Monday, June 24, 2013

Closer to childhood, and away

"There's something about no one else knowing someone is taking care of you." This could mean anything. So could most of the sentences in this book. Taken separately. Here this sentence means that maybe if Mrs. Lindstrom pretends the home-care attendant is just there on a visit. On a visit saying hi. Maybe if she just pretends, all of this can become pretend.
I look at Ned again, and I can't quite place his expression. Concentration, sure, but something else. I guess I've never watched him read before. I used to watch him when we were having sex, or try not to watch him, or both. Now I'm wondering what we’re pretending.
In the next room, the next room in the book, Ed is waiting for a room in the hospice. He’s watching The Young and the Restless when the attendant picks up the call. He doesn't want to go.
There is something about this narrator: she is so caring and detached. She knows too much through this work. There is no mention of the pay, but I'm guessing it's eight dollars an hour. Something like that. And yet she's able to feel so deeply for these people who she doesn't know, or who she only knows through their illness. I wonder if this is what community means.
The narrator tells Ed that he can leave the hospice if he wants to, even though she's never seen anyone come back. Is this an act of kindness?
It's so surprising, when you cry and when you don't. I'm so used to the soothing light of this chandelier. What about these crystal water glasses? Ed isn't crying. I mean Ned. Or, Ed, who, at the end of the chapter turns down the hospice, even though the home-care worker and his case manager both think he should go. At the end of the chapter he's enraged, making contradictory demands. He’s a child, and an adult. He wants to have a garage sale. He wants to have the option to leave his house again on his own. Even if he knows he never will be able to.
On the TV, someone's having someone else's baby. Someone's hiding it. This is what we watch.
At the end of the chapter, Ed is enraged, and crying, except that "something was wrong with his tear ducts and he couldn't."
The chapter is called "The Gift of Tears."
Where is Ned? Oh, behind me, placing a cocktail to my right, thank you. I wonder if I want him to touch my shoulder, but then he doesn't.
"Like everything new is something else you've lost." Another one of those lines. In this case not from the narrator, but from Carlos's friend. In this case the new thing is a catheter, but it could be anything. The walk from the bed to the bathroom. Turning the shower dial with your own hands. Getting up.
The way the narrator washes Carlos's hands, arms, armpits, feet. The way death brings you closer to childhood, does that mean into or away from pain? The innocence of experiencing touch, with and without its implications. And then the fear, and that's the childhood I remember.
I've seen people get close to death. I've known people who’ve died. But always it happened fast, like a drug overdose, and then it was over, except for everyone still alive. Or slowly, like with people in ACT UP who were already experiencing dementia when I met them. So I knew. And they knew. And then they didn't, and they did. Sean was the closest one, but it happened so fast. First I had no idea, and then he was gone. How long did he know? That's what I keep wondering.
Mrs. Lindstrom, now her name is Connie, she seroconverted from a blood transfusion when she had a mastectomy. Before they tested blood for HIV. Apparently she has a gay son, Joe, who tells the attendant that he feels guilty because he thinks he should be the one dying and not his mother, that she never did anything wrong.
How all fags carry this guilt and shame around in our bodies, and what it means.
And then Connie, holding on to her routine, hoping that if they don't talk about the fact that she can't eat, maybe she will be able to. If they don't talk about how afterwards she stumbles to the bathroom and sobs, hoping that no one can hear.
Ed is in the hospice now. No one had ever turned down a room before, and so the other residents hope that maybe he can turn down death too.
How fast this all happens, how there is never an empty bed in the hospice.
Ed says: "There won't be anyone left to remember us when we all die." And I wonder if that's already true. Now Avery has taken Sean’s place at the clubs with all the different-sized vials, and no one even asks, no one even asks about Sean. We sit in his apartment, and it's like there's a ghost there, we’re that ghost.

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