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Purgatory - Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019
Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016 @ 11:30 am
We come home from the emergency room. The city is at its quietest, the lull of life that happens at three am. I idle the car at Twelfth and Cambie, the sole car at the intersection. With ten lanes intersecting, it's rare to be here without the bases loaded.
My mind is full and chaotic. A sheen of rain across the asphalt. The events of the day, the previous week, a wild mess inside my brain.
On Wednesday afternoon, I skip out on work, head out to the technical college in Burnaby. The student society invited me to speak about my career with the engineering class. I sit in the car and practice my talk. I stumble and mess it up twice. I stuff my notes in my bag, meditate for ten minutes. Pull up my britches and march towards the lecture theatre. There is a group of students waiting outside of the doors. Right. This. Later, in the lecture hall, I stand at the front and stare up at the sea of heads. This is a big theatre. It's nearly full. Fuck, fuck fuck. I do my talk, heart racing, I'm not even sure what I said. I answer questions one after the other. I feel like a hot mess, scattered, flushed, hair a giant tangle down my back. I stand my ground - this. This is how you grow. A gift - to be invited here to speak to a room full of students, ninety percent of them male. I love my job, my career, and being here to share my story with students - this is a gift.
My thyroid. Friday afternoon, I fob out a bike share cruiser from near the office and meander my way into Chinatown. I double check the address. Downtown Radiology. It's inside one of those secret urban malls. Inside are vendors selling Chinese vegetables, orange boxes of medicine. Elderly Chinese shuffle around with newspapers - they all seem to know each other. The signs for the clinic are all in English and Mandarin. The technician calls me into the back. The room is dim, decals of Winnie the Pooh on the wall. She pushes the want around on my neck, this side and that side. Snapping screenshots. At the end, I'm wiping down my neck. Are you allowed to tell me if the lump appears solid or fluid filled? She looks at me, pauses. It doesn't look solid, I don't think it's anything to worry about. Your doctor will have the results in two days. Bless her heart.
That night, I go for a massage. For all of the doctors poking my body, of all the time on hospital beds, I need this time. Where the hands that touch me are warm, gentle, nourishing. Where the sheets on the bed are soft flannel rather than crinkled paper. I've been seeing Y for a few years now, since we moved into this neighbourhood. I love seeing him. I feel safe, cared for, when he touches me. He presses down on my shoulders, and when his hands slide up my neck, my insides crumple, tears fill up my eye sockets. The tenderness, the thin skin on my neck, everything is electric, and I let go of all of the gripping in my body.
On Thursday, a project manager sidles up to my desk. Are you busy next week? I'm always busy. We need someone to go to Whitehorse. Two hours later, flights are booked. This time tomorrow, I'll be queued on the runway at the airport. Of all of the gifts that I could receive right now. I can't wait to smell the air up there, north of 60.
Yesterday afternoon, I'm jumping around on one leg, trying to pull on nylons without wrecking a fresh manicure. Daniel is shivering in bed with a fever. I accidentally kick over his jug of water, and then I'm on my hands and knees with a towel, dress hiked up to my armpits, giving up on protecting my fresh nails. I knock on the neighbours door, tell them D is on his deathbed, but that I got invited to an awards gala and will be gone for a few hours. They agree to be on call. I walk to the bus, side stepping piles of decomposing leaves, soggy piles of bran flakes.
I enter the downtown hotel ballroom. Collect my name badge from the registration table. Say hi to a few familiar faces. Retreat to the bathroom. Deep breaths, power poses in the handicapped stall. Push myself back out into the fray, bidding on silent auction items, saying hi to more colleagues. Eventually they ring the bell for us to move to the tables.
I sit down at my assigned table. A mismatched couple sits down beside me on my left. I introduce myself. He's obviously the engineer, she's the date. He's really attractive. I'm glad I wore my red "Kate" lace dress. His name is Bill. Who calls themselves Bill? I swear he's my age. And older man sits down on my right. We shake hands, and he creepily grabs my name badge from close to my chest and incredulously exclaims that I'm the technologist and not the date. Asks what I do, why I'm here. He's a close talker, and he's totally off the cuff and pompus, and he's making me feel really uncomfortable in a pervy way, but the only thing to do is roll with it.
