The End of Funk

It would so often just be the two of us in Sam’s Honda, an early 2000s model with leather seats and two doors and a CD player with Stevie Wonder inside. His greatest hits became the soundtrack to my fall, the Disabled Fall, the Fall I spent in the passenger seat of Sam’s car, listening to “Isn’t She Lovely” and something that starts with “do do do do do dooo”. On the rare nights we’d go out, Colleen, Sam and I would singalong and I’d mix up nearly every word.
I watched the seasons change through the windows I stare out now, the windows in my grandmother’s house, where I have lived this fall with my cousins, the aforementioned Sam and Colleen. We ate dinner every night at the round, ancient kitchen table. My grandma cooked. She cooked a lot, actually, for someone who just turned 77. She says that a good square three meals a day will keep you healthy and maybe make you lose weight too. (It might be true, I lost about 9 pounds of the prednisone weight, which is the size of a large baby.) She bought this house over 40 years ago for $19,000 and damn, was it a good investment! Did you know they almost moved from the Bronx to Levittown instead? I could have been a Long Islander.
I learned that fact this fall, and I learned other things too. I learned a lot about babies and toddlers  when I spent a few days at Katie's, hanging with my favorite people in the world. There I woke up at 7 with Emma hollering at me down the stairs "I'm up, Kelly, come get me!" But other than those early mornings, I stayed up late most nights and slept in until the afternoon. (I recently read that this is the sleeping patterns of geniuses. Which, yeah.) If I was awake by 2:00 for ABC Family’s reruns of Full House, then I was pleased with myself. That’ll have to to change, because this week I go back to work and the real world and all the trivialities of daily life that I have forgotten.
I had no money this fall and I still don’t, so keep those Christmas lists short, family. I kept my apartment in the city but my bed was largely unused. I came into Manhattan for Halloween, to gallop drunkenly around a bonfire and break my 3 Blind Mice cane over my knee. I also came in to make a few bucks off literary superstar Julie, and to see my friends, and to go to doctors and have my armpits mangled. But mostly I stayed at Grandma’s because I have felt warm, and safe, and home here.
I watched the seasons as they changed and I tried to go outside every day. Most days Sammy and I would hit the open road, the glistening pavement of Route 18 leading us to Guitar Center that one time Sam let me jam or Starbucks where once we nabbed a table and took advantage of free Wi-Fi. But our best destination was the public library, the library my grandmother cursed to hell because my grandfather (God rest his soul) once donated $1,000 without her permission. One Friday night, Sam and I happened upon a Jewish Klemzer band, and boy, did that accordion player jam.
It was a good fall, a time warp for me, a respite. So often I feel paranoid, fearful that everyone thinks I'm  being lazy because I'm not working. But this year proved that I needed this time off. It was necessary. I know that it has not healed me, and I'm not sure I am better. But to rest without judgment, to have the advantage of living here--this has fulfilled me.
If you had told me at the start of the year that I’d spend two months living at my grandmother’s house in suburban New Jersey, I wouldn’t have believed you. But the beds are warm here, the linens old and broken in. It felt right to be here, a perfect place to rest and write and work. I got things done, I watched the leaves fall, and this week I will go back to work, ready to close out the year.
(Also, thanks to my parents--and grandma-- for filling in the $$ gaps when the disability checks failed to supplement my rent/lifestyle.)


They're Ba-Ack!

I wake up choking on my spit. My eyes water and my face reddens. I run to the bathroom to gulp water from the faucet and wipe my face in the mirror.
It is 7 am and I have been asleep for just a few hours. The pain kept me awake, as did "The Nanny" marathon on Nick at Nite. (No one cheers me up like Fran and her struggles against the upper echelons of New York society.)
At night, I perfect my dance in the kitchen with Colleen and Sam. But in the mornings I am alone and so painfully awake.
I cough again and swig Orajel mouthwash- antiseptic, bitter, unkind. I take prednisone, even though it makes me crazy and fat. (Which, come to think of it, is not such a departure.)
My mouth has blown up again—sores have moved in, taken residence on my gums, lips, tongue. The crater on the tip of my tongue is offended easily; the passing wind of my breath aggravates it, like 
peroxide on an open wound. 
It hurts to talk, so I only speak when a good joke or insult comes to mind and when someone is about to eat the last of the lo mein. And It hurts to eat, so I only eat popcorn and noodles, where I can place each bite in a non-infected spot. 

