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“talk to yourself for thirty minutes and record it, then transcribe it.”

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I have come to accept that I will be fine. I’m relatively healthy, I have a family that loves me, friends who are there most of the time, and have enough hobbies to keep me busy. If I want to reject the idea that I am a GYPSY, does that make me one? I work for those people, girls who break their phones a couple times a year, drunk, doing laundry. I have to tell them no, we can’t take your mom’s credit card information over the phone. But am I that girl if I drive a BMW? What if I told you it was falling apart, fifteen years old, and I only got it when my dad got a better car? What if I told you we had to move six hundred and sixty seven miles away once my Dad’s company was bought out? My dad’s company consisted of my dad, a desk, and an office chair in our basement. They didn’t want the company, they just wanted him. What if I told you about how when I was little we had to live in my grandmother’s two bedroom rancher because we had no money? I shared a bed with my Grandmeré, but if I was going to be technically correct, I slept on my grandfather’s side of the bed. They had two twin beds pushed together, fifties sitcom style.

In the almost twenty two years since his death, I have slept in that bed almost as much as my grandfather did. Sometimes I would hold her hand when I was scared of her old pipes creaking. She would mumble Tony under her breath, (predictive of the dementia that was developing but still asymptomatic,) and squeeze my hand a little. Instead of giving her a kiss in the middle of the night, like Tony might have, I would lean my head close and listen if she was breathing. She has been every time I’ve checked so far, but one day she won’t be. She’s been forgetful for years now – showing significant symptoms for at least four years. I will miss her, but I miss her already. She’s not the same person, instead a stubborn child in a wrinkled skin that tells off color jokes. But what really worries me is that I will have to do it all again, but with my mother. One day, maybe someone will have to take care of me that way. But until then, I will be fine. I will be as happy as I can be, and if not, I will do what I need to to be happy. If that means getting over my fear of needles to be inoculated against the unfiltered world, so be it.

At this point, depressed and tired, I turned the recorder off.

0:00-10:00

“talk to yourself for thirty minutes and record it, then transcribe it.”

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I want to boycott this assignment— I don’t want to talk to myself aloud for thirty minutes and record it. I can barely talk for twenty minutes, period. I’m not a fucking talker. I have other, more productive, things I could be doing besides sitting here talking to myself. It doesn’t help that I am already on the verge of melodramatics and hysterics.

This morning, I went to a doctor’s office where I dealt with my worst fear. I walked into the doctor’s office – late, as usual – where a blonde woman was lying in wait for me. “Hi, are you Lauren? I’m Myra. I’ll do your allergy testing.” Someone had called ahead to warn them I was coming. She looked like I would imagine a nurse named Myra – heavy set, short, curly blonde and grey hair pulled back into a pony tail. She had sons my age- one was studying equine management, whatever the fuck that is. One could assume, as I did, that he was in Clemson, South Carolina, jerking off horses. That was where my mind immediately went – why would anyone want to do such a thing? He was probably a deviant for all I knew. My knowledge of horses is limited, despite having taken several horseback riding lessons as a child. But he was probably taking care of them. Not their sexual needs, don’t be gross. Is there money in horse care taking? Myra was probably wasting her tuition money. I did not say that to her. The only people I have ever met who took care of horses could be summed up: young blonde white women, retired yuppies who owned an equine sanctuary with the money from their OBGYN practice, and adult men outside of Nairobi, Kenya. An eccentric bunch in their own right becomes more bizarre when categorized. But Myra’s son is one of them.

Before she would torture me, she showed me the devices – the piece of plastic dipped in poisons that would make my skin flush and swell, the individual needles used for the control tests. Fine, I said, and tried to distract myself. As soothing as Ira Glass usually is, it didn’t work. I felt every prod, every poke, every milliliter of the outdoor environmental irritants as it was pushed beneath my skin. Sixteen on my left arm, sixteen again on my right. Great. I grit my teeth and sit still, an accomplishment in itself, for twenty minutes, letting my immune system soak up enough to thoroughly freak itself out. Three spots swelled up to a lima bean, white with an angry, red, pointillist halo. The rest, because they were only raised to a “four” on her scale, were tested again.

Myra gave me sixty four shots this morning, thirty two in each arm.

She was very worried about me passing out, which I laughed off. Once I got past the primal fear of someone pushing a piece of metal into and through my skin to deposit some sort of venom, I chuckled it off, feeling light headed. “No, I’ll be fine. I got teeth filled with no Novocain, got major surgery and took tylenol,” I said, your allergy shots have nothing on my pain tolerance. But I do feel woozy, now, saying this. I felt woozy in the car on my way home. I caught myself wanting to close my eyes and just let my car drift across the double yellow lines, onto the left shoulder and into the woods. I tried to hold onto the steering wheel, tight, and keep the car in control. But my eyelids were so heavy, and the sunlight was warm and NPR did nothing to excite me, despite how lively the discussion was. I’m laying in bed now, trying to force myself to talk, but finding it difficult. I want to close my eyes still, as heavy as they are, but there is so much work to be done.

Smell

I spent my Friday afternoons suffering in an oncology waiting room (that smelled sterile and like bad air freshener) for Andy. Other patients and their caretakers sat in the uncomfortable chairs waiting for treatment, too. The “plus-ones,” caretakers invited in for moral support, were waiting for their loved one to be called in for treatment – and they usually were loved ones – only to wait again for them to come out, sedated, and carrying the discharge instructions.

I stared off into the TV, trying to ignore the sensationalist news. Is there radioactive waste in the sewers? More after this break. This cable news channel had the senior demographic wrapped up – preying on fears of big government taking away rights, medical malpractice, inferior vaginal mesh. There were commercials for medical implants and personal injury lawyers, perfectly curated for a hospital. My favorite was for a catheter: an old woman (on a couch) and a middle aged man (in a wheelchair) sat, knee to knee:
“I use catheters. It’s so messy and expensive!” the white haired woman said, wringing her hands together.
“I’m worried about infections,” the man said and reached out to touch his costar.
“I wish there were a better way!” they both cried out.

I leaned back and wondered where I could get these magical, easier to use catheters for all my pissing-in-a-bag needs. I wrote myself a note: order catheters. Neither Andy nor I needed them, but we were never sure what the next side effect would be.

The door to the treatment room opened and a man hobbled out and crumpled into the chair across from me. He smelled like he had been sterilized and doused in the same bad air freshener. But the smell of sickness still oozed out of his pores – it was in his hair, on his breath – the smell was thick and hung around my head like smoke. I watched the man out of my peripherals – he was waiting on his significant other, his loved one.

He was just like my Andy waiting for me. Maybe she would walk him down to the cat, drive him home, and tuck him into bed. He would sleep all of the next day, she would leave him alone and go to work. By Tuesday or Wednesday he was coming out of his pharmaceutical stupor. By Thursday he felt great and visited work, but was never strong enough to actually finish anything. Then he got the treatment again and the cycle started over again. I knew after laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and with that week’s worth of poison flushed through his system to kill what ailed him, Andy would smell like that when he came out, too.

2014.