So is he your date? Old man gestures to Bill.
No, I'm here alone.
Well, he looks like your date. You guys look like the couple. She doesn't match him at all.
I blush. I glance at Bill, who has overheard this. What the heck. You just made me blush! I tell the old man. And glance with a little smile back to Bill. Bill has watched all of this. I glance and note that he's not wearing a wedding band.
Through the course of the night, I get to know Bill. He's engaging, and interesting, and I'm so impressed with his accomplishments. Everyone is here for a reason - we're all of the overachievers. I discover that we've lived in a lot of the same places, our paths crossing several times over the years. Turns out that his date is a childhood friend. He's divorced.
Daniel sends me a message. The Nurses Line told me that I should go to the ER. My fever is too high.
I look at my phone. Look up at Bill. I wait a while, trying to figure out what to do. Half a glass of wine in, awards being presented in a steady stream. The old man interrogating me on my personal life. Laughing with Bill and his friend. A plate of chicken and asparagus is slid in front of me. There's a man playing the piano and singing, Every breath you take... every move you make...
Eventually I come to my senses. I have to go. My boyfriend texted and said he needs to go to the ER.
I sweep the room on the way out. Gather the council women together for a group photo with the professional photographer. Say my goodbyes, check my silent auction items. I'm walking towards the coat rack, and there's Bill. We talk, and he's looking me straight in the eye, saying that he's sorry that I have to leave and that he hopes everything is OK, and stuff like that. But I'm not really listening to the words. It's the chemistry. These moments of meeting someone, of intense chemistry, of knowing that right now life could shift in a different direction.
I'm clattering down the sidewalk in my heels. On my LinkedIn app, adding him as a contact. I drive myself home in a car share. Swing up in front of the house. Bundle up D and buckle him into the car. Ten minutes later, I'm idling at the entrance to Emergency. He limps into admitting; I leave to find parking.
Sitting in the car, sorting out my stuff for a long night in the hospital. Granola bar, water, blanket, book. I glance at my phone. He's already accepted my request and sent me a message. I was sooooo right. Chemistry is never one sided.
Moving through the ER. Watching Daniel get hooked up to an IV. Watching the waltz of nursing staff. A man wheels in and EKG. A man takes D away for xrays. A woman draws his blood. The hands on the clock sweep silently and steadily. Throughout the night, Bill is sending me the play by play for the rest of the gala. And the afterparty. I stop responding after a while, watching Daniel limp and pale on the bed. Refolding the blankets and rubbing his shoulder to try to keep this chills away.
I love life. I love the puzzle of it all. The feelings, good and bad. Meeting people - there are so many interesting people in the world. Sitting there in the ER with mascara on my cheeks, an attractive man sending me messages, the pregnant doctor pushing on Daniel's abdomen.
All of this. I'm overwhelmed with the beauty. My brain is full and swirling, but I'm so content. I savour it all. The intensity, the vividness, of life.
Finally home. The time creeping towards dawn. I pull out the couch to sleep.
I dream of Chris. We are together somewhere, alone. I dream that I am beside him, and that I push my face into him like a cat. Rubbing my cheek across his shoulder. Pushing myself onto him, needing that pressure, that contact. When my face turns up to his, he's looking down at me, and he kisses me tenderly on the lips. Just a brush of a kiss.
Daniel. Bill. Chris. The ER. The lecture hall full of students. Adjusting my red lace dress. The hum of the ultrasound machine. A woman crying in the ER. My tickets to Whitehorse. The old guy telling me that I'm beautiful and smart. A lady in the bathroom complimenting my dress. Pushing Daniel's IV down the hall while he walks to the bathroom. The man that stared at me on the bus. Shoving an hors d'oeuvre into my face. Singing O Canada at full volume, not holding anything back.
This is life. Me. Wild and messy.