The Exciting Day

1. The Phancy Phlebotomist

I had a blood test today on Ye Olde Cancer Floor at Fancy Hospital. The phlebotomists have always been nice and personal and usually talkative. There was one who'd had surgery for a repetitive motion disorder like carpal tunnel from gripping the test tubes. She said when she saw the hand surgeon in the hallway, her hand started hurting. There was another who always noticed my earrings when I went in for chemo. We were getting started today when another phlebotomist came by eating a shortbread cookie. The two of them talked about how tempting they were, and then my phlebotomist said she didn't mean to eat cookies and such but as soon as she sees them, she eats them. We commiserated about all the tempting foods out and about at this time of year and she told me she had to stop eating so much because she didn't want her New Year's Eve dress to be so tight on her that she looked like a whore, pardon my French. She told me she'd bought a dress on sale Marshall Field's in October or November five years ago, for $85, and it had sequins and ruffles on top and two tiers of material below her knees. It was going to be her New Year's Eve dress. But when the time came to put it on, it was too tight: Girl, she said, it looked like I had four titties and six booties.

So she didn't wear the dress that night. She's never worn it. It's still in the closet with the tags on. But she plans to. One day.

2. Whole Foods

The lady ahead of me in line told the cashier to put the food from the hot bar in a bag, and to give her the cookie. The cookie, she said, was for herself. The hot food was turkey tetrazini that she was going to give to a homeless man. He'd asked for spaghetti and meatballs and this was the closest she could find.

We say homeless and what does it mean? My undergraduates at Downtown University would use the word bum in their writing and I told them not to and I couldn't convince them I was right. They thought it was descriptive, not pejorative. I told them to describe the person instead. That way, the reader would have an image in her head. They could write homeless, but how could they know that was accurate unless they asked the person if s/he lived in a shelter? I suppose you can assume correctly that a person who is selling the StreetWise newspaper is homeless, or had to be when s/he first started hawking it. The point of selling it is to not be homeless forever, to use the selling job to get on your feet. Though at 75 cents take-home per sale, it might be a very long climb to self-sufficiency. Still, I say it: There was a homeless man...
I talked to a guy I know a couple of days ago in the Little Cafe Down the Street. I knew him from Cafe Avanti on Southport. He used to come in when he was tired or cold from selling the paper in front of the Jewel and do arcane astrology figuring. He sells StreetWise now in Evanston. He goes to the same church now as the owner of Avanti. When he saw me he told me Happy Hanukah. He said someone had stolen his books and he was trying hard to forgive them. We talked about Kabbalah and the colors of chakras. Is he still homeless? I don't know. I don't know where he lives. It sounded like his stuff had been stolen in a shelter, but he didn't come out and say that. Maybe he lives in an SRO. I didn't ask.

3. Yoga Party

Tonight my new yoga class had a party in an apartment two blocks from here. I'd been going to yoga three times a week at S Park (indoors), but when our beloved teacher J retired in August, the classes ended. Allegedly the park staff is still looking for her successor. How long does it take to find a yoga teacher in a big city? Apparently more than four months, if the people conducting the search work in the laziest, most patronage-heavy sector of local government. So I've been going on Wednesday nights to yoga at G Park, which is even a little closer to my house. The flyers about the party were handed out last week, our last class of 2007. I'd been skeptical about the party--I'd rather do yoga than have a party, but that wasn't the choice. I made a side dish, as assigned, and went. We told meeting-your-spouse/fiance stories. The yoga teacher works as a physical therapist who visits her clients at home. She was helping a man with cancer whose caretaker was a young Polish man who didn't know much English. The Pole was captivated by our teacher, by the way she was so focused on the patient she was working with, and so caring. And also that she was so beautiful. He suggested they get together. The premise was that he would teach her Polish, so she could speak to her Polish clients, and she would teach him English. The second time they went out he proposed they move in together. She assumed that he'd meant to say something else. But he hadn't. She said no. After a month he took her to her favorite restaurant and he gave her flowers and a small box. She opened the box and saw a diamond ring. She put it behind her back. She didn't want to see it. She told him it was too soon. He took her home. He kneeled and proposed to her in Polish, because he couldn't say what he wanted to in English. She said no and kept the ring for about a year. And then they decided it was time. That was this fall. They flew to Poland to see his family. She's from Taiwan. They'll visit her family next.

Story 2: When D was in high school, his family hosted a student from South America through the American Field Service. They stayed good friends. When D was divorced, he called his friend, now a doctor in his home country. His friend invited him to visit for three weeks. He did. He met the best friend of the friend's teenage daughter. That girl went home and told her mother (newly divorced) that she should meet this nice, handsome man from the United States. She did. She offered to show him around town. She gave him her card. The next morning she called his hotel room and said, Why haven't you called me yet? And she showed him around. They married about a year later and she moved here. At the party tonight, D passed around the business card she had given him when they met, eight years ago. He laminated it to preserve it. D is in the jewelry business and told our teacher he had never heard before of a woman keeping an engagement ring for a year without officially accepting it.

This yoga group is very tight. They went to Ravinia together last year. They met at a restaurant once. A few weeks ago we had people over here for Hanukah and M was saying that she thinks it's nice to have people you do an activity with but don't become friends with. She said, for example, she's glad just to see her yoga practitioners only at yoga. I had agreed at the time. At least I thought I'd agreed. Maybe I hadn't. In my old yoga class, there seemed to have been a group of Insiders who would hug J and ask about her daughter. These same people would talk before and after class with one another in a friendly, intimate manner. I wondered if they were friends before yoga. I think they were. After a few years J learned my name, and when I found out about my cancer and told her, I became one of the Insiders. At least I became Special. She sent me a get well card. My friend R (who I knew from Cafe Avanti) joined the class a couple of years after I did. I know he became friendly with a couple who came on Fridays, and he'd been to their house. I know this sounds like high school or grade school. But for a long while I was stymied by the already-set friendships in the class. It was like there was a clique I could never join.

There was one tall slim blonde in the Advanced class who one of my fellow Beginner classmates used to refer to the yoga goddess. The goddess worked as a chiropractor. And then she got cancer and it went to her brain and she died.