The Weeklies: April 21 - April 27
Sunday morning I woke up almost-but-not-fully recovered. I was eager for a relaxing day -- and I would get it. Months ago I'd booked a couples massage for Alistair and I as a Valentine's Day gift. The plan was to have lunch with friends, go to our massage, then come home.
Around 11 we left the apartment, stepped down the stoop into a chilly, sunny day. We took the train to midtown. We parted waves of people in Grand Central, unearthed somewhere on Lexington, and joined a line of people waiting for the doors to open at Momosan. Alistair's friends from Geneva met us, and as we slid into our booth they said: "This is always the first meal we have when we land in New York." We finished lunch with a long stroll down Lexington Avenue. A few blocks west was the Easter Parade, and I explained to them that every year people create fantastical hats and wear 1920s attire. At the corner of 50-something and Lexington, I saw a woman take off her gigantic, beautiful hat and stuff it in a garbage can. After our walk we said goodbye to our friends and hopped in a cab to our couples massage.
I have a complicated history with massages. On my first massage at a luxury spa in New York (I had been given a gift card) the masseuse told me that I didn't know how to "let go." On my second massage, at a spa in the Bahamas, the masseuse said: "You should just get facials when you want to relax. You don't know how to let go." I hoped that a couples massage would be different because Alistair was in the room with me and I would feel safer.
The spa was on the ground floor of an Upper East Side Building. They put us in a pink room called the "Paris" room, with a big poster of the Eiffel tower, and a backlit sign that said "PARIS" in pink. They put rose petals everywhere. The massage was certainly heavy handed. The kneading, especially the knots on my right shoulder, were so hard I almost winced. Itwascertainly relaxing. Alistair's eyelids drooped sleepily on the ride home and I yawned.
We decided to have drinks and cheese on the stoop before the sun went down. We watched a family of birds collect sticks for a nest and the dogs pass by.
Wednesday I went straight from work to the allergists office. In the waiting room my phone buzzed with a note from the doctor. My biopsy results were benign (so far!); more testing to be done within the year. Before I had time to react I was ushered into the doctors office, put in a chair, and then, my usual panic began.
"I'm nervous," I said to the nurse. I was scheduled for an allergy test, and when I walked into the doctors office I asked the nurse how the test was administered.
"Little needles. It's just a prick," the nurse said for the hundredth time.
My face started to droop and sag, my bottom lip poked out dramatically.
"But do you press hard? I'm afraid of needles," I said.
"Well, this test needs 70 pricks," the nurse said. I looked over my left shoulder. The cases of needles were sitting right there.
The doctor came in, spoke with me, and left. I heard whispers in the hallway and the nurse appeared. She wiped my arms with alcohol -- that's when you know somethings coming -- and then held a white plastic tray of needles over my arm.
"We'll just do one," she said. "then you tell me if it's too much."
She counted down from three, and then I felt the tiniest little prick on my arm.
"That wasn't so bad," I said. She went up and down both arms, and then left me for fifteen minutes as little red dots started to pop up. I watched the news and gritted my teeth.
When she returned she could give me the results: I was allergic to cats, oak trees, dust mites, ragweed, among others.
"You have any kids?" the doctor asked when I returned to her for a consultation.
"No," I said.
"I was going to say, if you're afraid of needles, just you wait till you have kids someday."
"The epidural needle, you mean?" I said.
"No, I mean, childbirth. What it does to you down there. I mean, it rips it to shreds," she laughed.
I got two allergy medications and went home.
I woke up Thursday feeling violently ill. The medication was making me nauseated in grand waves. It'll pass, I thought as I left the house for work. At 11 am I was feeling so awful I let my boss know I was leaving and took a $30 cab back to my apartment.
Somewhere on the Brooklyn Bridge, the driver looked into the rearview mirror and pointed up through the sunroof at the tourists taking photos on the Brooklyn Bridge.
"You ever been up there?" he asked.
"Oh yes, many times," I said.
"I always wanted to go, but I work too much," he said. "Can I tell you a short story?"
Could he!? Of course he could, I thought to myself. Juicy cab driver exchanges are my bread and butter.
"I went to the doctor today," he said. "and you know, he has lots of money, this doctor. And he says to me, 'You know I will leave all this stuff behind, what is the point?' And I realized that he is right. Why do I worry about money. I have put all my kids through college and all my brothers kids through college with my wife -- she works at NYU -- and my brother died so I help them out. I like to do for other people. I like to give for the future generations. There was this one girl, I wanted to help her, but then she got pregnant, it was so sad. The men, they go everywhere, they do everything, do you know what I mean? Women, if they have a baby they can't leave it. It's not fair for them." So he couldn't help her.
We talked about gentrification, about his friends that lived on my block. We wished each other well and I spent the day on the sofa. I didn't start to feel better until the late afternoon.
On Saturday, I started feeling bad again. I wrote, I watched "Doctor Foster," I took a long hot bath. Alistair was returning back from a work trip. Per tradition, I planned on cooking him a big meal. At 6 pm I started making a lasagna bolognese from scratch (everything except the pasta). I can do a bolognese sauce without glancing at a recipe book, but the béchamel is always a gamble. If you've ruined a dish before, there's always that worry that you'll ruin it again. I got butter in a saucepan, I added the flower, then the milk. It took only a second for things to go south, for my creamy, ideal sauce to turn into a lumpy mess. My inner monologue -- panicked and angry -- in retrospect makes me laugh. Alistair loved it anyways.