This morning I woke up as I usually do, just before dawn, because I had to pee. I’m not sure when this practice began, but I attribute it mostly to simply being over 40. The muscles of the pelvic floor begin to shift at a certain point in the human life cycle, like great tectonic plates, whether or not a person has given birth to a whole baby. The process of having to pee at 4am is non-binary.
And then there’s COVID. Whereas before, one might have felt the urge to pee while it’s still dark out and simply ignored it – until the sensation became unbearably painful, even debilitating – now there are unprecedented levels of collective anxiety to contend with. (What with massive unemployment numbers still skyrocketing and beaucoup small businesses shuttering while Congresspeople get paid $3500 a week to use their thumbs as butt-plugs, entire swaths of the American public discovering for the first time that racism does indeed exist, cash is outlawed in India, yet another friend is on a ventilator, your Mother is still insisting on doing face-to-face grief counseling with drug addicts on the Rez and is super hyped about this new tracking device vaccine because if she gets it first maybe then her daughter-in-law nobody knows from Eve will finally let her touch her new grand baby, and your own brother’s asinine Op-ed insisting we all just act like nothing is happening so he can continue to make more money than God off feeding poor people’s marijuana addiction, but not give you any – money. or weed). So you just heed the call, get up to pee and then start doing something.
You’re not at all surprised by your brother’s Op-ed, nor your Mother’s blindsided, horrified shock and awe at his public opinion. Denial runs deep as the Congo in your family. Everybody sees what’s obvious but them. But you don’t hate on ’em for it. It’s an outdated survival technique.
You’re working on a business plan. You recognize that running your ass into the ground slinging drinks and schlepping ice, teaching Yoga to kids in jail and at the old folks home, leading large groups of mask-less Floribamans through the French Quarter by the ear on a tour that should be entitled “Twenty Biggest Hits By White Supremacists”, deciding whether it makes more sense to sell your clothes or your plasma, and taking a cut off the top delivering covert amounts of cash via Venmo to your strategically unemployed friend in Jamaica (who’s Sugar Daddy thinks she got hit by a car and can’t move) in an effort to support your Radical-Ratchet-Eco-Feminist-Performance-Art habit, is just not going to cut it in the post-Covid economy.
At the end of the day, you are a realist. And a work horse. And you really want some of that PPE money. So you’re biting the creative bullet and incorporating. It’s a process. Much of which can get done easily enough right after you get up to pee before the sun comes up, thinking about how many points you’ll get docked on your credit report for applying for that “pre-approved” and yet denied balance transfer, and make a pot of coffee. French press. Because you’re just that bougie.
Not bougie enough, tho to spend more than 99 cents on a pair of reading glasses at the grocery when they have them for sale for that amount. If not blindsided nor horrified, you did find yourself left in a bit of a state of shock and awe when your best friend confessed she spent several hundred dollars on hers. Just reading glasses. No prescription or anything. Jesus Christ, you thought. I mean, you know she still has a job and everything – and they’re cute glasses – but still. Where the f*ck then does your family get off with this tired ass narrative that YOU are bad with money? Please.
So anyway. You’ve been up – for a while – working on your business plan, when you hear the trucks pull up outside. According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Survey of Twenty-Five Character Strengths, Curiosity and Appreciation of Beauty are tops on your list, so it comes as no surprise that you peer out the window and appreciate the appropriately distanced men in hardhats huddled out front, discussing their Covid-safe approach to whatever manual labor is about to commence. You’ve always had a thing for men in hardhats and work boots. TBH you sometimes even like to harass them back.
You’re not surprised either, but you are amused when they pull out the chainsaw and the neighbor lady comes into the yard all mean and nasty with, “Come on! It’s 7:30 in the morning ON A SATURDAY! Give me a f*ckin break!” But that just made you roll your eyes. What made you chuckle and want to give somebody in work boots a Covid-safe high-five was when the dude in the tree came back with – and quick – “Yeah, well. I wish I could sleep in on a Saturday, too. I WISH I HAD THAT PRIVILEGE.” He emphasized that last sentence just like I wrote it. The neighbor lady might have even heard you howling with laughter and clapping over the chainsaw at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday.
Remember: you’ve been up for several hours already, working.
But for no money. Not yet anyway. You’re an entrepreneur. And an artist. And you used to work in education and the service industry – simultaneously – just to make ends meet.
You’re used to sweating bullets for chump change.
She’s not YOUR neighbor lady, tho. Not really. I mean, you kind of know who she is, but you don’t really know what she does for a living. Not anymore, anyway. Not since all the venue closings. But she’s definitely not YOUR neighbor, because you are just house/plant/studio sitting thru the end of 2020. You can’t afford to live in a place with trees.
Thank God/dess, tho : You have friends who are just that bougie – and who decided to go stay somewhere else for a while, despite Covid-19. It’s nice to have room to breathe, even temporarily. You’ve learned to sleep at night. You don’t mind it too much when people wake you up with their manual laboring. You probably had to pee anyway. You love what the dude in the tree said back to the nasty neighbor lady. You have high hopes for the future of this country.
You consider whether or not it makes any sense to share this blog post with your family, in response to the Op-ed thread your brother didn’t really include you in because he used your FemNazi5 email address. You literally haven’t used that address since college. You are now 43. You’re curious what kind of email exchange you ever even had with him back then? You’re fairly convinced he did it on purpose, use the wrong address I mean. You know he knows you’re the only one who might actually have had the balls to say anything about it. And you did. Say something. You just sent him a quick email back – from the correct address – with everybody else in the family CCd, letting him know his opinion was loaded and that you heard him. I mean, did he really think gossip that good was going to go unnoticed – despite his best feudal attempts at trickery? Come on, Brah. Attention to detail is something like number three on the UPenn Strengths Test for me.
You decide it is probably best to just let it lie, for now anyway. I mean, the blog is up on the World Wide Web and everything. So anybody in the whole wide world can read it, if they really wanted to. But you’re not too worried. About your family getting their hands on it and using it as a reason to be pissed off at you. With eight of us on the puppy pile – by three moms and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to figuring out how many daddies – no-one ever really pays that close attention to me.
This is a picture of not quite all of us – and one grand baby – taken last year about this time, at our Dad’s memorial. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to get us all together in one place. And certainly never sober. We’re all grown now. With lives and everything.
That tree in the background reminds me : When the neighbor lady and the manual laborer were bickering, my thought was the tree was probably all like : “Say, Brah. Why you wanna do me like that, huh? You really don’t HAVE to be using a chainsaw on some perfectly good limbs at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday. Why don’t you go on strike or something?”
By lunch time she had been whittled down to nothing more than a stump, just like in your well-worn copy of that now politically incorrect classic :
“The Giving Tree”.