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We totally thought June 2, 1992 was going to be the greatest fucking day of our lives. Tommy’s older brother got canned at the supermarket, and was laid up real bad on the family’s couch eating Lucky Charms and feeling sorry for himself. So when Tommy asked him if we could use his Cavlier, he didn’t consent so much as he aspirated a magical horseshoe and waved Tommy away/made the international sign for choking. Tommy came back out the garage with the keys, and Vince, Matty, and me piled in. An army boot to the face later got me shotgun.
Matty had the tickets, Vince had the green, and I had Mom’s calling card.
Tommy made a sharp right on to the freeway, and Matty grabbed the roll bar.
“Hope you brought an extra pair of underwear,” Tommy said.
“Hey douche, you gotta live with me for the next four days. No one’s walking out that festival smellin’ like a French Whorehouse.” Matty said.
“Yeah, your Mom would know what that’s like,” Tommy replied, and snickered.
GNR was in the tape deck, and when I reached for the knob, Tommy slapped it away. “Fuck NOT with the Roses,” he said.
I saw you in a bar about two years ago. I didn't say hello because I felt fat, and I secretly feared you wouldn't remember me anyway. Your life always eerily paralleled mine; but you were still smarter, more talented, had more friends, and generally leading a happier life than I.
"Aspiring Physician and _ _ Graduate, died last night in a fall…"
I don’t know how I should feel. Mortal? Should I find religion? Mostly, I feel guilty. Guilty that you loved you life and lost it, and that I still have mine and wished I didn’t.
Leave a message at the beep.
So, I had what would be considered the most horrendous day on the Wards imaginable. After the lady in room 256 desaturated to 80% on RA, she was intubated, fully awake, and cognizant, and saying, “No, no, stop, don’t intubate me.” And now, she’s intubated, and the family is wondering if they should have perhaps NOT encouraged that, and want to try to wean a woman with two kinds of cancer, chemo sequelae, and a rip-roaring superinfection, OFF a ventilator.
I had the worst day ever, if second only to that lady’s day.
Leave a message at the beep.
I know we said we shouldn’t talk as much, so if you don’t pick up, I understand. I just wanted to tell you that now I’m driving back from C__, lighter in the pockets. And it’s twilight, and there’s a thin strip of campfire orange rimming the silhouettes of the mountain peaks, counter-illuminating the rain clouds that have been hugging the lowest part of the horizon for the better part of the day. And it’s a cold, tattooing rain, the kind that only a New Englander would understand.
And I hope you understand.
Brown leaves dance about the shoulder, catching my peripheral vision, but still making my heart skip a beat. Occasionally, one plummets with terminal velocity down from the heavens, or scuttles across the road with such animation that I sweat it’s a squirrel, or a rat, or perhaps a miniature deer, perhaps Bambi, coming to exact his—was Bambi a boy deer? What an effeminate name—revenge on me for his mother’s stupidity in clipping my front end and essentially leaving him an orphan fawn and me with a smelly rental KIA hatchback. The world is a cruel, cruel place, Bambi.
Jeoffrey MacDonald is at the Macy’s jewelry counter, fingering a gold locket and carefully constructing a quick back-story, should the occasion arise for the need. His girlfriend—no, wife; girlfriend sounds too skeezy; wife has a better connotation—his WIFE’s birthday is coming up, he’s at a loss, aw-shucks, on what to get her, because he’s all thumbs at this kind of thing. The metal is hard and slippery between his pinky, index and ring finger, the fingers of which he’s been twirling the chain unconsciously. He’s sweating, and the beads are trickling down the crevice formed by his gynecomastia.
It’s 7PM on a Saturday night, and the usual patrons are frolicking through the aisles, giggling and snapping their pink gum. The girls are twittering about, enchanted with their own little universe of text messages and sexual oblivion. Jeoffrey itches down there; perhaps he should have waited another week before trying the silk again. Perhaps it wasn’t the detergent after all. He purses his knees to alleviate the discomfort, and discovers that he’s been choking the necklace. There’s a woman standing close by, he realizes, because he can feel her breath, each inspiration and expiration making his own lips vibrate.
