Founder of Ingersoll Gender Center
Former Seattle City Councilmember (2006-2015)
Ordering Options for "UNMUTED"
“Unmuted” is a GenPride production, recorded at Jack Straw Cultural Center in Seattle, WA.
Executive producer is Steven Knipp. Writing mentor is Ingrid Ricks. Editor is Irene Calvo.
Audio Director, producer and composer is Amy D. Rubin. Guitarist is Balint Petz.
Vocal coach is Alyssa Keene. Studio Engineer is Ayesha Ubayatilaka.
Webpage by Beatrix De La Busy Zoraida Yolande Miguelez.
"The Kids Are All Right"
Excerpt from "The Kids Are All Right" By Irene Calvo
The three of us climb in, Nick whamming the sliding door into lock. Eight years out of Brooklyn and driving a car still feels alien to me, especially today, our planned disaster to the Burke Museum. Did I say disaster? I meant excursion, to the exhibit on the Shackleton polar expedition disaster, which grabbed Nick’s attention at school. He is fourteen and Di only eleven, so I still plan family days. Today it’s just the three of us, and our destination is more of a decoy, a hope, a wish. The real purpose of our trip is a conversation I dread.
In panic mode, I dash among my galloping thoughts trying to get those horses lined up at the starting gate. I flash on their dad. Suddenly I am in our bedroom. He’s been raging at me again, my fault again, he says. Then he recites his favorite refrain at me: “I like the way I am. I don’t want to change. If you don’t like me, then go find yourself another husband.” Little did he know. He smirked gleefully and said it again: “I like the way I am. I don’t want to change.” He had honed versions of that pithy message for more than two married decades. But he’s their dad and they love him, so I’ve got to keep silent about all that. I return to now. I am here, in the car, with Nick and Di, and I can talk about myself. Here we go.
I still seem like normal Mom, even with my insides quivering. My minivan lumbers through the picket-fence neighborhood. Spice Girls start up from the disk. Perfect, no eye contact; that’s why I planned this for the car. My throat is parched. Am I really about to come out to my kids? My mind scans possible opening lines like paper globes strung along the silence. All awkward. How much do I disclose, how will they react? Everything I haven’t said yet consumes the air in the car. While the kids chatter, in my head ticks a bomb about to detonate their world.
Excerpt from "The Drive" – by Shayla Marie
The plan was to look for the dog. Over the past few weeks, this was becoming a daily event, the dog slipping out the fence, then our frantic search to find him. I turned the truck onto the next block, scanning for a flash of that familiar reddish-brown fur. I glanced over at Travis. His head was smushed against the passenger window, drool dripping from his mouth in a solitary string as the Xanax and heroin took hold. I took the next left.
After several minutes of driving from block to block, I turned out of the residential area onto a different street. A bright green and white freeway exit sign loomed overhead, announcing Highway 18. My thoughts darted erratically, hope opening up beneath anxiety, like a bright pink bloom winding its way through concrete, lush and inviting, urgent and insistent. A new plan clawed its way into my mind. *The dog could wait*, I thought. With one hand, I swerved the truck to miss a black sedan, easing onto the freeway on-ramp.
I fumbled over my phone, typing the destination into the GPS. The directions kept loading—before the map flooded the screen in a glorious splash of green and other colors, squiggly twisting lines dancing. Relief flooded my chest. Exactly two hours and twenty-four mins to Yakima.
Last night was the final straw for me. Travis shook me from my sleep around two in the morning, roughly yanking my arm, “Where did you put my stuff?!”
“What?” I asked. He was becoming more erratic as the week went on. He hovered over the bed, dressed in all black, his backpack strapped over his shoulders, the funk of the night hanging on him, his body movements jerky, his voice high-pitched.
“I gave it to you!” He screamed, smashing an open palm against the nearby wall. He tore his backpack off, slamming it on the bed, ripping it open to rummage through the pockets. “Where is it?”
