You can tell a lot about whether a person has given up by looking at them. You need to look at them closely, past how they dress although that can be a clue. You need to look at their legs, and if you can, their feet.
We hide our feet in our shoes. If we have short mirrors in our houses we hide the rest of us. But one day it’s inescapable– that we have clues that we are going going gone.
I must have tossed down a glass of melancholia before retiring to have written just this much. But hear me out. I know you will. You always do, you are so very patient with me, your worn out poet and would-be memoirist.
And, a I said, or meant to say, we– I– hide ourselves from ourselves. Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I finally sat up and turned on the light. I looked down at my legs, which preoccupy me because the one leg as I’ve noted elsewhere deformed and shortened after an accident and the rest of my body is curling over this way and rubbing against something the other way and I looked down at my lower legs and they look like they belong to a dragon.
It’s true. They swell. They are still in spite of everything strong legs but they swell over the tops of my Merrells and I will never have pretty feet again; they are drying up and curling up and my toes have gnarled and they tell me that I am 61, perhaps older if you look at my legs and feet.
When I wrap them to force the blood back up as I’m supposed to but forget to, I really feel like hell. I feel like someone from Slovenia who carries baskets of turnips from a field to wherever you put thousands of turnips, all day. That image might not be pc but it works for me. I am an ecological disaster embodied in a human being. perhaps even a disembodying disaster with an ecology, a de-evolving…
How did this happen– how did these become my legs, my feet? And meanwhile I have terrible tinnitus from grinding my teeth in my sleep and from when I was afraid to have a molar pulled and chewed on the left side, my jaws have worn unevenly so that at night they catch–
Like that. That enjambment and jamming of the jaw there. Making me very glad that I am long past sleeping next to anyone except a dog, because I can actually move my lower jaw around and click and clack to unhook it and that, like uncontrollable snoring, would surely be a turn-off.
It all scares me to death. More frightening is that I look at all of this winter come to the body and I am tired, and I resolve to push on and try to write something, to write the truth of it, how it is to lie in the night wondering when you will die and who will love you when the he the person who has cared about you for two decades…you/I can’t even say it. What will become of me and of us, my sweet, soft animals slumbering in the dark, one of whom heard me typing just now, my gorgeous flaxen European Golden Retriever, 1/4 of her descended from Tess, the matrilineal line of my dogs meaning more to me by the day, an imprimatur that I was here, the canine succession– than the status of my own body even though I know it is the listing summer house for my being….
Once upon a dream I was pregnant and then it ended. Thin, radiant, I wore my mother’s wedding dress on a blazing June day and like a cloud the marriage passed by, disintegrating into rain and I gave the dress away and then over the years I like everyone began to deform from the weight of life.
I watch people my age jogging along, biking along, going off for a latte after a swim, willing themselves to haleness and heartiness and I look at my own resignation and how my view of things has changed along with my tiring body. For example, I now believe in assisted suicide and I didn’t before. Everyone has the right to throw in the towel, I believe now. Morphine please, and a big dose of Bach, my hand in my dog’s soft coat…
My feet would like to give up. As would my legs. They have given me every indication that they are tired of it, of being at my disposal, forced into the darkness of my shoes and made to tramp across the hours, and neglected simply because they are far removed from my brain, the part of me that is still luminous and inquisitive and they are far removed from my breasts which have not yet- yet– sagged, flapped, grown something horrible within that becomes an incursion of terror with which I then at last make myself go out the door to the doctor.
I spend a lot of time lying in darkened rooms, shutting out the light. I often type with my eyes closed, as now– yes, the eyes don’t have it, so to speak, any more. And don’t get me started about the teeth which we can hide too, in random moments rinsing with peroxide, remembering out of a daze to floss as if doing it every few weeks would do any good.
Then we have those moments of cresting desire in a body that does not feel like ours. What to do about that. Once in awhile, now and then, because it is probably healthy and because it feels so very good, but not so often any more. That crazed lust of youth and the midlife surge are all gone but sometimes, in random moments, that part of me demands my attention and at times I assent, whispering to myself, “You deserve this: your body has not abandoned you.”
I think I drank a glass of darkness, I feel so very noir. I’m not stoned, not high, not drunk, just tired. It would be a good tired if I could but sink below the surface of all of this middle of the night thinking, endlessly thinking, like a motor, my brain hums along spinning things but its bearings are as dry as my feet; they need to be oiled. And that damn singing of telephone wire in the wind deep within my ears.
Really, it would all go better if we weren’t alone as we fade, had been able to see that a chasm was opening up between ourselves and others in time and been willing each of us standing on the other side to build an emergency bridge. But we couldn’t or didn’t and so when first light comes and I can see, we, Tess and I can and will, by will as in volition make our way sideways down the metal stairs, to the truck, down the road where the huge mares may have foaled in the storm and we should perhaps avert our eyes because we have seen and lived quite enough but perhaps even in the storm a new foal knows enough to get up and keep moving, wet and shivering, to stay alive– to the small, orderly dim place where we live now.
That’s the ticket: keep moving, keep coming home to me, keep taking myself, the writing I, the fearing I, the seeing eye, all of us, home….. home….on little dragon-feet, gnomish, gone to ruin, like a geriatric E.T. only taller and no mother ship in the gloom sweeping in to save us.