Steve tells me that he is near a Dunkin Donuts and will bring me coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and will arrive in a few minutes. I wheel downstairs to see the apartment manager. She is shocked that I’m back and horrified at what I’ve been through. She has a staff of five: in the past month two have retired and one has gone out sick, nevertheless, when I report that with both thermometers in my apartment set at 80, the temperature is only 70, she calls for a staff member to get a space heater for my apartment. Then she gets me a roll of toilet paper.
Steve comes with his five-year-old son who—the day before? Is that when we were at the Iroquois, trying to gain the bed that the judge said belonged to me? The child had been left in the temporary custody of the state trooper who had gone outside for better cell phone reception.
They walked in together and the child extended his arms, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “What’s with all the drama?” Neither Steve nor I are melodramatic but apparently this is real drama, not teenage-girl drama. Or the drama of a certain someone at the Iroquois whose emotional maturity is inferior to the child’s.
So it turns out that while I was at the hotel deciding not to call Steve and wake him, he was still awake. In fact, he was awake until 4:00 a.m. on my behalf. I had no idea that I mattered enough to anyone that they would be wakeful on my account. And the five-year-old little Greek chorus says again, “All this drama.” Steve had called all the hospitals and the police. When he talked to the state trooper, the trooper offered to come with some of the other troopers and move my stuff back into my apartment. I am humbled and touched.
When Steve and the fellows from Teen Challenge moved me out, they had to start from scratch. When I was ambulanced out of my apartment on May 24, I was in the middle of living and that is how my apartment was left: dirty dishes in the sink, houseplants on the windowsills, bottles of perfume on the dresser. The movers had to shut everything down, pack everything up, and move everything out. From the looks of it, they worked from large to small, and ran out of time before they were done. Clearly, no woman was present.
The bedroom and living room floors are covered with trash, bits of broken plastic, and bags of unidentified stuff. Hangers, papers, bubble wrap, briefcase, sewing kit—all strewn around. The kitchen, mercifully, was left virtually intact. Dishes and canned goods are still in the cupboards. The refrigerator contains condiments and a goodly collection of dead fruit flies; the freezer still has frozen dinners, homemade vegetable soup and a lot of little packages of bacon. The coffeemaker and toaster have been unplugged and had their cords coiled up but they are still on the counter, ready and waiting.
There are dust, dirt, dead bugs and cobwebs on the floors, windowsills and walls. Stevie tilts his head to one side, smiles, and says, “This is just like living in a cabin in the woods.” Yup—if part of the roof has caved in letting in windblown debris, and the woodland critters have lived and died in it, and the random hunter or hiker has used it for shelter and left rubbish behind.
Stevie, from the kitchen, calls, “So what are you going to do next?” And the little Greek chorus, from the living room, replies, “Get on with living.” And I tell Stevie my plans for alternative therapies, healing and recovery. And he is very happy. He proposes to get a woman in to clean the apartment that day or the next but I demur, saying “I need time to make it my own first.”
As Steve and the little Greek chorus leave with a bag of garbage, I call to him “I love you!” The worst thing about the 104 days in punitive segregation was that I had no one to love. I follow him—and the trail of dirt from the broken garbage bag—down the hall. He and the little Greek chorus leave the building; I get let into an empty office and start to make phone calls.
I call for acupuncture, massage therapy, aide service, psychotherapy, the Nursing Home Transition program, and Time Warner to restart my phone, cable and Internet access. It is the Friday between Christmas and New Year’s and five of my calls go to voicemail. Only Time Warner is staffed to take my call and they decide they can start service on Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, I have silence broken only by the boom box, which basically only receives Mars Hill (Christian) Network and Syracuse University’s jazz station. I long for my recliner and television with DVR but that setup is a long time off.
What I have now is a bed. It has no sheets on the vinyl mattress but I discover you don’t need sheets if you are clothed from neck to toe. With the auto BiPAP, sleep is good and peaceful. I am sleeping better than I did in any hospital or nursing home. The worst moments are when I wake up in the morning, after morning and afternoon naps, and in the middle of the night. I feel terrible and I am alone. There is no call bell and no aide or nurse to be summoned; no security—I am alone. But these bad moments pass quickly and I move on to feeling what may be serenity. I also consider the possibility that it is simply numbness from all the battering I’ve taken in the past eight and a half months but at least it is quietness after all the sturm und drang of institutional “care.”