Lisa Selin Davis
Two hundred and fifty milligrams, three times daily. Sweating,
dizziness, a crashing sound in my head. Tuck says I am singing on key.
He says I don’t call out in my sleep anymore, but in my sleep,
in my dream, I am still calling out. March is the easiest time, but
April, it’s the April that’s hard. All this waiting, all
this rain, all this waiting, and then for what? It rains again in May
and the days stretch out like a big yawn.
They started me off on a small dose, they started me on
seventy-five, and I went up and up and up till I hit two-fifty and they
said, Here. Tuck says this is all right, this is better. He says he
can see me getting lighter, not lighter in the waistband, I am needing
bigger pants now, near needing to shop in the Woman’s World section,
but lighter, he says, you know, lighter.
You would think with more sunlight there would be less rain, less rain
on the inside, less Buddy Holly, but there is something about the Spring
that opens me, a root canal in my soul, that’s the song Tuck made
out of me, out of my head, the little song he sings to me to sleep at
night. I take two hundred and fifty milligrams in the morning, at lunch,
and just before bed. If I take it on an empty stomach I am too sick
to eat, and then when I don’t feel sick anymore I eat twice as
much. Tuck says he likes me this way. He is older than me, he remembers
the commercials for Chic jeans. I say, I don’t know about these
things, but he says, Don’t worry. I do.
We’ve been married three months and most of that time I think
I have been staring at the windows watching for the world to turn, thinking
about something I heard a lady say once, My heart leaps up when I see
a mailman on the street, but no news is no news and there are no mailmen
on the street, just in their wrong-side-of-the-street cars.
Before we lived here, here in Colorado City, before this we lived behind
the old train depot in Phoenix where the floors rattled every evening
as the train chattered by. The train called, Hello and I called, Hello,
and then Tuck said we are moving and I knew I would never speak to the
train again and the train would never speak to me. We got here and I
said to Tuck, What is wrong with the night? He said, There’s no
train, and now I realize it was like a friend come to visit every evening,
a friend who sang to me, and now there is no song and no friend and
We don’t know a soul here, not one other person, but I met the
nice Old Lady across the hall who is not really so nice but is old and
not really a Lady but just a female. She has fourteen different bottles
of pills lined up along her kitchen cabinet, and all day long she tries
to figure out which ones she’s taken and which one she still has
to take. She looks up at me and says, This one? This one? I don’t
know, I say.
I take two hundred and fifty milligrams and I am a big puckered fish
with headaches, tugging on Tuck for one last good-night kiss till he
says, No honey my lips are all worn out lie down now be still we are
all right we are all right now. He says Spring is hard, it will always
be hard for me, it is supposed to be the beginning of something and
he says we are plumb in the middle. What we need, he says, is to be
near the end so we can start up again. I ask him where how why when
do we get to the end, and he says, Sugar, the end is nigh, that’s
near and high, that’s almost night, it’s coming. He says
moving is one of the great Traumatic Experiences of a lifetime and that
we have gone on hundred and sixty-seven miles and that is far enough
to catch us a real-life Trauma.
I was in the ICU for just a week, and it was Winter, Winter is when
it happens, Winter and Fall, and Tuck told me, If you can get through
this, Honey, you can get through anything. So we waited for the days
to unfold into long stretches of sun and then he freed us from the Big
City to this Little Town, the Little Town with no Town and no train
in the night and no trees and no grass, no real grass, just golf grass,
and nothing would grow here if men didn’t intervene. This is where
Tuck wanted to go and here we are in the tiny apartment with a concrete
deck and cockroaches—I found one under my nightie one morning,
I am not joking—and we can’t smoke inside because the carpet
swallows up the smoke and holds it.
What he did was he bought me a starter kit, a strawberries-you-can-grow-in-your-home
kit, just a bunch of dirt in a white plastic pot that you hang in the
window and mist up every night. It comes prepollinated. It needs no
bees. I hung it up in the window and it sprouted. The whole desert is
in bloom. I sit and try to think, In Winter there’s the Christmas
Tree, in Fall there is the Pumpkin, so what, just what is there for
Spring? What is there for Summer?
Two hundred and fifty milligrams, three times daily. Bad
dreams, thirsty all the time. Eleven pounds heavier. Tuck bought me
a scale to prove me wrong, but I was right. Not much dizziness anymore.
I am sleepy. I am so awful sleepy all the time.