“I don’t have your stuff,” I whispered, fear curling around my shoulders. As the drugs took over, they smothered his inhibitions, increasing his angry outbursts, his intense physical reactions, anger overflowing like red lava.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Travis raced across the room to the dresser, yanking drawers loose with a screech, leaving them to hang open like gaping mouths as he searched. I sat up in the bed. He turned away from me, pulling a piece of smoke-stained foil from his pocket. He laid it on the dresser, a small plastic tube clutched in his hand. I rolled over in the bed, turning my back to him, hearing the scratchy flick of a lighter. I pulled the comforter over my head, burrowing in the warmth and safety of the blankets, dread filling my body. *I couldn’t wait until Friday*
"The Kids Are All Right"
Excerpt from "Journey’s End ... a Beginning" – by Jenny Robinson
I squinted in the bright July sun as I walked along the platform toward my car and caught the reflection of a confident and proud woman in the windows and on the sides of the shiny rail cars. A woman on her way to her destiny, a destiny incubating in her soul for sixty-nine years. My consciousness was flooded with one thought, “I’m doing it, I am actually doing it!”
Finding my seat and settling in, my mind flooded with thoughts and memories. As the train lurched forward with its ever-present clackity-clack, I was thinking about the question that so many had been asking me recently, “Are you excited?” Well, of course I was, but not in the overwhelming sense that I had anticipated. With a smile, I allowed myself to be bathed in peace, a peace that I had sought desperately for many years. Looking out the windows at the scenery rushing by, I allowed my thoughts to wander back to that night very long ago.
It was New Year’s Eve. I was barely three years old. My older brother and I had just awakened from our naps and were playing in Mom and Dad’s bedroom. I was terribly excited that I was going to be able to stay up and share in this grown-up celebration. Mom must have just done a laundry before the family arrived, and the pile was on their bed waiting to be folded. I noticed a pretty pair of panties and went over to touch them. I remembered how nice they always felt to touch. Then, without much thought, I picked them up, stepped into the leg openings, and pulled them up, just as I think most little girls might do, right over my pajamas. Mom happened to walk in right then and, thinking that it was very cute, she scooped me up and carried me downstairs to show everyone. There was some laughter, which was certainly not malicious, and some ooooos and giggles from the women. It wasn’t embarrassing, but I somehow also realized that it was cute because the little boy I was supposed to be shouldn’t have put them on.
I was stirred out of my reveries by the “Tickets, please!” of the conductor. As he handed my ticket back with a “Thank you, have a nice trip Ma’am,” I smiled back with a “I suspect I will.”
Looking at the bright sun through the tinted glass made me think of sitting on those hard carpeted stairs in our hallway when I was eight years old. I sat there with the morning edition of the *Baltimore Sun*, reading and rereading the front page story. My mind was racing. It was really possible! It was right there! This beautiful woman on the front page of the paper, whose name was Christine Jorgensen, had just come back from Denmark where she had had what was then known as a sex-change surgery. My eight-year-old mind yelled back, *Sure it’s possible, but it probably costs more than a million dollars* but, ever being a bit stubborn, again I whispered to myself, “But, oh my…..it’s really possible!”
"A Journey Without You"
Excerpt from "A Journey Without You" – by Steven Knipp
I woke up startled and wasn’t sure why. Had I been dreaming? It was silent—void of the hacking cough that rattled my bedroom walls most mornings. I headed to the spare room to check on Tom. But as I neared the door, my eyes caught on his overstuffed chair in the living room. It had been clocked 180 degrees and was now facing the wall. As my mind began to register this, I noticed that Tom was in it. All I could see was the top of his head and his left arm dangling over the armrest, both unmoving. At first I couldn’t process the scene, but when my eyes took in two envelopes taped to the back of the chair, I froze. Our conversations about his suicide planning came flooding back—the why, the how, and the fact that I’d be with him when he died. What had he done? I ran toward him, thinking it might not be too late to save him, but when I touched his stone-cold arm, I knew he was gone. I looked reluctantly at his face—it was frozen, lifeless, pale blue. On the floor was an empty bottle of pills. A white flash of pain suddenly blinded me. I collapsed at his feet, sobbing uncontrollably.
