Yesterday

The light woke me, because snow was amplifying it. I pulled my head under my covers. I achieved a pretzel shape that felt perfect, fetal.

The really-you-must-get-up alarm chimed, one of many Apple noises that all sound like noooooo to me.

I pulled myself out of bed, loaded the coffee maker, opened and dumped cat food onto their blue plates, stepped into the bathroom for contacts and combing my hair. Added layers, sweaters– it was snowing!– and then clicked and clicked to start my class online. “Good morning,” I said. “I’m sorry it’s snowing.”

Most of them leave their cameras off most of the time, but by this point in the semester they know that I have called on everyone at least once, every class, so it’s rare that someone falters when I ask.

It snows and snows, and it’s a horror, as snow feels like trapped, like the end of the porch sitting that bloomed moments of peace in our year of fear. It’s going to be quick, though, it’s going to be quick.

Out the window, the trees wear more snow than usual, snow held on their leaves, their new leaves. It will melt. It will be gone.

I explain, my students write, I explain, they ask questions, I show them, there are no questions.

The cycle goes again. I have, as they say, two “sections.”

It snows.

They write. I watch their phantom typing on a shared “space,” a visual we all can see and using the language we all use, and the characters. They write things like, “What do you know about how aerospace engineers design weapons for space?”

They write, “How do advertisements try to manipulate consumers?”

When I can stand because the boxes with their names have all disappeared, leaving me the solo zoom space that is basically a mirror… the snow sits.

The verdict in the trial of George Floyd’s murderer will happen soon. The jury is out. “Out,” I think, a funny description for people cloistered in a conference room talking through one of the most contentious and painful public issues of the recent past. There is a great deal of competition for that title.

I snuggle up on the couch under my warmest softest biggest blanket.

When I look outside again, the trees, grass, 11th Street, all is in color again, as if I moved from my the black and white set on my mother’s rattan dresser to the family room furniture-sized set and the brown braided rug where we sat for Saturday morning cartoons. Color. Who would know there had been winter, briefly?

My mother’s cat is missing. The jury may render a verdict. I drive to pick up my niece.

The radio announces the verdict is in. The jury had been out, now the verdict is in. We will hear in the next half hour, the radio says. Another moment I know what faraway and famous people are doing. I know Barack Obama and Vice President Harris and Jesse Jackson and President Biden and all the great leaders of the Black community are waiting, holding their anxiety in their chests.

I ask my niece if she will help me look for my mother’s cat. She says yes.

I go pick up her sister. I remember being in this elementary school pick up line the day of the election, Tuesday, November 3, 2020, bleary with fear, with cars ahead of me and behind me, the brick school next to me, the playground ahead of me, before I turn around the corner, to the back of the school, where the kids wait in neat lines.

I remember thinking, what can the future be? How can it exist? Will there be battles, or war?

In the same spot, in the same car, sitting on the same ripped up old upholstery that I’m fond of, old, sturdy car with a back hatch ready to haul.

We tortoise along as kids are retrieved.

Would you help me look for the cat, I ask my other niece. Yes, she says.

I ask my usual questions: what happened at recess, what are you doing in music class, but also I leave the radio up, so I can barely hear it over our conversation. It is of paramount importance to me that I give the kids my attention. This is a special circumstance, I tell myself.

We hit the highway on our cat-finding mission.

Still no verdict.

It’s almost four. We were supposed to hear by four.

I find myself pointing out dumb things: look at that redbud! So much purple! There’s the Tesla dealership!

I don’t have the credit card that would enable us to test drive one, I tell them. But if we could, of course we would drive straight to Mexico. That’s my joke. Straight to Mexico!

Getting off the highway, they see a couple of guys with signs, asking for help.

“Let’s give them the socks!” they say. We have taken some care packages for people who are homeless, and I have two in my car. They are socks with water bottles, hand sanitizer, a granola bar, and a note from the child who put the thing together.

