Catalogue


This is where we came in /
essays by Lynne Sharon Schwartz.
imprint
Berkeley, CA : Counterpoint Press, [2014]
description
226 p.
ISBN
161902246X, 9781619022461
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Berkeley, CA : Counterpoint Press, [2014]
isbn
161902246X
9781619022461
contents note
His is where we came in -- "I wish I could say the same" -- Intimacy. anger -- Yes, New York, there are baby pigeons -- Wheelchair yoga -- Letters from Robben Island -- The piano -- Absence makes the heart -- Meditations in time of war -- Ultimate peek-a-boo -- Alone with the cat -- Street food -- Reality tour -- Words and images -- Stone reader -- The shattered house -- The other Henry James -- Carlos Saura's Cria! -- Thriving on hardship -- Heinrich Mann's Man of straw -- Listening to Anthony Powell.
catalogue key
9260366
A Look Inside
First Chapter
You Gotta Have Heart

Cigarettes

A pack of Vantage containing two cigarettes was in my coat pocket when I arrived at the hospital. It was a bitter morning in late December. The angiogram was scheduled for eleven o’clock, at least I had been told to be there at eleven o’clock, but it didn’t take place until three in the afternoon. I made a scene over this at hourly intervals, first arguing with the receptionist in the waiting room, then insisting on being admitted past the swinging double doors behind which others before me had disappeared, to confront whoever was in charge back there. Just because they were the authorities, the medical bureaucracy, I wasn’t going to be a meek cipher in their hands. I would begin this journey in the right spirit.

But no matter how vehemently I railed against the injustice and lack of consideration, the angiogram didn’t take place until three o’clock.

The surgeon had advised that I stay at the hospital after the angiogram, since the heart surgery would begin around six the next morning: why go home merely to get up in the middle of the night and return? This seemed sensible and I agreed. My plan was that once the angiogram was over—I understood you had to lie still for an hour or so afterwards—assuming I survived, I would go out with my husband for a cup of coffee and smoke what would be my last cigarettes for quite a while. Maybe forever. Again, assuming I survived. Whenever doctors or nurses lean over my body preparing to insert something in a place not designed to be penetrated, I feel endangered. During the angiogram they would be mak-ing a hole in my groin and threading a tube straight up to my heart; it sounded like an unwieldy as well as unnatural procedure, but many before me had sur-vived it and most likely I would too.

While it was in progress, though, I had my doubts. I wasn’t completely unconscious; I had enough awareness to hear the older doctor telling the young-er one—a very young doctor, his bare face sticking out of the plastic shower cap was cherubic--what to do, how to guide the tube inside me and so on. I said, “Why so much instruction? Are you actually teaching him how to do this on me?” The older doctor laughed, ha ha. “No, of course he knows how to do it.”

I didn’t want to distract them from the lesson, and so I desisted. Also, I really wasn’t up for a dialogue; I was too entranced by the drug. I’m not sure what they gave me—if I were I’d try to get a prescription—but it was something that leaves you half awake and aware, and yet everything happening to your body, as well as the people working on it, seems at a great remove. So close and yet so far. Something unnatural is happening to you, but it’s painless and anyway, “you” are not the same singular entity as before: there’s the body that belongs to you (who else?) and then there’s your dimmed consciousness, look-ing on from afar. A great drug, but it wears off quickly.

Instead of carrying out my plan of the cup of coffee and cigarette after-wards, I found myself being led into an elevator by an orderly, deposited on a floor and assigned a room, a rather nice private room: a luxury floor. The room had the usual hospital paraphernalia and TV protruding from the wall like a hunter’s stuffed moose head, but it also had the mildly pleasant, expectant, scentless air of a hotel room, and that was how I intended to treat it. I began get-ting out of the grotesque hospital gown—white with little blue circles, not dots but donut-like circles, little O’s. Later I found that this garment, whose only accom-modations to the shape of the human body were enormous sleeves and a string to be tied at the neck, also came in sky-blue with no circles.

I can’t help wondering if there is some reason—economy, perhaps, or mere thoughtlessness?—why these hospital gowns have to be quite so humiliat-ingly ugly. I know they have to be open so that the body within is fully accessible to the professionals who will handle it, but must it be ugly besides? Adding insult to injury, so to speak? Would it cost so much more to use the services of a de-signer, maybe not someone first-rate like Donna Karan or Ralph Lauren, that would be an extravagance, but some young person just starting out who’d be grateful for the work? It would be only a one-time thing.

I was reaching for my street clothes when a nurse came into the room. “What are you doing?” she asked, gazing at me and my husband, who sat in one of the pink plastic chairs.

“Getting dressed,” I said.

“You’re supposed to leave the gown on,” she said.

“My surgery isn’t until tomorrow morning and it’s not even six yet. We’re going out to get a cup of coffee.” Despite my pose of bravado, I knew enough not to mention the cigarettes.

She was no Sue Barton but a stern-looking nurse of the old school: stocky, short hair in a mannish cut, sharp voice, no nonsense. “You’re not going anywhere. This is your room. You’ll stay here until they call for you.”

“I beg your pardon,” I said. “The surgery isn’t until tomorrow, as I said. The angiogram is over. There’s nothing you need me for. I’m going out. I prom-ise I’ll return for dinner,” I said with a little chuckle, to lighten the situation. I didn’t want to make this a fight over my civil rights, or rather I did—but without being pompous, as such fights are liable to be. I tied my sneakers as I spoke.

“You don’t understand,” she said, a bit more gently, as if indeed the rules hadn’t been explained to me properly. “You are a patient.”
Summaries
Main Description
Award-winning novelist, poet and essayist, Lynne Sharon Schwartz returns with what is perhaps her most personal book yet. These memoirs, gathered under the title of "Intimacies," are exactly that. Intimate recollections of her life, beginning with her serious heart-valve surgery and ranging back in time, to going to movies as a child, her relationship with her complicated and challenging parents, her own difficulties with intimacy and anger, thoughts about long friendships, and the pure delight of grandchildren. It will surprise none of her readers that after a lifetime of playing the piano and moving one from place to place for her entire adulthood, she finds a different, richer sort of fulfillment as a middle-aged woman taking drum lessons in Manhattan. Every piece in this wonderful collection is an adventure. In this her twentieth book, Schwartz remains, as was said by Frederick Busch, "precise and unflinching." She is a writer of captivating honesty, about herself, those around her, and the world at large. These recollections are certain to move and disturb as well as enlighten and entertain. This book affirms that Lynne Sharon Schwartz is one of the finest writers of her generation.

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