Annelise has a headache. She’s a rack over from Jeoffrey, trying to squirm herself out of a silver band that her swollen finger has swallowed whole. A quick return to the Mall has turned into a production; the salesperson had fluttered off to the nether-regions of the backroom in a noble but futile quest at finding the object that will please her customer. Annelise is acutely aware of Jeoffrey now, and knows he’s throwing suspicious glances her way. She wonders if he knows that his panties are showing, or that she’s got a NYPD-issued toy in her purse for him.
Give me a reason to not hold my breath
Because I can and I have and I will
Than the deepest anemones
There’s dust under the ocean floor
Where there are
Things you cannot see, unless you look for them
Things you cannot hear, for you’ve stopped
Things you cannot taste, until you binge
Things you cannot feel, because skin is seven-layers-thick
Things you cannot smell, since its been in (m)disuse
Give me a reason not to hold my breath
Because I can and I have and I will
And you will suffocate long before I surface
Evil Drinks Red Bull
I say, because she tells me that it takes a lot of energy to do the things I do.
Cynical, she says, because I’ve a thin film covering me, leaving greasy, misanthropic fingerprints on all I touch.
Optimist, I say, and we giggle, taking another swig: her, Cape Cod; me a subtle concoction,
Affectionately termed “Liquid Cocaine,” a mix of the aforementioned energy drink and top-shelf champagne.
So, will you ever change? she says. It’s not a challenge nor accusatory; innocent as a tot questioning the existence of God.
I don’t think it’s will, I say.
Reoccuring themes in real-time prose:
Teetotaing, peripheral fascination with illegal drugs. General disgruntled misanthropy. Quirky Jesus Christ references and miscellaneous blasphemy. Strikingly blunt medical commentary. Self-obsessesed stream-of-consciousness vomitus. Pop-cultural references. Out-of-body experiences, real or imagined. What-if situations. Entries beginning with “I”. Entries attempted without beginning with “I”. Attempts at 180-degree narration on topics I know nothing about yet attempt to fluff through under the delusion that it’s “literary.” Delusions. Made-up, pseduo-wonky vernacular. Quotes from real-life manipulated sufficiently enough to prevent copyright infringement. General Feminist Outrage. Enough swears to make a truck driver blush. Death. Awkward teenage exploits, purged and confessed.
If I were a bird, I’d totally be a crow. I’m definitely phoning the last two entries in, I’m not gonna lie. Two hundred words have never felt more like two hundred miles than they do at this junction. I think I’m just going to keep saying two hundred over and over again because that counts as two word when they’re un-hyphenated, and I’m really not sure if Microsoft Word even counts numbers when they’re written out as, say, “200”, as opposed to two hundred. One million, one hundred thousand, one hundred and seventy-nine dollars and eighty-eight sense makes change.
So, I suppose this is where I confess that the 13th and 14th entries are indeed being written on Tuesday, December 4, 2007 at 3:04 pm. (I will deal with December entries 1-3 sometime around January, I am sure.) I don’t know what I was doing that week of November; certainly not paying face-time to my muse. She disappears when I’ve been drinking, or when I’m spending too much time at the gym. She knows my vices; when to stay away. When the end of the month comes around, I become Ike, looking for my Tina to make things right.
When I was seven years old, we were exiled. Our home, now a target; my mother, the cause. Her work with the Underground had been clandestine, and I was taught from a very young age to speak of her rarely, and to never, ever, reveal her true profession. “Mommy makes cookies,” I told my first-grade teacher. She nodded passively and gave me a sticker. There were no more questions, but I knew the teacher was not entirely convinced. At birth, I was give a scythe and a wariness of the undead. The Life and Times of a Zombie Killer.