As I laid there trying to catch my breath, my mind returned to the day Tom first brought up suicide. It was after his second prolonged hospital stay when he broached the subject. We were standing in the kitchen putting away groceries and Tom was winded from the mild exertion. Being reminded of his physical weakness after minor activity always exasperated him. “What’s the point?” he said defeatedly. “My life is going to end anyway, so why should I be fighting so hard?” Over the past year Tom had spent countless hopeful hours reading and talking to experts about curing himself of AIDS, but now he looked completely dejected. “I’m so sick of being sick,” he went on. He looked away for a moment, then returned his gaze to mine. “I need to tell you about something I’ve been holding back for months.” This sounded serious. I looked at him intently and nodded for him to continue.“
The last hospital visit scared me. I felt trapped like a prisoner. I don’t want to die hooked up to tubes in a hospital, languishing day after day doped up on morphine, half out of it, until I die. I don’t want to go like that.”
Amy D. Rubin
Excerpt from "Blood Sisters" – by Amy D. Rubin
In loving memory of Susan Blalock, 1957-2020
Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire,
Your children shall burn!
From "Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book", England, 1744
February 10, 2011–Lake Forest Park, Washington
It all started with a fire. It began in Mom’s bedroom when the electric heater shorted out and burst into flames just inches away from her bed and her ninety-four-year-old head of fine white hair. She awoke with a start, sat up, and with the help of her walker dragged herself to the top of the stairs that led down to my studio. Then she began to scream out my name.
I was downstairs practicing Debussy at the piano, oblivious to the rest of the world, lost in musical reverie. Mom was certain I would die if her calls did not reach me, but she was not one to panic. Finally I heard her voice, hoarse from shouting above the music. As I raced upstairs, a series of bomb-like explosions circled me as one by one windows shattered and fragments of glass flew through the air. I was dazed, paralyzed, transfixed by this grotesque spectacle as seen from the perspective of a front row seat. I watched the beige curtains shrivel and turn first orange and then black as flames engulfed and swallowed them.
Mom snapped, “We have to get out now,” awakening me from my trance. I grabbed my phone in one hand and with the other took her arm. “Hurry,” she said. Together we escaped into a downpour. Mom closed the front door firmly behind her to contain the fire. She didn’t have time to find her shoes so with only thin socks to protect her fragile feet she followed me up our muddy hill to safety.
A few weeks later, I began to experience intense jolts that felt like electric shocks, first in my fingers, then arms, then torso. Drying my back with a towel felt like someone cutting into my skin with an electric saw. I heard myself whimper. Not only was the searing pain horrific, my worry about what was causing it was even worse. I was certain I would soon die, as only something serious could cause these symptoms, which initially were sporadic but now attacked me all the time. My anxiety was barely manageable as I thought, *This is what a nervous breakdown must feel like*.
Eric Pierre Carter
"The Long Goodbye"
Excerpt from "The Long Goodbye" – by Eric Pierre Carter
“Alzheimer’s is diabetes of the brain,” declared my mother. It was yet another diagnosis she disclosed in her matter-of-fact way. Somehow, this bombshell fit smoothly into our conversation while we were waiting for the cornbread to finish baking in her oven.
This revelation was not a complete surprise. I had seen her memory supplements in the kitchen. For a 5'5" black woman in her early sixties, they were no more ominous to me than the vitamins and ibuprofen in the same cabinet. Arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, a heart stent treatment, and now Alzheimer’s. Mom seemed to take each diagnosis in stride. And I tried to do the same. After all, nothing had really changed; she remained the same outgoing woman with a gift for laughter, as sharp as ever.
The previous day, I had arrived from the West Coast to visit for Christmas. While waiting for her and my suitcase at baggage claim, I felt something behind me. Turning around, I discovered my mother, smartly dressed for winter in a leopard-print beret and fur-trimmed leather coat, laid out on the airport floor, smiling up at me with her chestnut eyes like a mischievous child.
