother has a nightgown under her coat.
I have a test.
I’m in third grade.
I need to go to the bathroom.
I find my chair and take out my pencil from my pencil case.
I can’t remember any of the names of the explorers.
I know one of them is Spanish.
I write down the name, Cortez, and cross my fingers.
I get distracted by a grasshopper and wish I was him.
I think how easy his life must be.
I want to jump out the window with him, and hop around in the grass.
I get chills thinking how easy it would be to escape.
I see myself on the bus home.
We have approached my stop.
I do not want to get up.
I seem to have a secret.
I’m certain there is a theme running through these memories.
I can’t quite put my finger on it.
I’m back in camp.
I don’t want to be there.
I hate all games.
I’m mortified when I get called on for duck-duck-goose.
And then I understand the pattern, the meaning, the narrative that’s been chasing me, haunting me, forcing me to come to terms with the core of who I once was and why I didn’t want to or couldn’t bring myself to play with the other children. The truth was I was too busy peeing in my pants.
I have one good bra left. It has one hook that’s holding on by a thread. The other hooks fell off at some point, never to be found. I hand wash and hide the bra in the basement to dry so no one will ever see it up close. I wear this horrible looking bra every day despite my fear that the last hook will break and the bra will just fall off while I’m standing there talking to someone.
I’ve hidden the bra from my husband for as long as I can remember. But then, Goddammit, I slipped up. We had friends coming over, I was running late, and I accidentally left the bra unattended on the bed.
“What the hell is that?” my husband asked when I came back into the bedroom. I was caught completely off guard, and I’ve never been good at thinking fast under pressure.
“It’s a cake mold,” I said.
“Why is it on the bed?” he asked, poking it with a hanger to make sure it was dead.
“Okay, fine! It’s my bra.”
“That’s your bra?” he asked.
“Why are you so surprised? Haven’t you ever seen it through my clothes?” I asked, wanting to kick myself. I’d hid it for all those years and then this!
“It looks different in person. Why is it…like that?” he asked.
“Like it should be thrown away.”
“Because I can’t replace it. It’s been discontinued.”
“What a shame.”
And then it hit me, I don’t need a bra. I never needed one. I don’t go anywhere where going braless is considered a crime. It’s a free country. Why should I live in fear that an article of my clothing will suddenly plummet to the ground?
I took the bra and threw it in the garbage while my husband watched from the corner of his eye. I was finally going to live the life I always wanted. A life without fear and bondage.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m sure. I’m tired of living like this. I have a right to be free! And that thing is slowly killing me and my self-esteem. I’d rather die than be a slave to that one hook and eyed monster for one more day. It’s time to show the world who I really am. A person who is not afraid.”
Just then our friends pulled into our driveway.
“Looks like we have company,” he said.
“Tell them to wait outside!” I said, and fished my bra out of the garbage.
Lately everyone’s been telling me how great I look. It started right around early March.
I was just reading an article about how we’re all going to end up with PTSD after Covid, especially if we live in denial about what we’ve been through. So ridiculous. Unless you know someone who has it, or had it, my guess is we will all be dancing in the streets when this is over. Honestly? PTSD? I have a roof over my head. I have food. I have clean water, a pillow I adore, and paper towels. How is that traumatic? I actually laughed out loud when I read that article and switched over to a video about six ways to make your eggs last longer.
Despite the chef/egg expert’s heroic efforts to make an egg last a year, one of the eggs didn’t make it. It turned into a kind of egg Jell-O, and I started crying. It wasn’t the kind of crying anyone could hear. It was the burning-nose kind of crying. The kind that sneaks up on you and makes you feel so sorry for yourself for not knowing you were about to cry, you wish you were crying louder so everyone else could have the chance to feel as sorry for you as you do.
That poor dead egg. It just rotted there on the cutting board.
I ran to the bathroom and watched myself cry. While I was looking in the mirror, I noticed one side of my hair was considerably longer than the other.. I wondered if I chewed it off in my sleep. I have been chewing on things a lot lately. I called my mother to tell her about the situation with my hair. As I was calling, I started thinking about how old she is.
