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In Santa Barabara, A Pork Chop in the Aquarium

That night, after we went to bed, Jack found out how sick I really was.  I woke up sweating, my head splitting with pain.  Jack took my temperature, 104.  He drove me to the hospital.  There I finally found out what was going on:  I had a pelvic inflammatory disease, caused by the IUD that had been taken out eight months previously.  It had torn part of my uterine wall, and the infection had gone undetected all this time.  The ER doctor said I could have died from it.

So I had to take a massive amount of antibiotics.  The antibiotic would ravage my system in another way, but at least the current mystery was solved.  The body-mind connection  had been whacked way out-of-balance.  The good news: I was not a manic-depressive schizophrenic.  However, it would take a long while to get myself into any kind of reasonable shape.  And the sadness; the source of that disease was not in the pelvis.  As the poet Louis Gluck wrote: "A wound to the heart is also a wound to the mind."  That wound was something I would have to deal with for much longer than any physical ailment.

But for now, I could continue working 50 hours a week, and try to figure out how I was going to get back into graduate school.  Jack wasn't much help in these matters.

Jack kept journals.  He drew or painted beautiful art in these notebooks and wrote his thoughts.  He titled his journals, and his latest was called, Undermining the Bullshit.

In Santa Barbara, Jack had no job, no car or medical or dental insurance.  He paid exactly his share of the rent and the food (only what he ate) with his unemployment check.  He was happy living this way, painting in the desert or at the beach, playing his guitar, playing Frisbee, and being with me.  Life was good. 

No, it wasn't.  I wanted car and medical and dental insurance.  I wanted a full-time job teaching in a college so I didn't have to worry about money every second, which I had been worrying about since I was sixteen-years-old.  I wanted summers off and time to write.  I wanted to be of use to the world but not by working in a bookstore where part of my job was to count how many paper clips we had left and make sure I ordered enough staples.  Another part of my career at the bookstore was to sit up in the office that overlooked the store and try to spot potential thieves.  I had already had so many ridiculous jobs in my brief life.  Maybe working for academia was not "undermining the bullshit" of society, but so be it.  Jack wanted to be a pure artist and not work for anyone but his art.  Good for him.  Meanwhile, we were starving.

To recover from the Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, the doctor told me I should stop working so much, so I cut down my hours at the bookstore. Then Jack and I did not have enough money for food by the end of the month.  So that month we stole avocados out of our neighbor's yard.  This was Jack's idea.  He thought it was fun.  I thought it was, too, but then it got old quickly.  I was tired of this life with him, of never knowing if I'd ever get back to what I wanted to do: finish my Master's Degree. And it wasn't helping my health to eat avocadoes for a week.

One night, I bought and cooked pork chops.  Salad, potatoes, pork chops.  Jack and I sat down at the table.  I wasn't feeling well, headache, on and on with various side effects from the antibiotics.  I brought up the subject of moving back to Chico, a much cheaper place to live than Santa Barbara, and I could return to school.  Jack didn't want to move.  He said we couldn't afford to move right now, maybe later on.  I can't remember how we got to this next piece of conversation, but my blood was already boiling when he said, "You have to pay your dues."

I have to pay MY DUES?  "What dues have you paid!" I screamed and stood up and pushed the table over.  Everything fell, the plates, the glasses of milk, and much of it fell in Jack's lap.  I picked up a pork chop from the floor and threw it.  It landed in Jack's aquarium in the living room.   The pork chop, cooked in Campbell's mushroom soup, floated for a greasy moment, then sank, coating the pretty fish with globs of sauce.

We moved back to Chico.  Jack's car broke down on the way.  We had to stay in some rat trap motel in Coalinga. I'm sure I paid for it.  I was paying my dues.  The only bullshit I wanted to undermine was this relationship.

I was furious.  Anger.  Betrayal.  Sadness.  My triplets.  My family.  I felt so at home.

A wound to the heart is also a wound to the mind.

I wasn't crazy, but I was crazy. 

Jack and I rented a house in Chico, on Spruce Street, and there...

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Susan, I want more! (Even though I know how it turns out, and when are you going to post a link of Kenneth doing his thing on Check Please!?) I hope you're saving all of these for a memoir.

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You're right!  I will post Kenneth's Check Please.  Good idea!
Yes, I'm saving, I'm writing...stay tuned, much more to come.

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feels like I'm right there with you...sort of a been there-done that deja vu flashback to the days when...nope, NOT going there, yet...

wondering how many men's dues I've paid in my lifetime...and why it always seemed to end up being me that had to zero out the balance...

pins and needles until the next chapter 


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Hi Gayle

Zero out the balance.  I like that phrase.  Nothing is so great.  Then anything can happen, a clean slate.