Fuck Yeah Karma

Stars aligned to prevent me from sewing with K today, several constellations full. I'd loaned my machine to a friend, so I arrived at her house a few minutes earlier than I'd planned to be and rang the doorbell. Twice. No one answered, and neither occupant answered their cell phone, either, so I returned to my car, parked perilously on what always feels like a mountainside instead of a driveway. Playing Bejeweled on my phone entertained me only long enough to imagine my emergency break giving out and my car sliding back into the guard rail and my death, so I called their cell phones again. As it turned out, they'd both been home all along, and had heard neither phones nor doorbell. I choose to believe them when they say they were showering... and not something else.

Machine recovered, I jump on the expressway and proceed to zone out and miss my exit. The following exit boasts a Dunkin' Donuts, and my weakness for an iced latte lite with blueberry, sans splenda, being generally overpowering, I hop off and decide to grab a coffee before turning around.

Only to run into my most excellent grandmother-in-law in the line at the register, who after determining I am not headed to her house, asks in a way that allows only for an affirmative if I'll be sitting down and having coffee with her. So I do, and she's such an absolute gem that I don't mind my morning delayed more even than it already has been. It's only when I leave and hear a dreadful sound that could signify the crumpling of many, many rubber dolls on the road or a very, very flat tire that I must pull over again to discover the latter.  I admitted then and I've got to admit now that I'm one of those people who probably shouldn't be allowed the privilege of things like tires, given I don't know how to change one - frankly, I'd rather take the subway or a hoverboard, but I'm making the best of the Midwest.

Danny the Ameristop rock star changed my tire and I learned more from him than I would ever have had the patience to observe if it had been my husband. Danny reminded me of my brother, all hoodies and tees and patience with strangers. He explained when putting the tire on that I ought to tighten in the pattern of a star to keep the spare from wobbling. I followed his hands blackened from the tire or the tools or both, looking for something else in the pattern. I took the back roads home on my spare, spools of thread and bobbins from my upset sewing machine rolling on the floor beneath the passenger seat. I was wondering and wobbling despite my sturdy wheels,  figuring for all the bad this morning it was good. And fucking strange.

Cancer, More Than a Crab

When the vet lifted the hackles on my cat and we watched together as they retracted slowly back to her frame, I didn't need him to tell me that this was a sure sign of dehydration. I remember when my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, when she refused to eat and when in the hospital finally, too weak to feed herself, the nurses didn't seem too keen on the act, either. But what did I know. I was fifteen, and couldn't see much through my tears. He used words like 'critical' to describe her condition and when I finally cut through his clinical attempts to calm me with a request to have my cat back, the vet patted my shoulder like he might lay his large, soft hand on the head of an obedient dog. Good girl. Stay.

I remember the last proper summer I spent with my grandmother, lying on the floor of her air conditioned room in my aunt's house, reading 1984 while she napped in the middle of the day. She'd wake up and I'd have a Cup of Ramen and we'd watch a baseball game or Silk Stockings. I don't remember now if she ate meals with me, only that when she had a snack, it was something soft so she wouldn't have to put her teeth in: fig newtons or cheese doodles.

Maybe the holidays are to blame for my ignorance but it seems to me I've only in the last two weeks not had to fill my cat's food bowl as often, only in the last two weeks has she lost interest in chasing ponytail holders or yowling her demands while dinner is being cooked. I can feel the whole of her spine down to her backbone, two points like saddle horns. She was always skinny.

Grandma, too. I didn't think women in the thirties and the forties punished themselves enough to suffer from anorexia, nor would I ever have imagined that a woman in her sixties would continue to do so. I liked to look at photographs of her as a young woman, one in particular with high-waisted shorts and a gingham top tied just above her waist. Slim even as an older woman, I own some of her clothing, but I'd never be able to wear it.

I think I never knew her, really, and I don't know now what's wrong with my cat. I fed her bits of ham all the same, and I ate what she didn't.

Get Lost

My husband and I , well behind the curve of your average primetime television viewer, only recently watched the conclusion of Lost, and while I have a great deal more to say about it than this, all I want to write about is my abruptly realized fear of dying. The thing most likely to get the tears flowing from me is fictional lovers parted, by death or otherwise. I missed a question on a test in college for having thrown Cold Mountain across the room but a few pages from the end, and I never watch the ending of Titanic or Moulin Rouge. Once is enough. Just knowing that they end the way they do is enough to set me sulking for the rest of whatever prospective day I've decided to torture myself.

It isn't that I don't believe in something after death, it's that I can't name it or describe it and I don't have the faith to follow those who claim that they can. Fragile, human doubt about what comes after is as real to me as the notion that these feelings must mean there's something more. I want to live with as much heart as possible because even if there's nothing once it stops beating, I won't know until it's too late to have done or said or dreamed. I don't want to make excuses - even though I do - because I know I have more to fear in regretting what I haven't done than anything I have or would.

It's just a television show, but what I wanted they couldn't show me. Life seems hard and little and mean, but at least I know what to expect.

Home is Where the Heart Is, Unless You Haven't Got One

I work near one of the more affluent shopping districts in Cincinnati - in my budgeted opinion - and while I very rarely entertain the thought of actually spending money there - I usually end up in tears sitting in my car outside of Anthropologie, feeling chubby and poor - I do pass through on my way to the credit union. Today I'm stopped at a light with ten crisp twenties in my purse intended to pay off Christmas purchases on my credit card, and through the slop of flurries I see a young woman holding a sign outside of the gas station on the corner.

Single mother. Homeless. Hungry.

I so rarely have cash, and my credit card bill is so very due, that considering giving her a twenty is out of the cold-hearted question. But I have to go the bank inside of the grocery store so I think, I'll buy her some warm soup and bread and fruit. Before I reach the grocery, however, I see another woman with another sign, visibly shivering with her salmon pink fleece pulled up to her nose. I want to buy her lunch, too, and I do, filling sixteen ounce containers with beef vegetable soup and placing them in my basket along with two-for-three sourdough bread loaves, two big fuji apples and navel oranges. I want to tell the gentleman ringing The Salvation Army bell in the lobby of the grocery that he can't make me feel guilty for having deposited my cash in the bank, but of course, I feel guilty anyway.

My hysteria began when I find that the woman outside of the grocery store has been joined by a gentleman, and I don't have enough lunch for him because I have to return to the woman a mile away. I apologize and she blesses me all of the same when she takes the bag, and I hope they shared. I hope they liked beef vegetable and I wasn't sure if they would like apples or oranges or if they really wouldn't have rather had the twenty.

Around the corner from the first homeless woman I am stopped at yet another light to witness a man unfolding a sign of his own, and him I have to pass. I've slipped uncertainly into a place where I can't even be sure what I'm doing is doing anything at all, and when the first woman thanks me before depositing the plastic sack of hot lunch at her feet and faces the street once more, all I can think is, her soup is going to get cold.

When I return to the parking lot at work and call my husband in tears, I remember going on a picnic with my family when I was a kid and my mom insisting that my dad pull over the car when we passed a father and son begging on the side of a rural street. She gave the boy a bag of Doritos and some of our picnic lunch besides, and she was crying even after we'd driven away. I didn't understand. At eight, I felt good about what we'd done. At twenty-eight, I know that tomorrow is just another day to be a single mother, homeless, and hungry.