Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Lois Judson lives in New England, where she works with the elderly in their homes and is at war with her rooster.
I learned that what drives the shopper is the dream that if she finally makes the exact-right purchase, she will be happy. This is not unlike the drug addict’s search for a drug or combination of drugs that will finally make her feel the way she wants to feel. The worst thing that can happen to an addict is to have a lot of money, which Joan does. Then the choices are unlimited, and the party goes on far too long.
I wake up at 8:50 A.M. and whip around the house frantically, not wanting to be late for my women’s Alcoholics Anonymous meeting: feed the cat, grab my knitting, splash water on my face, pour some half-perked coffee, and speed into town.
Butt plug. Butt plug. I’ve been walking around muttering these two words to myself for days now, like a six-year-old experimenting with a new curse. (It even sounds like an insult: “You’re nothing but a dirty butt plug!”) I savor the way the words pop crisply from my lips: the hard t of butt and the guttural g of plug. Until a few days ago, I didn’t even know what one is.
My ex-husband is dying. A year and a half ago he was on the telephone with someone, and suddenly words vanished from his brain. English became a language he’d once known but had forgotten. The memory of those things called “words” was still there, but they were lumpy, pale, and almost unrecognizable, like dust-sheeted furniture in a mansion’s unused rooms.
You can almost tell when it’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the door, because the knock is polite but loud at the same time, deferential but invested with the supposed authority of doing God’s work.
If you want to spot an alcoholic, look for someone who is always chewing breath mints. This is worth ten points. Strong perfume counts for another ten. You get twenty for slightly over-the-top jocularity; twenty-five for an inadvertent slur.
Alice doesn’t smile when she opens the door. She doesn’t have a lot to smile about, and, more than that, to smile would be to grant me points I have not yet earned. At this juncture, I am still a tentacle of authority, reaching out to invade the nominal sanctity of her home.