Percale
Tiff Holland

I like the way the dogís tail thumps while heís sleeping. Itís just us. The gray cat he likes to bark at is in the bushes on the porch, out of sight. They have left me alone. They hardly ever leave me alone. Before she left my mother asked, ďAre you sure youíll be all right?Ē And I told her I was. ďAre you sure?Ē she asked, because she repeats everything, and I said I was sure. Some days she waits until Iím in bed for my nap. She tries to make me promise Iíll stay there, right there in bed until she gets back, but then whatís the point? Whatís the point of surviving?

I used to be afraid of airplanes and small spaces. They had to give me two Valium before they could put me in the MRI machine. Now, I am afraid of not having any time to be alone, to just be me, but thatís not really a fear. Really, Iím not afraid of anything, not small spaces or germs or leaving the door unlocked despite all these months of doing nothing but watching murder shows on TV. I went away for a whole week, didnít exist, was comatose, however you want to put it. You want to know what it was like? Nothing, not the nothing I always existentially believed but Nothing, capital N. I donít even remember it.

I donít remember much. My husband keeps reminding me. ďMy sister called while you were in the hospital. They cut off your clothes.Ē

My favorite sheet is missing, the one that was so soft, almost unbelievably soft and cool, always cool because it was percale.

ďThe paramedics must have taken it,Ē my husband tells me. ďI think they covered you with it in the bathroom.Ē

I call all the local department stores but there are no more like it in stock. They donít make them anymore. It is irreplaceable, but my memory, my husband assures me, is not. A full recovery, he promises, as the doctors promised him, and I nod and try to remember if weíve had this conversation before.

ďThis is your neurologist,Ē he says. ďDonít you remember? They kept testing your facilities.Ē Then I make a joke about facilities and he lets it go until he has to remind me I already paid the car payment, paid it three times. You canít be too careful, I tell him, and we spend the extra money going out to lunch, which is the biggest thing in my world right now, our once a week trip to the Texicana down the street, where we eat salty chips and queso and he watches me for signs itís going to start again.

The night before, I remember the aspirin in my palm, throwing it back into my throat taking a big drink of water. I was too doped up to think I should be going to the hospital. When I woke up, thatís where I was, so I guess it all works out.

My husband tells me about finding me bent over the bucket, nodding my head back and forth. He says he should have known. He says he asked me my name, and I nodded, and he asked me if he should call the squad, and I nodded. Then he asked if I wanted to go to the bathroom first, and I nodded, so he took me by the arm and led me to the toilet, where I did my business and went limp for a moment, cold as a clam, he said, and then dead-dog stiff, my arms and legs straight out, my mouth frothing. He lifted me off. He said he hadnít realized how heavy I was. He cleaned me up, and then the paramedics were there.

Right now I am alone, as alone as theyíll let me be. Iím alone because my husband thinks my mother is here and my mother thinks Iím in bed. She wasnít here when it happened, doesnít realize the hemorrhage started while I was asleep, that the blood pooled in my occipital lobe while I was still between the sheets. She doesnít know that the right occipital lobe is still completely occluded. Occluded. She doesnít know what that means. Neither does my husband but he writes it in the little notebook. He writes everything in that notebook, everything I used to remember for him. He used to be a cop. Everyone asked if thatís why he carries the notebook, an old cop habit. He keeps the names of my doctors in there. I have nine doctors. He writes down appointments. Cop or not, he could never remember anything. Weíre both surprised when I remember something, when I tell him the MRI machine was portable, that it was outside the building. He stayed in the waiting room: he doesnít know if Iím right.

The dog thumps his tail. I donít pretend to know if heís dreaming or what heís dreaming. Anthropomorphization, who needs it? Maybe he is enveloped by Being and is thumping his tail the way we twitch in our sleep, the way we bunch the covers and roll about just enough, because itís a fine line between Being and Nothing. I learned that as an undergrad, reading Kierkegaard and Heidegger and Nietzsche and Sartre. I use the dogís body as a footrest, pushing against him just slightly, enough to rock the chair back and forth.


Return to Archive