Claire observed to me recently that my facebook updates paint a rosy picture of post-separated life; and I think that, by and large, that is true. Consider today’s post, then, the invisible worm in the sick rose.
It’s not that I had a bad weekend; I actually had a really enjoyable weekend until I got sick. It was just one of those twenty four-hour periods during which I start to suspect that I am not a real person but actually a character in a third-rate novel by some 27 year old hipster who fancies himself a Baudelaire for our time.
“But will the reader grasp that these events are symptomatic?” he asks his editor (who is not really his editor but his dad’s friend, and who is just doing a favor for his friend by reading this shit).
“Yeah, I think it’s pretty obvious,” says the editor.
“Really?” queries the novelist, whose name is Luke, but he insists on being called “Luka.”
“Because I’m thinking this chapter needs more imagery of blockages and then I’ll pick that up in the next chapter when she sees her psychiatrist and finally confronts the vile bilious matter that she’s been just desperately tamping down for all these years but which now, at the novel’s climax, gushes out. “
“It’s called “foreshadowing,’” he adds, helpfully.
The editor stares at him with a blend of contempt and disbelief. “Sure, more blockages,” he says, and goes back to browsing bread machines on Amazon.
Here’s Luka’s embellished draft:
Yesterday, Valentine’s Day. was her 13th wedding anniversary. [the 13th? Really? You’re laying it on a bit thick. Also, who gets married on Valentine’s Day? Isn’t that asking for trouble? Ed.]
She had planned the day so that there wouldn’t be too much time for wallowing and moping.
It was a warm, sunny Sunday. She went to the symphony with a friend at Disney Hall downtown. She rediscovered how absorbing and moving it can be to listen silently with hundreds of other people to classical music. In the intermission they went outside and looked at the pretty people. Her gold boots gleamed in the sun.
Afterwards they went for a drink. She wanted to treat her friend but her card was declined.
“Try it again,” she urged the bartender.
He did, but it wouldn’t go through. A tiny queasy feeling rose in her stomach, but she chose to ignore it.
“Maybe it’s identify theft,” said her friend.
She found that thought oddly reassuring; identity theft would mean that she was a victim, not that she had, rather, through carelessness and spendthriftiness [sure that’s a word? Ed.] drained her own account.
After her drink she left to meet another friend to see “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” in Century City. She got a ride using Lyft from downtown.
They had been driving for some twenty minutes when she realized that they were still downtown. It was Valentine’s Day, of course, so bad traffic was to be expected; but that wasn’t the problem. Instead, the GPS seemed to be guiding the driver in endless circles.
Perturbed, the driver announced, “I’m just going to turn off the navigation system and go with my instincts.”
“OK,” said her passenger, not entirely reassured.
For nearly an hour, they were, the driver assured her passenger, perpetually on the verge of getting to the 10 freeway. It was around every corner. Except … it wasn’t. Driving around Los Angeles looking for the 10 might be SoCal version of purgatory, thought the passenger, and wondered if she might be stuck there forever.
In the end she made it to the theater in time and settled back to luxuriate at the spectacle of the undead frolicking in Regency costume. Her favorite part of the movie was the very final shot. The credits roll after an apparent final scene depicting a bucolic double-wedding; but then, in the middle of the credits, abruptly, there is one final scene that suggests there will be, after all, no happily ever after.
Oh, Wickham, you are indeed the wickedest young man in the world.
When she got home she congratulated herself on a well-managed first post-separation Valentine’s Day. Then she went to bed, her mind teeming with zombies. Some hours later, she was awoken, not by the undead, but by a sharper queasy feeling. Rising tides of vomit soon followed.
Were the heaves the cries of her perfidious soul, the return of the repressed, or just the tuna tartare? It was hard to say. [Luke, reading this is literally making me gag. Ed.]
Around 8 the next morning, there was a rap on the door. Exhausted from vomiting, and wrapped in her daughter’s pink fuzzy blanket, she walked over unsteadily to open it. It was a handyman, sent by the rental company in response to her complaint, earlier in the week, about a mysterious bad smell in the apartment.
The smell was elusive, both difficult to characterize and to pinpoint its source. The odor was something like a dank, stagnant pond, but it would come and go with no obvious pattern. But when it was detectable it was very pronounced and seemed to emanate from certain cupboards, which is why, as one of her dinner guests pointed out with some amusement on Saturday night, she had taped a sign on one of her dining room cabinets that stated, simply: “Cupboard with Bad Smell.”
When the handyman came in to the apartment and checked the cupboard, he looked puzzled. The smell wasn’t pronounced or localized sufficiently for him to trace where it came from.
“I was hoping it would be a really strong smell,” he said, “and then it would probably be a dead animal and I could just yank it right out.”
“Right,” she said, one again not altogether reassured.
“I’ll have to look at the foundations,” he said. “There’s a crawl space so I’ll come back this afternoon and investigate,” he explained. “Maybe there’s a puddle under there. I’ll probably dump a bunch of bleach on it.”
She settled down to wait for him to return. Remembering the declined card, she checked her balance. It was zero: but the only thief was herself; and the statement told no mysterious story but the plain truth that most of her salary went on rent and therapy.
She waited until it started to get dark, but he never returned. [I’m sorry but this is terribly trite, Luke. Say hi to your dad. Ed.]