Startled and trying to stifle my laughter, I said, “What are you doing down there?”
She giggled a bit before replying, “Aren’t you going to help me up?” She didn't look hurt, just a bit embarrassed.
As I helped her to her feet, she explained that she was trying to “sugar” my knees—a longstanding family prank of bumping the back of someone’s knees to make them buckle. Evidently I had shifted my stance just before she bumped me. She became unsteady, and down she went instead of me, her intended victim.
Each time she told this story we would all laugh, but she made sure to cast me as the villain. “He saw his *own mother* on the floor and laughed at her. Can you believe it?”
In vain I would try to defend myself: “I was laughing because I couldn’t figure out what you were doing down there on the floor.”
"Do Young's Ghost"
Excerpt from "Do Young’s Ghost" – by Greg Colucci
I crawl into bed, looking around my room; I feel exhausted. I have no energy for this place. I didn’t clean again today. There’s dust everywhere - on the floor near the walls and on all the surfaces. I’m reminded of things left undone: books half read, projects unfinished, and laundry piling up. Living alone makes it challenging to keep up with it all, and it’s easy for me to berate myself. These thoughts make my shoulders and neck tighten up. My body wants to rest. I feel tired after a long day. I’m single, I’m alone.
Pulling up my blankets, I conjure his ghost. And he is here with me now, my Do Young. The pillow becomes his arms, the blankets his strong legs. Those arms and legs wrap me up, like they did in life. Sighing heavily, I accept his love for me. Remembering his smooth chest and body and how I used to run my hands down his strong, muscled legs and ass, enjoying his lack of hair. Invigorated by his strength, I drift along in this fantasy. Even now, after so many years, he excites me and I allow myself to be aroused. As usual, I let him take the lead.
He roughly says, “I want you, Gigi”—his nickname for me. His breath smells a little of garlic. His energy surrounds me. His passion apparent and strong. He was always passionate with me. I push into the pillow, imagining he’s on top of me. Imagining he enters me; I accept him here with me. My body stirs as it always does when I’m with him. My heart speeds up and my breath deepens.
“Do Young,” I whisper back. “Remember what a perfect match we were? You were the first one for me.”
“Yes, Gigi, I remember,” he whispers. His face is on my neck, his breath warm. I feel his body quiver as he takes deep breaths. His breath is my breath, deep and quickening.
“I’ll stay with you, Gigi,” he says, and this time I believe him. These are the words I want to hear. I relax and my breathing slows. He’s with me and has nowhere else to go. We hold each other tightly and I begin to fall asleep. I’m home.
Excerpt from "Aloneness" – by Chris Doelling
I close my front door on the ashen twilight sky and its accompanying winter rain. I cannot say my apartment is particularly warm, not yet. It is dry, however, and once I flip on the gold light familiar objects greet me in my crammed one-bedroom apartment. My shoulders relax as I exhale.
I am home earlier than expected because my writing buddy cancelled last minute. It was one of two social engagements I make myself go to per week. I know I need these in order not to lose touch with the human world and to keep my social skills from getting too odd and awkward. I try not to be too happy about one less obligation.
I think back to fifteen years ago. I left the therapist’s office; it was my last visit because I was about to liquidate my life and travel abroad for at least a year as a backpacker. In therapy, we had just unpacked that I had interpersonal trauma from my childhood. She explained that for me it meant trust issues and not feeling safe or stable in relationships.
I shrugged and said, “Well, I guess it’s something I will have to unpack while on the road.” She assured me with a glint in her eye that it would take years to really work through it all. The implication was that without therapy, which I was now giving up for my journey, I would never really work through it. And perhaps she was right.
Back in my living room, I fling my raincoat over the Moroccan lamp hook and my down coat over my bike rack, covering up other items already hung there. I slip off my wet hiking boots with a thud against the front door. Damp socks land nearby. No one else will need to stumble over them—because I live alone.