But when the night has dried my mouth and the air is particularly offensive against the open wounds, I must look for something to distract me.

I throw my fists into the air. I punch the armchair in this old bedroom in my grandmother’s house. I kick, kick, kick.

And then--I take a deep breath through my nose and think: 
This is not easy.


Life in the 'Burbs

Month two of disability leave finds me in the suburbs for most of the time, as money is tight and the city is filled with shiny alcohol and cheap Forever21 frocks that I just have to buy.

I've been staying with Grandma for awhile, after my parents, in a fit of frustration over my lack of cleaning abilities and my tendency to scream downstairs for more water and Panera bread, suggested I go to Grandma's for a few days. (Typical joking conversation between my father and I: "How did you become so spoiled?" Me: "I AM WHAT YOU MADE ME!).

Life with my cousins at G's house has been nothing short of a vacation. It is a world on a whole other level. I love my parents, but the dinner discussion is more likely to be about grad school and colleges for my brother. At Grandma's, we spend 20 minutes discussing the price dry-cleaning one coat's might be at the dry cleaners. ($15, if you're curious.) Easy stuff. And G doesn't look over my shoulder, counting the amount of questions I got right on a GRE practice test. If I were at home with my mother, I'm sure she'd be quizzing me on what "temerity" means. And I would fail.

A few days vacation turned into a month, so here I stay, studying for the GREs and watching marathon episodes of "The Nanny". It's been productive: my score went up 200 points in each section and I can do a dead-on impression of both Fran Fine AND Mr. Sheffield. I hope to continue to do the Fran one all the time, at paid events and impersonator conferences.

I've also spent a lot of time trying to master the moves in Hanson's new video. I did a trial run of my very loose interpretation of the dance in Grandma's kitchen last night and Colleen laughed so hard she choked on her water.

At least I think she was laughing.

I've loved living with my two younger cousins. Last week, we decided to get a bottle of red wine at the local Browntown shopping center. (I have high blood pressure and WINE HELPS!) I got home with my purchase (ten bucks for 2 liters. CAN YOU BEAT THAT?) and was immediately disappointed to discover that we broke the corkscrew the last time we indulged in vino.

After Googling how to open wine without a corkscrew and trying to open ours with a shoe like some dude on YouTube, little cousin Colleen (also known as Jolly) decided to push the cork all the way down, into the bottle. My lack of knowledge regarding physics did not prepare me for what was about to occur.

Throwing caution to the wind, we took our place on the kitchen table, in the presence of two laptops and my beloved iPhone. Having lost my iPhone to a wine spillage before, I covered it with a napkin just in case. Jolly pushed the cork, as I held the bottle.  Colleen pushed and pushed on the cork until we heard a satisfying pop! of victory. I looked up just in time to get sprayed in the face with pungent cheap red wine.

Jolly lost two of her favorite shirts and my laptop is permanently stained red but we poured ourselves a glass and moved on.

The next morning, I was chatting with Grandma in the kitchen. She was making her usual cup of tea when I looked up at the ceiling and down at the walls. They were absolutely covered in specks of our cheap Yellow Tail wine. Horrified, I attempted to distract G from this sight.

Samantha and I spent the rest of the morning scrubbing our family history off the walls and ceiling.

It took a long time. But even though I was elbow deep in 409, I was immensely grateful for the position I am in. I have been afforded the opportunity to rest and be well.

I haven't been sick every day of this disability leave, but I have used every day to reflect upon the position I've found myself in. Without having to work full-time, I have been graciously allowed to be well and revel in it. It has been a long time since I've had such a stretch of good health. (And by stretch, I mean two weeks). So I have lived in these moments. They have been big and small and sad and happy but altogether, they have been meaningful.

This morning, I woke up with a mouthful of sores and a fever. Instead of wondering why this happened, I decided to just accept it. I am not better but that's okay.

I will accept it, be happy, and move on.

For now, at least- this is a reasonable goal.