Things that did not happen today

Posted: January 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: College, Friends and Strangers, Misc Neuroses, My Body, My Temple | No Comments »

Today part-way through an article in Us Weekly about how celebrities lost their postpartum weight—or maybe it was the story about George Clooney and his ex-girlfriend having recently “kept in touch” via email—I set the magazine down in my lap and ran my mind though a voluntary exercise of abject terror.

I was at the chiropractor. Sitting on the table in a blue hospital gown and an absurd little triangular lead apron, a grossly inadequate-seeming shield for my baby-makin’ parts from the x-rays I’d just had taken. X-rays of my lower back and neck–standard stuff the new doc figured would confirm his garden variety “baby trauma, computer hunch, yadda yadda” diagnosis about my bag of bones.

At some point in the middle of whatever article it was, I suddenly realized just how long I’d been sitting there reading that crappy magazine. Long enough to envision a scenario whereby the doctors were all in the other room, leaning with concern into the light box of my x-rays and discussing just how they’d break the news to me about the wretched thing they saw–long enough to make that terrible image suddenly seem as though it was without a doubt what had to be happening and why I was waiting so damn long.

And here I’d been. Haplessly reading a magazine. Ignorant and blissful. Expecting that after scanning the pictures showing celebrities doing things ‘just like us’ (putting money in the parking meter!) the doctor would come back, inform me the x-rays were just fine, tell me to get dressed, direct me to another room for a heat pack and a few righteous neck crunches, then send me on my way home to collect Mark and the girls for a rainy-day visit to the wildlife sanctuary.

But really what would-could-might be about to go down would make these few page-flipping minutes seem like the happiest carefree bored would-that-I-could-go-back-there time ever. What if the doctors came in, stern and serious? And after our talk I had to dig out my cell phone, call Mark, tell him he needed to come meet me there, or maybe even at the hospital? What if something suddenly on this otherwise nondescript day sent me into a mother-love panic about my fragile and about-to-crumble mortality jeopardizing my happy-go-lucky magazine-reading life and my heretofore inadequately appreciated days and months and years with my beloved husband and those blessed beautiful girls?

It could happen.

But in some deep deep place I think I somehow knew that this whole mental spiral was only meant to act itself out in my mind. Based in part on the odds. But also because if I thought it might really be happening I don’t think I could even bear to conjure it up. To take it all the way though to the sickening horrible thought that I can barely force myself to return to now—my sweet small children, motherless.

Who knows what triggered this sudden ardent need for a heroin-heavy dose of life perspective. Maybe, God willing, the doctor’d come back in, all in a flurry with some double-booked back-up of neck-wringing to wrangle with, and like some hairdresser who’s gotten behind on one appointment that’ll screw her for the whole day, apologize as he hastily loaded a heating pad on my back to move me through the rotation and out the door—one more down.

And thankfully, blessedly, thank you thank you thank you Mr. Universe, Sir, some version of that did happen.

But still in my relief the thought lingered that maybe one room over there was another woman who wasn’t so lucky. And if not in this doctor’s office surely somewhere nearby someone was getting crappy news. Someone’s plans to go home and heat up leftover chicken soup for lunch were about to be shot to shit.

I had a professor in London my junior year of college. A rapid-fire-talking layered-clothing-wearing kindly woman whose voice was as high-pitched as it was shrill. Truth be told I don’t even remember what genre of lit she taught, though it seems like it should be 19th Century.

Anyway, one day I went to her office for our tutorial—the one-on-one sessions that comprised the Brit’s collegiate learning structure. (“Here’s the syllabus. Read the books. Meet with me every other week–maybe over a pint–to chat. And turn in five papers by the end of the term.”) So I walk into her office. She’s all in a tizzy–much more so than her usual state. Wisps of gray hair flying out of her bun and glasses low on her nose. Standing up behind her desk slapping together teetering piles of books and papers and folders and a tea cup or two while clucking to herself, “Oh, Margorie. Come on now! Come on.”

Then, having done nothing to acknowledge my presence at her door, she lets out a sudden shriek, “Oh yes! Yes, yes, yes!” And clutching a little ratty brown leather billfold to her chest and exhaling deeply closes her eyes for a moment then flaps them open wide cackling, “Kristen! Dear! I am so very happy to have you be the first person to know that my wallet is now found! Hiding right here in plain view! And you know really, it’s such a thrill. Sometimes,” she said leaning closer to me, and I can still picture her grinning giddily on the verge of this, “when you think something is lost—you’ve utterly and uncompromisingly convinced yourself of it, and then—behold!—why it’s suddenly right there! Right back there for you! Do you know how sometimes it’s really such a wonderful delight to have it back that it sort of makes having lost in the first place actually quite worthwhile?”

Yes, Margorie. Yes, I do.

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