Thursday, July 27, 2006

If You Can't See My Mirrors, I Can't See You


My friend Hank resisted using a cane until near the end of his life when he realized he could hit people with it. Hank's blindness was progressive, the result of macular degeneration, a disease that destroys the retinas of the eyes over time. So for many years, he wore thick glasses until they became pointless. Even without them, he could see enough to get around and more importantly, critique clothing. On a black dress I had picked up off the rack -- a tank top on steroids. On a new line of robes at Victoria's Secret - -Mrs. Roperville (from the ill-dressed female landlord on Three's Company -- although I think his Victoria's Secret assessments were mostly off as he spent a good portion of time were were in the store with his magnifying glass glued to the television screen that played the Victoria's Secret Runway Show).

Hank believed in stealth - he'd always fantasized about working as a private investigator and a cane did not lend itself to stealth. It was a big advertisement to the world -- hey, big blind guy coming through! When he moved to Philadelphia, he relented, knowing that the traffic needed to see him and how he was operating (like a semi, If You Can't See My Mirrors, I Can't See You). He joked about hitting people with it "accidentally," it served to guide and protect. He could still see the shadows, though, lengthening on the sidewalk as day faded into night.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Tomorrow never happens. It's all the same fucking day, man." Janis Joplin

Semi-Mirror

1 part grapefruit vodka
1 part lemonade

Serve over crushed ice in a mason jar.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Phoebe:

After Visiting Hours

A man with blood on his hands stares up
from a Shakespeare in the Park program
advertising MacBeth in the room where we kill
fime before ICU visiting hours. Next to us, a man holds the Times
and talks about his wife, how long it will take to reconstruct
her breasts. He says, “We’re talking veins and arteries. It’s not that easy.”

My sister and father engage him in conversation, but I haven’t washed my hair
in three days, and it’s starting to show. Yesterday, we were in this same
room waiting for news on my mother’s operation. “We couldn’t rebuild,”
her doctor said, a pretty blonde with a foreign last name. “Too much damage
from the radiation. But I think we got it all. No guarantees,
but things look good considering what we had to start.”
Fourteen hours after that day began, we returned to our cheap
hotel with the deathtrap elevator where we have open-ended reservations.

From the window, the entire medical district lights up with color
every night. When my father and I checked for messages,
two men worked the front desk and one motioned
to the newsman reporting twelve people dead from floods
in the Midwest, and the other man said, “What do you
expect? This is life; no one can stay forever.”

Now one day after, we can only go two at a time, so I stand
in the gleaming hallway until my father and sister come out.
You can only stay two minutes, but that’s long enough. After two,
I start to sob. My mother whispers, “If I knew how bad it was going to be,
I’d have never done it.” A nurse dressed in purple scrubs swabs her mouth with ice
and says, “She’ll be in her own room soon.” I wash my hands
with the anti-bacterial soap they make you use to leave the area under a sign
that lists the universal precautions, listening to noises and alarms
coming from distant places in the hospital that I’ve never seen.

After visiting hours, we eat dinner at a franchise
restaurant designed to simulate good times. I choke
down a bowl of baked potato soup while a family
walks in with two beautiful little girls and a boy with a blue
satchel, “Jonathan” stitched on the back in careful cursive.
Jonathan sits in a wheelchair, accompanied by a Hispanic woman who cuts
his salad into pieces and feeds him while the mother watches the World
Cup Soccer match on a big screen and the father talks to his girls about the shakes
they’ve ordered. “I’m just warning you,” says the youngest. “If I don’t like
this, I’m spitting it out.” At the end of the table, her brother eats without a word.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here your usually excellent staff makes a gaff. Not only the flash, but the reflection of a dunce in an upturned cap of some kind. Must do better next time, Michelle.

Anonymous said...

Today's triple-header "Quote of the Day": #1: Transformation is the word. We can do the work of transformation only in the present moment. The Buddha said that the ocean of suffering is immense, but when you concentrate on transforming it, you will see shore and land right away. It is possible to transform our heart, to transform our compost and offer the world a rose, in the present moment...the moment you vow to go in peace and service.--T.N.Hanh;#2:I have never been anywhere but sick. In a sense sickness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it's always a place where there's no company, where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don't have it miss one of God's mercies.--Flannery O'Connor;#3: Are you talking to me? Are YOU talking to ME?--Travis in "Taxi Driver."

Anonymous said...

Good wrist and forearm development, Michelle. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

For a great comedic portrayal of a blind man in a bar, see Charles Grodin in "The Woman in Red." This scene is worth the price of the rental. It's a scream.

Anonymous said...

Today's 2nd "Quote of the Day":Warning: Sex objects may be closer than they appear.--from an 80s record album.

R's Musings said...

Great pic, M, love how you can see just the outline of the one taking it, reflected in the window, without seeing who it is. Every time I read this poem I can feel where you were when you "choke down a bowl of baked potato soup" Cheers, R

paul said...

you are one foxy Lady, a real Detroit rocker poet peace out Cajun Q
R 2 C2!

Cheri said...

OH my god what a poem.

Cheri said...

The place with the urinal on the wall is right across the street from that bar. hahhaha

R's Musings said...

Also love the Janis quote...reminds me of the movie "Groundhog Day." lol --R

Sheila said...

Love the picture. I like the neon sign in the backround. just got back from the bar myself. I was hanging out with a girlfriend from work and we had a blast! Feeling a bit tipsy thought... ta ta!