True, she’s perfectly healthy now, but anything could happen. She could get… measles, again.
I made myself a cup of tea to calm myself down, but then I remembered I ran out of eye drops. I could easily go blind before I get up the courage to walk into Rite Aid. Measles probably started in that God forsaken place. What if I contract it and give to my mother? In Florida. I could almost see the measles oozing out of the drugstore door when I drove back and forth in front of it the other day. I wanted to go in, but I was having imaginary leg cramps that morning. Not to mention that I never made it to the frame store before this whole thing started. And who’s going to do all this laundry? Not me! I have a splinter.
I sat down with my tea wondering why I even bothered to make tea. It’s just water.
I was crying again when my husband walked into the room.
“Why are you crying?” he asked.
“Because all of the eggs are dying.”
I started out early this morning Googling, “How long does it take to lose ten pounds on a no carb diet?”
It is now 11:00 AM. I just Googled, “How many calories in an entire French baguette?”
Like everyone else, I’m positive I already had COVID. I’m also pretty sure I still have it, despite the fact that I have no symptoms and have been quarantined since March 12th. If, by some chance, I didn’t and don’t have it, I’m sure, again, just like everyone else, that I will get it any day. In the meantime, we all find ways to cope.
While my friends and family have been keeping busy by doing puzzles, playing cards online and cleaning out their closets, I’ve been pulling weeds out of the driveway to stop myself from googling rare COVID symptoms. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still out there looking for them. While I’m pulling out hundreds of tiny weeds from in between the pebbles, I’m also searching my body for things that look a little off. And then I run inside and yell to Dan to Google them.
“Google wrinkly elbows,” I’ll suddenly yell from the front door, or,
“Can you look up, ‘COVID freckle,’ please?”
He always says the same thing.
“Ok, Steph, but you haven’t left the house,” which is not entirely true.
Recently I heard about an unusual symptom called, COVID toes, that causes the toes to become red and inflamed. Since then I’ve been spending a lot of time pretending to polish my toe nails and secretly looking for red spots.
And then, just as I knew it would happen, I woke up this morning with two bright red knees. I turned to my husband, who was reading the news on his iPad.
“Look up COVID knees,” I said.
“I have COVID of the knee. Look it up. Quick!”
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“For God’s sake, look at me!” I yelled, and showed him the two pink circles. One on each knee.
“I obviously have COVID toe of the knee.”
“Steph, you haven’t left the house.”
I reminded him that we did take one drive to the beach a month prior. But then he made the point that I only got out of the car for five minutes, and that I was wearing a mask, gloves, shoes, and a jacket over my face, and we were the only people there.
We also had to meet the movers at the storage unit a few days ago, but then Dan reminded me I never got out of the car and I kept yelling out the window for him to stay 20 feet away from the men at all times.
Also, there was “the walk,” as I now refer to it. The day we broke down and met our friends outside for a quick stroll. We were all wearing masks but I never said a word the whole time in fear something would fly into my mouth from the side of my mask.
I got dressed and went outside to pull some more weeds out of the driveway. It was the only way I could clear my head.
For a brief moment, I wondered if I’d picked up the virus from the driveway itself somehow. Maybe a delivery person had it on the bottom of his shoe and I sat directly on it, and it somehow got pushed up and into my knee. Anything’s possible, I thought, as I sat cross-legged and hunched over in the middle of the driveway.
Could it be everywhere? I wondered. In the air, in the pebbles, in the dirt, on the very weeds themselves. . .
An hour went by. And then another.
The sun began to get hot.
I went inside to put on the shorts I wore the day before when I was weeding in the hot sun for hours and hours. And then I went back outside to sit in the driveway, in the same position: Hunched over and cross-legged.
It was then that I noticed how my upper body was completely blocking my thighs from getting a tan. In fact the only part of me that was exposed was my knees.
There it was.
The mystery was solved.
I ran inside and grabbed my laptop. Dan was quietly sitting at his desk. He looked up and asked me,
“What happened? Did you see a worm?”
“No, much worse. I finally figured out what I have.”
“Oh good. What is it?” he asked.