The Tell-Tale Patch

Have you noticed that men and women in long term relationships begin to lose their separate identities?  They transform into tandem units.  Below is a personal account of one such melding.

Over the Thanksgiving break I watched very little football, ate no red meat, and drank only a few beers…no whiskey…And I smoked no cigars.  When I cooked for myself I leaned toward vegetarian dishes, and I took time to meditate and do yoga.  I spent many contented hours sitting in a chair in my living room talking to my wife, Judy, and watching Downton Abbey reruns and a Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls.  At night before we went to bed we cuddled on the sofa and talked about how we first met, how sweet our children were when they were toddlers.  And I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

But I had a nagging feeling that something was wrong.

Two nights ago I fell asleep around midnight.  I woke when my bedroom door creaked open but didn’t jump up and confront the intruder.  I could see my wife in the dim light.  She carried a flash light pointed toward the floor with a hand cupped over the lit end.  I had no idea what she was up to, but decided to let her carry out whatever mission she had in mind.  She slowly approached and pulled back my sheet when she stood beside me.  I wasn’t wearing a pajama top, so the cool night air made me shiver.  She must have seen movement: she froze in place for a long spell and then carefully spread her fingers to shine a narrow ray of light on my face.  I closed my eyes just in time before she discovered that I was awake.  The light eventually snapped off.

I felt her fingers on my back.  They were cold.  They pressed something sticky between my shoulder blades.  Judy had studied medicinal botany, and I wondered if she was applying a poultice to ease a cough that had lingered for weeks.

She dropped the sheet and turned away.  I watched her shadowy figure retreat to the door and heard her slippered feet shuffle down the hallway.  I fell into a deep sleep and dreamt of rose gardens, newborn babies and a springtime trip to Paris.

Yesterday I woke up feeling refreshed.  I picked some flowers from the garden and made us chocolate chip scones and herbal tea for breakfast.  I lit a scented candle mid morning and chanted a mantra, and then Judy and I recited Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems to one another.  Everything was lovely, truly lovely, and I regretted that I had to go out to a nasty hardware store to buy an extension cord.

I decided to shower before I went.  I usually don’t bother but have recently found that when I give my appearance more attention I feel better about myself.  My eyebrows were a mess and needed a good plucking, and I just had to pull some white hairs that sprung up on my temples over night.  It was one o’clock before I stepped into the shower.  In a hurry I didn’t bother to investigate when I felt something hit the back of my left calf.  After I stepped out and dried myself off with a plush towel I had just bought at B, B and B (love that store!)  I took a few minutes to pick out my ensemble.  I didn’t go back in the bathroom to wipe down the shower.  I decided instead to give it a thorough scrubbing after I came home and rearranged the china in the kitchen cupboards.

I got distracted by a Julia Roberts movie marathon that afternoon, and it wasn’t until 8 o’clock yesterday evening that I ventured back into the bathroom to clean the shower.  When I did I saw a little patch lying on a nest of hair over the drain.  I picked it up and inspected it carefully.  It wasn’t one of Judy’s home made poultices.  The print was small and difficult to read, but I understood from the logo (ESTROGENIE) that it was an estrogen replacement patch.  Had Judy stuck this on my back the night before?

She was out in the living room watching a ballet.  I recognized the overture to Swan Lake and felt a strong urge to join her.  But I sneaked into her bedroom and searched her bureau.  I found a box of patches in an upper drawer.  It held a count of 50, and about a quarter of them were gone.

Judy has never taken hormone replacement therapy.  One of her menopausal girlfriends must have passed them along.

When I came out into the living room I didn’t confront Judy.  I didn’t know for sure whether or not she had been dosing me with estrogen, and I wasn’t in the mood to start a silly fight.  Instead I asked her if she’d like a blueberry muffin.  I had baked a dozen after supper.  I made us a pot of chamomile tea, and after we snacked we cuddled on the sofa and let Tchaikovsky carry us away on golden clouds of music.  We said goodnight when the last strains faded away and went to our separate bedrooms.  I waited in the dark.

