Elaine’s Wig

I found this story whilelooking for something else. Wrote it and forgot it. 2011

 

Elaine’s Wig

Elaine had lost her wig. It blew off her head as she gripped the crook of Stanley’s arm, on the way to the car after chemo. The wind was high, driving a warm, exhilarating rain into their faces. Though Stanley held their big umbrella in front of them with his other hand, the rain found its way like a worm, under their collars, their buttons and into their boots.

He’d stayed with her the whole time, as she sat in the reclining chair with the IV dripping into her veins, fast asleep. He read the paper or chatted to the people accompanying the other chemo patients, and to the patients themselves. He never asked them about their cancer, although they seemed open, even eager, to talk about it. Instead he talked sports, the news of the day, but no politics. Politics, religion and now cancer, were off limits. He didn’t want to upset anyone here, especially the sick people, in case it somehow disrupted that smooth drip of pure poison into them that was, perhaps, their last hope.

At least, it was Elaine’s last hope…or more accurately, it was Stanley’s. Elaine hadn’t wanted it. After they removed her left breast, and told her she needed chemo, she wanted to let go. She was tired, she said, but would do it to please Stanley. Still the more chemo she had, the more she seemed to weaken. Her skin was dry and tired looking, her energy much diminished. Her once robust body whittled away to nothing It wasn’t just the chemo or the cancer, Stanley thought. She was giving up. If he were the crying kind, he would have wept tears of anger and frustration. Instead he distracted himself with woodworking projects. He’d made a birdhouse the other day, and then another. He wondered, sheepishly, how many birdhouses the world really needed. He figured he could supply the town at least.

Elaine didn’t cry either, she simply faded. Stanley imagined that one day he’s wake up and the woman beside him would be as translucent as a jelly fish, and the next day she would have disappeared altogether.

When Elaine woke up she smiled sleepily at Stanley. “What day is it?” she asked. He knew she was joking. Gladness swelled in his throat, threatening to make him a dancing weeping fool. He smiled at her but she closed her eyes again, as though exhausted. Stanley’momentary joy crumbled. How could a woman who’d raised three children and worked hard every day of her life, be tired from simply telling a joke?

A young nurse came over with the second IV bag. “How’s she doing today?” she asked Stanley, in a loud, friendly voice. Elaine’s eyelids fluttered but she didn’t bother to open them. Stanley squeezed her hand. “She’s about done” he said. “Brown on both sides.” The nurse seemed delighted that he had a sense of humour. She laughed heartily, patting his hand and repeated the joke to her coworker.

When it was all over, it was early afternoon. Stanley helped Elaine into a wheelchair and they sat for awhile, nibbling on the cookies provided for the chemo patients. Stanley’s stomach gurgled and he thought longingly of takeout burger and fries, but he knew the smell of it would make Elaine nauseous. Anyway, there was a tuna casserole at home from one of the neighbours, who told Elaine they were going away and couldn’t eat it, but which Stanley knew was a gesture of concern.

He wheeled her into the elevator. Stanley had always loved being alone in the elevator with Elaine. On their third date, he had kissed her in an elevator like this, on their way up to her parents’ apartment where he would say goodbye to her and hello to her parents, who had watched from their living room window as his old Volkswagon pulled into the visitor’s parking lot, and Stanley opened the car door for Elaine, and walked her into the building right on her curfew. They wanted to know he was a gentleman, Elaine said with a laugh as he nuzzled her neck and fondled her breasts, all the way from the ground floor to the 9th.

Elaine had been remarkably uninterested in the fact that she had lost a breast. “Good riddance,” she said at first, whereas Stanley bore the shock of the loss. He’d always loved her breasts, the soft harbour they made for his head when he fell asleep. Elaine was more concerned about people knowing she was sick. She couldn’t tolerate pity.

At the front door of the hospital, Elaine insisted on getting out of the wheelchair and walking to the car. He knew she didn’t want to leave the hospital as an invalid. Luckily he had found a free handicapped parking spot and on account of his prosthetic leg, he had the parking pass to go with it.

Elaine refused to wait for him to bring the car to the front door. “You’ll drive off without me,” she said, gripping his arm. She was just being stubborn but he was relieved. He knew how easy it was to stop doing for yourself in the face of tiredness and pain, and if you give in one day, the next day you’ll give in a little more, and that would be the end of you. When he lost his leg years ago, crushed by a dump truck on the building site where he was a new foreman, he’d been in a blue funk for days, believing somehow that his reason for living had been attached to the missing leg,. Elaine did her best to make him angry, taunting him for his foul mood as he sat in his wheelchair. He’d never been a violent man, but he swiped at her with his fist. She simply pushed her chair back. “Come and get me, you fat assed gimp,” she whispered meanly. It wasn’t physio that helped him recover, it was Elaine pissing him off.

