October 15, 2012 § 1 Comment
It is six a.m., so I’m making coffee and lunches and trying to get the boys out of bed. Jeff is helping—it takes both of us to get the kids and their gear to the buses, so that we can have a little time to get ourselves ready. We wake up to music on the alarm clock, but once in the kitchen, Jeff puts on the news. “Can you turn that off?” I say.
“I’m listening to it,” Jeff says.
I used to love this. I am a self -professed NPR junkie. Before Cole was two, he said something in the back seat of the car while I was driving. “What did you say?” I asked. “Ima Tayla,” he said. “What?” Then, on the radio, the reporter said, “for NPR, I’m Ann Taylor. “ It was that bad. I can’t listen to the news in the morning now, though. It has to wait until the afternoon, until I can steady myself.
Now, I need music. My mother’s funeral was March 4, 2011. The Tsunami in Japan was March 11, 2011. I could not bear to listen to the news coverage. It kept coming. I had my own waves of sadness. There is not a lot of good news out there. It’s not that I didn’t care; it’s that I didn’t have any more room for grief.
My car died that winter too. My new car has a good stereo, and I made it through spring by avoiding the news. A human being can get saturated with loss.
When I was pregnant, I would cry with the news, detergent commercials, anything. I borrowed every emotion that brushed past me. Now, I protected myself. My car became a bubble, filled with loud, loud music on the way to work, especially. I’d listen to anything, but the Pixies usually felt best—loud, screaming, but still melodic. Thank you, Frank Black. Some days, though, I needed Paul Simon, his wistful sincerity. There are not five stages of grief, by the way. The stages overlap, and so do the genres of music a person needs.
As they say in the mountains, tuka-tuka stop stop on the violin notwithstanding, all I can play is the radio, but I need that other part of my brain, whichever side it is, to seal off the incoming, to let the music shake my body from the outside in.
October 7, 2012 § 5 Comments
I have dragged myself to an obligatory college fair, and I sit next to my department chair, so she won’t miss the fact that I am there. “You look really tired,” she says. I nod. I have no idea what to say to that. She knows my workload, but no one wants to hear about how tired you are, even if it’s true. Even if you feel like gravity has an intern, assigned to pulling your insides down, down, to any flat surface, so you will recline and sleep. It’s like the annoying people who insist on telling you how busy they are. Isn’t everyone busy? Isn’t everyone dreaming of more sleep, less work, more time to do whatever it is they really want to do? Maybe I am, as they say in Kentucky, “trying to get sick.”
I go to bed early, but I am still dragging the next day, helping a student in my office, when he starts to chuckle to himself. “What?” I say. My look should tell him exactly how I feel about his snickering. “You just seem so tired,” he says. Hilarious, I think. “Your paper looks fine,” I say. Fine enough for someone who smirks, I think.
Were I a man, at this point, I would probably go home and go to sleep. I might get a beer first, just to make sure I was relaxed enough to sleep until morning. But I’m a woman, so instead, I go to the drugstore, to the beauty aisle. It’s not the being tired—I’ve accepted that as a condition of my adult existence—I just don’t want anyone to say I look tired; that is code for telling me I look old and haggard.
For about twenty dollars, you can get a cream you truly believe might “lift and rejuvenate!” Some even use caffeine to do this. I believe in the powers of caffeine to cure anything, so they’ve got me. I weigh the cost-benefit ratio of each of these crèmes, guaranteed to make me look younger, beautiful, decidedly not tired. I do not dare to hope for perky in any department. If I am honest with myself, I am, as Gillian Welch says, “A girl with a dark turned mind.” So, I will just try to lift my face, not my spirits. I “Say Yes to Cucumbers!” That’s the name of the product. I shit you not. At home, I carefully dot the clear, cool gel under my eyes, “careful not to tug the delicate under-eye skin.” The packaging knows best, after all. It seems like I look better.
Mom, “why do you have those?” Jack Henry asks, as I’m making dinner.
“Those Reader Bags?”
“What’s a Reader Bag?”
“You know, those dark circles under your eyes.”
Say no to Cucumbers. I think .“I guess because I read a lot,” I say.
Funny, now that they’re Reader Bags, I don’t feel so ugly and worn. I feel like I’ve got proof of some accomplishment. Maybe I can bottle this. After I sleep.