Your eyelids are swollen shut and you’re trying to pry them open and feeling for your glasses which, oddly, aren’t in the place where you put them every damn night but somehow they’ve gone AWOL when you’re running late and you can’t see anyway because (a) you can’t find your glasses and (b) your eyelids are swollen shut from too little sleep. Again.
You feel around with your cold fingers under the pillows and the throw and you search under the bed but all you see are dirty socks and blurry ones at that, and then you feel around some more and hit something next to the laptop you sleep with and yes, you have your glasses, fortunately intact in the thicket of cold weather covers twisted up in your bed. You glance at the clock again and you’re the little white rabbit running late one more time as you grab your leggings and the nearest pants and two shirts and a sweatshirt and your heaviest scarf and you dress and you dash, dammit.
You wonder what in the hell you were thinking scheduling a dental appointment before it’s light knowing it’s aggravation enough by day and after coffee but at least the traffic lights are in your favor and you arrive only minutes late. You push on the revolving door of the glitzy office building and damn damn damn, it won’t budge.
You tap on the glass and the guard sees you and points dismissively then does so again and the third time he flails his arms at you and you flail back because apparently the revolving doors aren’t locked but you aren’t strong enough to make them move so you fight back tears and he gesticulates again and so do you and then he strides over with his face contorted and he pushes just a tiny bit and you push back and still it isn’t enough, and he shakes his head in exasperation and pushes again and you make your way through, out of the cold and into the vaulted space where this stranger looks at you like you’re crazy or lazy or drugged.
Now the tears are flowing and you aren’t sure why and you mumble “car accident, damaged arms” and you’re so damn tired and yet you note his face softening and he says “I’m sorry” and you say “It’s okay” and hurry to the dental office and sign in, trying to wipe the tears and put on a smile for the hygienist who is always gentle with what is never a fun procedure and she asks about new year’s and you ask about her Christmas and she gets down to work.
You close your eyes and you feel the familiar hatred spreading through your body just like the pain and it does so each time you sit in this chair and feel the full weight of the years of neglect because there was no money and whatever money there was went to the kids and their care in every way that mattered. It’s a price you paid willingly but eventually there is the proverbial piper and eventually thank God a dentist who lets you pay what you can when you can and you can’t help but think of the man you once married who is never tired and never inconvenienced and always has medical care and dental care and of course vacations and outings and nifty insurance plans and pension plans and everything tidily wrapped up for his comfort and his future, and you think about your damaged arms and your damaged heart and you know the arms may never heal but the heart has in the ways that count which are the ways of loving, and you only hope it will get some use again in that department, eventually.
You fight the pain with anger because it is effective and anger is free and nitrous is not, so you damn up the tears and open your mouth wider and quiet the mini-breakdown until the hygienist finishes and the dentist checks everything and you make your way to the lobby where the guard gets up and opens the door for you this time and you manage to say “I’m sorry” and he says “It’s okay” and now the tears are streaming again. You wonder what will make them stop and maybe the frigid temperatures will freeze them into glittering marks that decorate your cheeks.
And then you think of Cool Whip.
You’re driving home and your eyelids are still swollen and you can hardly move your jaw and you’re aware of a rhythmic throbbing across the lower portion of your face and it has a near musical quality in its beat, so you focus on that and not without a certain pleasure.
You walk into the quiet of the house and pop a pill and decide that later in the day after you’ve eased into tepid Earl Grey and then hot chicken broth you may forage in the back of the fridge and go for the soft, comforting stuff that was forbidden as a child and you never knew why but it’s the special treat for pecan pies and pumpkin pies and apple pies and all the good and warming foods of holidays and family times and moments of affection that you’ve nonetheless allowed to flow into your life and from your life and share with your kids. These are the times that are never walled off and remain untouched by anger, all yours for the savoring and the giving – sweet, and soft, and healing.