Corroded RV

March 1, 2009


Friday, March 7, Pasadena, California.

The bed seemed a bit hard. I recall saying that, somewhere. Both shoulders are as sore as if I had slept on a marble slab. “Quiet as a tomb,” the manager had said.

Superhard beds surely can only be useful to people who either sleep on their back in kingly fashion or on their stomach. In these years, I sleep on my side in order to keep the plumbing working. I come awake to the monstrous noise of my wristwatch pinging in my left ear.

My right hand remains asleep. I keep shaking my paw and trying to punch the little button on the side of the watch case with a finger that has no feeling whatsoever. The alarm goes into supercycle and emits four continuous, rasping cries before returning to its deceptively docile mode. Behind my back, my wife yawns peacefully and stretches. I roll over on my back and the chiropractic mattress straightens out my spinal curvature. Ufffh…

Daylight filters through the opening between two opaque curtains that almost, but not quite blocked the yellow sodium arc from a nearby streetlamp during the night. I fumble around with my left hand and grab my mechanical pencil and notebook off of the nightstand. I punch the button on the tip of the pencil to extrude a millimeter of new lead into the finger tip which I had been using to try and shut off the watch alarm. The finger is no longer numb.

“Awake and alive,” I scrawl on a fresh page, followed by the date and time. I find this a useful reference later in the day. Lydia moves across my field of vision, going to the bathroom.

She wears one of my cotton pocket T-shirts, the purple one. I wonder what I look like lying in bed sucking my finger. She looks rather terrific. I laugh.

“What?” she growls and continues her feline prowl towards the bathroom.

Up and at ‘em, I always say, but never loudly enough for anyone to hear me. My wife’s meeting at Jet Propulsion Labs awaits. I am the guest, in these matters. JPL has its eyes on my wife’s Ph.D., not on me. My wife and I play these as “cat and mouse” games. I go as the mouse; I play with the yarn. I do my best to look puzzled and as interested as any layperson might look while my wife takes care of her business. Then, if the going gets rough, or a diversion is called for, she signals me and I ask a question.

I pull my favorite tie (narrow, black, and hand painted silk) straight, then follow my wife down to the breakfast set in the lobby. The smell of fresh coffee gives me hope. I choose the donuts without cream filling, she chooses a tough looking bagel. Wait until she has a loose tooth! Around the pleasingly decorated lobby a variety of mostly-young, well dressed business men and women chatter quietly with each other (or with their cell phones) over coffee, orange or apple juice—the men seem to favor orange, the women apple— and a favorite pastry. A sleepy waiter in a well pressed hotel uniform strains something from the grapefruit juice.

Back in the room, waiting for nature to complete one more morning cycle, I stand at the window and see what I can see.

If I look straight out, I see mountains. The slopes have been blessed with spring rains, but very little green shows up against the rust colored stone. Slanting my gaze downward across the alley, I can see the green shingled roof of a small house lost in a sea of old Volkswagens, a corroded RV, and three or four travel trailers of ancient origins. A half dozen stacks of sunbleached timbers and railway ties form a maze within which a shed roof of battered tin snakes its way from the house to the sagging roof of a potting shed. I wonder what grows in there? There are heavy electrical cables from a box bolted to the top of an old Airstream. The wires crawl through nooks and crannies from one pile to another, eventually connecting to the shed. The rumble of a jet taking off from the airport seems a couple of generations out of place.

About charles frenzel

I've been writing all my life. I've also painted, composed, sculpted, contributed to molecular research, advanced some mathematical concepts, lived on a sailboat, and worked for a Nobel Prize winner. Nothing in my life has pleased me more than to share my life with my wife and friend of over forty years.

View all posts by charles frenzel


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