Lists are helpful in the following ways:
1. Full sentences not required.
2. Lists are easier to read when freed from the structural conifines of a normal paragraph.
3. Confer a level of officalness if given in rank order.
4. Serve as useful filler in hundred word quests when it’s the end of the month and you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel because your whore of a muse took off with some other writer who has a book deal.
5. Manifesto pre-requisite.
6. One word: Skimming.
7. Allows for in-depth analysis of serious life decisions when paired as pro/con.
“So, Bryce calls me while I’m in the Bench area, and he says, ‘Erica, I hear we’re on call tonight together, is that true?’ I say yes, the rumors are, in fact, true.” She pauses, then adds: “You might want to catalogue this with your inventory of bizarre medical stories.”
I have a pen and notepad immediately in hand. “He says, in the most Hannah Montana way, ‘Oh! Goody-goody gumdrops!’”
Let me get this straight, I say. A grown man with an MD AND a PhD said this?
“I know, she says. “I threw up a bit in my mouth.”
100 words. Maybe (maybe) if I do it fast, it won’t hurt--or maybe it will--but it’s still just temporary; all pain is temporary if not tenacious. I always end up reflecting on what sort of font I’m using; today, it’s Agency FB, and as I type this, I’m not sure if it’s some subtle play on the FBI, or if I’m paranoid. The font is sexy, with its crisp lines and tight spacing. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it “official”; that task falls to the default Times New Roman. Oh, to see a covert document transcribed entirely in Wingdings.
“Common phenotypes: MM, MS, SS, MZ and ZZ, associated with 100, 80, 60, 57.5 and 15% AAT activity, respectively.” I’ve hidden this text within the confines of an academic article. I’m multitasking at work again, which is to say I’m not doing work but rather listening to Peaches and using guided imagery to place myself somewhere along the lines of a raucous, underground club, where the Maestra of the Mic is giving a delicious, expletive-laced show. At some point in time, she sprays the eager front-row disciples with bottled water that is most holy. “C’mon let’s set it off.”
We called him Wheels.
I had made the awful mistake of opening the photo album to the page where I’m greeted by a middle finger and smirk; at the time, this was funny. This salty, misanthropic paraplegic was always good for a burn at someone else’s expense, but as these things go, his immediate circle soon became fodder.
And the time he pissed off Trina? I made sure I was front row for that:
Trina: “Move your chair.”
Wheels: (No reply.)
Trina: Move your goddamn wheelchair, it’s in my way.
Wheels: (Feigns disinterest, silent.)
Trina: “What, are you deaf too?”
There’s some hussy out there named Maggie Malloy, which, in another story would have been one-hundred percent fictitious. But since this is God’s-honest-truth—Lord knows I ain’t about to lie to the Baby Jesus—I’m supposin’ I can let that slide. Maggie worked in a laundromat on the Northside in the Irish and Drinkin’ side of town. ‘Course, if it weren’t for my mission, I wouldn’t be caught near that industrial sin city, but you do lots of things you wouldn’t ever think you’d have to do in the name of Mary Mother of God and All That is Holy.
Maggie was a first generation immigrant, heavy on the accent and liberal with the lye. I picked up my blouse after services, and Maggie was folding it into squares with her greasy little fingers.
Maggie, I says, Maggie, you know better than to fold silk, it’s not a dishrag.
She had a look like I slapped her awake. Mrs. McCready, she says, I’m all sorts of sorry, the littl’un kept me awake; I’m wicked tired.
Jesus says not to say anything if you ain’t got nothin’ good to say, so I refrained from askin’ her about that little bastard child.
I distrust those who smoke weed but are ethically opposed to alcohol.
I distrust those who sit on the same side of the table at a restaurant.
I distrust men with bowties.
I distrust men who wear only moustaches.
I distrust those who wear suspenders unironically.
I distrust those who have tattoos of cartoon characters.
I distrust those who say “cool beans” outside of the early 1990s realm.
