Lest you were worried that I might have fallen through a sidewalk grate or held ransom for my gold fillings or possibly stuck in a cargo hold between here and Italy, I wanted to give you an update on this whole pneumonia mishigas.
Like Schrödinger’s Cat, I am both alive and dead.
Alive (at this point, anyway) to all that I am missing by being confined to bed.
Dead to the world and all who inhabit it.
I sleep all the time. Two days ago, in a fit of wild-eyed optimism, I did the breakfast dishes and was punished for my efforts by the need for a four-hour nap. One twenty-minute phone call? Two-hour nap. Even watching the silliest nonsense on my computer requires too much effort to concentrate.
And it’s A-G-O-N-I-Z-I-N-G.
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For two weeks now, I haven’t left the apartment, mostly because those stairs would kill me. Anyone who has had pneumonia or Covid or Covid pneumonia is a hero in my book, because this stuff is no joke. If this were 1923 and not 2023, I’d be dead already. Even after the coughing abates, you have your fun new exhaustion to deal with, and apparently it takes forever to get past that.
The thing I miss the most is my brain.
It’s like trying to hand crank the engine on a 1915 Model T, my brain. For brief periods, it feels as though it might sputter to life again, only to collapse in on itself, leaving me more frustrated than before.
This Cappuccino, for instance. It’s taken me three days to write it. That’s because my thoughts are amorphous sludgy things that refuse all attempts to corral them. I have nothing to inspire me because New York City is out there, and I am in here, and if I were feeling a little better, I could at least summon the energy to be mad about it.
I haven’t even been to the New York Public Library! That’s so unfair, it’s almost a desecration.
So, I send out resumes. Thank all the gods this process is automated. Click, click, click, DONE. At least I can goad myself into believing that I’m actually somewhere between “amoeba” and “useless.” I apply for all the open lotteries for New York City apartments. And I get to experience the City at a remove. John brings home tales of people losing their shit on the subway cars, or how everything at CVS, Walgreens, or Duane Reade is behind a locked plastic case now because relaxed shoplifting laws have led to more shoplifting, or treasures like these:
I mean … what could possibly be better or more American than a cellphone/French fry/ketchup holder … for your car?
Today, we discovered that the water heater in our Italian apartment tore away from the wall and collapsed onto the table below, killing a computer monitor, a scanner, the table itself, and possibly a few speakers. The wall must have been hopelessly waterlogged for this to happen. And since I had to spend three weeks alone in that damp, cold, cheerless apartment, I am inclined to think those conditions might have led to my condition. That, and having to schlep up a hill in the bitterest cold to obtain some medical results from my bloodwork. Also, staying up all night at the airport because the place was full of crazies.
Italy was determined to let me know exactly what she thought about my leaving by giving me the stiff middle finger.
Which she did.
Despite recent setbacks, I feel hopeful about the future. There are jobs in the U.S. I can smell them. Have a problem with your cell phone? Customer service stays open late. There’s a beguiling array of flavors here that you just can’t get in Italy. Got a hankering for Thai food? Tex-Mex? People will deliver it right to your door. Tired of walking? Call an Uber.
You can go into a store and immediately lay hands on a thing without having to wait for someone to order it. Everybody speaks English. It’s insane, that last one. I had no idea I would appreciate this so much.
Even something as simple as taking a bath. In Italy, none of our apartments had big enough water heaters to fill a bathtub. Here, hot water is unlimited. I’ve taken at least twenty baths since I’ve been stateside, and I will never take them for granted again.
This I will say: America has fifty different types of coffee, and they all suck. Sure, I’ll keep trying, but nothing will equal the pleasure of drinking frothy cappuccinos with friends at Italian cafes, those quick “catch ups” that turn into soulful three-hour conversations. I miss those. A lot.
In the end, it’s always the little things and rarely the big ones that we remember. The trick is to remain open to what’s right in front of you, receiving it without rejection or judgment. I’m not consistently good at this, but I have my moments.
I bet you do, too.
Appreciate those small things. Make a mental note of them. You don’t have to make a fetish of it, or punish yourself with a whole lot of New Agey feel-goodism. Just be briefly, consciously aware.
Hand to God, it’s the only thing keeping me going these days besides the frightful but delicious horror of French fry/cell phone/ketchup holders.
You probably want one now, don’t you?
Copyright © 2023 Stacey Eskelin
I was just sitting in Planned Parenthood today waiting for my son to get his testosterone script refill and I thought of you. I thought, well I haven't read Cappuccino in a while, I hope she's okay. And here you are.
I had pneumonia once (not that long ago) when I was a starving single mom and a Pilates instructor. I had to teach Pilates anyway. It is one of my greatest accomplishments. At least Pilates is lying down.
This past summer I got Covid while in Canada at my Dad's house. I think I got it on the plane on the way there. I had this one magical day of lying in bed in a corner room with the windows open and cool breezes blowing through. He lives on an island in the St. Lawrence. I shamelessly read The Two Mrs. Grenvilles all day long. And he brought me dinner (I am 61 and he is 84 so this was very kind of him). No one ever makes me any food or takes care of me in any way and it was the most wonderful day I've had in a while.
I guess my point is, the library isn't going anywhere. Relax into it. It will be a memory soon. : )
Does Aldi exist in NYC? If it does, their fair trade Sumatra coffee is pretty good for when you are so déclassé as to make it at home (as I do.) Don't know if that information will make anything better, but it is what I've got at the moment. Take care of yourself.