As they stepped out of the hospital’s front doors, he opened the big umbrella in front of them. It sounded like someone was flinging pebbles, the rain was so hard. He hesitated a moment before stepping out from under the overhang. Elaine, however, tipped her face upward, as though to receive the sun. She’d always loved the rain. Her wig of grey curls was slightly askew, darkened by the watery onslaught.

They took a few steps toward the car, the wind tearing at the umbrella. With Elaine gripping his left arm he had no control over it. The gale ripped it from his hand. At the same moment Elaine’s wig, as wet as though she’d been swimming in it, slipped sideways over her ear, then fell completely away. Stanley watched it roll behind them like a tumbleweed.

Elaine put her hand to her patchy baldness. She looked like a young eagle chick, Stanley thought. The rain slicked her hair to her head, which, Stanley appreciated now as never before, was a beautiful shape, an elegant, even regal shape. She blinked in the rain, as though she couldn’t move.

A security guard was watching from the shelter of the overhang at the hospital entrance. He scooped up the wig and shook it, then handed it to Elaine with a solemn look. “Here you go ma’am.” The diehard smokers in the bus shelter on the sidewalk, one of them pushing an IV pole, looked too. Elaine put two hands up to cover her ears, as if someone had told her something so terrible she couldn’t bear to hear it.

Stanley wanted to hold her, to whisk her away from view. But instead he grunted, “Rain getting’ in?” She looked at him, stunned. “Rain getting’ in your ears?” he asked, as he gently propelled her by her elbow into the passenger seat of their car.

Elaine looked straight ahead of her. Stanley dumped himself into the driver’s seat, lifted his leg in, and slammed the door. “It could of been worse,” he said. He waited for her question, so he could utter the punch line, but she was too lost to humour him. “It could have been my leg,” he said to the air around them and started the engine.

Stanley drove them home, windshield wipers going so fast they almost seemed a parody of themselves. He took Elaine’s elbow, got her settled on the couch with pillows and blankets, taking the wet wig from her hand. She fell asleep right away, mindlessly, gratefully, he thought. It occurred to him that she wouldn’t see the end of the year, that their time was coming to an end and he knew finally that there was nothing he could do to stop it. He kissed her fingers and turned on the television.

.

 

sitting with

 

If you sit with grief

and hold its hands

in yours, they will be cold,

it’s true, but they won’t

steal you from yourself.

If you sit with sorrow,

and hold it to your heart,

you will ache

but it will not take you with it

when it lets you go.

If you sit with hope

it floats above you

til you choose it

grasping its tail and pulling it

on to your shoulder.

and then it is yours,

for its lifetime, as long as it lasts.

Feed it, scratch it under the chin

and  let it roam free.

It may bring you a pebble,

a treasure, a fruit

and when sorrow and grief

come calling,

it will sit on your shoulder

eating pistachios

looking at them with bright eyes

until they know

it’s  time to go.

 

 

 

Almost

So… it’s the day before my self-imposed deadline for the first set of revisions for my novel “Low”… and it feels like there’s a magnet buried in my manuscript and the magnet in me is pushing it away for all it’s worth. My aim is to get the chapter breaks done tomorrow. I probably should have been doing them all the way along but my brain was on “Stupid” setting for most of the time. I also realize in my effort to keep my stress to a minimum I have probably glossed over the difficult parts. but I have done the best i could with the brain i have, which reminds me of a marshmallow, really. A friend of mine who has a little girl told me that her brain doesn’t seem to work the same as before she was pregnant… mommy brain, it’s called. I do not have that excuse. My brain doesn’t work for a lot of reasons but I am pretty sure the big one is fear. the farther i push fear away the stupider I get. I guess i just have to hope somehow that it’s not all crap, even though my tired brain is telling me it’s just so much bird poop. Damn.

Antigonish’s Sunday best

Ah! home again, after a Sunday afternoon on the town in Antigonish. Snowy, a little but not so icy as yesterday. Did a little exploring of the campus (came across the chapel and the physical sciences building, each little lane neatly signposted as though it were in a little town of its own). Found my way up 61 steps to the Bloomfield Centre, which is where the art gallery is housed. The girl at the information desk seemed tiny and alone in such a big building, and the art gallery was open but empty when i got there. Aside from the vast and beautiful abstracts by Wayne Boucher and Don Pentz, there was a wall with three doors. One looked like a safe, another seemed to hide an elevator. Very mysterious. I wanted to open those doors but recognized that was not likely a welcome gesture.

