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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Beloved and I met, after driving through unbelievable rain, at the credit union to move money around for the surgery.

I sat in the waiting area, reading Good Housekeeping, as other women walked back and forth between tellers, loan officers, restrooms and the coffee machine. The lady at the information booth craned her neck around, looking at the vaulted ceiling far above.

"Have you got a leak?"

"It doesn't show, but, yes, we've finally sprung one. The water goes down the underside of the roof and down a wall, and it's getting into the carpets."

We sighed together over the long, dark and wet winter, and then she greeted a very wet Beloved.

The loan officer was very sweet to us both, and we each signed document after document till we came to the last one.

I froze.

"This is not my name on this one."

"We have to use this," purred the bank lady, "because it is still the name on your deed."

"Even though it's not her legal name?" asked Beloved, shocked.

"Until you change it at the county assessor's office."

"But we never got it back! Your office was supposed to send it to us in October."

"Oh!" Clickity-clickity. "You're right; we'll fix that. Apologies. But if you want this at this time, it has to have that signature, I'm afraid."

Oh, god.

I picked up the pen with a shaky hand and wrote as in a dark dream. I felt the tears coming; and as she continued her soothing monologue I reached for my purse on the floor, fished out my handkerchief, and folded and unfolded and refolded it on my lap, until the dam burst.

Everything around us seemed to come to a standstill for a moment; not that was sobbing or anything untidy like that, but as I sat with the hanky over my face, a shock wave of grief went out into the lobby behind us.

The bank lady started crying too.

She asked Beloved if she could get me a glass of water or anything.

"No, I .. I'm fine," I offered in my most reassuring voice. "It was just unexpected."

After we rose and shook hands and Bank Lady, her composure regained, left the cubicle, Beloved noted that some such things had yet to be dealt with.

"There's the car insurance, for example."

Yes, there is; but on that one I'm holding out ... if I'm in a wreck I don't want one thing to say 'M' and the other 'F'. It was bad enough having that rude letter on my bracelet at the hospital ...

We ate small cakes from a small cart in the outer lobby and decompressed. The older people at the next table were cheerful and friendly, and it became a bit like a tea party. I could see that they were family of the cart lady, and, noticing a figurine of a Chihuahua on the counter, I asked if she had Chihuahuas.

"Yes, how did you know? One's a purebred, the other is half Schipperke."

"And they are a riot," put in the other lady.

"Eat you alive," said the old man at the other end.

"Will not! They're sweet, and you know it."

"There aren't that many Schipperkes here," I offered.

"Do you have some time? I'll show you their pictures."

We admired each portrait of her little darlings, and made the appropriate remarks. The whole time, we were conscious of the other mementos at the food cart. Intensely Evangelical. Perhaps, if she knew my background, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

But we were, and I enjoyed its cheerful companionableness.

I began to breathe again.

-- risa b


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