The Telltale Nurse

August 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

photo by J.W Diehl

Bad relapse of CFS…weak, headachey, swollen glands, neurological problems…and I’m leaving for California in 2 days. What fun. Hard to believe I got through 15 years of this & worse.

I got a surprise in the mail the other day: a check for $36.31, a rebate awarded me as the result of The Affordable Care Act. My insurance company (back when I had health insurance) didn’t spend 80% of revenues on claims, so now must refund us all…it’s a nice feeling, though what can you buy for $36 these days? If you add in a Groupon (I’m all about Groupon these days), a dinner out at a restaurant nobody likes. A month of Fresh Step unscented kitty litter. A ticket and a half to a play at the heavily subsidized Signature Theater.

Last week, Charles and I saw Heartless, Sam Shephard’s newest, which is your basic 20th century dysfunctional family drama with a heart transplant from a murdered 10-year-old inserted into the slot incest, madness, and alcoholism traditionally fill. I knew what I was getting into—the play was part of a subscription package or I never would have gone—and it had its moments of effectiveness, but I kept thinking of how much more interesting it would have been without Ma, Sis and absent Pa. (The mother was brilliantly acted by Lois Smith but aging, nasty, narcissistic parents who won’t shut up need to take a 100 year leave of absence from the American theater. Yes, we get it that they’re more human than anyone else. So’s my cat.)

I would put the lady with the grave-robbed heart into a Christopher Durang play where she’d try to fit in with the other suburban mothers drinking martinis and trashing their husbands but her real life would consist of running her fingers up and down her fabulous scar in mall dressing rooms. Of course, she’d never remember to pick up the kids, who’d be played by a changing cast of naked dolls.

The best part was when the murdered girl, Elizabeth, who naturally lives with the family as a symbolic wound, tries to fuck the new boyfriend just to see if he’ll notice. Now, why interpret this psychologically? Isn’t it a better story if this is a real ghost and that ghosts can and will fuck your boyfriend if you leave him alone for five minutes? Especially if you go so far as to dress them up in a nurse uniform and make them do household chores?

Elizabeth was my favorite character but that was probably because she spent the last half of the play with bloody feet and I kept looking at those feet, marveling how real the blood looked, and wondering when she was going to get around to washing them. (She rubbed and rubbed with a washcloth but the blood didn’t come out. Was that symbolic too? Or did the director also find those bloody feet inexplicably cute?) And I thought Delilah would be perfect for the role.


New York’s had hideous weather lately, which I’m assuming will continue for the next thousand years. An article in the Times not long ago was taking about NYC being underwater by 2100, and not just financially. It will happen before that, I think. My city, which I’ve seen change so much over 50 years, will only have time for a few more incarnations before it becomes a vast fishy ruin, with coastal squatters left on the high ground: those with nowhere else to go, old ladies refusing to go anywhere, wild Pekingese.

If I live another 30 years—but wait, I won’t live another 30 years, and not just because I don’t have health insurance. Long before that the climate will be biting ass-sized chunks out of civilization and the younger generation, in fear and loathing, will force-march us to Las Vegas. We’ll be locked inside the casinos, no AC, slot machines spitting Indian-head nickels, nothing to eat but Big Gulps and fries. “Scarlett,” the old man will whine, “Is there anything else but potatoes? I’m so tired of potatoes.” (This is a paraphrase. I don’t have my copy of Gone with the Wind anymore. It fell in the bathtub once too often.)

Or they’ll put the assault rifles inside with us, and that will be all she wrote.

Grade School’s Large Windows

weren’t built to let the sunlight in.

They were large to let the germs out.

When polio, which sounds like the first dactyl

of a jump rope song, was on the rage,

you did not swim in public waters.

The awful thing was an iron lung.

We lined up in our underwear to get the shot.

Some kids fainted, we all were stung.

My cousin Speed sat in a vat

of ice cubes until his scarlet fever waned,

but from then on his heart was not the same.

My friend’s girlfriend was murdered in a hayfield

by two guys from Springfield.

Linda got a bad thing in her blood.

Everybody’s grandmother died.

Three times, I believe, Bobby shot his mother.

Rat poison took a beloved local bowler.

A famous singer sent condolences.

In the large second floor corner room

of my 4th grade class the windows were open.

Snow, in fat, well-fed flakes

floats in where they and the chalk-motes meet.

And the white rat powder, too, sifts down

into a box of oatmeal

on the shelf below.

-Thomas Lux


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