A notebook entry.
There was the smell of something like autumn on the edge of the park, a hint of days past that would hurt to remember them too clearly. In the street, a small group of French children out with a dog after the rain, on a Wednesday night at 9pm, shouting and jostling. The lights of cars streak past, the movements of cars on the big roads, the sparse pedestrians out walking after the weather has changed.
The other night I failed to buy painkillers before all the nearby pharmacies were closed. There I was, in pain and with nowhere to go for it. I decided to try the little shops that are like bodegas but anemic ones, like shadows of bodegas in a strange dream with nothing but sad fruits and soft drinks I’ve never heard of, and cigarettes, and probably condoms. There are a few of them open late on the street with the all-night sex shops where the prostitutes in their 50s and 60s come out to stand in stilettos in the middle of the day.
I went into one of these shadow-bodegas and asked for Doliprane— French Tylenol. The man, older and disheveled, rooted around inside a black cloth tote bag for a few tattered yellow boxes. He was looking at the expiration dates, and it was a few moments before he found one that satisfied him. It looked like it had been inside someone’s purse for a long time. He took only cash, and wanted €4. I offered him €2, the pharmacy price, and he agreed. Eight pills, one gram of medication each. When I got it home and looked at the box, the expiration date was for this month. If I’m lucky they’ll go to waste, I thought, but they wouldn’t.
It’s the same as before, when things were difficult—failing to sleep, and napping in the light of the orange curtains, and working as much as I can. Making meals, eating them, brushing my hair that is overdue for a wash and taking a bath with the lights out so that I can be free from the scrutiny of even myself. Dreams in the late mornings falling between the pillows, sliding between the spaces inside the orange light of the late morning, the dreams that are like dolphins diving, up and then back, turning from one side to the other, laid out against the hillsides of the pillows, so important as they happen and then nothing, forgotten. Losing my breakfast again in the bathroom because the lesions were bad and I’d forgotten to drink enough water.
Thursday morning and the rain coming down, the morning heavy and gray-blue and dim, a wet day with leaves all strewn across a road somewhere, over the windshields of cars, the small yellow leaves like coins. This is the way that autumn used to fall over northern California, so far away now, the wet leaves and dry grasses, the smell of that season’s change, and the people who were waiting indoors for me then, on autumn evenings, and now are not. Here there is only the sound of the rain on the roofs, the balconies, the cobbled streets, the rain roaring up and then subsiding, the dim gray-blue morning coming in through the windows as I sit beside the lamplight.
I had the thought again today that it has still been too long since I have seen the ocean from anywhere other than a city’s coastline, from anywhere other than an airplane, too long since I have been myself bodily inside the totality of the sea. Drip-drop, drip-drop, goes the rain, slowing to a drizzle. Beep-beep-beep-beep cries some truck or other, dropping off or picking up. The distant sirens, and the thump of someone's bass as they drive by. The city, the present moment, this life and me in it, Thursday morning underway.
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