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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Earned your keep

After a week, Dr. Reed regarded me as ready to travel -- with important caveats. I was to protect the clitoris, which is not yet hooded and also lacks labia minora (he uses a two stage surgery). I must religiously use the stents -- his recommendation is five times a day, twenty minutes each. The body seeks to close wounds. I must end each day with a thorough irrigation using a Betadine recipe. And I must avoid -- let's call it overexertion -- for six weeks.

The hotel where we were staying, the Bay Harbor Inn, had understood me to have reserved the room only until the 25th (my own recollection was the 28th), so we needed a place to stay for three more days. On the Internet I checked around and collected ten telephone numbers of likely places to stay. It being Spring Break season in South Florida, only one of them had a room for us: The Ramada Plaza Hotel in Hollywood. Beloved packed all our belongings, and me, into the rental car and we departed the Islands by way of the bridge to Haulover Beach on U.S. A1A.

The Plaza turned out to be a delightfully strange urban pastel artwork, twelve blocks from Hollywood Beach, done in what its brochures call Mediterranean Revival, which means there are fake rock grottoes and fake wall cracks everywhere. We discovered a pedestrian bridge across the alley into an office building with a central atrium, with wrought-iron railings and graceful woodwork. Walking through the gallery, one finds a variety of one-horse shops, such as a waxing parlor, and open-air bars and restaurants opening onto Hollywood Avenue, with more restaurants and shops in all directions.

The tempting shopping district proved my downfall. At my instigation, we lunched at one of the sidewalk restaurants, listening to a live jazz combo and lingering over cheesecake, then shopped in a variety store that featured a wide selection of intriguing antique jewelry.

Afterwards I took to bed immediately, but as the evening and the next day progressed, it became increasingly clear that I had not protected the clitoris enough. I lay still all the last day, watching moronic television programming and napping, hoping to recover enough from the rubbing to make the trip home without further damage.

Tuesday the 28th dawned as beautifully as all our other South Florida dawns; Beloved rose and made ready for her day, and packed, and I carried out a dilation, aware that I would not have another opportunity until midnight, Pacific time, sixteen hours away, at best.

We drove north on what we had understood to be U.S. One until it petered out in a residential neighborhood, then backtracked to Sheridan Avenue and took Interstate 95 around the airport to its entrance from the other direction. We had allowed plenty of time for this sort of thing. Our strategy was to check most of our baggage, to carry ample water, to request a wheelchair at all airports, and to put up my feet on seats at all opportunities.

These ideas worked well in the early going, and we both caught up on sleep on the morning flight to Charlotte, North Carolina. But the next plane was a disaster for us. An Airbus 320, it has narrow seats, in cramped rows, three to a side of the single aisle. On it we flew to San Francisco, where a storm had put many arrivals in disarray, spending more than six hours in those seats. We arrived dehydrated and disoriented, both feeling as if we had come down with the flu, and I had begun -- ever so slightly -- bleeding, in a worrisome place.

Worse, there was now a change of service provider, on a concourse over two miles away, with a flight scheduled to depart in twenty minutes. We found an emergency shuttle that actually runs across among the jets, fuel trucks and baggage wagons on such occasions for planeloads of stranded passengers, and all made the gate with one minute to spare -- only to find that our flight to Eugene was also running late -- as it was a regional turnaround flight that, in its capacity as an arrival, had also been delayed!

This seemed like luck, but now began a strange dialogue between Beloved and the airline officials, which I had become too hazy to follow well. I was now marked as a wheelchair passenger, and the officials were under the strong impression that, to put me on the regional flight, they must send me to a gate with an elevator, so that I could be shuttled to the plane and carried -- step by jouncing step -- onto the aircraft. The gate in question was the one from which we had just been shuttled -- miles away. If we hurried, they intimated, there might just be time!

Beloved went in search of a wheelchair and attendant to get me back whence we had come. She parked me by a small eatery with a railing, but at length my legs failed me and I wound up in folded posture, on the floor of the busy concourse. This attracted the interest of the hundreds of passersby, some of whom offered assistance, but I assured them a chair was on the way. Ultimately -- after what seemed a very long interval to me and some of my well-wishers -- this proved true.

We rolled, rolled and rolled -- to the gate on the other concourse -- to be told, along with another wheelchair passenger, that the officials at the regional gate were all wet -- the plane would be large enough for direct access and the elevator and shuttle would not -- could not -- be utilized. We must go back ... quickly ...

We arrived at the regional gate, for the second time, just in time, and boarded in short order. Our pilots, flight attendants and fellow passengers being nearly all Westerners, we immediately felt much more at ease than we had in the cross-country aircraft. Beloved asked to sit with me -- our seats had been separated by the boarding passes -- and this was cheerfully arranged. I had a window seat, a thing which I love -- even at night -- and as we rocketed out over the Bay, I craned to see the magical golden lights of San Francisco and of the Northern California coastal communities, with the broad stride of Orion across the dark background of the Pacific Ocean.

In Eugene, of course, it was raining hard -- icy, glutinous drops pooling onto roads and fields, with temperatures in the low forties. Beloved waited for the luggage -- a seemingly hopeless activity, given all the confusion -- but every piece arrived! -- and bundled it all, and me, into our very own car to drive to our very own home. As Beloved drove, I recounted all the amazing things she had done to make the trip possible and a success.

"On this trip, you have, you know, really -- ahem -- earned your keep for life."

She looked over at me, amused. "Yep. Sure have."

At the house, she found the key, turned on the lights, let me in, immediately put me to bed with a hot pad, brought in the luggage and went through it for Boyfriend, the loaner dilator. After what seemed a long time, she came to me, crestfallen.

"It's not there. It's not there! I've looked everywhere -- every pocket, all the plastic bags."

"Umm, how about the lube jelly? Did you come across that?"

"No, but we have more."

"OK, if they're both gone, it's my fault. I used them after you had us all packed. So they will have gotten tangled up in the sheets while I was looking at the Cartoon Channel and, uhhh ... by now, been found and thrown out by the Ramada maids."

"Oh, great."

"Well, I'm sure they know what to do with used dildos."

"We'll have to buy Dr. Reed a replacement."

"Or maybe ship him the small one from the new set. Meanwhile -- have we got anything we can use? Till the set gets here?"

She scoured the house and came back with a basket full of candles -- the best kind for the purpose -- hand dipped tapers. I picked through them.

"This one looks pretty close to Boyfriend's size. But, umm, I think my friends tell me I should use a condom to keep the wax out."

Neither of us has ever owned a condom.

Beloved thought for a moment. "Wait a bit! I have just the thing." She went away and came right back.

In her hand she held a box of rubber examination gloves. "Just put the candle in a finger!"

That woman is a genius ...

--risa b


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