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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Full complexity

Somehow I expected that after the operation, there would be a complicated phase, then a simpler phase, then a life of simplicity. In fact, things were simple after the operation, then became less so, and now, eight days later, have blossomed into full complexity.

I started out with a lot of bandages on me and packing inside me and a very large-capacity pee bag hung near me, which was emptied for me at regular though infrequent intervals. All I had to do was drink a lot and eat puddings and sleep; the rest would be taken care of.

But as my strength builds, so does my independence, and as my independence builds, so does the need for decision-making: where does this thing go? How do I deal with that stuff? Can I make it to the store and back before I have to empty my thigh bag? Am I going to have to stand up to empty this thing, and will anyone think it's a guy in there?

I've gone from a near-blissful state of infancy in the earliest days of the week to something like a portable E.R. in which I'm both the intern and the accident victim.

But it does mean I don't have to lie around in bed while an interesting and very scenic cityscape happens just out of reach.

Beloved drove me to the beach. I got to see the range of different neighborhoods from Bal Harbour, through Surfside, to North Beach. The shops all seemed careworn and under-shopped. Many of the apartment buildings, still hampered by hurricane damage from more than six months ago, were under half-hearted reconstruction.

Men and women of all colors and builds, most talking into cell phones, cheerfully jaywalked or parked convertibles beneath No Parking signs. I saw few children. Every third vehicle seemed to be a police car, each from a different jurisdiction. I couldn't understand why they weren't arresting everyone in sight, all of whom seemed to be walking, biking, or driving illegally.

We discovered we hadn't brought change for parking, which rather nixed the beach visit for us, even though none of the cars parked at meters (and there seemed to be no spaces without meters) had any time left -- a sea of meters all registering Violation with one mighty voice.

So we elected to go the deli at the Publix Market in Surfside.

This supermarket looks like a Mission Stucco office building, and has a parking garage underneath instead of all around it, so that when we first looked for it we drove past it four times before acknowledging it to be the place we were looking for. This time we were able to reach it in only three tries. We might have done better, but the one-way streets require memorization in advance.

While Beloved placed our orders -- an Italian sub for me, and a Greek salad for her, I found myself dancing in the aisle to the Caribbean muzak, skipping around nervous, preoccupied grocery carts and weaving my arms in a sensual pattern. This was a behavior that had hit me in the early days of estrogen. I had put on my first post-op patch this morning, so perhaps the dose was beginning to reach my psyche.

As it happened, there was a tall, regal and lovely black woman in the aisle who was doing exactly the same thing. We found each other, and weaved our arms in the air, laughing, and then, ever so briefly, held hands.

As she moved on to the bread racks, and Beloved, smiling with just a little embarrassment, moved away to the cheeses, I continued to shimmy in front of the sandwich bar, and a little old European-looking gentleman with raised eyebrows passed me with his grocery cart. Something told me to check on him after he had gone by, and sure enough, he had stopped, blocking traffic, and was looking back -- he had clearly just done a bootie check. And was apparently happy with what he'd seen. In tribute he did a few dance steps of his own, with one hand in the air, like a flamenco dancer. Then we both smiled and he passed on down toward the veggies.

It was time time to go -- and just in time; my thigh bag was filled to capacity.

I was worn out from this first outing, and slept a bit after dinner and the complex evening routine: dilation, douche, changing over to the bigger night bag on the catheter, pulling and replacing tape, inspecting wounds and coating them with Betadine. I awoke to find Beloved standing by my bedside, smiling. I reached up and caressed her body, and surprised myself by sensing a rush -- somewhere deep inside me -- such as I hadn't felt in a long time.

"Whoah! Did you feel that?" I asked.

"How could I not?" She tousled my hair.

"We're going to have to do something about this ... "

"All in good time, my dear. All in good time."

--risa b

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