for G. T
In the mornings she liked to go jogging. That was the word for it, a leisurely loping across the tracks and up the hill to Highland. She couldn't quite call it "running," not with all the gainfully employed citizens darting past her for the 87 bus to the Green Line. Talia's employment, at a charitable organization where she churned out grant applications and donation requests and received an earnest, disheartening salary, was just thirty hours a week. So she had time for these long jogs. [End Page 114]
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[End Page 115]
Past sagging triple-deckers where she had roomed as a student and older, prouder houses high on the hill, up to the stone-and-granite tower marking Revolutionary War battles and Civil War training grounds. Then back down by the pubs and pizza joints and "oriental places" (as her downstairs neighbor, Maxine, called them) to her own increasingly unfamiliar neighborhood, with the bakery that sold eight-dollar loaves of bread, a "luxury" apartment structure where the methadone clinic used to be, and a new, separate, protected lane for "damn bikes" (Maxine again).
Talia's route rarely varied. Except that on this cold gray spring day, after heading out for her morning jog, she instead found herself in the hospital, with little understanding as to how she had come to be there.
By the time all the tests were done, over a day had passed and Talia had been transferred to a tiny room on an upper floor. The clothes from her jog were bunched in a lump on the windowsill. It seemed ages ago that she had worn them—stepped into the nippy May air with no great worry about dying. But she was forty-five years old; lots of people died in middle age. She wondered where her sneakers were.
The neurologist, a disconcertingly young woman with a posh Indian accent, explained what the MRI had revealed. No tumors—that at least was good news. What appeared to have caused the seizure, as far as Talia could comprehend, was a small hole in her brain. It probably had always been there, the young doctor said, her elegant inflection making this appalling fact somehow acceptable. Medication would keep it under control.
"Well. Shit." Talia tried to stay calm. But beneath her shock lay a familiar, simmering panic. Even if this small hole did not kill her, she was pretty certain she couldn't afford it.
The doctor was saying something about a prescription and to continue on the blood thinner and that she would like to see Talia in one week. "And it's best if for the time being you refrain from running."
"Jogging. Really, I barely even sweat. I don't see how it could set off a seizure."
The doctor allowed that the seizure might have been mere coincidence. "But let's wait a week or so. Now, what questions do you have for me?"
Talia asked if there might be a cheaper room available.
"I'm pleased to report that you're being discharged." Little gold earrings bobbed from the doctor's earlobes. "Have you got someone to accompany you home?" [End Page 116]
An acute aloneness seized her. Well, she could probably ask Gordie. Two days had passed since their awkward misunderstanding—which, now that Talia had rubbed shoulders with death, seemed trivial. Still, this was what her life had come to. She had always assumed she would eventually find a companion for the long haul. Instead, here she was, on her own.
And yet. A flickering at the edge of memory. "I think someone was there. When I had the seizure." A presence at her side as she lay on the cold ground. A blanket being draped over her. "Do you know who called the ambulance?"
The doctor shook her pretty head. But the EMTs, she assured Talia, would have a report.
All the way home, Gordie kept asking for details of what had happened. Though he rarely showed emotion, he was clearly upset—even more than the other night.
"I'm telling you," Talia...