Begging To Be Wowed

Written By: Patricia Muller

I still can’t believe I tripped on that very last step. A five inch, little step. A step I go down every day. That little step did a lot of damage to my right foot. It’s either fractured or badly sprained, but either way I’m down for days. A complete invalid, or worse yet, just completely invalid in every way. I’ve been in bed for four days wondering how I got here. Not just in this bed, but HERE. Forty-five in exactly two weeks. HERE is half way THERE…if I’m one of the lucky ones. I must be because everyone keeps telling me so. Most days I’m just plain ‘ole bitter because no one ever gave us a heads up. No one ever had the decency to tell us it would be like this. But every day I get up and still hope today will be a day I’m wowed. And They’re Off! 5:30am. What should I wear? What meetings do I have? Run through the house. Catch the LIRR to NYC. Read the WSJ and FT. Someone is snoring. Someone is coughing. Someone is talking very loud. Jump on the E train. Grab coffee. Need caffeine badly. Someone pushes me– hard. Someone smells awful. I hope I don’t get lice today. That would suck. Get to the office. Fix my face. Check VMs. Read all emails. Impossible. Start deleting. Remember to smile. Watch the clock. Keep it moving. Talk about how exciting the vol in the 10-year has been. Check in with the teachers. Christian, my 12-year old, is leaving class every day in math and going to the bathroom. Phillip, my 9-year old, is having trouble providing “text evidence” in reading. Run for the train. Need to be back on LI for Phillip’s concert. Twenty-five years ago we were told the world was our oyster. We could be and achieve anything we desired. The days blend and run into each other like water colors dripping down a canvas. What day is it? Does it matter? Christian has basketball practice. Phillip has a viola lesson. Take vitamins. My printer won’t print. Remind the boys to apply sunscreen. I’m being Tasered by my invisible stalker. Electrical shocks causing my waves to short circuit and jump frenetically along my damaged synapses. Sometimes I can’t even pronounce simple words properly. Eric, my love since 1985 and husband since 1994, feels the same. He just shuts down. Since Hurricane Sandy hit he has been working from dawn to dusk everyday either on Fire Island or on the East End, mostly Montauk and East Hampton. He gets up at 3am and leaves before I’m up. Every day I hope we’ll have a moment before he falls asleep exhausted. How did it all get like this? I can’t recall the steps to success. Call the doctor. Dry cleaning. Phillip has chorus. Fill out the camp papers. Return library books. Order bulbs. Phillip’s book report is due. Christian needs a haircut. Boy Scout meeting. Volunteer work. Religion class. Parties. Fold the laundry. Pay VISA. Get gas. Buy a baby shower gift. Replace the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector. Try not to eat too much. I have no time to buy new clothes if I gain weight. Work out. Grocery shop. Buy deodorant. Read up on Abenomics. I miss my sister and brother. Last month I had a wow. It always hits you when you least expect it. It knocks you off your feet. And it’s there, imprinted in your mind forever, as if it just happened a minute ago. I was in Romania in the small town of Cisnadie. I met a 90ish-year old woman. She asked where I was from in the most gorgeous, silky, perfect English. “NY, LI. Where are you from?” She replied “Right here. All my life. I was the math teacher for this town. ” I ask her where she learned to speak English LIKE THAT. She explained when she was a young girl she would go to the cinema and watch all the old American films and read the subtitles. “I learned how to speak English from Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn.” Perfect, highbrow English. Do I need to go half way around the world to be wowed? Open the mail. Recycle. Empty the dishwasher. Didn’t we just do that? Schedule mammography. Clean Abby’s litter box. I missed the train. I want to scream. I resist the urge the knock back a few cocktails to numb the pain. Homework. Projects. Work calls at 9pm. My eyes blur with boredom. Eric is biting his nails. What ideas do you have to numb the slow, throbbing pain in my foot? My mother’s calling. That’s 45 minutes I don’t have today or any day. She’s got a big problem. Huge. It’s been going on for days. She doesn’t know what to do next. The ants are building little dirt, mound houses all over her concrete walkway and driveway for weeks now. I ask, just to clarify: “So you are upset about the ants OUTSIDE of your house?” as I watch a few scurry across my kitchen counter. “Yes,” she replies, “It’s very bad. They are everywhere. The ants on Long Island are worse than ever this year. Your father and I have tried everything to get rid of them.” Every day she gets up and plans a new way to exterminate the ants. Bug spray, weed killer, filler squeezed into the cracks of the walkways and driveway and my personal favorite–pouring pots of boiling hot water all over the houses they worked so hard to build, washing all the little ants away. I feel the water, slowly drowning me as her voice dims in and out. I snap back into this world and hear her say “Nothing works. They come right back a few days later.” I wonder if the ants have ever infiltrated her home the way they have mine. Plan business trip. Put away the winter clothes. Prune roses. Pick up stamps. Fix the roof. Buy Phillip a music stand. Pay taxes. Color my hair. Call Verizon. Buy Christian summer books. I haven’t seen my friends in ages. I hope I still have friends. Remember to put the garbage out. Stop global warming. Save the wetlands. My mother in law is going to Costco and asks if I need anything. I say no, knowing what I need cannot be purchased at Costco. Emails. Texts. Phone calls. Mail. Everyone is pulling at my clothes, ripping them apart. I’m tattered. Who are all these people? They are all the little ants my mother keeps washing away and they will be replaced by more little ants all walking in that great big line, single file. We decide to drive to our Montauk house and hit the typical, summer Hamptons traffic along Sunrise and Montauk Highway. A great, big line, single file. Eric dreams of living a simpler life here. “What would I do here?” I ask. “You can start Patty’s Pie Stand and I’ll fish more.” We giggle. Dinner is nice. We have no phone in Montauk. We turn off our mobiles. The shock waves are fainter and start to hit me less frequently. I hobble around as it hurts to put pressure on my foot. We can see deer and turkeys nibbling grass in the back through the kitchen windows. I look at Christian with his sparkling big white teeth and beautiful blue eyes. He smiles the most brilliant smile and tells us he had a “beast” day playing basketball with his friends. I stare at Phillip and can’t believe how precious his little round face is and how adorable and loving is the sound of his still child-like voice. He tells us how everyone at school loved his reading of “The Raven.” He is so proud. Eric had a tough day at work. He let go of the kid who couldn’t make it in on time. I can tell he feels lousy about it. I notice, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, his strong wide arms, the little scar on his left cheek and the growing, deeper lines on his face. My mind wonders to the next time we will be lying in bed together naked, kissing long after the boys are sleeping. The same little butterflies that flittered in my tummy when I was 16 flutter about again. These butterflies have different colors than 28 years ago, but they are just as lovely and even more vivid today. I’m wowed. I hobble back to bed and elevate my foot. I know I’ll get better soon. My foot will heal. It may never be the same as it once was, but it will work just fine. And I know sometime soon enough I’ll break or injure something else and that too will heal. I can’t vacuum tonight, but maybe tomorrow I’ll give it a try. I might even bake an apple pie…tomorrow.