Tuck has a regular gig, Wednesday nights at the Elbo Room. He says it’s
good, it’s a good gig, Wednesday is the night before Thursday
and Thursday is a big night, Wednesday is almost a big night. If I don’t
take the two hundred and fifty milligrams at lunch, then I am awake
enough sometimes to go. I sit in the corner by the bar but I don’t
drink, you can’t drink on two-fifty, I drink but I only drink
ginger ale and Tuck plays his bass guitar with no frets. He looks happy,
he looks so happy up there. His eyes are half closed but they are also
half open, looking up, to the ceiling, to the rafters painted black.
There are lots of girls at the bar, at the Elbo Room, all jostling each
other for a spot at the front. Some face the stage, some turn and sit
on the stage like they are those lions on the side of a building. Some
face Tuck and some face away, they circle the stage and stare up at
Tuck who stares up at the ceiling, he only has eyes for me that’s
what he told me.
Some nights men are there, men celebrating birthdays in the back room
where Nice Girls don’t go, men sitting back in their chairs gazing
up at glossy women writhing on their laps, men around dirty tables topped
with tittycake and cherries for the you-know-whats. Tucks says he never
goes back there. It’s too dark and too hot, he says. He says when
the Fall comes, when the Fall comes, the nights will be cool and the
days will be warm, and we’ll be walking Goldilocks, we’ll
be Just Right. He says right now we are on fire, we are walking effigies.
He says, Sophia, It’s all right, Honey, you just stick with me.
It stays light till nine, nine-thirty, and then the sun sets and I want
to ask someone, How does that work, all that color, what makes it orange,
is the sun just fire? I am counting on my fingers and toes and then
the wrinkles in my finger joints the hours until the nighttime will
come again and Tuck will come home. We have no air conditioner but Tuck
put fans in all the windows, some face in and some face away so the
air will move through our house all the time. He says we need new air.
We came from a neighborhood where you know everyone, where you know
the pharmacist and the pharmacist knows everyone and everyone knows
everyone. I went to the hospital and Tuck came to get me, they kept
me a week and then he came and got me, took me to City Hall and I got
married in my hospital gown, and he brought me back. The Doctor gave
me three prescriptions, he handed them to Tuck and Tuck nodded and brought
my little red suitcase out to the truck. It was Winter, and Tuck said,
Let’s just wait, we’ll wait till the Spring and then I’ll
take us somewhere, some place nice. Just stay here, sit tight, it’s
the end of February and come March we will be Out Of Here.
Now we’ve been here three months, married six, I got myself a
job, a job with health insurance like Tuck said, it was not easy there
are so many jobs with nothing. I got a job as a receptionist, I receive
people at the Chiropractor’s office. It’s a good job, the
ladies are nice, we receive people and take out their charts and call
them the night before to remind them about their appointments. They
are always mad if they are home to get the call. Every one of them,
it seems like, is waiting for a phone call they are pretending they
aren’t waiting for, and when the phone rings and it is only me
telling them not to forget something they’ve usually forgotten
they are just mad.
We are Gone now, we’re away from Phoenix but we’re not anywhere
else. We Left, you know, but we never Arrived. This desert is nothing
but golf courses and it is very, very hot, hot and dry and brown except
for all the golf courses where it is so green it makes you feel bad,
like you know too much. You feel sorry for all that grass.
It used to be me and Tuck would smoke a little, drink some when we got
to feeling bad, but now I can’t take anything, can’t sip
a beer to save my soul, it Fucks Me Up. What it is is, see, sometimes,
when I’m on hold, I think sometimes somebody somewhere is Talking
To Me, not just a recording but Talking. To Me. On hold, I thought they
recited a recipe for the Hank Williams Nightcap, Barbiturates and Alcohol,
and I mixed it up a little one night just to taste, Midori and ludes,
I didn’t mean anything I didn’t mean anything I didn’t
mean anything and I certainly did not mean That. I drank a bit of elixir
and I tumbled on down the steps in my Hefty garbage bag but I didn’t
mean it I didn’t mean it I didn’t mean it and I certainly
did not mean That
One hundred and fifty milligrams, three times a day. The
Doctors lowered it some and now my dreams are not so bad. Weight gain,
yes. Apparently I have very high blood pressure, I don’t know,
I can’t feel it. I am supposed to keep track, keep track of how
I feel and when, keep track of how sad I am when the sun shines and
when it doesn’t.
Tuck has Thursdays now at the Elbo room and one Saturday a month at
another bar across town, the Tin and Ash. I have never been there. He
doesn’t like me to go as it gets out very late and I am still
awfully tired all the time. Sometimes I feel better in the Fall and
sometimes I feel worse, I don’t know, that’s why they want
me to keep track. We have been here in Colorado City for six months
and I am waiting to make friends, or for my father to find me, or something,
waiting for something to feel like real life the way it felt in Phoenix
but it feels like television all the time.