Alone. Maybe I took the pact I made with myself at twenty-three a bit too seriously. I remember running into my ex unexpectedly in the new town where I had just moved to finish a degree long postponed in part because of him. That was the age before we had the word ‘codependency’ as parlance in our culture or charts about cycles of abuse to reference while waiting for our gynecological exams at Planned Parenthood. That was an age like all the ages before where we fumbled blindly through relationships without a tool bag or knowledge of what ‘healthy’ meant.
Excerpt from "Twenty-Third Street" – by Nancy Kiefer
You know when someone wants to give you something? You have to be there to receive it, right? And to receive this thing, your hand has to be open. It can’t be the hand that is covering a wound to the chest, one that is putting pressure on that wound; it has to be wide and ready. The fingers and thumb must be held lightly, the palm turned up.
I was seventeen years old when I was put on a train. I took with me my teenaged husband of two days, my daisy-flowered luggage, my hipster trench coat, my morning sickness, my cigarettes, a neatly packed shoebox of sandwiches and cookies my mother put together, my Illinois driver’s license, and the linen dress with the Nehru collar I had worn to the chapel where the family had reluctantly gathered to endure the wedding ceremony. (In the photos of that day, my parents look as though they are slightly tilted away from us).
The collar on that dress hid a necklace of hickeys Freddie had placed on my neck a few days before the wedding. The hickeys had faded by the time the train arrived in Yakima. Yet, in this single anecdote, which I have told over the years, I am only revealing the part of the story that I have always told. I tell it as though it were not me in that dress, but a girl in a funny story who happened to have my name.
She was washing the dishes and I was drying. The kitchen was bright with sunlight. It seemed like she was washing the same dish over and over.
“Mom?” I said.
“What?” There was a strong *t* sound at the end of her question. I tried to form words.
“You’re pregnant,” she said. Her flat tone told me she had suspected this for some time.
“Yeah…,” I whispered.
She rinsed her hands but she didn’t look at me.
“I figured that.”
Was that the same plate or a different plate I was drying? There was no talking for a long time. The smell of suds.
“Well, just what are you going to do?” she said, in an accusing voice that belied the helpless gesture of her hands. I had seen her throw her hands up like that many times. And what *was* I going to do? I had just finished eleventh grade and I had not been allowed to stay out after 11:00 p.m. My parents and teachers had pretty much told me what to do. I only knew how to break rules while living safely under the rules.
"The Other Half of Transgender"
Excerpt from "The Other Half of Transgender" – by M. Ames
“Is your husband originally from Hawaii too?” In my stunned state, it took me a couple of minutes to realize what the proprietor of our bed-and-breakfast was asking. As it finally sank in, fear shook my core and I decided not to correct her. What would happen if she discovered Linda and I were two women? Our room is just a couple of steps away from her back door. Would the proprietor kick us out?
“No, they’re from Virginia,” I replied, carefully using nonspecific gender pronouns. This wasn’t the first time someone had mistaken Linda for male. Matter of fact, it happens all the time. Linda’s five-foot-ten stature, short-cropped hair, and the way she struts men’s clothing give her a male persona at first glance.
I guess knowing how people perceive Linda, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the proprietor mistook her for my husband—yet I was. When this conversation ended, it took all the fortitude I had to walk away calmly. I had never been a major player in Linda’s mistaken gender identity like this before.
Even inside our room, I felt we were still under the proprietor’s watchful eye. Linda didn’t look up; she was looking intently at her cellphone. I whispered so the proprietor wouldn’t hear, “The woman from the B&B referred to you as my husband and I didn’t correct her.”
Linda came to attention. The words hung between us as my fear settled into the room. Linda’s silence felt like a veil of protection as she took in what I had just said. Linda always thinks things through before speaking, responding calmly in situations that fluster me. To this day, I can’t remember what Linda said. What I remember is that she comforted me, putting me at ease. I didn’t understand how she could be so calm about the whole thing. I sure wasn’t.
