I got more x-rays

What I saw: x-rays of my foot, six weeks and two days after surgery

What TV shows did I watch beforehand: Bojack Horseman, all of Breaking Bad, all of Better Call Saul, seasons 7 and 8 of Doctor Who, 10 episodes of the Magicians, two episodes of Halt and Catch Fire, all of Alias Grace, all three seasons of Broadchurch, season one of the Crown (three times), 13th, two episodes of Godless, Mudbound, half an episode of Rake, two episodes of the Indian Doctor, all of the Handmaid’s Tale, 6 episodes of Brooklyn 99, one episode of Gravity Falls, and probably some other stuff.

Something I ate: fries and bubble tea and hot and sour soup that we can get delivered.

What I wore: the bear sweater. Did I tell you about it?

How I got the bear sweater: I don’t like shopping, but I do like tigers. I was looking for something with a tiger on it when I found the bear sweater (and also a unicorn sweater). Panicked, I reached out to a friend to ask which one to get, and she wisely advised that I get both. She is a good friend who understands what is important to me. I got her a plain sweater for X-mas. I hope she isn’t reading this.

Why I saw so much TV: I am too exhausted to say.


What the hell is wrong with me: three weeks after getting my walking cast, I had a follow-up appointment with the doctor. I had to drive the Connecticut to see him, even though I am allergic to Connecticut, and lose all hope for humanity as I pass through the border. You can tell when you’ve left New York because the stacked stone walls along the way go from charmingly tumbled and to obsessively tended. A Connecticut stone wall is tall and set in mortar. I don’t know what they’re so afraid of in Connecticut, but they are prepared to defend themselves against the invasion when it comes. The other way you know is that the pavement in Connecticut is a smooth as the glossy pink bottom of an Episcopalian’s first-born daughter.

Things that were not funny: there was ample parking, though some of the luxury SUVs were parked like the driver skidded in sideways at great speed and leapt from the driver’s seat. One might have asked, “Where’s the fire?”

But we know the answer to that these days (Sorry, California).

The staff wear uniforms and are efficient and polite, which is to say that they are humorless but at least they don’t ask me about the weather (I have missed all the weather these past two months, what with the foot surgery and the walking cast and all, and I do so love fall weather, leaving the house, doing exercise, alas). I was shown to exam room 6 and told to take off both shoes and socks. My plastic cast landed with a cracking plastic thud.

Who should see it: next the nurse whose name is like Penny or Jerry or Patsy or something came in and told me I was going to x-ray. I am disgusted with myself that I can’t remember her name because I can learn the names of 50 people over lunch (this is actually true because I did it once). Nurse Penn/Jerr/Patsy asked if I was weight-bearing yet. I said I wasn’t. So I had to climb down and pick up the walking cast and put it back on and limp down the hall in the crooked way that I do when I don’t have a shoe on to balance the height of the cast. I arrived at x-ray and was passed off to an x-ray technician with a practiced instructional patter that was eerily sing-song but also in this monotone that was hard to understand. It reminded me of that thing, you know, where you see a bunch of words for colors like it says red but it’s actually yellow? There was a question in there about whether there was any possibility that I was pregnant and I didn’t so much say no as say no?

Anyway, she didn’t have a prepared speech for telling me to take off my cast so she said nothing and went to get an x-ray plate. Alone in the room, I sat in the only available chair and took off my walking cast in silence. Then she came back and resumed with the uninflected  lie down and I realized once the instructions filtered down from the air into my ears and through my brain comprehension matrix that I was supposed to get up from the chair and go over to the table using the naked foot that is not weight-bearing and lie down.  I did some unsupported lurching and flopping. Drone Voice put an X-ray plate under my foot and had me adjust three ways and then, at the last possible second, handed me big square lead apron. I knew what to do with it and it was a good thing I did because she didn’t say anything about how to hold it or where. Drone Voice said now tilt your leg and I tried to and she said more and just at the point where she goes perfect it was the moment where it actually hurt to be in that position and I was about to grunt.

Next I had to walk across the room and stand like the gold medalist on the top of the three squishy foam-covered stairs and Drone Voice moved the table closer because she could and while she explained what she was doing and why the words went up and around and flew some circles in the room and slipped out past the illuminated red EXIT sign.

I took my steps up the balance-destroying squishy foam steps and stood for more angles, holding the apron awkwardly around myself, hoping to hide my delicate innards from the horrors of repeated x-rays.

Things that were sad: when I was in high school my physics teacher gave this one oral exam where we each had to walk in and answer one question and then go sit down and wait for the next person and hear them give a better answer. I was asked to tell everything I knew about x-rays. I studied in high school, although the thing then was to be too cool to admit to it, but I remember nothing about x-rays.

What I can tell you about x-rays: they go in a straight line. There was this German guy experimenting with electrical currents through glass cathode-ray tubes, and instead of inventing the computer monitor fifty years before anyone needed one, Röntgen discovered a mystery radiation and punted on finding a good name.