On Saturdays I watch cable at our neighbor’s house, the old woman
with No One To Visit Her, this is what she says all the time, every
day, even when I am visiting her, and she smells like pee. She is kind
of deaf but she will watch anything I want and she is easy to talk to.
I told her what happened, how small it was, how it was not like the
movies at all but very, very quiet in the Fall when I tied myself up
in a Hefty bag with the radio on loud and all my clothes packed in garbage
bags and ready to go to Goodwill. The Doctor told me I ought to sue
them, the Hefty people, for such cheap bags, plastic bags with tiny
holes that let the air in so when Tuck came home I was alive inside
the Hefty bag with my feet sticking out. He said it looked like the
Wicked Witch of the East’s feet underneath Dorothy’s house.
At night now, when it gets cold—How come you never told me Tuck,
that it gets cold here—I put a tape in the boom box of Tuck singing,
and I listen to Tuck sing, and I try to sing along. I sing, but it’s
not singing, it’s caterwauling, and the band of street cats waiting
for scraps outside my concrete balcony sing along with me like I am
their momma and they are just following me along.
Even down in Phoenix we had seasons, we had Fall, we had trees that
change color, at least change into one color, but in Colorado City there
is only green and brown, brown and green, there shouldn’t be green
but rich people play golf and they make things green that shouldn’t
be. It bothered me when I was new here but now I am used to it. Fall
is Brown Cloud Season, a chocolate donut around the rocks they call
mountains. I listen to the radio now, talk radio, so someone is with
me when I am home alone, and they keep telling us don’t drive
don’t drive but I don’t drive, Tuck drops me off and then
he heads to Applebee’s in his tight black uniform. He works the
day shift and the tips are low. He is an assistant manager there, and
he says the boss says he has a talent for timing tables. He has magical
predictive powers, he knows just how long a table will be occupied.
Tuck says, I know people, that’s why, and he can look at their
shoes and hair and how much jewelry they wear and decide right then
if they will be an hour or twenty minutes. He looks at me in my Women’s
World jeans and I don’t know but I think there’s water in
his eye. It’s shining.
It cools off now in the evening. My Big Event each night is walking
to the mailbox, in the middle of our complex.
Once a week I see the Doctor, who takes out the big book of problems
and looks mine up and checks off to make sure I am still sick in the
same way. Sometimes I tell him, Gee I am getting fat, and he says, Yes
that is a side effect, just keep keeping track of how you feel. I say,
I feel fat, and he says, Yes. I say, Also I am dizzy and the crashing
sound is back. Yes yes yes, he says. I say, Also I have bad dreams every
night, dreams where I am hunted down and chased. Also, my mouth is so
dry my tongue hates me. Also, Also, Also I add up all the side effects
to one giant Pain. I say Also so much I think it is a cat I am calling,
Here, Also, come here, little Also, sweet little Also, my lovely little
kitty. The streets of Colorado City are filled with stray cats, a million
stray cats crowing in the night, the cooling night, from a boil to a
simmer and now it is steamy cool. Here, Also, here, Too. Come here.
The Doctor says I ought to go back up.
Tuck is out more and more. He comes home to sleep and he drives me to
Dr. Mendino’s office where I receive people and call them at home,
make them mad, I make everybody mad except the ladies and Dr. Mendino
who is so nice and says he will adjust my neck if ever I want it.
I ask myself about the changes. Do I see it? Do I see it? It is Fall
that hurts me, Fall and then Winter, they gang up on me, ambush me in
the bushes, there are no bushes, only cacti and the all-green Palo Verde
tree, it’s the most beautiful tree I have ever seen, green bark,
green trunk, green limbs, green leaves, it looks more alive than any
tree in the world.
We have been here nine months and still I have never felt so New.
Two hundred fifty milligrams, three times daily. Tuck
told the Doctor to put me back up on the good old two-fifty. Tuck has
a talent for numbers, he says. He ought to know. I tell him, Here’s
a number for you: one hundred eighty-two pounds on a frame of five-foot-five.
I am a stick of cotton candy: I am padded. I waddle. I could fit two
of my skinny little mother inside me. I can’t smile anymore, I
can’t move all that flesh up on my cheeks. I have not been awake
for one whole year. I tried for two days not to take it, them, my little
pink friends, and I could swear, I swear, someone was inside me tugging
on my veins, squeezing on my veins, can you imagine? Tuck noticed I
was sweating a whole bunch, puddles for armpits, Tuck said, Sophia,
Honey, Honey, I just don’t know what to do.
