Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Powder Blue Corduroys with Elastic Waistbands

She walked by my desk on her way to the front of the class for 'current events', and farted through her powder blue corduroys. They had an elastic waistband. She had long wavy dark blond hair, a flat butt, and a tracheotomy, though I didn't know the term for it at the time. I was in 5th grade - a fat blob of a girl with no clue about life's hardships, no aspirations to anything beyond my next snack or newest sticker for my collection that I'd buy at Simply Sondra, and no experience of having lived greater than 16 years with doctors in various stages of their training/ careers. In short, I was feeling no pain. I was feeling nothing at all.

Her name was Jennifer Salisbury. Maybe I should change that, but this story jolted me out of bed at 2:30 am and I just can't think of anything so flowing that's false.

I knew her peripherally. We shared a grade, a classroom. We shared little else, though I'd visited her home at one point...a birthday party? It smelled of steamed lunch meat. I was all about texture, sights, smells, and sounds then. Still am. Though now my temporal lobe epilepsy has evolved into frontal lobe dementia. I remember that the few friends I'd had in grade school who were neither Italian nor Jewish had homes with that particular odor of warm cold cuts. I've no idea why. One time I ate dinner at a friend of that category's house and was served rolled-up bologna with warm milk. I never ate dinner there again, even though her dog and my cat shared a name. (I probably copied her. I was that kind of child - afraid of my own shadow, ashamed of my own thoughts.)

On that weekend afternoon at the home of Jennifer Salisbury, I was accompanied by other kids of our class. We were shown the machine she was hooked up to at night which helped her breathe. I don't recall feeling sorry for her, or compassionate, or anything at all. I think she had a loving family, and may or may not have had a sibling. She seemed to matter little to my life then, as most things did. She was very kind, but I wasn't into kind. I liked dramatic and scary. I liked to cry and invent songs in my head.

I have not thought about those childhood moments in many years. I recently have become slightly more reflective - almost nostalgic. I think often of where it is I came from, and want to go back in time to that place. I miss my grandparents, my mother. I miss my potential. I recognize now that I had so much of it, and not everybody does. In my own way, I suppose I've developed into someone worthwhile to some, but it should have been more. Maybe there's still time. After all, I'm still breathing.

I used to believe there was a great distance between myself and people whose lives seem so gravely different from mine - people whose suffering seem so much greater. That gap has closed.

We are all suffering. As I get older, as my body aches more and more for reasons both self-imposed and organic, I see this with both increasing clarity and fog.

I used to think we were so different, Jennifer Salisbury and me. I used to believe I was the one who had more strength.

Insert pithy phrase here. (Thanks for that, Rémy Robert!

(With thanks and homage to Scott Turow, whose short story Loyalty sparked this mental vomitus of mine; Rémy Robert, whose Tweet sparked the pithy thing (and if you don't know what I mean by that you can go Google Twitter, pithy, Rémy Robert, and yourself); my lovely man, whose restless sleeping habits helped jostle me out of bed to write this in the wee and scary hours of morning; my man's mom, who has helped me to see that the world extends so far beyond the borders of my mind and body; my family, for having loved me (albeit sometimes too much); and my sore throat, which makes me appreciate better what feeling good feels like.)

And thank you, Jennifer Salisbury, wherever you may be now. You will always be held fondly in my heart.