It’s hard to say, because if we play this game, anything and everything could be different. I could be typing a totally different blog, with myoelectric hands, because my hands, one leg, and one foot were lost to flesh-eating bacteria after I fell from a homemade zipline into a pond.
Or I might be working late at the preschool I had planned to buy with a friend.
Maybe, though, I’d be spending my millions in the South of France. What millions? Oh, I don’t know! It seems almost as likely as what actually happened!
But if I had to bet, what do I think I’d be doing today, had Sandy blown out to sea instead of through my front door eleven months ago?
It would be way too cold to put up my outside lights. No, I would have been out there already, during the recent warm spell. And that would have been early, but I’d have been afraid it would turn frigid soon, and I’d have been right. So the lights would have already been up, wrapped around the fake evergreen garlands I used year after year. There were two garland strands. I’d drape the longer one twice, from the North corner to the gate, and the shorter one once, from the south corner to the gate. I would trail that wire along the fence on the ground behind the rose bushes, and in accomplishing this inelegant task I’d always catch a scarf tassel or a wind-blown mess of hair on a thorn.
In summer, those roses were yellow, for friendship. I brought some once to a friend’s house in East Atlantic Beach, where by complete coincidence I happen to now be renting. I rode my powder blue beach cruiser to the very house where I type this minute, pressing the yellow roses into the handlebar and leaving a trail of petals down West Park Ave into Park Street. Tonight, my bike rusts outside in the snow because we only have one room, and of course, 30 blocks east, an empty, open house under construction. But that night, it was warm. I played Bananagrams with my friend. We lolled around on the carpet, building random words.
Now she has breast cancer.
I tried to save those rose bushes. In the spring, when construction started, Steve brought them to another friend’s house and replanted them. They said they had plenty of fresh dirt, but they lied. Our friends wanted us to not feel bad. They gave up a patch of green grass for us.
One day I will replant those roses at our house, and bring my friend a bouquet once more. We will cry and be home and healed.
But what would I be doing tonight? Assuming I hadn’t lost my hands or worked late or just ordered plus de vin en Nice, I’d say I’d be bringing down the decorations from the attic. We’d be picking out a tree mid-week in the December teens, and I’d want to begin the festoon-fest this weekend.
All my decorations were tailor-made for that house. I had more garlands for inside, and they were fitted too, like the ones trimmed to the edges of the fence. One was sized to outfit a trapezoidal archway leading to the kitchen, and the other to adorn the shelved window that separated the sunroom from the living room. The garlands were cut to lay on each shelf, but the string of lights connecting them had to twine across all three shelves, woven strategically from bottom to top.
I cannot remember if I packed them away in storage post-Sandy, still hoping those rooms would be saved, or if I tossed them onto that waterlogged heap, already accepting that those quirky old custom-made features of our home would be taken out in one merciless round of demo.
I think about Aimee Copeland sometimes. She fell from a zipline in Georgia the summer before Sandy. What a survivor she is, my God.
I think about my Bananagram-rose friend all the time. What she is facing. What words she builds while putting on a bra. What thorns stab at her now when she holds something beautiful.
I miss the angular arch that framed our Christmas tree but, that shape was never a part of me, like her breasts are and will no longer be.
I can frame my Christmas any which way I choose. What would I be doing now, I keep thinking. Baking cookies? Stringing lights? I don’t know. I truly do not. Realizing this, finally, is freeing.
It’s not, “This, and everything will be back to normal. That, and I would feel like me. Not that, and everything would have been the same.”
It’s not, What would I be doing now? It’s, Who am I, still? Who am I, now?
I am whole. I am alive. I am loved. Last night, a friend dreamed that she visited me in my house—on the waterfront, in Manhattan! My view was of the Statue of Liberty.
I am free.
This one is dedicated to Stacy, Jane, Aimee, Jennie, Ken, and France. 🙂 But mostly Stacy. Love you, lady.