Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Condo Living *


If you stood in the condo kitchen, in just the right spot and looked across the playground and then through the eucalyptus trees, you could see the ocean.  

“Look, Sarah.  Stand here at the sink and lean over. You’ll see it. It’s such a deep blue today.”

The stainless steel sink was full of greasy dishes hiding beneath puffy white soap foam.   You could still smell the chili from last night.
“Come on… look.”

Sarah looked into the sink. She looked in the general direction of the window.

“I’ll look later.”

She sat down on the couch with a silent gaspand groan.  Or was it the whoosh of the fake leather couch? Sarah would prefer that I heard only the couch.  She rarely complained.  She rarely told me how she felt.

We had recently moved from our custom-built 4 bedroom house in Napa to Santa Barbara to be closer to our daughter, Laura. Our younger daughter, Suzanne, was in Chicago and Laura lived in Santa Barbara.  My wife, Sarah, had a plan for me.  When she died, I was to be living near one of our kids.  Moving to Chicago did not seem practical.  So Sarah selected Santa Barbara.  

Laura picked out the condo.  
“Dad, it is perfect.  It is on a park near the ocean.  There is this bench I’m sure you and Mom will love. You can sit there and enjoy this wonderful view.”

We flew down from Napa and bought it after a quick weekend look.  

I walked across the park to see the bench. It offered an “Oh Wow” view of the Pacific.  

Sarah and I did not sit on the bench.

We were fine in the condo.  By the time we moved in, we felt relievedto not be in a hospital.

At the top of one flight of stairs were the two bedrooms.  The so-called master bedroom had a view of an alleyway full of garage doors.  Near the window, we positioned our two little green chairs that we brought from Napa.

In Napa, the chairs sat in a small study. We could swivel the chairs to look at a little fireplace or swing around to a picture window of Napa Valley.

In the condo, the chairs barely fit between our one large alley-view window and the king-sized bed. The chairs twirled around in a full circle. They also rocked.  They were treasures.  But there was nothing else to see.

On a typical evening, we sat in our chairs facing one another. We would pass the marijuana water pipe back and forth.  We listened to music, but mostly we talked. Really, we mostly laughed. You know, that hysterical laughter that seems to spiral until you can barely breathe.
Sarah, we have to stop laughing so loud. 
“Do you think people can hear us?”
“I don’t know why we are even laughing? Maybe we have had enough.”

I reached over to Sarah.
“Can I touch it?”
I leaned over from my chair and placed my hand on Sarah’s stomach to touch Tammy.  Who else but two crazy people would name something Tammy The Tumor? It was  big.  Conventional measuring techniques seem to use fruit.  That is curious, isn’t it? But the tumor was, in fact, the size of the proverbial grapefruit.
“Does it hurt when I touch it?”
“No, you know it doesn’t hurt. You can touch it.”
Sarah continued, “Sometimes it is uncomfortable” and I take some Vicodin.  Look at this bottle there must be 200 tablets.  They don’t seem to care how much I have.”

After an unusual silence, I said:
 “Sarah, I really wish this wasn’t happening.  I don’t want to be alone.”
“Mike, you know I don’t like to talk about this.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”  I had broken the rule.  I was not to talk about death.

Sarah said, “I need to get in the tub.  I so love that whirlpool thingy. It is the place I feel best.”

She went into our tiny bathroom and filled up the tub.  She climbed in an turned on the motor and water jets. The device had its own heater and kept the water very warm.  Sarah put scented candles around the edge. She could stay in it for hours.

I yelled through the door. “When you get out, I will go for a walk by the ocean.”

“Oh, you can go ahead. I’m fine.  Go ahead.”

I waited downstairs until I heard the sounds. When Sarah opened the door, I could smell the candles.
The motor stopped. I could hear the water gurgling down the drain. The floor creaked and there was the quick hopping sound of footsteps as she jumped into the bed. The sound of bed springs was the final signal.

“OK, Sarah,” I yelled.I’m going now.”

I left the condo. The bright sun always shocked me.   I crossed the lawn, opened the metal fence door, and entered the park.  I could smell picnic bar-a-cue smoke. Dozens of toddlers were playing in the sand.  
“Bang, bang,”a little boy yelled. He pointed his stick at me.
“Look at me, Mommy,"
“Look at me!” cried a little girl on top of a playground tower.

The park was full of laughter. Fall leaves lay on the playground as I walked towards the ocean.  A row of mothers and nannies sat on their green slat benches watching the kids.
“Mommy, Mommy!Look, Look, Look.”

I crossed a large lawn area of the park. I carried a cell phone.  It was my magic talisman that meant everything would be okay.  If I had the phone, I could walk away.  All would be well.

I walked on a path atop a cliff. The ocean was a constant sound.  Why was the ocean such a reassuring sound? 
I stopped to crane my neck to the sky.  A large V-shaped formation of pelicans flew very near to me.  The children shrieked.  I fumbled my phone to take a picture, but without a sound, the birdswere gonefrom the sky.

My daily ocean walk was not peaceful. It caused my inner dialogue to kick in.
Will Sarah be okay?
If I have the phone, she can call me if she needs me.
But when I’m two miles away, what then? 
What would I do? 
I walked with this riddle cycling in my head. “What would I do? What could I do?


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