We Would Never Have Thought

We would have never thought that one day we would sail on this vessel, from ‘News of the day,’ published in L’Album du Siège, 1870, Honore Daumier. Public domain.

Murle may have put my sister in the psych unit.  Murle is discussed at my aunt’s funeral, we might as well have put up a scarecrow of her in a pew.

I’m in the bathtub.  I feel like Marat about the bathtub.  French.  Although I’m eager to abandon my phone, this time, why? It is in the bathroom, and buzzes.  And buzzes.  I’m reading a large print book about a family with multiple schizophrenic sons.  Multiple.  It’s giving me a good standard for comparison.  I’ve learned to lean and lie on my side in this bathtub.  It’s not so deep.  I make it work.  Lay a wet washcloth on my chest so my breasts and belly are warm.

I sit up.  I have to drain.  

Word is my sister is being checked in.  

I find the bust that broke in my move.  Plaster, painted gold, Minerva.  Maybe?  I sit on the couch with a screwdriver and start boring it into Minerva’s neck.  On TV, I saw people drill holes in each half of a broken antique, place a screw, add glue, give Minerva a fused spine.  

My other sister comes over.  Am I okay?  I tell her I don’t have feelings anymore.  This is usually true, though, blessedly, at my aunt’s funeral, I cried and cried.  

I sit in the parking lot outside the grocery store, with a pint of ice cream melting in the back seat.  It’s okay.  I like my ice cream almost milkshake.

I have an extra half hour before visiting hours.

Murle made my father feed his baby sister in the middle of the night.  When he broke a bottle, she came downstairs and slapped him.

I’m wandering the Goodwill ten minutes from the hospital, realizing for the first time that the smell of a thrift store is disgusting.  I love thrift stores.  I love used things.  I love the discarded.

My mother is calling me.  We have a sippy confused conversation because that’s how people talk when someone is in the hospital on suicide watch during the third incarnation of the world’s first truly international, deep-dug-in pandemic.  I walk through the book annex of the thrift store, and snap that I will be at the hospital.

Murle is our “biological grandmother.”

I stop for gas.  There are three stickers on the pump.  Two are of President Biden, pointing his finger and saying, “I did that,” which doesn’t offend me.  I mean, he has done things.  But one says, “TR*MP WON,” and has a picture of that man.  I am at it with my fingernails.  Peeling.  I get it in small shreds.  I get it.  I take my keys and start scraping at the gas pump.  Will someone come out and ask why am I defacing the gas pump?  Did the cashier inside put them on the pump?  Will he come out and get belligerent?  I get enough of the letters of the name off that the name isn’t there anymore, and the gas pump pops and I pull it out and get in and close the door and turn the key.

My cousin is back for my aunt’s funeral and makes a joke in Tr*mp’s voice and something inside me is still alive enough to shiver, not with fear or anger, just recoil.  

Someone who is ill is sometimes herself, sometimes you can see the through line to the entire life you have shared with the person, sometimes the cord has been cut. 

I’ve brought a plant with a cardinal stuck to the top.  “Is it in a plastic container?” the receptionist asks.  Yes.  “Does it have a pokey thing?” the receptionist asks.  “Oh, shoot.”  I was trying to pass mental illness caregiving with an A- (my favorite grade), leaving my phone in the car, but I forgot the code that will let you into the locked unit, and I forgot and brought a plant with a stabby thing in it.  “It’s fine,” I said.  “I’ll break it off.”  “No, no, don’t do that,” the receptionist says, but I have already broken the bird clean off.  I set him on top of the plant, where he nests naturally.  “It’s fine,” I said.  I definitely don’t have fucks left to give about birds being secured to potted plants or not.

Today I walked to get coffee, then walked with my coffee in the neighborhood.  I live near three (yes) Ronald McDonald houses, and the children’s hospital.  It’s hard to feel all that sorry for yourself when you’re in the garden between the homes for sick children’s families.  Sick children being sick during (yes) the third round of the world’s first cohesive, no escape pandemic.  The garden has a figure 8ish path, dead plants, the last living flowers, who are purple, and pinwheels that are stuck there, man made flowers, winter-proof flowers.

I guess I should some time go to my aunt’s grave and pour out a whole chocolate milkshake.  Turns out, the last time I sat patiently with her, holding the cold plastic cup so she could sip it, that was her last food or drink.  The next time I saw her, she was dead, and I sat next to my uncle and held his hand.  I didn’t want to hold his hand, but sometimes you’re in a place where someone clearly needs their hand held, so probably Jesus held his hand, remote-style, through me, and I sat the way you sit with a dead body, a body you have smoothed face cream into, a body you kissed goodbye, on the cheek, a body you helped into and out of bras when bras became a problem.

It is part of women’s life-exit strategies to have some confrontation with bras.  In my experience.

You get angry with all these people who die or collapse because there isn’t time for that.  There isn’t room for it.  There isn’t anything more.  

Murle did all this, see, abused my father, my aunts, and I never got to ask her why she was a villain, or if she might have been otherwise, or if she knew she would haunt her grandchildren, even the ones she never met.  

At the hospital, they do puzzles in the evening.  “You’re not missing anything out there,” I tell my sister.  It is warm.  Sometimes we have warm winters in Kansas City.  Not usually this warm.  Sixty.  Almost seventy.  December.  Snow often waits for January to open her heard and dump on us.  It’s warm.  Omicron variant, which as a dummy who took ancient Greek in college, I know is the lame little brother of omega.  Why omicron?  What did it do?  But what did the Katrina I knew do?  What of my elementary school friend whose birthday was, and still is, September 11th?  

In the dementia unit, I did puzzles with my aunt.  To be honest, when we began, she was barely able to help, even with puzzles that had 24 pieces, or 36.  Then I definitely did them myself, completely, while chattering on to her.  I don’t like puzzles.  I just think, why did you cut this picture up to begin with?

I grind deep enough into Minera’s neck, and the base it will sit on. Glue into both wells, half a screw in one half, and set her head back on its pedestal. She sits there to dry.


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