“On the way back,” I promise them, though I am slightly concerned about how we can safely deliver the sock packages at the interstate entrance and exit ramps.

We are approaching 103rd Street and State Line when the judge begins speaking on the radio. Guilty.

What everyone said was true: we all exhaled, and if we could have all exhaled in the same direction, we could have blown a sailboat across the Atlantic, one puff.

Then guilty, guilty.

Stopped at 103rd and State Line. We are in Missouri, since we are northbound. Kansas is southbound. I pick up my phone to see my text strand with friends.

“He’s been found!” is another message. My mom’s cat is home. He was in the neighbor’s bushes. Three cats have escaped her house. One we found in a garage, crying, one was hit by a car and killed, and this third one now, also safe and sound. Safe and “sound,” meaning in a place we can trust its integrity.

I turn left and into a driveway. Return a couple of texts. Turn the car around. “Okay, I guess we’ll give those guys the packages.”

The first one is easy because the road has a shoulder. I pull over on the shoulder, and one kid jumps out and runs up to the man asking for help. She runs back.

I turn around again to approach the opposite corner, another intersection of the street and an exit ramp. There isn’t a shoulder here, but I’m watching the light and figuring with a few seconds of hazard lights, and then the length of a red light, this is a pretty safe plan.

The other kid (“We’ll take turns!”) climbs over, hops out, runs up and hands off the sock package. She’s back in; we zoom away with the green light.

There’s one more time we have to turn around, and then we’re on our way home.

Note: the sock packages are gathered and offered at Scraps KC, and here’s a link to that project.

Image: detail of “Moses striking the rock with a stick to bring forth water, while the Israelites look on in amazement” by Jean-Baptiste Haussard, ca. 1729, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thank You

St. Roche, patron saint of plague and dogs, early 16th century Normandy, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fully drugged for minimum anxiety, I looked hard at my phone as Candy Crush’s pale sliver grew to a full square.

I was so nervous to give blood. Not to be stuck, I tolerate that, but to think I might think of being drained of what I needed? Or my lingering gulp from when my body panicked at the coldness of an IV?

The medication doesn’t snuff out my anxiety, like benzos would, but puts it in a back room and locks the door, so I know it’s there. While in there, it yells, but it doesn’t try to knock down the door.

I could only be put in this position by a child, my niece, who though she has everything, would also like amusement park tickets. I am for amusement park tickets, but more than that I wanted to show an example of community engagement.

When I left my nieces to go give blood, I said, who’s going to come with me and hold my hand? Silence. “Maybe the dog?”

I was not sure that a dog would be welcome in the school gym with the clean needles and the styrofoam blocks on the walls.

I hadn’t given blood before because of a very secret reason that I hid in shame: I once was very light. I once worried that I might not make the 110 pounds. Middle age and pandemic have helped me with that. I have a new heft which, though frowned upon by society. other times makes me feel like, now I’m here. I’m not a lightweight anymore.

There had been six middle school kids at the door, holding the doors, holding umbrellas, their phones, and bouncing to stay warm, and they all thanked me when I went out to my car to get my phone. “I haven’t done it yet, so don’t thank me,” I said.

“Now you can thank me,” I said later.

Waiting is what really powers my anxiety. I had waited to be called back to check my blood pressure, to have my temperature taken (again), to be stuck on my middle finger and bled a drop.

The woman who performed these checks was humorless and offered no distraction. “This is the day I’m officially fully vaccinated, so that’s kind of cool,” I said. Two minutes later she said, “Have you recently been vaccinated?” “Yes,” I said.

I was approved: temp 98.4, blood pressure numbers she said were “good,” and the stick to my finger apparently gave the go ahead.

I had to wait to be taken to a table.

When I stood up, my name tag stuck to the magazine I’d brought and my Eli was separated from my zabeth. I bent over to pick up my reading glasses, and I thought I do need to wear a tank top under this dress, as when I move certain ways, and then my bra strap fell down and I had to suavely return it to my shoulder.

I had to wait while on the table.

