This cold sore is hot—a fireworks display. I’ve named it Stupid.
For a month, I’ve made the bed usually before having a cup of espresso. Definitely before heading out to run. Because I’ve been prepared. For the call from my real estate agent, “Someone wants to see your condo.” Each morning, I’ve scrutinized mirrors, wiping at tidbits of whatever and imaginaries. Dishes clean and surfaces clear.
I walk to the center of the Kingdom of Cross Concepts and wonder what I’m doing. Why am I leaving this city I love? Yes, I do love Baltimore. I love the neighborhoods of row houses, mansions, fascinating architecture, funk and kitsch. And the harbor. And that huge, neon Domino Sugars sign. And the skyline. And I especially love the grit. Oh, how I love the grittiness.
So on Sunday during the open house, I sat on a bench outside with Laura and watched people go in and out of my place. And I thought about taking the apartment off the market. Thought about receiving an offer and saying no. Thought and thought and thought my thoughts.
“We want you to be in North Carolina with us,” Laura said.
“I think I’ll just let life take me where it wants. It does that anyway.”
“That fever blister looks awful,” Laura said, as if I didn’t know this.
Had one after Chase was killed in Iraq. Another after Charles was diagnosed. Another when Charles had shunt surgery. Another when Charles had a scan to see if the shunt was obstructed. Another within days of Charles’ death. And now this one, erupting because, well, moving is stressful—along with the angst-ing about whether or not to leave the place where Charles died. “Let Charles die,” a friend said recently. “Let. Charles. Be. Dead.”
And I decided I could do that, because he is. But it’s tough to leave these rooms where we spent his last eleven months. Where we reviewed our life together, talking about everything from meeting to dating to marrying to working through problems and having our heads shrunk to the size of lentils to having a baby to parenting to devotion to illness to death do/did us part.
At 3:00, I walked back to my unit. “You have a full offer. Cash. No inspection,” said my agent extraordinaire.
I’m feeling overwhelmed. But I’ve emptied a kitchen cabinet, wrapping breakables in protective paper. I filled two boxes. I haven’t removed Charles’ medicine schedule, the paper with his handwriting (micrographia), taped to the inside of a door. After he died, I’d get out of bed in the night and press my palm against it. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll sort through the files, his medical records, the tests that led three neurologists to say, “You’re an interesting case, Dr. Beattie.”
I stare at all the stuff I don’t want to move, don’t need, care nothing for, and think “transient pleasures.” How I felt when I acquired a painting or a porcelain vase—the difference now, each object an encumbrance.
But this is stupid. I am stressed over something stupid. When I know well the real from the irrelevant.
Irrelevant is Monday night’s “debate.” I didn’t watch, couldn’t, but read about it. One writer said our massive national deficit is not the consequence of domestic policies but instead is the result of foreign misadventures. I focused on that word, “misadventures.” It’s a weak noun for Empire’s destruction.
Here’s MY example of a misadventure: For almost a year I was seeing a man—someone who said we should watch When Harry Met Sally. “Missy, we ARE Harry and Sally.” Recently I learned we were Harry, and Sally, and Sally, and Sally. But this is irrelevant. No one got killed. (Even though I had some vivid revenge fantasies.)
Real is a military/industrial/security deformity committed to carnage.
Real is Guantanamo, drone attacks, the “war of terror” with an expanded kill list known as “disposition matrix.”
Real is poverty, hunger, inadequate healthcare or none at all.
Real is the knock or ring of a doorbell, a phone call, followed by words that change lives forever—words that are fall-to-the-floor agonizing. A sick, injured, or slaughtered child. Any human being, ravaged by injustice. Really.
Missy Beattie is busy in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org