Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Armamentarium

Razor blades, bandages, eye drops, floss, vaseline, assorted pills, tweezers, all the shite I got in the medicine cabinet. It's expensive, the body's upkeep. Clippers, unguentine, Q-tips, imodium. And then on top of the toilet tank in a wire caddy -- soap, deodorant, shampoo, tissues. You stare into the mirror. Hello bright eyes. Outside a leftover snow shower and the occasional savage gust. The little green stems poking out of the earth look chilly and fragile. It's sposed to go down below freezing tonight.

I'm on the phone with Lewis. He says, "I can't imagine anyone but Olivia de Havilland playing the lead in The Heiress, can you?" I'm tryin to suppress a cough. I'm tryin to focus on his words. He lives by himself and can talk for hours. He's been retired for almost eight years and he's on one of those unlimited calling plans. "It's getting bad just like when our parents were struggling in the thirties. Mine collected bottles and sold them just so they could go to the movies. I'll bet yours did too."

I don't know about that. My parents were poor but I don't think movies mattered much to them.

He tells me about the Christopher Plummer autobiography -- "he knew everybody, dint he?" -- and then his brother's medical supply business. "This economy's affecting him too. He says he's glad he had such good years when the kids were growin up. He could give them everything then but he couldn't now."

Lewis has his diet regimen for the diabetes and says he did good on his tests last week. He's written a thousand pages of a Peggy Lee biography that'll never be finished. I've seen him gently bring a crazy mugger under control in downtown Detroit and I've seen him give bus fare and an extra sandwich to a scabby teenager in Greektown. Such fools are rare. "Remember Shirley? She's eighty-eight, showing signs of dementia. They buried her husband Elmo last year, they'd been married sixty years. He was such a warm person, a true friend to so many. It was some funeral. She started losing her mind quickly after that."

I look out at the cabin Cholly and Rose left behind. Two girls from the city bought it, but they're hardly ever there. The back screen door is hangin on one hinge. A coupla old saws lie rustin in the wood shed. Sad. I break into a coughin fit and swallow a pill, put some water on for tea. Some days you don't know if it's loneliness, or fatigue, or boredom, or illness. But you suspect everybody's in the same boat, dontcha, poot?

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