Depakote Diary
Lisa Selin Davis

Spring

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 just night.

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?

 

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

 

Fall

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.

 

Winter

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 York City.

 

© 2007 Swink, Inc.