Wait, where is my lifeboat? Part 3

RECAP: I was “on vacation” with my mother in the Florida Keys. There was a deserted Island, mention of yellow fever, and chunks flew (yes like in Triangle of Sadness.)

My mother and I visit Hemingway’s house. We take the tour. I learn he didn’t pay for anything. He was fortunate enough to marry the daughter of a rich man. This rich man gave them money to buy their home priced at $8,000. Ernest also didn’t use any of his advance royalty checks for writing actual books. Instead he just bought boats and fished on the coast of the Florida Keys. A fellow ship captain gifts Hemingway’s son a cat named Snowball. That cat is never fixed and her 54 descendants rule the museum in the present day. They are scattered on the chairs, the bed, the dining table, the gutters, the gardens, the shelves of the gift shop. Cats everywhere. I think, I don’t want to be Hemingway. I want to be Hemingway’s cat.

My mother and I are in Key Largo. I am just days away from being home and I’m ready for it. Nine days away from home is just a little too long for my taste.

My friend is texting me. She’s been off work/school all week and her husband’s been gone as well. She tells me she’s binge watched trash tv. I tell her I am jealous. I wish the fates weren’t so cruel as to give her week off at the same time as my week away. Even as I’m watching a dolphin swim past our hotel balcony, I complain to her how hard it is to enjoy one’s self when traveling with a retired, widowed mother. I suspect it is because, as a daughter, it has always been my role to mediate. I have always acted according to what others needed. I have never been able to act according to my own needs.

And what I needed in Key Largo, was to just sit still. I needed to not be planing how best to spend the last two days seeing sites and eating expensive food. I just wanted to sit, endlessly scroll, maybe respond to some texts. But I couldn’t let myself ask to relax/be boring, for fear that my mother’s vacation days would be wasted, or my mother would know she exhausted me.

What I wanted in Key Largo, was to sit and celebrate a much anticipated work email. A small Literary Magazine for which I am an Editor, published it’s first anthology. Somewhere in between Miami and Key West I read that Volume I is available on Amazon in ebook, paperback and hardback. I designed and submitted the anthology personally, more than 3 weeks prior.

Alas, I couldn’t find the time to sit with the news. I was driver, navigator, and in the running for best-daughter-of-the-year.

When I arrive home, I am thrilled to be back at all the things, including this publication. If you read the last blog, you already know how much I enjoyed myself at times. The fact remains, coming home is hard to beat. I am on cloud nine as I chip away at my long to-do list and my husband and pups coming in and out of my office, equally happy to have me home.

My local Book Club meets once a month. Our next meeting is the Monday after I get back. Another thing I have looked at for nine days is the audio book for this month, The Dog of the North. It would be rude to listen to an audio book while on vacation with your mother, right? Right. So I listen when I get back to work.

The book is cute and funny but there is also something off. It’s stilted and its exposition is more elementary? I can’t quite put my finger on it. I don’t actually finish the audio book until my car pulls into the driveway of the host of book club that month. But it is the morning before book club, that my friend tells me the thing she’s been waiting to tell me:

She was pregnant. Is? Isn’t sure.

She is 8 weeks along when my friend explains that she knows something is wrong but is going to her doctor to confirm. My mind spirals into a web of, what idiotic things have I said or done, having not known she was pregnant. Also, how do I comfort my friend? This is scary and entirely outside my wheelhouse. My mind has to process both the tragic news of a possible miscarriage, and the old news of my friend having been pregnant, wanting to be pregnant, and planning her pregnancy.

Sometimes–who am I kidding, all the time, when you’re a woman–people ask me if I want kids. I confidently tell them, no. Sometimes, they ask me about my husband. I inform them that science hasn’t perfected uterus transplants yet…JK. I confidently add that Josh does not want them either. It is a sleep-late, stay-up-late, garbage-eating household (with dogs and a cat) and we have every intention of keeping it that way.

