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Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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Return to lately 2012.
probably not too far away
november 1, 2012
Mary and I went into town for the first time in three weeks.
After the stillness of our home, preparing meals, scratching our cats under their jaws, feeding the birds and squirrels out back, watching TV in our bedroom, working on our projects upstairs, laughing at each other's jokes, it's always weird to be out in the world again. That it's still there, that people are still driving around, still pushing carts down the aisles of supermarkets.
This excursion, we had to visit the physician we share, Mary for a blood stick (INR) to check the Coumadin level in her blood; me to have a blood draw to see if the prescription drug I started taking three months ago had indeed lowered my cholesterol levels.
My blood test is a "fasting" blood test, meaning you can't eat anything, or even drink coffee, the day of taking the test.
So naturally we scheduled it for early in the morning. Eight-thirty. Driving through Texas neighborhoods, the different shades of green, lawns and trees, the sunny parking lots, glass storefronts.
I always watch the stainless steel point of the needle slip into my vein, with its tiny oval mouth, so Mary knows I'm brave. My blood sluices up into the syringe's handle brighter than I expect. Fools me every time. A quiet part of me (sounds like a Frank Sinatra album) saying goodbye forever. Off on a journey from which it will never return. Like the rest of me, someday.
After we left the doctor's, we drove over to Jack in the Box for breakfast. We each ordered two of their tacos, which are actually quite good for a fast food place, McDonald's fish fillet sandwich good, and an order of curly seasoned fries (French fries in corkscrew shapes.)
We needed to restock the beer in our garage, but when we drove out to the liquor store where we usually buy, one town over because where we live is "dry", a sign in the window said the store was closed. Because of a fire inside. So we went to Albertson's instead, a supermarket that also sells beer and wine. While we were in that area we swung by the KFC across the street and bought some fried chicken for dinner.
Went back home. Rolled the boulder across our front door for the next two weeks.
I mention our itinerary because as it later turned out, they were clues to a mystery.
That Friday, I had a scratchiness to my throat. Barely enough to notice. And in fact at first, I didn't think anything about it.
Saturday night, it started getting worse.
Sunday morning, sitting at our black breakfast nook table, waving away cat tails, paying bills while Mary made pork chops and eggs at the stove, I began feeling punk.
I hadn't had a cold in over ten years (neither had Mary). But I was getting a "productive" cough, and going through lots of Kleenex.
That's the thing about a cold. It fills you up with itself. So that you have to repeatedly blow your nose and clear your throat to keep evicting the cold. Over and over again, until the bottom of your nose is red, and the center of your chest hurts each time you cough.
By Sunday evening, Mary was coughing.
Just as I had become infected, I had infected her. (I'm so sorry.)
Monday morning, we were both not feeling well.
Fortunately, we didn't have anywhere to go that week, so we spent most of it in bed. Doing as little as possible. Sandwiches for dinner.
Mary had a teeth cleaning scheduled for the following week, which I canceled.
Not having had colds for a decade, this one hit us hard.
As I sneezed and coughed, I tried to figure out who had passed the cold to me. Mary and I had been everywhere together. Yet I had gotten the cold days before her. A mystery. Search for clues.
Finally it occurred to me in the middle of one of those restless nights, drinking more and more water in the bedroom darkness because my mouth and throat were so dry, that it had to be the employee at the drive-through window at KFC. Because that was the only person, because I was in the driver's seat of our car, with whom only I had direct contact. (I suddenly realized, as I typed this, that it could have alternatively been the Jack in the Box employee at that drive-through window.)
As often happens with fevers, I had a lot of vivid dreams. During one of them, I was in some kind of store in a mall. Near the front doors there was a bin of Devo CDs for sale. It was a new album by them. I was excited. I flipped the square plastic album around to read the songs on the back. Quite a few of the songs mentioned me! "I Feel Like a Character in a Ralph Robert Moore Story." "How Ralph Robert Moore Changed My Life." "I Wonder What Ralph Robert Moore Is Thinking Right Now." Wow! I wanted to buy one, to show Mary, and to listen to the songs, but they were all kind of beat-up. But surely, we could find another store, probably not too far away, where there'd be pristine copies to buy, to play, to frame in my study.
Like any illness from which you eventually recover (the best type of illness), there was the day I woke up, head raising from my pillow, eyes looking around at this new day, and realized I actually felt pretty good. I was coming down the other side of my cold.
I showered, shaved, feeling my energy return.
A day or two after that, Mary had the same recovery.
A new dawn.
We went out to the doctor's again, then bought a fresh carload of food.
And a day after that, I got that scratchiness back in my throat.
Started coughing again. The coughing got worse, as my lungs got more and more congested. You all know what that's like, leaning forward in a chair, trying to cough up low-voiced demons.
I got physically weak again. And a day or two later, Mary.
We had gotten re-infected.
And then our air-conditioning went out on our first floor. I set up an appointment. We were both miserable, waste baskets on each side of the bed filled with crumpled Kleenex.
Usually, when the repair guy comes out, it's a minor fix. Less than a hundred dollars. But this time, naturally, it was major. We sat at our breakfast nook table, us on one side, coughing and blowing our noses, the repair guy on the other side, while he broke the news to us. The compressor in our outdoor unit had grounded. Replacing it would cost about three thousand dollars. And even then, we'd be putting one new part in a twenty year old system. (Air conditioning systems rarely last twenty years. They often don't last ten years. We had known for a while our system was on its deathbed, talking to its dead mother, its long ago high school coach.) How much to completely replace the downstairs system? He wrote down a price. (I hate it when they write down a price, instead of just saying it out loud. Why do they do that?) We offered to pay cash. He took off ten percent. I told him the figure was still too high. Asked him to take off another ten percent. He called his sales manager. Showed me her text message answer on his cell phone. She had agreed to the discount I requested. So a totally brand-new downstairs heating and air-conditioning system ended up costing us seven thousand, seven hundred dollars.
The technicians came out that same afternoon, around four, with a big truck. Mary and I went upstairs, watching Sopranos episodes from HBO Go on my pc.
For several hours we watched from our front upstairs windows as more and more parts from our old system accumulated on the front curb of our home. Once the long pile reached the size of a disassembled giant, two workers loaded them all in a second truck and took them away forever, like my blood sample.
They finished a little past midnight, eight hours later.
The new system looks like something you'd find on a spaceship.
Cool. But by the time we went to bed, we were exhausted.
And still coughing.