Thursday, June 4, 2009
Flagstaff - Part 2 - The Indian
So I left Part I with rain and my gratitude for its grace. But the plot thickens, and you know the saying of "when it rains, it ...."
I checked the two of us into the Holiday Inn Express in Flagstaff, and then we got back into the Sentra and drove around town a little. I always carry a small notebook with me, wherever I go, and take notes in it. One of my writing teachers and mentors tells her students that if they're going through a crisis and it's difficult to write authentically, then write through it. Take notes, she says, if you can't do that.
Anyway, I managed to scribble down a couple of things that I noticed while driving around Flagstaff, Arizona in my rental. These were:
The Hog Family Restaurant and Diner
The Wicked AZ Coffee Shop (and I actually didn't get it, really, until I'd driven at least a quarter of a mile away)
A man wearing a huge hiking hat (I'm an urban girl and don't even know that there's such a thing as a hiking hat, but it was huge and khaki-colored) riding on an ENORMOUS UNICYCLE.
I wish I'd had my camera.
Sophie was happy, in the car, looking out the window. We drove around and around and then finally went to Denny's for dinner.
I don't think I've ever admitted it in public, but I hate going out to dinner with Sophie. I hate the stares and the tight smiles and the uncomfortable concern. I hate that I hate it, actually. I can never quite figure out how to position her stroller so that I can feed her properly, and I'm always tense, waiting for her to have a seizure and hit her head on the table. At the table next to mine a family sat down with a tiny baby in a car seat, perched on the table. There were three women, one obviously the mother of the two others and a big, burly guy. I could tell, right away, who the new mother was. She looked terrible. Her hair was tied messily up and she had on glasses (she looked like the sort of person who only wore glasses when she just didn't have the energy to put in her contacts -- I'm one, as well). She was slumped in her booth, her head back. The other young woman had short, neat hair and cute clothes. She picked up the baby and jiggled it a little, cooing into its face. Look, he's holding his head up, real nice, she said. And then she said it again. And again. There was no reaction from the woman I just KNEW was the mother. It was sort of funny and sort of sad. I wondered if she had post-partum depression or she was just too damn tired to care whether her baby could hold his head up properly or not. And then I thought about how having a child with severe disabilities is sort of like having a very young baby, in some respects, forever.
But I digress.
We went back to our room at the Holiday Inn Express and I put Sophie into her pajamas and into the king-sized bed we were going to share. And she actually went to sleep! And there I was, in my own pajamas, happily reading my stacked-up New Yorkers and watching tv while I turned the pages. Sophie had a couple little, in-sleep seizures, but nothing that upset me too much so I eventually turned out the light and went to sleep myself.
I woke up abruptly during one of Sophie's BIG seizures. It was pitch dark in the room and when I squinted I saw on the clock radio that it was around 12:45 am. I put my hand on Sophie's arm to comfort her and pulled it away because it was soaking wet. What the hell, I thought and fumbled for the light, turned it on and turned back to Sophie who was now lying quiet and spent. I put my hand again on her arm and realized that her entire sleeve was soaking. And then I felt it, a big PLOP of water on my hand. I looked up and PLOP, another drop of water landed in my eye. What the hell I thought again and decided to call the front desk. The phone rang at least ten times and then a man answered.
Now pretend that you're watching a scene from a David Lynch movie.
Uhh, hi. I'm in room 522 and I think the ceiling is leaking?
Yes? (the tone is very flat, very slow, very dull)
Well, can you help me? I have a daughter here that has some pretty serious disabilities and it's almost one in the morning. Could someone maybe come and help me move the bed?
I'll have to call maintenance but they're not in the hotel.
How long will that take? (woman's voice is growing slightly more high-pitched, as she looks worriedly at her daughter who has woken from her post-ictal state and is now sitting up, breathing heavily)
About twenty minutes.
Listen. I've got a HANDICAPPED DAUGHTER HERE. SHE HAS SEIZURES AND THIS IS GOING TO BE VERY UPSETTING TO HER! Maybe we need to change rooms? (the moment the woman says this, she looks around the room, realizing that she's going to have to pick everything up and re-pack it and it's literally strewn everywhere, something she ordinarily never does but did tonight because she felt like it)
I'll call maintenance and see if we can move the bed (the man's voice is so dull as to seem robotic)
He hangs up and I hang up and pace around the room, throwing all my shit into the suitcase, alternating patting Sophie in her disoriented state, preventing her from toppling off the bed while keeping her out of the drip, drip, dripping that I finally stop by putting the ice bucket on the bed. The phone rings.
Uhh. We can't move the bed. I'll have to go look to see whether a room is ready for you somewhere else.
The woman's voice reaches its highest pitch and she says, slowly and distinctly that since she has a handicapped child she's going to need some help and this is going to need to happen quickly because it's after 1 am in the morning.
The man says that he'll be up as soon as he finds a clean room to help me.
I hang up and morph fully into my night/time psycho self. I won't go into details, here, because it's just too, too much.
When the door rings, I've managed to pull a dress over my worn pajamas and put Sophie into her chair. My bags are packed and I go to the door and open it.
The guy who I had been speaking with is standing there.
He is a very short, American Indian with black hair reaching past his waist. He is a stereotype. He has a CANE and is clearly disabled. He appears from Central Casting.
Native American cripple.
He eyes me, towering over him in my dress over pajamas get-up and glasses and he eyes Sophie, sitting wild-haired and eyed in her stroller wheelchair. He says, in the same flat tone to follow me to your new room, and then he starts literally hobbling, shuffling down the hallway toward the elevators. When we get into the elevator, I struggle with Sophie's chair and the suitcase and he is patient. The light is garish, and I try not to make eye contact. Sophie has started to have small seizures, the kind where her arms fly out and I have to make sure that she doesn't hit them on the walls.
And then, as I follow him out of the elevator and down the long, empty hallway, I have the sudden feeling that perhaps I've had a stroke or something and this really isn't happening. Me, pushing Sophie, seizing in her stroller, in a Holiday Inn in Flagstaff, led by a handicapped American Indian at one in the morning.
But I must add that the man was preternaturally calm, and I appreciated that. He calmed me down, actually.
We got our room. Sophie didn't go back to sleep the rest of the night, not really, so I slept only fitfully. But when I woke up, the sun was shining brilliantly and there didn't seem to be a trace of rain -- in the sky or dripping from my ceiling.
Like another writing teacher once said to her class, You can't make that shit up.