The automatic coffeemaker goes
off at 5:10 a.m., right on schedule.
Even from two rooms away, through a lead curtain of oxycodone-induced sleep, the gurgle and the
aroma nudge me into consciousness more reliably than
any clock radio ever
invented. For a long fuzzy moment I lay in bed, in the darkness ...
savoring the aroma, gauging my pain levels, planning my day. And that's
when it hits me: the coffeemaker isn't supposed to
be gurgling and chuffing and aromatic at 5:10 a.m. today, because
today is my day off.
I could have sworn I hit the
manual start button when I was setting up the coffeemaker last night. ("I'm
going to sleep an extra couple of hours in the morning," I
specifically remember saying to David, as I dumped four scoops of
Italian Supremo into the filter.) But then again, I haven't exactly
been firing under all eleven cylinders the past few days.
The emergency room doctor was
very specific yesterday afternoon. "Try to limit all physical activity
for the next few days," she said. "Go home, lay down and rest your back
as much as possible." She prescribed other measures as well --
alternating ice and heat, mega-doses of ibuprofen for the inflammation
around the rib, a course of antibiotics for the inflammation -- but the
thrust of her diagnosis appeared to be lots and lots of horizontal
time. "Call your boss when you get home," she said, "and tell him you
won't be coming to work for the rest of the week."
I nodded gravely -- Whatever
you say, Doctor -- and then I went straight back to my
apartment and called JoAnne at the office.
"I'll be staying home
tomorrow," I told her. "But I'll definitely be back at work on
For the first time in my life,
I actually don't want that much Alone Time.
Ordinarily I would view three unexpected days off from work as a gift
from the gods ... especially right now, while we're in the middle of
The Copying Job From Hell (seven boxes' worth of litigation documents
for an upcoming court case, all due on Friday) and the entire Dirt
Company has been thrown into an unprecedented state of bedlam. But for
the first time I can ever remember, I don't want to be isolated from
the office -- or from the world -- for that many days in a row.
I don't trust myself,
I don't trust myself not to sit
glued to the TV all day long, watching the news and gnawing my nine
remaining fingernails down to bloody stubs. I don't trust myself not to
overeat or overmedicate or overspend on the Internet, buying a lot of
useless junk I don't need and can't afford, in a misguided effort to
make myself 'feel better.' I don't trust myself to respond rationally
to my e-mail ... even the non-hate-mail. I don't trust myself to stay
away from other Internet journals, even though the divisiveness and
fear I see building there is simply adding fuel to the fire of my own
anxiety. I don't trust myself not to write another useless *FootNotes*
entry, thereby adding my anxious, ineffectual voice to a virtual Medean
Chorus of anxious, ineffectual voices. I don't trust myself not to
simply yank *FootNotes* off the Internet and be done with it, once and
I don't trust myself not to
curl up into a little knot of despair and defeat and just stay that way
for the rest of my life. Or at least for the rest of the war.
But for today, at least, I'm
stuck here at home. There isn't much I can do about it. I'm thankful
that the back problem has turned out to be nothing serious -- a kidney
infection, for instance, or some hideous injury that would require me
to stay home for weeks rather than days -- and that I'll be on my feet
and plunged back into the real world tomorrow. There is something to be
said for the distraction of office nonsense and pointless busywork. In
the meantime, I should probably roll over in bed right now, close my
eyes, ignore the coffee smells and drift back to sleep for another hour
or two. Later, when it's time for David to wake up and get ready for
work, I should make us both some oatmeal and a fresh pot of coffee.
After he leaves, I should take half a pain pill, curl up on the sofa
with the heating pad and the ice pack, and spend the rest of the day
snoozing in and out of "The Lovely Bones." If I were a doctor, that's
what I would prescribe for myself right now.
Instead, I carefully ease
myself out of bed and limp quietly out to the dark frigid kitchen,
where the coffee and the computer -- and the war -- are all waiting for
me to come spend the day with them.
So much for following doctor's