The morning after the incident, I got up early. I sat on the lanai at our B&B drinking my morning coffee and writing in my journal for a moment of peace. As I wrote, I took in the lanai setting with its wicker furniture, the tropical plants on the lawn, the smell of the trade winds that always blow in Kailua. It wasn’t long before I noticed the proprietor walking around in her house just on the other side of the sliding glass doors. I got up and snuck into our room. Linda slept. I tried to read, but my mind fretted over yesterday’s incident.
Kevin Charles Patz
"The Kids Are All Right"
Excerpt from Ambulance Ride – by Kevin Charles Patz
I was flat on my back, my head propped up on a pillow, staring at the tail lights of cars in front of us as the ambulance rolled down I-5 from Northwest Hospital to Harborview Medical Center. It was a warm Seattle Thursday evening in July, but inside the darkened cabin I could feel a cool, air conditioned breeze circulating around me. I drifted in and out of consciousness, having been heavily sedated over the past several days. Somewhere amidst my foggy state, the phrase from the neurologist, “You may have a brain aneurysm” rattled in my head. For a brief second, I thought about the possibility my head would be opened up in the next few hours. Then the approaching lights of the city dimmed as I fell back into the sleepy state I’d been in for most of the past few days.
I woke up as I felt the ambulance pull up to the curb of the emergency entrance at Harborview. I slowly tilted my head up enough to see the double doors open as I was wheeled inside, suddenly drowned in fluorescent lighting. All I could see was the ceiling passing overhead. Then the medics wheeling me in became blurry and the sounds of moving gurneys and nurses’ voices directing folks around became more and more muffled. Then nothing.
~ ~ ~
Arriving home from my dealer five days before, I put out extra food for Marmalade, my orange tabby cat, in case I OD’d and it took a couple of days to find me. I considered Marmalade my guardian angel. I set out several bottles of Gatorade, because I really didn’t want to die. Having lined up and readied my porn in front of the DVD player, I shot up a near quarter gram of crystal meth. I felt a rush of invincibility and a sense that everything was ok. At the same time, I felt as if my skull was shattering into a million small pieces. For a brief moment, I panicked, and then the sense of invincibility washed over any fear or caution and I was off to the races. The surge of energy propelled me into the living room, clumsily reaching for the remote control to turn on the DVD player loaded with porn. Then I was on the chat lines, looking for other like-minded tweakers. Frantically, I listened for the perfect phone sex partner, and before I knew it, hours had passed.
Natalie Pascale Boisseau
Excerpt from **Time Capsule** **– by Natalie Pascale Boisseau**
In my small blue car, I buckle my safety belt and back out of the driveway, out of the forest north of Seattle where I live. The GPS guides me toward the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle. There are forty-five minutes to make the trip to a café where fellow writers are meeting together. I usually feel happy and excited at the prospect of a writing moment shared with others. Not today.
A hard, firm mass is inside, blooming high in my chest at the base of my throat. It is familiar. The texture of loneliness. I wonder how to make it go away.
Growing up in the suburb of Montreal, I learned that Apollo landed on the moon as we were playing, my brothers and me, in our childhood backyard. My mother called us inside to watch the landing on the moon on a white and black television. We were excited. How could that be possible, a landing on the moon? As I am driving, I chase the memory from my mind, my windshield wipers chasing the rain away each half second.
The Pacific Northwest rain drops a curtain of waterfall on the car, like an oil that penetrates all the cracks, my orifices, and seals me in. The loneliness in my chest tastes of salt and wraps me in the time capsule.
The traffic is slow, and the loneliness grows. I took the fastest road, but work crew after work crew signals me to stop. I wait; the rain is falling on their shiny bright yellow warning signs, the orange cones, the orange vests, odd citrus colors lost in the north of the Pacific coast. Patience, I tell myself. Patience, I tell the loneliness.
I drive south toward the locks of Ballard—the old town that has changed so much since I last came: tall, modern, urban Scandinavia with glass and sharp lines towers over small houses standing, last testament to Scandinavian migrants’ old ways.
