[- Jan Steen, “The Sick Woman” 1665 -]
I never get sick. I’d be the first to tell you that. But then, once in a blue moon, I do. Like now. Throat closed, frogs voice, sweaty, hot/cold, achy, sleepy, sleeping, sleepish. Sheets damp, new sheets, damp sheets. Its been this way for a week while, one by one, threads of life’s passions gripped in my fist, have floated away like balloons. My threadbare hand hangs limply.
A review of my recently published book Found and Lost: Mittens, Miep, Shovelfuls of Dirt is received. Here it is:
The review’s in the The Jewish Chronicle, London, 11 January 2018 issue. [Click link to read.] Hard to focus on anything, let alone even one spinning plate – work, tasks, promises. Don’t know how I feel about the review. Sweats. Heavy sleep. Croaking voice. Days, nights, come, go, don’t end, don’t begin. Those once spun plates have rolled onto their sides, like sad dreidels after a holiday. I receive an edited version of an interview done at The Montague on the Gardens Hotel, Bloomsbury, London, last October. I listen, am satisfied, even pleased. [Click link to listen too. But, beware, it’s a half hour interview.]
The interview was conducted by George Miller who is a silky smooth, bright reviewer, daddy of the highly-respected podcast PODULARITY.com – author’s talking about books, writing, politics and more. George is originally from Scotland. Listening to him pose thoughtful questions, I wonder, Why are Scottish folks always so bright and sweet? George made it seem so easy, did make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I write him a grateful email then sink back into deeply dented pillows. You’d think I just ran for a train ….
Days pass. Can’t really read, can’t watch Netflix, tv, it hurts to speak on the telephone. The one thing I repetitively do is listen to talking books on my iPad, eyes tightly closed, not always knowing (never caring) if it’s day or night. I cherish John Le Carré’s Absolute Friends read by the author; smile and sweat to Alan Bennett’s The Laying on of Hands, also read by the author; come in and out of sweaty dozes to Nicotine by Gregor Hens (translated from the German, translator unknown by me) read by liam Gerrard.
I must be on 29th street at 12. I dress, overdress, sit and catch my breath, wipe the back of my neck with a kitchen towel. I’ve missed the fortnight of deep freeze and blizzard, but see from my window that piles of dirty snow remain. Some cars have managed to dig themselves out, others not. In the elevator I stand as far away as I can from a neighbor boy eating a Kit Kat bar. We’re used to seeing each other. He asks:
Want to hear a riddle.
What do you call someone who can sit on a Gummy Bear and tell you what color it is?
A smart ass.
As I already knew the punchline, it’s not easy to smile, but I try. I knew it with a Life Saver rather than a Gummy Bear.
He licks along the edge of his candy bar.
Do you know any riddles?
It’s hard to think, my scarf and hat weighs a ton. But, ah-ha, my child’s brain isn’t daunted.
Why is a barefoot boy like an Eskimo?
The barefoot boy wears no shoes and the Eskimo wears snowshoes.
He grunts rather than reacts to the punchline, dashes back toward the laundry room as soon as the door opens. I can’t tell if my riddle hit or missed.
An hour later, weak, dripping, I’m squeezed into the same elevator with three of my neighbors. I cover my mouth with my scarf as a precaution, gesturing to all who nod and understand that I’m under the weather. Before we reach the 12th floor, I’m an expert in their similar illnesses.
Mine lasted two weeks. Awful.
No. It takes twenty-one days to run its course.
The last to speak holds a bag of what must be Chinese food because it’s filled the elevator with the smell of fried rice.
Mine hung on… then it went away. Then … it returned for a week. Chicken soup’s the ticket.
Once inside, am incapable of going back across the street to order fried rice for lunch (breakfast?) though I’m hungry now. I drop pieces of clothing on the hallway floor as I stumble toward the bedroom. My clothing is just too heavy to hang up. Am utterly drained by the time I slip back between sheet and duvet once more.