POSTCARD #201: CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: The phone alarm goes off. I was expecting it to do that because somehow it’s been part of the dream I’m having… that thing about the order of events happening – was it before or is it after? Sweeping long-arm reach around in search of the alarm, slide it off with fingertip over glass screen and it seems like so much has happened since… who what where when how? My phone’s blinding white light in the silence fades and everything goes black again… the time is 5.30 am.
Something that’s new in my life these days is every morning, noon and night, I have to check the contents of two small carrier bags full of vitamin pills, pain pills and other pills contained in bottles, small, medium, large, with labels which tell me if it’s a ‘before’ or an ‘after’ – one of three events: breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s the kind of thing that gives you a headache but enough said about that. I have to be up early enough to take the before-breakfast meds before breakfast and I’ve forgotten… my niece M stumbles into the room in a daze. I have to see if there’s anything she needs or wants and realize oh no, the ‘before’ meds so they have to be included in the ‘after’ meds. Okay, double-check, is it ‘after’ already, or is this still ‘before’? Something in me fights rationality with a reasoning that begins somewhere after the event and travels back to where things were around the time it started, just to see if that fits okay with how we’re now forming an idea of what this is about.
I have to get to grips with these medication bottles, fumbling with childproof caps in the alarming nearness of ‘seniority’… my goodness, is this a test! Select each capsule and put it on a small dish on the table. There they are, visitors from another universe. Then, swallow, swallow and swallow. Gulp and swallow again and stop to think, where are we now… did I take this pill already or have I yet to do that? If I’ve managed to do all this correctly then the rest of the day is easy. My niece M stumbles into the room in a daze and I have to see if there’s anything she needs or wants and it’s a good thing I didn’t forget about the before-meds.
There’s a dream I had once and wrote it down on a scrap of paper as soon as I woke up. The paper has been lying around for a few years, all scruffy and folded. Hard-to-read scribble so I better get it in print before it’s faded away in time. It goes like this: I’m standing at a bus stop, waiting for the bus. It comes, and I get on. Instead of ordinary bus seats, there’s furniture, sofas, armchairs, a small coffee table, TV, curtains on the windows, and it’s laid out like a room interior. I find a place and sit down. Other passengers on the bus are sitting up properly in unmatched furniture, everybody looking around for the person who comes to get orders for snacks and drinks. Nobody comes, there’s a long interval of nothing happening at all and after a while I realize it must be because the bus hasn’t left the stop yet.
At the same moment I remember I left my shoes outside the door at the bus stop. This is because in all houses in Asia you have to leave your shoes outside when you enter. Yes, but something about this worries me – is there enough time for me to go fetch my shoes in from the doorway before the bus leaves? I feel my body trapped by something unknown, unable to move… ok, I’ll just leave the shoes there and when I get off the bus I’ll have to take someone else’s (it does happen).
But there’s something not right about this idea. I’m searching and searching, so much and with such intensity it’s extraordinary and I become convinced that I must have forgotten what it is I’m searching for. This could be a problem but I’ve convinced myself I’ll be able to recognize what is when it appears… how will I be able to know what it is then if I don’t know what it is now… hmm? Well, we have not reached that point in time yet, so let’s see. Everything’s in a shambles and disarray inside this bus, chairs and sofas all facing slightly in the wrong way. Why is it like this? Must be the constant movement of the bus going along, furniture gets shifted around – we swerve round a couple of sharp corners, and everything slithers off to the side again…
Intuition is a suspension of logic due to impatience. [Rita Mae Brown]