RE-reading her text
I think about
Crashing an open house–a home
how my friend and I last spent the day at a cemetery–the jewish part.
how we argued about guns in the parking lot–guns? really?
I do my best to comfort her via text–i’m so sorry, don’t worry, trust your gut, get to the doctor.
I ask her to let me know what the doctor says

At book club, I learn what was off with the book. The main character of the Dog of the North is on the spectrum. That’s why her language is stilted. That’s why her social interactions are off. I spend most of the evening reconsidering my superpowers. I’ve lost my intuition. I didn’t know my friend was pregnant, I didn’t know the main character was on the spectrum. What’s next to go?

Elyse Myers talks to Rainn Wilson about Soul Boom and ADHD meds. I am tempted to look up Rainn’s other books and find Bassoon King available. I consume like it will replenish something lost.

I’m a fan of the The Office, so this isn’t surprising. I enjoy imaging the life of the man leading up to Dwight Schrute. Imagining the events that led to one of the 100 greatest TV Shows of all time (Rolling Stone). As I’m sure Rainn intended, my imagination is way off the mark.

My favorite moment: learning how The Office struggled in the beginning. How it was granted a few episodes, and then a few more, and a few more, but never performed well enough for the go-ahead for season 2. The only reason we saw more episodes and eventually a second season, is because the network president’s teenage son and his friends liked the show. That’s it. On paper, the show failed. It was the paternal urge to please offspring, (and the unyielding power of a network president to do exactly what he wanted when he wanted) that we have to be thankful for.

I take this to mean two things:
1. Teenage kids are a good demographic to cater too. They can make you lots of money.
2. TV Show creators can have terrible ratings, bleak futures, and threadbare footings in the real world, and still continue on to not only survive, but conquer the world–all thanks to the personal whims of undeveloped brains (the teenager, not the network president.)

Secret thing 3. Everything is chance.

I am thinking about how this is good news and bad news as I am eating tacos in the Gorge with Josh and our friend, Robert. The tacos are good, I regret having not gotten a beer. We stand around and smoke cigarettes in the parking lot until it begins to sprinkle. As we pull out the parking lot, all three phones go off. Tornado warning, seek shelter. We are on a one lane road in a “geological area”. Between the three of us, we think it is a false alarm, an alarm we can do nothing about, or an actual alarm we must address. My husband steers us to the lodge. It is still only sprinkling and the phones have stopped. We admire the scenery below the lodge.

There is a pool surrounded by lounge chairs, hoe down island sits vacant. We talk about the times we went as kids. Josh points out the docks that once held paddle boats to rent, where he worked a few summers. I recall photographs of friends I took on the swinging bridge. I admire the mountains, the trees, the stormy clouds. We all have a certain nostalgia for the lodge and the area below it.

Then it begins to hail. Natural Bridge Lodge Staff comes out and wave us in. They say every one is sheltering in the basement. No one is make us, but they are strongly urging us to follow their direction. I video Robert videoing the hail. Lightning and thunder strikes simultaneously and it physically jolts me. I need no further motivation. Rain begins to pour as we follow the staff down to the lowest floor. The windows we pass reveal nothing but the thickest rainfall obscuring the scenery we just admired.

Thrill vibrates under the surface of my skin as I observe families huddled together and couples and singles scattered up and down the hallway. I know storms make Josh nervous, but I can’t remember what Robert tells me. I love storms. I watched Twister as a young child, wanting to be the storm chaser.

I am slightly disappointed that the lights stay on. After 20 minutes of tracking the storm on our weather apps, we are free to go back upstairs and outside. By the time we emerge, we have entirely forgotten that it is Election Day. In the short time between the lodge and the polls closing, Josh and I do not think to cast our votes.

The next day, I am greeted with more news, this time from left field. My friend, Rachel, woke up with Bells Palsy. This is the friend that was my roommate when I left my first husband, when I met Josh. I was her roommate when she left her ex. Met her current partner.