I distrust those who rely on the saying “You can sleep when you’re dead.”
I distrust people who don’t vaccinate their children.
I distrust people who watch/believe John Stossel.
I trust. Sometimes.
I am wondering what my aorta looks like right about now.
Conservative but vigilant wine drinker.
Physical activity above and beyond the call of duty.
Newly cultivated addiction to coffee.
Eggs + Cheese + More cheese + Side of cheese.
That non-smoker smoking habit.
The fact that I’m sitting her on a Sunday night wondering what my aorta looks like.
According to my calculations, I have moderate mid-aortic fatty streaks and mild focal punctate bifurcation calcific atheroscelrosis. I could really go for a Big Mac. With cheese fries.
I have PPTSD. That's Pager Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Loud noises, vibrations, particualrly chirpy cell phone rings... the usual niduses of convulsive activity. Long after the OR has shut down, long after 8:01 on a Monday morning when the pager has been unceremoniously shut off... When you're a kid, the pager made medicine look sexy. It meant your were important, powerful; not unlike the cop, with the gun. It was a status symbol; that the pager clipped to your scrubs was clasped with a platinum chain was assumed. It was martyrdom; the implied sacrifices that came with this purple heart.
A fetid, post-call argument:
E: “We need product.”
K: “Well, you know this institution’s internal cut-off is 20,000.”
E: “This I know, but I’m telling you, we’re going to need product. You want citations?”
K: “Yes, I want citations.”
E: “It’s criteria put out by the American College of Surgeons. You can’t argue that.”
K: “I don’t believe you. Are you sure you were reading an ACOS journal, and not
E: “I don’t know. There sure weren’t many words in it.”
K: “Feh. Reading is for nerds, anyway.”
E: ”Agreed. I got through medical school on pop-up books alone.”
Normally, my inner narrator is just a mirror; a negative, a bizzaro of my external voice. But it seems as if I’ve subconsciously enlisted a guest speaker. This speaker is Ira Glass. My daily interactions, movements, commentary, and musings are hosted by the NPR svengali:
“On this week's
This American Life
, we’re talking about banality, and the everyday mundane. Act I, a resident physician details exactly what goes on behind the scenes, when those on the front lines are not saving lives; warning, it involves mature language and excessive internet surfing. Act II, that same resident catalogues colleagues’ personal tics.”
I think my fingernail is going to slough off. The throbbing has slowly subsided, giving way to general numbness. I’ve been running product; in the haze of slinging RBCs and Plasma and Platelets (oh my!), the opposable got caught in the swinging door. The anesthesiologist asks me if I’m okay, and I leisurely consider asking him for some fentanyl to ease the pain. It would have been a joke, but when someone’s intestines are slopped up onto their chest, no one feels much like laughing; the cerulean blue nail is the least of anyone’s worries in OR 14 last night.
For the second night now, I’ve had an eerie dream where my one-year-old nephew is conversing with me as if a contemporary; his sentences full and thoughtful, his body habitus that which is appropriate for a toddler, or perhaps a Little Person. We have complete conversations, inside jokes, play pranks on his parents, and create general mischief. I talk to my sister the next day, trying to recount the details of the dream without it sounding too disjointed. I ask her if her son has taken to telepathically communicating with me. She asks me if I’ve been getting enough sleep.
He texts me: “Let’s have an eating contest.”
I snort. (I am alone, so I do not feel self-conscious about this.)
I try to think of a witty reply:
“I am the Black Widow”? (Works on two levels.)
“I will school you”? (Succinct.)
”I vote chicken wings”? (Built-in irony from the vegetarian. Also, a better choice than hotdogs, which is the number-one aspirated foodstuff.)
“Kobayahsi has nothing on me”? (Look at me, I’m in the know.)
“I’ve been practicing.” (Self-depreciating humble humor.)
“You go first”? (Works on two levels.)
I haven’t heard back, yet.
I think my prowess is intimidating.
The Tip Jar