The home-made voodoo art machine kept the former neighbor from renting out the empty house next door. It was only two bovine shoulder blades tied close together in a tree, but every now and then they clonked together in the wind and sounded strange. His wife didn’t like it all that much and once upon a time, he promised to take it down. Like so many other things, it never happened and he thought that best.
“I look like Frankenstein,” she said, and she was close. The result of her eyelid surgery to remove a small basal cell carcinoma looked pretty gruesome to me the next day when I removed the bandage. She bruises easily, I know, but the swelling and the technicolor blotches set me back. I thought but didn’t say, my God, how does this ever come back together? So of course I took a close-up photo with my iPhone and tried to text it to the doctor in a far-away town. I may be paranoid, but I got spunk.
And what do you know, you can’t do that. It appears to be illegal for doctors to even receive such images from a patient, which makes sense when you think about it, but on the other hand, how helpful. I’m not the only one with spunk, in other words. An act of God occurred and briefly, in a private space, a thing was seen before it vanished in the ether.
“It looks perfect,” he said.
There was more, but that was plenty. Before I go any further, I can report that after forty-eight hours, the outlines of a normal pretty face are evident again. The swelling has gone down, and now the skin is pulling at the sutures. She has little jerks and fits of pain. Morale and stamina are sketchy, but she’s mostly good.
When we first met in Maryland, I fell in love so hard. Because I knew how much she liked lilacs, I left a sprig of blossoms pinned beneath the windshield wiper on her ’65 Volkswagen so there could be no doubt. Years later, there were lilac bushes at the first and only house we’ve ever owned, and much more besides, including what we planted: apple trees, grape vines, lillies, irises, roses, cosmos, tulips, daffodils, peonies, crocuses, forsythias, magnolias, English walnuts, and an ancient hollow redbud tree, where every spring, a six-foot blacksnake would appear and eat the eggs of whatever birds tried nesting there.
It’s been sixteen years now in northern New Mexico. The place is full of lilacs. Almost every house along the paved road from our neighborhood down to the highway has blooming lilac bushes. Purple mostly, but here and there a white one. The white lilacs are a symbol, I think. She loves these the most and often mentions them. Today was different, however. Early this evening, just before or after supper but before the sun went down, she stood beside the kitchen window looking at the lilacs by the vacant house next door:
“We had a home once…” she said. “When we have our next home, I want to plant white lilacs. White lilacs, and purple ones, too.”
“Absolutely,” I said, hoping that I understood. “Absolutely. Yes. Of course.”
The storms built up slowly over the afternoon, the way they do, and rolled by one by one until just after sunset. That doesn’t mean we ever had a problem. In this part of the world, the land’s so big, the weather almost never finds you. But you see the storms, or hear them, or enough of the system passes overhead so that you get these waves of rain and wind.
Today was like another time and place: cloudy, mostly dark and damp, with thunder rumbling many seconds after distant lightning flashes. We read or took our naps under quilts in the cool late afternoon while rain drummed on the skylight. It was like being a little kid at grandma’s house in bad weather when there wasn’t anything to do and everybody rested. That never happens anymore, I guess, with the internet in your pocket. There was a time, though, when quiet was your friend and you were safe.
It’s only life, as some would say. Awakened at 5:15 a.m. by a familiar blackness—hello, doom!—I staggered to the computer to encounter this:
Do what you love and the money will follow is for amateurs. Do what you love and I have no fucking idea how the money will work is for pros.
— Dan Kennedy (@DanKennedy_NYC) May 11, 2016
Obviously I’m a pro. As my wife says several times a day, “Can you please relax?”