I ask her if she needs anything. She tells me no. No one needs me for anything. A couple days later, I am in town and offer to stop by, try to feed them. I’m surprised she tells me to come on over, but no need to bring food, she can’t eat anything. When I arrive, her half-facial expression catches me off guard–one side expressionless, and the other side exhausted, pained, and frustrated. I struggle to understand her explain how annoying the whole thing is. How she’d been trying to be healthier, eating better, walking more, going for more check-ups, and somehow she has more problems than she ever did.

I lament with her. I play with her daughter and watch the dad do a little more around the house. Rachel tells me we don’t know what causes Bells Palsy, and we don’t know what cause it to go away. We chock it up to bad luck.

Almost a week later, Rachel is in more pain and struggling to stay at home and keep her kid entertained and fed. Her partner can’t take off another day of work. I offer to watch her daughter so she can rest. When I arrive, something else is wrong. Now she has Thrush. She is in more pain than she can stand, her tongue and throat are swelling and she can barely get a deep breath. She tells me Grandma is coming to watch the little one, if I can take her to the hospital.

“Saddle up” I tell myself. Find a hospital. Get directions. Call and confirm that the ER is in fact where you take someone who might have difficulty breathing from Thrush, or Bells Palsy. We arrive downtown in Lexington without any trouble. The E.R. gets her in right away, and I go back with her.

I miss a phone call from my friend, who I haven’t heard from since she told me of her confirmed miscarriage.

I spend all day with Rachel. The nurses and doctors are good to us, but I’m hungry, thirsty and exhausted. I wasn’t prepared for any of this, but it never matters does it? After a couple examinations and scans, they determine she has an ear ache. The thrush is a cruel cheery on top of what was an undetected ear ache, which may have even caused the Bells Palsy. Rachel is finally given drugs that ease her pain. She is in high spirits, bragging about the attention they are giving her–explaining how the last hospital she went to, gave her a cursory glance and sent her out with nothing other than steroids.

I am thinking this week can’t get any worse. Surely, that’s enough for now? I arrive at Romero’s after work, a place that has become the equivalent to my “Cheers” bar, only to find out that Open Mic has been cut short because our beloved pregnant bartender, Alex is in the hospital. Her mother, co-owner of the restaurant is with her but the whole bar is on pins and needles waiting to hear that everything is okay.

There is a moment when I swear, I am not smoking a cigarette in downtown Mount Sterling, under a street light, with Josh and George Romero, with redneck trucks screaming by. Instead, I am on an island and water is rushing past. My friends are in lifeboats careening past me. I can’t tell if this is a river, or the middle of the ocean. I don’t know if I’m supposed to reach out and hop in their life boats? or reach out and pull them to my tiny island? or if I should be concerned that my island is next and I have no lifeboat.

I finish Writers & Lovers, the audiobook. I am furious. The gist of the book [contains spoilers]: A waitress spends 6 years on a book, struggles to pay bills, maintain a job and romantic relationships. She lives off ramen noodles, and befriends geese at the lake, and suffers crushing doubt.
Hello! It’s me!
The happy ending she has been waiting for? Oh, just a 6 figure book deal. Just like that. Bam. The impossible, improbable, deus ex machina delivered. Congratulations, you’ve done the work, made the sacrifices, and paid your dues. Your debts are forgiven. Your book is fabulous. Don’t worry about rent for a while. Treat your self to the $15 ramen from that restaurant you dream about sometimes.

Give me a real author’s ending, or get. The. Fuck. out of here.

And then I remember Hemingway. How he didn’t pay for the house and museum that hold his name. He got book advances, and went fishing. How his wife, with the help of her father’s wallet, built a $20,000 pool in the backyard despite everyone telling her it would be impossible to build a pool on AN ISLAND. This is the author’s story: Hemingway blows the bulk of his advances, and his wife blows what remains.

I remember that their story ends: first, in divorce, and second, with a shotgun shot to the head.

I’m looking for the life boat, again.



3 responses to “Wait, where is my lifeboat? Part 3”

  1. 🚣‍♂️🚣‍♂️🚣‍♂️ Another awesomely insightful and thoughtful post!

  2. 🚣‍♀️🚣‍♀️🚣‍♀️ another thoughtful and insightful post!

    1. Thank you! <3

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