January 25, 2020
My mind is racing with writing ideas. Steroids bouncing off the walls of my veins. Keith is on all fours, knees and elbows tucked in, head smashed against fists. He’s crouched like a guy in one of those horror flicks, experiencing the change from mere man to wolfish beast.
I doubt his pain is that excruciating, though.
“It just hurts so damn much!”
I look over and feel sorry for him but suppress a laugh at the picture of his bare butt up in the air.
“What can I do for you?” I say sympathetically.
A phrase I picked up from him.
“Nothing.” He mumbles.
He shuffles into the bathroom, angrily flipping on the light.
“Don’t rub it anymore, babe. You’re just going to get an eyelash stuck in there, and it already hurts.”
I follow, like a sympathetic puppy, bounding behind him, powerless to help but wanting to be useful.
“What can I do?” I repeat. Pleading.
“Can you look at it? See if you see anything in there?”
He holds his lids open, his hazel pupil small against the bloodshot white of his eye.
He rolls it around frantically in the inflamed socket. A mucousy bubble forming in the corner of the inside where his eye meets the puckering red tissue.
I swallow stomach acid and taste the greasy Chinese for the second time today, wrong-way up.
“Can you” . . . swallow . . . “stop doing that so fast? It’s making me sick. I hate dealing with eyes, but I love you” . . . sickly smile . . . “so I’m doing it.”
“I can’t see it.” I say matter-of-factly.
It’s 12:30 by now, surely. I make him knock back some of my night-time cold and flu. And we go back to bed to struggle with sleep until the medicine kicks in. Later that morning . . . 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep . . . prednisone and z-pac day one down . . . I’m spinning with drugged-up energy that feels frenetic and unnatural. Mixed with my usual dose of morning coffee . . . I’m on a mission. Time-sensitive. Every trek out of the house has a ticking clock now.
I have become that woman who cuts through parking lots to save a minute or even 15 seconds. I used to hate that, really despised parking lot cut-through jerks. Now, I join their ranks.
I’m enjoying the morning that Keith has gifted me. Intent on rooting through the bathroom section of TJMaxx and Kohl’s on the search for bathroom rugs. New slip-resistant rugs to replace the non-slip-resistant bathroom rugs I bought over Christmas. Life is funny that way. I trail behind two women, one with bobbing blonde pony-tail and sporting black yoga pants with a track jacket and the other in almost identical clothing, light brown hair down to her shoulders. I hear snippets of their conversation . . .
“Yeah, she’s stressed about the new job. Lots of stuff to get ready for.”
“She just doesn’t have a lot of . . .”
Their voices trail off. Suddenly, I recognize that I am envious. Briefly. Jealous of their time. Their leisurely way of talking and walking. The way they will probably shop the day away, stop for Starbucks, chat about the cute barista, sweat through a Barre class.
I am momentarily spinning this tale of who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going.
And then I stop. I realize. Perspective is relative. It is based on our reality, and our reality isn’t always truth. I remember that I don’t know these women. I don’t know their lives. In my head, their reality is the mirror of what I’m missing. I scold myself for the depths of my negativity for a moment before I remember lunch the other day. I had just plopped down on the hard plastic cafeteria seat before nausea forced me to push my lunch aside. Run-down and worried. In a moment of vulnerability, I turned to my friend Alleigh.
“I just don’t like life right now.”
To which, she responded.
“And that’s okay. You don’t have to.”
I wanted to hug her, but that might have been awkward, so I just smiled. She gave me permission to feel however I felt in that moment.
I thought about what she said as I went about my day liking some parts, loving others, and hating some things. I like my life and I don’t. Like all of us. Yes . . . I am honored to be the hand that holds my mother. But I miss things. There are moments I’m not okay with life. And today, I can see that it’s okay. I’m reminded that I can be the one to tell myself that I don’t have to like it all. I don’t have to put on a happy face every second of every day.
I head home, new rugs rolled up under both arms. I walk in the bedroom with success slapping a goofy grin across my face.
Keith looks up. Runs his hands through his adorable salt and pepper hair. Smiles.
“Hey, babe.” I say.
“It was kosher salt.” He says, like he’s been waiting to tell me all day. He’s perched on the bed, computer in his lap.
“Huh?” I reply.
“What was in my eye. Kosher salt.”
I smile. I guess we are both seeing a little clearer now.