I forgot all about the pot-o-strawberries Tuck bought me, they sprouted
but never bloomed and I think maybe the pot should have been outside
where the bees could find it, how could you make fruit without bees?
I thought you needed bees. I turn to Tuck. I say, Tuck, you can’t
make strawberries without bees, can you? He stays on his side of the
bed and once I heard him cry. Tuck, Tuck, Tuck, I grabbed on his shoulder
but he would not turn over. Tuck. Tuck. I am under the covers, why do
you sleep on the top?
The Old Lady with No One To Visit Her says she is freezing and shakes
the thermometer at me. I soothe her with the soft fuzzies of television.
We watch Rosemary’s Baby on late-night and the Old Lady’s
eyes are red from the physical of feeling sorry for herself.
I miss the sound of the train singing in the night. I miss the real
life. I miss not waiting. Here, I am always waiting.
I ask Tuck, How many hours of daylight are there now, and how many will
there be tomorrow, Mr. Talent-for-Numbers, how long have we been gone
and when will we go back to Phoenix and how late will you be out tonight
and when are you coming home and how many more days, can you count them,
do I have to stay here and do this thing, this, this thing I don’t
want to I don’t want to it’s dark so early and the whole
country is saving daylight except for Arizona and I need my daylight
saved. He says, Take it, take it all, Honey, take the two-fifty, and
I say, I can’t. I can’t take it.
It is a sad moment when you want to trade it all in, take it back, the
good old exchange. I think of all those girls in the back at the Elbo
Room, and Tuck looking at them and them looking at Tuck, and couldn’t
I just give them my life, which I think is just a little silver ball
rotating at the back of my throat. I should just reach down and pull
it out, take it out to those nearly naked girlies my daddy would call
Bimbos, yes I know what kind of girls there are, and say, Here. Say,
Take It. I can’t take it.
Tuck comes up to me, he puts his hands on my you-know-whats, he says,
Look at these things, they’re just little balls. He tells me,
Up, Honey, get up, Get Up, Honey. Tuck never told me it got cold here
in the Winter. I say, I thought all that devil-worshipping heat back
in July was to swap for a mild December. He says, You want to get a
Christmas tree? I remember I never had a pumpkin, and I had nothing
in April, and nothing in July and we missed the pumpkin and it’s
almost Christmas and I never even got a wreath. I got a wedding ring
stained green now and Tuck has naked knuckles and he stays out all night
long and comes home at three-thirty, four in the morning and he asks
me questions: How does this feel? This? Can’t you feel this? Is
this alright? What, I ask him, What do you want me to say? I want you
to say, he says, I have the devil inside me.
The Chiropractor is closed for this week, between Jesus’s birthday
and the new year, and I am home all day, all day visiting the Lady with
No One to Visit Her, and she shakes the thermometer in my face, she
grabs it till it shatters and silver balls litter the carpet. Perfect
metallic spheres, little worlds unto themselves, I lean over like a
dog like a cat and lick them up, they can take me to another planet
or just off this one, they can take me Away. I lay my face on the carpet
that smells like dirt and pee and smoke and I watch the silver shimmer,
little Jell-O waves, I will put you in my mouth, I tell them.
Tuck says, Baby, baby, baby, I love you and I don’t know what
to do. What? What is there to do? He is talking to me, he is talking
to this woman called Baby or Honey or Sweet and there are no bees and
nothing bloomed and she is not me and I am out on the tiny concrete
deck calling, Also, come here, Also, here Also, come on, honey, come
to Mama, come on, little kitty, come inside now. Tuck says to this woman,
Baby, maybe this medicine is not the right medicine. He tells Baby,
I wish I was a man. He sings, his voice, I’ve been told, is mellifluous,
I don’t know what it means but his voice it will put me right
to sleep I will lay down right here and listen to him singing his plea.
He says to Baby, Sophia, Honey, come back inside now, it’s dark
and it is getting cold.
Tuck gets drunk and reads Winnie the Pooh on the toilet. He
thinks I don’t know. I know, all right. Tuck says, Why do you
have such an open face, such wide eyes, you look like a giant baby?
Why do you just sit there and blink your eyes like a doll?
I don’t know.
When Tuck leans me back, I close my eyes, and when he props me up again
I open them. Honey, he says. I thought this was a good idea and now
I just don’t know. I’ve got silver balls on my tongue and
it’s Christmas and this year Santa will take me back, all the
way back there with him, he’ll come on the shortest day of the
year and there won’t even be time to notice I’m gone.
Lisa Selin Davis is
the author of the novel Belly,
coming in July from Little Brown, and a freelance journalist in New