When the first tech saw my left vein, she said, we need to try the right.

Once she had the tourniquet on my right arm, she said, “Could you tilt your wrist?” I could. “Could you squeeze the ball but not move your arm?” I kind of couldn’t carry out instructions, as my nerves distracted me, and I had never isolated these various muscles before, and also, I had a tourniquet on my upper arm.

“Can you look at this?” she called.

A second tech examined my apparently subpar vein.

“I’m going to ask someone else to do this,” she said.

I waited. I attempted to climb back onto the Candy Crush horse, in its beginner levels an easy hop up and on. Using only my left hand, as my right arm waited to be used, it was trickier.

I had the magazine, where gods and goddesses deigned to be photographed in their natural beauty, rather than their painted beauty. Candy Crush was better, though. One had to act.

A third tech came over, and blessed be her, as she had some humor and felt like chatting with me about how a much larger needle was needed for giving blood, as opposed to having blood taken for testing. This knowledge would have probably driven someone else over the edge, but I wasn’t nervous about being poked. I was nervous about the life force draining out of me, I guess. Or feeling lightheaded. What did that feel like anyway? Lightheaded? Any feeling except a panic attack is a feeling I now imagine I can tolerate.

But what if I swooned, or fell? The fear of falling.

The third tech warned me, I looked away, and after all this time, finally, I was stabbed, and it was going.

“You’ve got a great flow,” she said. “You could be done in six minutes.”

I squeezed the shit out of that ball because I was now late to get back to my nieces.

I Candy Crushed, moved my candies into lines, swapped their spots, worked for the sprinkle donuts, kept my mind engaged. I hadn’t used Candy Crush for this since I was on the subway, in my previous life. Candy Crush was an important tool in surviving subway odysseys.

“You’re done,” she said. It took her a minute to unhook me. Did I feel lightheaded? Did I feel strange? Anxiety made me feel pointed and tight and faded, so who knows if I felt anything from giving blood.

Until I had panic attacks, I prided myself on being a great patient. Healthy and compliant, unafraid of what doctors would do to me. My appendix went bad when I was in first grade, and my overall feeling about the whole experience, including having my appendix burst its poison throughout my body, was feeling relieved because I knew for sure that doctors and nurses could and would fix me.

They did.

My niece was emotionally invested in what snacks I took. Three middle school girls sat at a table. I wavered between chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies. And gummies, one girl said, don’t you want gummies? I did not.

Two weeks exactly from my second vaccination, now cleared. My body had spent weeks learning lessons from a tiny vial of fluid: if you see this, do that. If you see this, do that. We won’t tolerate so-and-so in here. If you see ’em, aim and fire.

My body is inhospitable to covid-19. As a thank you, I let go blood that others might need. My A plus blood. Blood of someone healthy and approved to give. Healthy, educated body, generally well cared for and well made, and most importantly, lucky.

The X-Files

Season 1 Episode 10

“Fallen Angel” or “Rock Me Sexy Alien Forcefield”

I wonder how much brain damage Mulder will sustain over the course of this series. How much flashy-things? How many knocks over the head?

Finally they bring in a super nerd to contrast with Mulder’s handsome nerdishness.

Use of the word “wiggy.”

Levitation used for the second time….

Implantation of device in human head for the second time. Sigh.

This episode is helped by: a shiny airstream trailer

It’s hindered by: a UFO crash, which has become less interesting to me over 10 episodes.

The X-Files

Season 1, Episode 9

“Space” or “SpaceGhost”

Well a small budget is showing here, as they rely primarily upon file footage of the Space Shuttle in this episode. Well, that and some Tim Burton style face freakouts. “Mission Control” is only slightly more glamorous than the Millenium Feline I built for my cats.

Much as I am enjoying the show, this episode starts to get dangerous… in that the old “face on Mars” thing is brought up and pushed as meaningful, and I am suddenly thinking of Q-Anon and their dangerous bullshit.

It’s cute to see Mulder NASA nerding out.