At midnight I heard the door creak.  A shadowy figure crept into my room.  She lifted the sheet and touched my back with cold fingers.  She pressed one then two sticky patches between my shoulder blades and retreated.  I thought about pulling them off but suddenly felt too content and comfortable to bother.  I dreamed of butterflies and puppies and women wearing long, brocaded gowns.  They had decorative combs in their hair, and I admired the intricate weave of their ebony locks.

This morning I planted rose bushes in front of the house, vacuumed and took a shower.  I felt the patches fall off my back, but I managed to dry them off and stick them back on.  After I dressed I got out my watercolors.  I began to design a sweater that I had been thinking about knitting every time I’ve wandered into Jo Ann’s Fabrics the last few days.

The colors should compliment my complexion, but I hope that the pattern won’t be too bold and flashy…I like to make an impression when I walk into a room, but I don’t want anyone to think that I’m trying too hard.


Burying a Dog at Midnight

When Judy and I lived in Wilmington, Delaware we met a woman in her fifties at the Alapocas Friends Meeting.  She was a divorcee’ with two daughters in college.  She had been married to an attorney at Dupont, and before their break up she went by the name of Barbara.  When we met her she had gotten deeply into yoga and new age mysticism and had changed her name to Sushila.

Sushila had a bright smile and a friendly, outgoing personality, and she introduced us to an interesting circle of friends.  An acquaintance of Sushila’s walked her cats on a leash. Some friends of hers were a couple who believed in pyramid power enough to build a wooden one in their backyard. (It could comfortably seat one or two people).  Sushila’s boyfriend was an artist who based his abstract paintings on the sound and light signals he received from an alien spacecraft.  His close encounter didn’t happen in a deserted stretch of wilderness–it happened when he was looking out the window of his apartment in New York City.

Sushila had an old dog that was one of the few things left over from her marriage.  One weekend she asked us to watch over it when she went out of town.  Judy and I took the dog for a walk the Sunday morning before Sushila returned, and it lagged behind and wouldn’t climb back up the stairs to Sushila’s apartment.  I was annoyed that I had to carry a thirty pound dog up a flight, but Judy stopped me, petted the dog and looked into its eyes.  She said, “I think that this dog is going to die.”  I dismissed her prophecy–the dog just looked old and tired to me–and we went home after filling its food and water bowls.

We got a call at 10:00 that night.  Sushila was hysterical.  Her dog had indeed died.

Judy and I rushed over to console her and saw it lying in a corner of Sushila’s yoga room.  The dog had been sick in various places on the carpet, and I had to step outside after starting to gag.  Sushila and Judy cleaned up the mess, and then we discussed the disposal of the body.

Sushila couldn’t bury it in her backyard.  It was just a patch of dirt a few inches deep above a partially entombed garage on the first floor.  She thought about other possibilities and decided that the dog had to be buried that night in the dog’s favorite park.  We wrapped it in a blanket and put it into the back of our car.  Sushila brought a shovel,  and we set out for a park on the outskirts of town.  It had woods and expansive lawns, and had once been the grounds of a Dupont estate.

We pulled over into the closed entrance and I cut off the engine.  It had started to rain, but this didn’t deter Sushila.  She wandered in the darkness through a thick tangle of trees and picked a spot in an area where the ground was mucky and covered with tree roots.  I started to dig with the shovel, but spent most of my time chopping roots with the shovel’s blade as I attempted to excavate a hole that was two feet wide by four feet long by three feet deep.  It took around twenty to thirty minutes, and by the end I was covered with mud and sweat. Cars passed us by, and we must have been visible to them, but no one stopped or called the police.  The park was an excellent spot for dirty deeds.

We buried the dog in her blanket and stood around the grave in silence for a few minutes as the rain continued to soak us.  We drove Sushila back home and stayed with her for a few minutes before retreating to our apartment for a shower and something hot to drink.  It was 1:00 when we finally opened our door.

I had a class the next morning at 8:00 and had a hard time staying awake.  The heat was turned up in the room, and the professor, while highly informative, droned in a flat, Midwestern accent.  During a break I leaned over to the guy next to me and said, “You wouldn’t believe what I did last night.”