Body and Mind
When we finally reach the street, it’s like moving into the current of a mighty river. We pass the White House, the Treasury, the Justice Department, all the cornerstones of empire that remind us this is Washington, where decisions are made that affect everyone, the way one careless moment, one broken promise — one broken condom — can affect your whole life.
I see them every day, the wounded women in the supermarket or in the bookstore, the children beaten to a whimper until all life has grayed in them. I’ve learned to recognize Fear’s signature scrawled across their faces, the way one learns to recognize a man who walks with a “prison shuffle.”
Mary Ann does not see the doctor until she’s on the operating table, knees bent, her feet strapped into stirrups. . . . The doctor does not speak to her, never glances at her face. A girl, twelve or thirteen years old, stands to one side, squeezing Mary Ann’s hand. The girl’s hands are small and quite strong. Mary Ann squeezes back.
It’s like being in Miss Wheeler’s class but wanting to play with the kids in Miss King’s class. The thing is, they go to recess at 10:30 with the fifth graders, while your class goes at 11 with the kindergarteners. You face the hedges on your swing, throwing your head back so that the little brats on the playground dangle upside-down into the huge, empty sky, and you pump your legs so that the world shifts and tilts alarmingly: you wish you were with the fifth graders. On top of that, though Miss Wheeler is kind and soft-spoken, she has brown hair that hangs limply down to her shoulders, whereas Miss King has hair like white cotton candy piled high, and a coy smile that speaks of secrets as it creeps slowly across her pink, shellacked lips and into her deep, green eyes lined in black.
The last I heard of Jean she and her husband were heading for the beach where he would finally open up his medical practice. The last I saw of her — we met in a card shop one afternoon — she was having an affair. “It’s taking Ben so long to grow up,” she complained, distressed, wanting to love only him. “He’s always out on the basketball court when he’s not studying some disease.” That was five years ago. They are still hanging in there, I hear.