Masses of Vitamin C wrappers went into the trash before I realized that each bears a pep talk.
I suppose my ignorance stems from the fact that I normally buy the CVS brand. I had no idea that the Halls people cared so much. I smoothed open a handful of the tiny papers while we circled SFO waiting for clearance to slip through the fog. We spent a half hour on the tarmac before the control tower directed us to a gate so I kept reading, enthralled by the myriad ways that a smart marketing department had found to encourage me to persevere.
When we finally disembarked, I shoved the package in a wide pocket of my Joseph’s Coat with the Well-Read Books copy of What Maisie Knew. I had made it 3/4 of the way through my fourth or fifth reading of Henry James’ depressingly accurate account of a little girl becoming the pawn in her parents’ post-divorce torture of each other.
I first read the book in eighth grade at my mother’s behest. She required her children to read something more than comic books every summer and I had chosen that from the stack of approved novels. The following fall, when it developed that I had read all the books on the Freshman booklist and was exhorted to branch out for the weekly book reports, I penned a review of Maisie. The teacher called my mother into the office, disturbed that a thirteen-year-old girl would choose such heavy stuff. My mother rolled her eyes and rejoined, You should be punishing her for writing a paper on a book she read last year rather than reading something new. They turned reproachful eyes in my direction. I dutifully hung my head.
I consider the book to be training ground for divorce lawyers in contemporary America. Beale and Ida and their crafty second spouses manipulate the child but in the end, her jaded little heart knows everything.
A wiry wheelchair attendant named Abduhl had gotten me to my connecting flight in Denver with moments to spare. An equally agile young man with no name tag toted me, my carry-on, and my two very full suitcases out to the hotel shuttle stop. At the Best Western, the same young man who had been so kind on my arrival greeted me at the door. A few minutes later, he pulled my RAV4 to the entry way, and I started the journey to the California Delta. My car’s GPS got me lost but I made it, eventually, pulling into my space in front of Angel’s Haven at eight p.m. I shut off the motor and sent my son a text. Then I sat in silence broken only by my perennial symphony of tinnitus.
An hour later, I crawled under the covers and fell into a dreamless sleep which lasted for eight unbroken hours. There’s no place like home.
It’s the twenty-fifth day of the forty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.