I call her first, when I cross into cell phone land. Of course I do. She is my sanity, my guru, my mother figure. A million times she’s birthed my changing with her words, and now she lays in a bed in a big scary city and I roam the world in my van home, bringing her offerings of oil and frappuccinos whenever I come near her.
â€œWelcome home,â€ she says.
I’m driving through this little town where I broke down once and curled up in my cold van for three days at thirty below, once upon a time, and her voice is home as much as the mountains and sky are. She can convey anything with her voice, the smallest twist of empathy or rebuke. It’s the voice of God, not a Goddess, but the monotheistic kind of God who’s every word you write on the inside of your eyelids forever, because she knows so much.
â€œTara,â€ she says. â€œI’m going to sell everything I own and move to Hawaii.â€
I pull over. I don’t want to lose service. â€œWhat?â€
â€œIt’s the only place I can get health care. They have a law there that everyone can have health care.â€ I don’t know what to say, so she continues. â€œIf I can’t afford a place, at least I won’t be cold. And you know I can’t get health care here. You have to jump through so many hoops, and I can’t even imagine making it through one. They made me sign something at the emergency room, last time, and now I can’t go back.â€
I try to imagine her flying to Hawaii. How will she get off the plane? She can barely stand for a few minutes, how will she carry a bag? Where will she go? It would be one thing for me to be homeless in Hawaii. I’m healthy, I can move around. I picture her laying on the beach, in pain because of course she can’t bring the medicine she gets on the sly with her, and what if she needs something? A drink of water? What if the cops kick her? One good kick could paralyze her, and I hear they’re cracking down on the homeless out there.
â€œI have to. You know I’m not going to get better here.â€
Yes, I’ve known for years. But Hawaii?
â€œThey have to give me health care there. And they’ll see that I can’t, well, I can’t possibly take care of myself. They’ll understand and they’ll have to give me a place to live.â€
No, I want to say. No, there is no benevolent they. They is some rich fucking doctor who can’t even imagine one day, one minute, of her reality. He is worried about his taxes and his paperwork and his vacation homes and he doesn’t give a fuck how you die. But I am jaded and bitter and I have no business spreading it.
She’ll get off the plane. They’ll put her in a wheelchair, and they’ll carry her bags. She’ll take a cab to the emergency room, and she’ll explain her story ever so thoughtfully. She’ll explain about the satanists and the pimps and the cyanide, and they’ll think she’s crazy. She’ll tell them about the heart attacks and her dying bone marrow and herniated disks, and they’ll ask how she knows, as if she can’t know for herself. She’ll explain about the hospital here, and they’ll roll their eyes and write â€œdelusional,â€ â€œaddict,â€ â€œparanoia.â€ What they’ll mean is that she is different from them, that they couldn’t imagine, that they wouldn’t dare imagine, that it would be beneath them to imagine her as human as them.
I can see it all so clearly, some piece of my mind flown into the future. Some nurses assistant in blue scrubs, and he’ll hand her a form. â€œI can’t,â€ she’ll explain. She’ll say it with all the dignity of someone who could read, and now can’t, and knows it’s not her fault. She’ll say it with the composure of a woman who’s proud that her brain has split into only a few pieces, rather than smithereens. The nurses assistant, he’ll roll his eyes and he’ll think stupid white trash bitch never even bothered to learn how to read. I want to jump through time and slap that smug look off his face. If I could go into the future in this instant, I would kill him.
â€œDon’t worry,â€ she says. â€œI’m not giving up, I have to wait for my hot ATF man.â€
He was a cop, and he kissed her on the forehead once, six years ago, and told her everything would be okay. She took that to mean that he knew about the satanists and the cyanide and he would take revenge for her and then come wisk her off her feet. She’s been waiting for him ever since, counting years. He has to wait two years after the investigation ends, she says. She doesn’t think that if any cops believed her she wouldn’t be in this hell. No, she believes absolutely in goodness, and she watches CSI, and she knows that somewhere out there her hot ATF guy is locking those motherfuckers up for life, and that once he’s done he’ll wait two years and come rescue her and they’ll move to a ranch in New Mexico.
â€œI think he still loves me. I don’t think he cares that I’m all fucked up from the cyanide.â€
â€œOh, honey,â€ I tell her, â€œit’d be impossible not to love you.â€
â€œWell,â€ she says, â€œI’m going to go clean up my room for when you get here.â€
She hangs up and in the empty space after the click I see her, curled up and moaning on some beach in Hawaii. I’m driving down the road crying and hyperventilating. If only I were still a super stripper, I’d never sleep and I’d work every night with a perfect speed smile. I’d have all the money in the world again, and I’d tell her to go to a doctor, just go. I’d lay my cash down in piles and I’d dare him, just dare him, to say anything less than sweet and tactful to her. I could have all this again, and it would start with smoking just a couple rocks.
I used to be so afraid of growing up to be like her, one of those women. You probably don’t know them, you probably didn’t come from anyplace like I did. They were all around me, like magnets, from the moment I hit puberty. Their daddies raped them. Their pimps and husbands beat them. They were like me. Now they all had fibromyalgia and lupus and MS, and everyone thought they were crazy. I loved them. They were like me, so I would listen and swear never to be like them. I would take their words and burn them into my mind as warning signals. If you ever hear yourself saying that, you’re going crazy like them. I’m ashamed of ever thinking it, now.
There’s a big RV in front of me, as big as five of my homes and it’s just a vacation toy for this old lady in dress pants with a binocular around her neck and her husband who tried to flirt with me and then offered me money a few rest stops back. There’s a big window in the back, and all I can see through it is her, laying half dead on some beach in Hawaii waiting for Them to save her. The ATF, the FBI, the doctors, SSI, anybody. She believes they care, she believes they hate bad people and work to bring them down, she believe they save the victims, she believes they heal the wounded. I hate them. I hate this stupid fucking culture for making her believe them.
The road keeps blurring by and I’ve got some serious rage, lesbian seperatist style, like never before. I hate it all. I hate the motherfucker in the RV in front of me who’s driving up here to kill some fish like a big man because everyone’s already been killed where he comes from. I hate all the men and all the patriarchy identified women who perpetuate this system. I hate it all.
I haven’t worked since February, and now I can’t imagine how I’ll do it. I’ll dress up and walk out into a room full of men who came here to kill fish, to rape the land for oil, and I’ll tell myself to sit on their laps and transmute it, to change it and give it back to them. I’ll try to be so conscious of their words and their energy and I’ll try to change it into something right, a healthy interaction, and feed it back to them. But I’ll want to kill them and I won’t be able to hide it and I won’t make any money and I won’t be able to save her. What was my sacred work will become toxic and soul killing.
I know, right then, driving down the road, that I’ll be every bit as proud as her if I manage to survive this shit with my mind in only a few pieces and not smithereens.