18 September 2003

9:30 pm (Mountain Time), Home

Happy Birthday, George Carroll!

This morning I woke up with a sore throat and a stuffed head, and after my morning ritual of tea and toast, I thought about trying to do something productive in the hour and a half before I needed to leave for work, and then thought better, and crawled back into bed for another forty-five minutes with the dog as my pillow.

Apparently it was a terrible day for everyone with allergies. I couldn’t put my contacts in because my eyes were too dry and irritated, so I wore glasses all day. Though I know intellectually that when those friends of mine who normally wear contacts wear their glasses, I always think they look cute, I can’t get over the more instinctual feeling that my glasses make me look ugly. Even though I actually get a lot of compliments when I wear my glasses, it doesn’t matter: I am a four-eyed freak. I think this is partly due to the fact that I usually only wear my glasses early in the morning, late at night, and when I’m sick, so when I wear them to work I kind of feel like I’m wearing my pajamas to work. Like I’m not really dressed yet, like I’m dressed to bum around the house and watch movies, not dressed to be professional.

Getting into the truck, I bit my cheek so hard I actually started crying. And then I sat there for a minute, still parked on the street in front of my house, with my forehead resting on the wheel, and wondered how the hell I’d get through the day. A few minutes later, cruising east on I-40, squinting into the bright sunshine without my sunglasses, I thought about Leyla Sanyer, and how she always used to talk about high and low biorhythms. A low physical biorhythm was easily identifiable, because not only was your immune system flailing, but also you were just physically off, and your body stopped working very well in general. Your hips and shoulders would forget how to navigate their way through a doorframe, for example. Or you’d bite through the side of your cheek so hard you’d end up crying in the truck in front of your house. Layles would tell me I was at the very lowest point of my physical biorhythm, I thought, and then I did a mental scan to see where I was in my other biorhythms. Emotional? I’ve been doing pretty well, but this feeling sick thing is getting me down. Mental? Too many anti-histamines to think clearly.

At the store, Jennie told me that when she has days like this, she takes an extra long time getting ready in the morning, really pampers herself, maybe takes a bath.... I said, “On days like this in college, I’d wear my hair down so it hung in my face, wear my sunglasses inside, keep my scarf wrapped around my neck all day, and clutch my coffee to my breast, holding it between myself and the world. It was my alter-ego: the Alcoholic Actress.” Jennie kind of frowned (she doesn’t think alcoholism is funny), but Robert clapped his hands together, “I love it! A tortured diva!”

It seemed that everyone we met today was suffering from allergies, which made me feel better (you know what they say about misery...). In a moment of quiet at the center, Jennie took a spray bottle and misted the giant iguana, cooing, “It’s raining in the tropics, baby.” The iguana leaned forward on his front legs, lifted up his chin, closed his eyes, and – and I’m not making this up – smiled. He got the same expression Zeke gets when you stroke his ears, or Sally gets when you pet her hair.

At the end of the day, Jennie said, “You did such a great job today of hanging in there, even though you felt crappy. That’s so hard to do!” I said, “Thanks for the positive feedback,” and marveled at my luck in finding this job. I haven’t had a boss who was so actively affirming since I worked under Peter Beeber at Perkins in the summer of 1998. I feel so lucky to be working with such great people.

When I got home, Danielle said Zeke had been moping around all afternoon, so I spent about forty minutes running around with him, throwing his tennis ball so he could tear around the back yard after it, playing tug-of-war with him, and telling him that he was a good dog. I think it’s hard on him to have me gone all day, even though Danielle’s home in the afternoon more often than not. After running around for a while, we both came inside and stretched out on the green couch together. He laid with his paws across my abdomen, as if to make sure I stayed right there on the couch. We laid like that for a while, listening to All Things Considered... and when I woke up two hours later, he was still lying with his paws and chin resting on my stomach, but the house was totally dark and the radio was off. I vaguely remembered Danielle asking, “Are you awake?” and me answering, “No.”

The best part of the day by far wasn’t napping with the dog (twice), nor was it seeing the iguana smile in the “rainforest mist.” It wasn’t talking to Jennie, nor playing with Robert, nor having Chris Acklen, the counselor at Roosevelt Mid-School, introduce me to a school social worker as a “novelist,” and then saying, “And she’s an English teacher and we’re hoping she’ll come teach here next year!” No, the best part of the day – by far – was this:

Time: Wed, 17 Sep 2003 14:21:47 -0500
From: "Gail Gregory"
Subject: Avid Fan

. . . And my, oh my, can you craft a thought. I haven't
read your work since I re-read "The Book"...I was
impressed and touched and delighted and provoked.
And now I'm all that and awed. You have displayed
that rare quality of making it "look easy". And it
ain't...not like that.

All the teasing aside, (I do so worry about you
getting a BIG head!!) I don't think I've told you
nearly enough what a gifted writer I think you are.
You really can make a person "be there". You blend
the concrete and the spiritual, the rocks and the
reasons-or lack of reasons-so beautifully. I felt
the heat of sun, heard the water ripple over my
feet, smelled the leaves burning, followed the
silhouette of the mountain horizon, felt the dog's
fur, heard the neighbor girls giggle in the night,
and I stood in wonder of you * your pick-up-and-go
life and your generous spirit to share it all. Not
just with the world, (anybody can do that now) but
over the years, with me. I'm feeling quite blessed.
Thank you . . . .

Speaking of blessed.... I am. All my love to Gail, for making my day and making me feel so loved, and to Tim, who reminded me that I once sold my soul to the devil for a shiny red truck. And to the smiling iguana, for reminding me that even on the worst days, the world is full of hidden gifts.

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