Shame now is entering with its wetness and humidity, a mold growing. I am ashamed that I cannot resolve the feeling. I am a grown woman who cannot buy her way into reasoning with the familiar loneliness. It feels so young, this knot caught in me, stubborn, with its head lowered, ignoring my attempts. I entice it, a pang in my stomach now, with a future cup of tea, saying *Look out around* during a stop. I also try distracting it. *See? There are other humans walking by; we are not alone*.
"Everything and Nothing: A Phone Message"
Excerpt from **Everything and Nothing: A Phone Message - Mary Edwards**
My doctor’s voicemail said everything and nothing. I froze when I heard it. “Hi Mary. This is Dr. McCandless. I need to talk with you so please call back as soon as you get this message.”
I’d had a brain scan the Friday before and I figured if she had good news she would have left it on voicemail. I hadn’t been worried.
Now I was.
I breathed shallowly, holding my body still and quiet like I always did when I wanted to control my emotions. The red couches beside me sat quietly too. The breeze outside even settled and our raspberry plants didn’t move. Perhaps if my world and I were still, the universe wouldn’t notice us and nothing bad would happen.
I returned the phone to its cradle and stepped softly from our den into the kitchen to tell my partner, Ann. Before I spoke, I leaned against the door frame trying to imagine how this phone call could fit into spring break. It couldn’t.
“Ann,” I whispered, my throat too constricted to speak any louder.
She looked up from washing dishes and I shared the doctor’s message. Her eyebrows lifted and her body straightened. “That doesn’t sound good,” she said, keeping her voice even. “You should call her back.”
Ann had been with me ten years before when I’d lost control of my limbs and had begun projectile vomiting after waterskiing on a lake south of Seattle. We’d gone to the area’s small emergency room where the young doctor did lots of tests that didn’t explain my troubles. In the past weeks, Ann had seen my increasing fatigue and knew there was reason for concern.
“I don’t want to mess up our break,” I said. “So no. I won’t call. Not yet. I’ll call Monday when we’re back at work.” Ann pursed her lips and nodded. She knew I was stubborn and wouldn’t call until I was ready.
I had always assumed there was nothing wrong until evidence proved otherwise, but experiences over the last couple of weeks concerned me. I’d been so weary that I hadn’t had enough energy to grade my students’ writing, clean my classroom, or even walk unless it was absolutely necessary.
"What Do You Want?"
Excerpt from What Do You Want? – by Hope Bless
“What do you want for your birthday?” This is the all-important question. I’m lying down on the sofa hooked up to the oxygen, which sounds like a WWII aircraft going down, trying to get more comfortable without asking for help. I am not well. I have not been well for several years. It seems to me that this fixation on the question, “What do you want for your birthday?” is intricately entwined with terror that it might be my last. But while others flutter about me in a state of panic, it is all I can do to get down a little broth and try not to sabotage the latest medical intervention. Another part of me weighs what I have been through in the past against this latest thing and thinks it isn’t nearly as scary in terms of life and death. I also feel like it is my job to put a brave face on things to ease the suffering they are going through but feel they have no right to share. The last two b-days came and went without my knowledge as I fought for my life in two six-month comas that struck me down on consecutive December 23rds, ruining my best friend Liz’s birthday.
No one saw the illness coming. I was just thirty-seven years old and in peak fitness—climbing, running, cycling, swimming, and lifting six days a week with longer weekend big-wall climbing and the occasional triathlon or century ride thrown in for fun. Getting a good sweat on and creative problem solving while climbing were types of meditation for me that depleted excess physical energy and left my mind free to explore solutions in the studio later in the day with a calm, focused mind. But on the morning of December 23 my ‘wasbund’ Jim thought I looked a little funnier than usual and took the day off to drag me to my doc kicking and screaming. Once there I began the usual clowning and sarcastic one-upping with the staff that left us wiping away tears of laughter and grabbing our sides. ’Twas the season to be jolly.
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