- A Specific Position
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i am waiting for phil to tape my eyes closed, to get it over with. I have already applied cloudy-white ointment to the right eye and shut both eyes for the night, so when I flinch, I don’t see the look he gives me. He says, “I’m a real doctor, you know.”
I make my face serene, let the anxiety go. You would never know how many ways there are to close your eyes until you know you must commit to that specific position—slightly squinting, lightly but tightly pinched—for a whole night with no adjustments.
If I strain against the adhesive or even doubt it at all, an unbearable, fuzzy tension forms that I can’t easily undo. [End Page 35]
The injury happened when, in a moment of delight, then-infant Leah scratched my eye with her tiny razor fingernail. In the seven years since, the top layer of my right cornea has chronically split after sleep, when I open my eyes. The bedtime rituals, prescribed to prevent these erosions, are failing.
Phil expertly finishes the closure, places the roll on the bedside table, turns off my lamp. I lie quietly waiting for sleep and fight the urge to test the tape.
we are back living in michigan after a one-year break for Phil’s fellowship in Miami. Michigan is where Phil did his orthopedics training, where I bailed from my art history PhD and swore I would never live again. I knew I was capable of loving a place but had failed to bond with this one. And yet after Miami, Phil moved us back to the neighborhood filled with faux Tudors and crumbling colonials abutting the university. Phil joined the faculty of the medical school. We both understood it was our best bet.
We are on the five-year, see-what-else-comes-up plan, like everyone else here.
“You mean the one where no one leaves after five years,” I’d said.
Phil said, “I hope not.”
This is year six.
The house we bought was advertised as “a gardener’s delight.” There is a big side yard where the previous owner planted elaborate gardens. Vegetable. Roses. Cutting. Beds radiating from a circular, tiered herb garden with a sprinkler in the center that shoots up at six o’clock every morning and whips around, sending droplets falling in gentle waves that pulse up and down, around and around for a whole hour. A birdbath. A pond with waterfall: lily pads, reeds, toads and ornery old goldfish. A pergola supporting persistently sour grapes. The garden looked like a place that would make any family happy, grateful. How had I not seen that this would be something we’d need to maintain? That I would need to be the one to do it? When we toured the house, we only discussed how great it would be to have the ortho residents over for a BBQ.
The first summer, I hired a fifteen-year-old boy and his friend to mow the lawn and weed for two hours. After, they charged me what they said was fair: one hundred and sixty dollars.
Don’t talk to me about the thistle. The smell of creeping Charlie knitting across the lawn to mount the magnolia trunks. Don’t talk to me about the established raspberries, the blooming chives and lemon basil. Not a word about the deer that would destroy the perennials, or the ornate concrete bench that was smashed when the bulldozer came through on my command. Two summers in, I paid good money to turn the vegetable garden into lawn. [End Page 36]
It did help. Taking away all those weeds; taking the overgrown zucchini off my to-do.
We rented a big white tent for the BBQ. I had to shuttle things back and forth from the yard to the kitchen. There, the new intern, Dr. Allison Suh, caught me hunched over, loading more seltzer cans into the fridge.
“Phil probably told you Michigan wasn’t my first choice either,” she said. “But that’s couples match.”