January 23, 2010

Poppies. Poppies will put them to sleep.

 I was reading a story in the most recent New Yorker by Jill Lepore called "The Iceman" and it is about 'cryonics'. No idea what that is, well, neither did I till not too long ago. I was taking a certification class in San Francisco in Neuro Liguistics, and because our class was once a month over a period of time, many of the students would stay in the same hotel for the days we had class and we got to know each other quite well. 
When she entered the room in her bright yellow stiletto's on that first morning, teetering over to an empty chair, I remember thinking how the shoes did not seem part of her. There was nothing else glamorous about the woman, in fact, she was pleasantly plump and her clothes were a little out of date. She had the face of a friendly Russian peasant, and if given a muffin bonnet and mittens, would have not been out of place in a Dickens novel, with her deep set eyes and her thin, mousy hair, which reached to her shoulders.
It was quite some time into the classes that I found myself at the same table with her at dinner and, just like in class, it was clear that she liked attention. She said she was a medical doctor, but could not practice in the U.S.A. because she had received her degree on some island in the Caribbean. It was remarkable that she wore a different pair of stiletto's every day, always a little too large and clearly always expensive, just like the handbags and briefcases she had. We all have our little weaknesses, and if this was hers then who was I to judge?
Every time we talked, which wasn't often as I was beginning to avoid her, because of the free medical advice and increasingly peculiar stories about her husband, she lisped an invitation to her home in Vegas. She had recently moved there and had a lovely home with a lovely guest room. She was sure I would enjoy a visit to Las Vegas. It so happens I am not as infatuated with Las Vegas as many others. At the time, I had to go to quite a few conventions, and these were often in Vegas, however, after we had our last class, I agreed to  come and visit. It seemed a little off that she kept saying that I should come by car and not fly. I am only 5 hours from Vegas, so I would have gone by car anyway.  Just before I left she suggested I get tickets to a balloon flight and a show for us both.
The balloon flight was expensive, so I only got myself a ticket and called her to arrange her own, but I did get tickets to the show.
When I arrived, I stood before the closed door, of the 'lovely house' for what seemed like a long time, even though I had called her when I was within the city limits to let her know I had arrived. I rang again. Silence. Then after another wait, her husband opened the door, and let me in to the darkness within. He told me I could wait for her in the living room, and left again immediately. I sat and looked around me. It was a nice house, two storey, but the furniture, though expensive, was ragged and worn. Long tatters hung down from the sofa's. Interesting books were on the table. Beautifully bound books on subjects that are not commonplace on a coffee table, on ancient history, astronomy, and medicine. My vigil lasted a long time, and glances on my watch told me that if we didn't get a move on, we would miss the show. There certainly was no time for the lunch I had already missed.
When she made her grand entrance, down the stairs, balancing on her high heels, it was almost as if she had forgotten we were to go to the theater and I reminded her that we should leave, if we wanted to be on time. She returned up the stairs to change. I stared bleakly at all the spheres of marble, wood, pottery, shell and other materials that decorated the room. Too many balls, I thought. 
Seeing she lived there, I thought she might drive us to the theater, but she reluctantly told me that they did not have a car.  We got into my car and I asked her if she knew the way. It was no matter she said, she would ask her husband, and started to call him before we were out of the driveway. The call became a comedy. They argued and argued, and he would ask her what she was seeing now. Did she see a brown building with orange lettering on the left? Then she should go right, and she would in turn report this to me, but as things go, I would be on the wrong side, and would have to make a turn and a turn and a turn and so on it went.

I am a patient woman in many situations, but this was getting to me and I asked if she could just put him on speaker phone please, so that I didn't need to deal with second-hand information. Her husband, she said, did not speak to other people, only to her. I wondered if it might be considered overly dramatic perhaps, if I banged my head on the steering wheel a couple of times and let out a long, loud scream.

Late that night, I was told where my room was and it was definitely not the 'lovely guest room we have'. It was a makeshift bed in the computer room, but I was tired. Not too tired to see the size 14 shoes in the bathroom though. It gave me some idea who was staying in the 'lovely guest room we have' and sure enough, the next morning I found myself face to chest with what I would call an American basketball player with no manners. I looked up at him as he did a little dance around me to get into the bathroom first. 
We had a 'to do list' that day, with lots of errands like picking up prescriptions, do some shopping and paying bills here and there. I was beginning to feel a little used by the time we had lunch, and when the bill came, my companion acted somewhat  alarmed, and then sighed with relief, I knew I was being  taken for a fool. She had left her wallet in my car, but would definitely pay for lunch later. Naturally I paid, just like I had paid for dinner the previous evening.
For some strange and peculiar reason, as we got back in the car, she said that  she felt that I had trouble that could be resolved with Black Cohosh. I was  totally unaware of having any trouble at all that might require Black Cohosh. Now, we had to go to Wholefoods to pick up Black Cohosh, however most of the 2 hours we spent there went into shopping for other things. Not by me though, because I settled myself in at the coffee bar and did some people watching. I did notice that when she went to pay with a check, she was asked to go to the upstairs office. I must have looked a little puzzled then, I am sure.

I considered leaving and going home when we returned to the house but I was hot and we decided to spend some time in the pool. This is when she suggested that I become a member of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, where they would remove my head after death, freeze it and live again hundreds of years from now. By now my eyes must have started to bug out a little.  She explained cryonics... in detail. I tried to make my way out of the pool as I don't do well with stories about frozen heads, but on she went. She was also wondering if I wanted to finance her business that she had in mind (mayor light-bulb moment for me). I am far too polite for situations such as these. Cut off my head and finance her business. By now it was after midnight, I was hungry and I was contemplating peeing in pool because the mad woman kept on talking about frozen body parts.

She acted quite surprised when I said that I had decided that I should head home. What? Without dinner? It was close to 3 a.m. She felt that I couldn't leave until she had given me the Black Cohosh. I felt that I could, but that I would really like the money that I had spent on the ticket and lunch.

It took a long time before she opened the door to the bedroom, to which she had retired to change, and let me into her boudoir, with its glamorous orange fur headboard and bedspread and gold colored walls. She was clearly distressed, her little peasant face nervously smiling at me, as she pattered around in her feathery high heeled slippers and diva-like dressing gown. She paid me in cash, which surprised me a little. I didn't think I would see the money at all. She went into her bathroom as I waited on a little full-skirted tabouret in gold and lace and I watched her in the mirror as she opened the new bottle of Black Cohosh, take out some capsules, and fill it again before she put the cap back on. 
In the first light of the new morning I hit the road, still shaking my head in amazement at this other worldly experience, opened the window and threw the bottle of Black Cohosh out on the freeway. "Poppies. Poppies. Poppies will put them to sleep. Sleep." The words of the Wicked Witch of the West rang in my ears as I headed home.
The poppies were painted in Hydrus watercolor on smooth drawing paper. My favorite paper to work on.


  1. great story.
    i've been roaming around your blog since seeing your post on Everyday Matters.
    how wonderfully varied your media and
    interests are. so much to see and read.



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