A Photograph of me without me in it

A Photograph of me without me in it
A photograph of me without me in it

Friday, April 19, 2019

Routine, Interrupted

Monday night, Percy, our dog Dosey’s BFF, came for a sleep-over. Dosey’s a 12-pound Cavapoo, a King Charles Cavalier and miniature poodle mix. Percy’s a miniature Australian Shepherd, but he’s not tiny. At 45 pounds, he’s about four times Dosey’s size, but he’s a gentle, sweet dog. 
Most days, Dosey stalks Percy’s home. When I take her for a “walk,” she goes to Percy’s house, and if he’s not there she returns home. If he is there, the two whine like they haven’t seen each other for years. When I let her in Percy’s back yard the two race around and wrestle for maybe five minutes. Then they ignore one another until Dosey starts digging like a maniac, and I tell her it’s time to go home. Nina puts Dosey’s leash on, and Dosey and I head out the gate. Neither dog seems too upset that we’re leaving. Hello is the most important part of the routine. 
Monday night, Nina brought Percy and his giant bed into our home, and the dogs wrestled and raced, then ignored one another. A few times, Percy looked at the door and cried, confused about why Nina had left him here and wondering when she was coming back. Mostly, the BFFs were happy to be in one another’s company, though when Percy started rooting through Dosey’s toy box, she scowled, an expression I’d never seen on her face before. 
At bedtime, Dosey and Percy curled up in his bed near the foot of ours, but sometime in the night Dosey went downstairs and Percy stretched out on the floor beside Ann’s side of the bed. We all rose around 5:00, and when the time seemed reasonable, Ann took Percy and his bed home. As much as Dosey and Percy love one another, I think both were relieved to return to familiar routines. I was, too. 
When Ann and I decided to get a dog, I wanted a furry being to nap with or sit in my lap while I read. Ann wanted something that would break us from our routines. We got both. Fortunately, most nights Ann and I still get our sleep-through-the-night routine.
This has been a month of broken routines, however. Often in good ways, but the changes throw me off. One week, Ann and I travelled to Palm Springs, where we vacationed with her brother and sister-in-law. My critique group, which usually meets weekly, hasn’t met all month. Monday my parents will come from NC for five days. And—horrors—our tv died. 
We’d had our old tv for about fifteen years, and I was just beginning to figure out the remotes, but then the sound stopped and the trouble-shooting technician told us it was dying. So we bought a new one, and Ann installed it. Though she got frustrated, I don’t think she cried. 
It turns on. We celebrated our 24thanniversary of living together by sharing a tasty halibut meal and then watching the first thirty minutes of A Fish Called Wanda. We wanted to see if we could figure out how to watch a movie. We’d both seen this one decades ago but didn’t remember much about. About fifteen minutes in, Ann’s head started jerking to the side, a sign that she was falling asleep, so we called it a night. 
Dosey slept in her bed and we in ours, and in the morning, Ann and I did yoga. Dosey did downward-facing dog and upward-facing dog, like usual. Ah, back to our routines for a few days. 
Of course, life is full of broken routines. My parents have moved from the home where they lived for 45 years. My sister and her husband are moving from the home in New York where they raised their kids to a beach house near Charleston, South Carolina. My brother’s getting married, and his teenage kids will be in the wedding. Ann and I have gotten on a waitlist at a retirement home.
I remember a college friend saying, “If you’re not changing, you’re dead.”
Not dead yet.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Circumstances we can neither name nor control

Wednesday afternoon, I rode the Rapid Line D bus from North Seattle to downtown with a friend. Crowded as usual, the bus took on more passengers than it let off. A democratic means of transportation, it welcomed all riders. Maybe some people paid and some didn’t. Certainly people paid different fares. As we rode, my friend and I talked about how much we loved the bus.

Downtown, the driver helped a woman he called Judy off the bus. As he lowered the ramp for her to disembark, she pushed her walker in front of her. She navigated the aisle, and I admired her purple silk pants. “You may have time for a cigarette before the 4 gets here,” the driver said to her as she was leaving. 

I love this place of being known and being anonymous. 

A few years ago, a friend’s neighbor at a wine tasting and I were talking about riding the bus. She curled her lip in distaste as she said, “I hate the bus. All that unwashed humanity.” Then she sipped her wine, her hand curled in a caress around the wine glass.
“I love all that unwashed humanity!” I enthused. It seemed clear she and I wouldn’t be friends.

I thought of all these people when I read the news later that that same day, on another bus in another part of the city, a man shot into the bus from the middle of the street. The driver, miraculously, backed the bus to safety. A man driving his car was shot and killed. 

What to make of this? Judy with her purple silk pants, the driver who knew Judy’s name and habits, unwashed humanity and those who love or don’t love them, the bus driver who was shot, the car driver who was killed, the shooter, the bus I rode and the bus I didn’t…

So much depends on circumstances we can neither name nor control. 

The thought takes me back to the film Run, Lola, Run.The film re-shows the same event maybe six times, each with slightly different circumstances (for example, in one a car backing out of an alley slows Lola’s running). The slightly differing circumstances lead to dramatically different endings. The film seemed to argue small changes make huge differences we can neither name nor control.

Last night, Ann and I watched the film If Beale Street Could Talk, based on a James Baldwin novel. The film shows a young black couple whose lives are torn by the false accusation by a woman who was raped. In the film, the circumstances can be named as systemic racism but cannot be controlled. 

I went to bed thinking of my own life, at the accidents of race, gender, economics, nation, citizenship, and time that have defined my life. 
Of course, my brain tumors, gender, disabilities, and homosexuality have situated me outside of those who hold the most power in this country, but I have been mostly privileged in my life. I wish everyone were. I don’t how to help that become a reality. The inequity feels out of my control. And out of control.