Something I made up about x-rays:  because of the different densities of materials, your malevolence, your damaged soul, your biases, your mistaken preconceptions, and your failures will all show up brightly on an x-ray.

Something else I made up about x-rays:  x-rays are also known as longevity rays and especially good for you and you should get them as often as you can.

Things that were funny: while I was standing on the squishy foam-covered stairs and holding the apron in front of my delicate innards, Drone Voice made a face at me and exclaimed in her perfectly flat voice It’s your bear. It’s peeking out at me. That made my day.

Drone Voice showed me her teeth. I think she took smiling lessons from Sarah “Aunt Lydia” Huckabee Sanders. The bear on my sweater made her day.

After the X-ray I strapped my plastic boot/trap/cast back on and limped down the hall to wait in room 6.  The doctor came in, looked at my latest foot x-ray and said, meh, he couldn’t actually see from an x-ray if the damned airplane parts they’ve screwed into the joint have actually fused at this point, so, uh, just wear the cast for about 4 more weeks.

I smiled and acted all cheery and agreeable and ha, ha, ha, I couldn’t tell the difference between this x-ray and the one they took in October but on the inside the words were bouncing around and flying in circles and looking for the red illuminated EXIT sign.

After two weeks, suggested the doctor (maybe because my eyes weren’t smiling), I could experiment with little walking in a shoe. And did I want to go to PT? I told him I’d think about PT (I should have told him that the last time I went to PT the therapist made rape jokes and I hope to never go back to any PT ever).

But anyway I guess in a couple weeks I get to experiment with my foot without the plastic walking cast.

What is the inverse square law: stand back from the source of the x-ray and hold your square apron upside down.

What I saw on the way home: the mortar fell out of the stone walls and I went back to my charmingly tumbled life.


The Numbers

Americans write the date in the format “Month/Day/Year,” so today’s date is one of those fun sequences (10/11/12) that makes a memorable birthday or wedding anniversary. I have a friend whose birthday is 11/11, so last year’s fell on 11/11/11. I think I probably know someone on the Facebook who has the birthday 12/12, but if I can search by birthday on the Facebook I do not know how. The 12 months of our calendar and 30 or 31 days within are pretty arbitrary anyway; a 52 week year breaks evenly into 13 four-week-long months, so why don’t we add a month?
I know a bunch of folks with birthdays which fall on other holidays, like Halloween and Christmas, dictating not only the color of the wrapping paper of every gift of their whole lives, but also over-shadowing their anniversaries. No doubt there were children born on a December 7th in the 1930s for whom the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor forever ruined their birthdays. I have a couple of friends who were born on September 11th.
Church Street, TriBeCa, September 11th, 2012
On September 11, 1857, something like 120 Arkansas emigrants were murdered by Mormons and either Paiute Indians or some folks dressed up to look like them. There many different accounts of this story, and you might be interested to compare this one to others you can find.
September 11, 1971 marks the death of Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor. Khrushchev is famous for a shoe-banging incident at the U.N. and for warning us all that “We will bury you!” and, “Your children will be communists,” which Barry Goldwater used in his political television ads for his run for President of the United States. In 1959, Khrushchev visited the United States, and if you have 5 minutes you should watch this.
My childhood neighborhood friend with the braids was married on a September 11, in the 80s, in a ceremony in the old Catholic cathedral in downtown St. Louis. I was one of many bridesmaids, all in mint green taffeta, and I remember being very hot while we were kneeling and standing and kneeling and standing. 
That same day, September 11, 1987, in St. Andrews, a suburb of Kingston, Jamaica, the reggae musician known as Peter Tosh was shot and killed in his home. He was 42. A lively retelling of this brutal murder can be read here.
 The morning of September 11, 2001, I was eating breakfast in our kitchen in Seattle with all three kids, getting ready to go to school. The phone rang. It was my mother, explaining that she knew I didn’t watch TV but I better turn it on because something was happening in New York.
We had a small TV in the kitchen, and we turned it on in time to see the footage of the first tower engulfed and collapsing as well as footage of the second tower being hit. My children were very young, and unaccustomed to TV news, and did not know what they were looking at was real. While I was trying to explain to them that it was something serious and bad, the phone rang. It was a friend who mis-dialed another, mutual friend, with a similar number. A native New Yorker, the caller was completely distraught; I wonder if she even remembers calling me that day.
Last year was the tenth anniversary of the attack, and though we were living in North Dreadful, it was observed with a ceremony at the public school with solemnity and formality. My youngest son missed this event completely, thanks to a stomach ache.
This year, we live within view of the new towers under construction. There is a memorial at the site of the now missing towers, but I still have not visited it yet. I was awestruck by the two towers of light shining there the two nights of the 10th and the 11th which I find a fitting memorial: abstract, quiet and ephemeral, requiring no tickets or online registration.