Wandered downtown across the snowy river and went to the bank, holding the door for two suspicious looking men who looked at me suspiciously. Nothing came of it, unless perhaps they have robbed my bank account already with some card and pin reader. There was a cigarette butt in the corner and the smell of …something- sewer or subway. Went down the street looking for an open cafe but no luck… stopped in at the 5 and 10 and spent a little money on leggings and a glue stick (they didn’t have a totally flat hair catcher for my totally flat shower drain cover), then headed toward home. At 2:30 pm I was walking by the cinema and looked up at the sign. The Hobbit was showing starting that very minute! Talk about serendipity. I went in, pleasantly surprised by the 7.50 ticket and gritting my teeth at the 3 buck bottle of water which I was dying for. For some reason I found the film quite unengaging until the very end… and of course the scenes with Gollum, in his endearing creepiness. Still it was interesting to see again the landscape of Middle Earth which bears a striking resemblance to the place my mother is going to visit next year!

Walk home was dark but balmy- it’s warming up out there. Made myself some sweet and sour stir fried veggies and heated up the rice and ham. yum yum yum. I have been eating ham for days but am not tired of it. I will be sad when it’s all gone and i think it likely my first days in Antigonish will be ham-flavoured in my memory ! Tomorrow- post office. cafe or library to write. Will bring lunch to the women’s centre likely, unless I come home… though I can make tea there for free! and sit on a couch and talk to Tanya the receptionist, who has been very kind.

Welcome your emails and facebook messages… will try to remember to take pics next time!

Bloggily yours,
Anna

upright and conscious, not to be confused with uptight and anxious

018Well, that mental health blip turned out to be bigger than i thought. I’ve been out of commission for a couple months, and during that time I decided to move to Antigonish, . Despite all the worry and dire predictions swirling around me when i was most ill, the idea stuck… and now that I am getting healthy again, I am looking forward to the change of place, pace and head space.  Of course all my hang ups, neuroses and vices and vulnerabilities will move with me, but still, sometimes a change is as good as a rest.

In Antigonish, I’ll be subletting a lovely apartment, whose most attractive feature of all is that it has a washer and dryer right in the kitchen. The convenience of being able to do my laundry at home outweighs the inconvenience of not having public transit or a grocery store nearby.

There is a beautiful new public library in Antigonish, called the People’s Place Library which I plan to make my home away  from home. There is a  vibrant arts community, the Lyghtsome Gallery and the Antigonish Review. There is a strong history of social justice and cooperative  movements, Catholicism and the Coady Institute. Any place than is Anti- gonish ( damn those gonishes, damn them) has got to be a place of goodness and light.

I will walk a lot. Hopefully write a lot…and make a temporary, and maybe a more long-term home for myself. And heal. I am looking for healing after banging my head against the wall of the world for too many days.

There are many ways to do most things, when you think about it. Healing is not so different. But the body and mind have their own time, and can’t be rushed… so I try to be patient, and let them do their thing. In the meantime, I have sold, given or turfed most of my furniture, books and belongings, and am slowly trying to shake myself free of he things that have glued me like a barnacle to Halifax.  Some of those are positive things, like friends and family. Others are  negative, like fear and inertia. No matter what kept me here, it’s time to go.

If you’re up my way,look me up… or you may find me at the library, the pool or the bakery at the corner of Main and Hawthorne… whose name I forget, and which I look forward to remembering once I see it again. I’ll be the woman with the purple hat with the green and pink flower on it. Writing away with a smile on my face, I hope.

Summer Comes and Goes

Here we are, almost at the end of summer vacation and I havna touched this blog since summer began. Time travels strangely when you aren’t watching it… like a hummingbird maybe or a butterfly. It gets away from you if you blink once and swear.

It’s been an eventful couple months. My job placement ended, and the swimming and walking began in earnest. The weather has been wonderful, sunny days piled on top of each other, enough rain to make things grow My sister got through chemo and entered radiation- apparently each dose is equal to thousands of xrays.  My parents are healthy and content, my nephews rambunctious and vocal as howlers. If only they would eat as intensely and enthusiastically as they play…
Sad to say goodbye to Summer and to Carrie Smith but looking forward to the Fall, and to new bits of work, a Y membership, and hopefully more writing and painting than I have been doing of late….

God Bless Abilify, Long live our gracious Abilify!

Arting the Solstice

I bit the bullet and bought a pack of five student grade canvases at De Serres… better quality than the dollar store I hear, though I don’t really know the difference… They cost over 20 bucks with tax but that doesn’t seem too expensive… I owe some people paintings, and figured i should up the quality of my materials slowly if i don’t want to be known for my shoddy goods…

Mary Kate gave me tons of paint and brushes, oil pastels, and watercolour pencils among other juicy tidbits… I fully expect to be making art until i’m 90 with all this stuff! Now I need reasonably good paper, and canvases, and I’ll be all set!

here are my latest works in progress…

blue horse