When I wake up this December Sunday at 9 am, it is a summer day. The sun has set our living room on fire. The curry leaf plant basks in the golden beam warming the front window, its green lush against the flame of the Japanese maple outside. Everywhere the color splashes and swells after weeks of the gloom that’s typical of fall.
I think about my last week, the one in which I’ve sailed through a rainbow of emotions. On Monday, there’s the face-off with my husband over Facebook. When I drop him off at the airport, our marriage is at the departure lounge. He is in grave danger of being unfriended. By Tuesday morning, however, my husband is looking like an angel: when he’s away on business for a long spell, I can live how I want and not worry about cooking, or turning off the lights or watching the heating bill.
On Wednesday morning, I’m dreaming about the possibilities of buying Chinese furniture at a closeout sale in San Mateo. By that afternoon, however, thanks to a phone call from a man named Andrew (who, two weeks prior, had the gall to ask me if I were wearing breast implants) tells me my left breast looks out of whack. While this fact is nothing new to me, Andrew’s call draws attention to the number of things that I still have pending on the todo list of my life. If the suspicious spot on my left breast is, in fact, trouble, what must I do? Must I focus on cleaning my fridge? Must I get my closet ready for possible surgery? Must I inform all my friends about my condition so they may stock up their fridges and take turns to drop off food outside my door?
When Friday morning arrives and I sit in front of the clerk at the breast care center, I’m expected to sign a paper called the Advance Care Directive. I am not amused. Talk of timing in the American healthcare system: show a panicking patient a link to the closest mortuary and tell her the cedar casket is fifty percent off until year-end. Fifteen minutes later, my left breast is squished into a photo frame for the sixth time in one pressing week. The machine grunts and shudders. It’s about to launch my only left breast into the Milky Way. I’m told to hold my breath. In that moment, my son’s compressed grade from his last Calculus test begins to inflate into an A+. Holding my breath some more while I begin to orbit Jupiter, I tell myself I’m okay with what I’ve been granted in this life–my two average children who are rote scholars and not Rhodes scholars like Varun Sivaram and my above-average husband who is a good, humble man even though he isn’t George Clooney–and so will someone release me from this photo frame this instant?
The machine grounds me back on earth in half a minute. I am pronounced healthy after I’m shown an x-ray profile of my breast, which, what do you know, looks like Angelina Jolie’s. It’s full, deliriously curved, tilted upward and looking at Brad Pitt. Two hours after that test, I find myself, once again, making a clean breast of my life to someone else, a high school teacher. After listening to my lament, my son’s teacher says my son is doing okay and would do even better if only he had the pragmatism to lower his course load this year.
In a week during which the juice has evaporated from my existence, this new Sunday morning feels like a gift from the heavens. The sun bathes the seat wall under our cherry blossom. A mug of Peet’s coffee in one hand and the week’s New Yorker in the other, I go out in my jammies and rest against the wall. Around me the light wind rustles through the cherry tree. I hear little snaps above me. Leaves bid a farewell to their branches. They tumble about my feet. I begin reading the profile of Eli Broad, a multibillionaire in Los Angeles.
But in minutes, it seems, the promise of a perfect day vanishes. The first splat hits my head. A steady patter of rain begins. And on my bench, two feet away, a squirrel has left a legacy of poop, three oval beads arranged in a semi-circle that, presently, will get adulterated by the washing from the skies. At least all’s well, I tell myself looking heavenward. And just when everything is well, a little load of crap appears from nowhere and reminds you to stop gloating.