July 28, 2014
I had told Rudy yes, I’ll be able to spend Saturday working with him, but now that is a problem. G. wants to meet at 7:30 a.m. and has a day of activities scheduled; I had not anticipated that. So Friday night I call Rudy on my cell. He answers immediately and says not to worry. What had I been thinking? I would visit G. for first time in 40 years and he wouldn’t expect we would spend the day together?
G. and I go to the gathering Friday night and I meet his wife – her name is something like Bal or Blo; I have trouble remembering and have to keep double checking. Is this the woman he had told me about? I don’t think so, but maybe it is. It’s confusing.
She has beautiful blonde hair and speaks with an Appalachian accent. It really is confusing; who is this woman? I’m introduced to her large family of all ethnic groups. I tell them I can remember each individual because each member always stands in the same spot in the family-gathering photos, printed on postcards G. has sent me over the years. It is a large, happy family but I notice they do tend to group themselves around ethnic lines, even so.
When G. holds out his hand to me, I join him on the dance floor. The slow dance turns into a two-step line dance. G. knows the steps well and I want to do it. I shadow his footwork but I am always behind. So frustrating, falling behind.
G. and I will leave when two other couples are ready to go; we’re giving them rides. One woman tells me she and her partner are ready but I’m not sure who her partner is. Is it Mike Reed or the other man? Confusion reigns, but we figure it out.
My hair, carefully coiffed in curls on top of my head, keeps getting undone. Finally I let it down and find it is surprisingly smooth. Will that last? No, it doesn’t. Two women advise me to smooth the hairdo with my hands. Also, to stand “plae.” They figure out I don’t know what that means when I ignore the advice.
“It means to stop standing with your toes pointed out so much,” one explains.
“But I can’t do that,” I say and keep my toes out.
I ask G. for a sweater for the morning. We’ll be going to the cool mountains and I didn’t pack anything more than the light clothes I’m wearing. He is sorry but says he has nothing that would help.
“No sweater? Maybe a light fleece jacket? Anything? Look, something like these would work for me,” I say, pointing to three V-neck sweaters.
“No, I have nothing,” he says regretfully.
I want to tell G. how he has not changed in 40 years, unlike other friends. He does let on that some things have changed.
“Any moment the balloon in my head will expire. You’ll hear a noise and I will have to change it,” he says, pointing to his temple. I’m not sure the balloon’s purpose, but I want to reassure him he is not alone in having ailments and contraptions in his head.
“See these tiny plastic ducts in the corner of my eyes?” I say to G. “You are not alone in having things inserted. I say this not for your sympathy, but to try to demonstrate I can feel empathy for your situation.”
G. recommends the top doctor in the local hospital. Surprisingly, the small town has a renowned doctor heading its colonoscopy department. “He is an arthritis doctor plus a colonoscopy doctor,” says G. They’ve discovered a link between arthritis and colon cancer, so he specializes in both.
Now I’m reading the local paper page by page. So many articles about crime and corruption. “This is not a small town paper like I’m used to in Portland,” I observe.
I’m worried that I won’t be able to keep up with G. He is in good shape. He takes the steep staircase instead of the rapid escalator nearby and I do my best to keep up. Eventually I find him resting on a flight of stairs waiting for me to catch up.
As we lie down on the conveyor to take us to the next level, he sees my beige high-heeled shoes and is fascinating by the numerous straps. He thinks the shoes look like cages, but I assure him they are not real cage shoes; others look much more like cages than these. Meanwhile, the buckles have become undone and I struggle to get them fixed. The shoes are old and worn, but I still love them.
Next we walk over the Sellwood Bridge; I show him the new bridge being built alongside this aged and decrepit original one. The last stretch of bridge is missing its deck. I’m used to this part; I straddle my feet on the ledges that line the inner sides of the bridge. But G. wasn’t prepared for the missing deck and didn’t position his feet on the side ledges in time. I look back to see him madly swinging, hands gripping the handrails, as he tries to get his feet on the ledges. It’s too late; he can’t reach them. He falls to the dirt below. Luckily, we are so far along that we’re past the river and he can fall on soft dirt and walk the rest of the way. I feel guilty and responsible for his mishap. I should have anticipated he wouldn’t be prepared and warned him of the missing deck. It could have been so dangerous for him.
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Finally I find the math classroom. The chairs – small sofas – are arranged facing the front of the classroom, but the whiteboard is in the back. Time to turn all the sofas around. That seems more practical than trying to find another classroom as someone suggests. I grab an aisle seat though I know someone else wants it, too. No problem; they take the aisle seat in back of my row.
July 25, 2014
The plane crashes. I see it fall from the sky. Then, is that another? I look up in time to see a plane taking off, stalling in the sky, and – no! no! – it is turning down towards the river. It looks like a limp black and white whale as it forms an arc and falls nose down into the river. I feel sick. So sick. Two planes down. Sick. Sick. Sick. The planes were full of passengers. Sick.
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