At the doctor's office, every couple of years, I recount my medical history and wonder why I have to go back through all those gone years, all the things I checked off and explained the last time around. I don't worry about internal coherence; I feel certain that I lay out a slightly different list each time around. This year, the form seems to ask for data differently, but even that thought might be my memory's playing tricks on me: it's been that long since I had the doctor look me over, check me for wear and tear. Mark conditions you have had, the form requests. Mark with a C if they are current. Otherwise, mark with a checkmark and list the age(s) at which you experienced these conditions.
Somehow, these instructions go missing as I skim over column after column of symptoms and illnesses, all mixed up with no sense of order; things that are ongoing do not get marked with C, all conditions getting checked one by one. Somehow, this time, it's "thoughts of death" that slows me down, slows me down a lot. At what ages did those thoughts crawl in between my ears and prod me in my hectic silence? Is there a danger in admitting them now? Will I see a pattern when I put down the numbers? Will the doctor see a pattern I cannot see? It is too much to figure out in this windowless room, too much to figure out while I perch on the edge of an exam table wearing just a disposable gown and sheet. I think back through the years, do the math, come up with the ages. 18. 25. 27. No pattern. No recent recurrence. And now: only gratitude, in so many directions. When he reads my form, the doctor remarks nothing: no doubt those same numbers are on the last blue form I filled out, and no doubt we talked about them the last time I produced my medical history through checked boxes. But oh, the unexpected review, the glance back for which I did not prepare. The form's six words cover nothing of the feeling, make it sound even to myself as if I had actively plotted, when I did nothing of the kind on any occasion. There's been no time to write in extra qualifiers, to protest "passive ideation only." There's no need, in any case. He sees me sitting in front of him, very much not fallen out a window or off a bridge, very much vital and alive. This is what matters. No question, end of story.
I can't remember a time when a vaccination left me hurting. But in the evening, my right shoulder starts to feel as though I've been lifting weights too vigorously, when in fact I've been lifting no weight at all. Whaa... ah, the tetanus vaccine. A fascination: one fluid into one arm, another fluid out of another arm, scrapings and probings and listenings. My body checked and tuned up for another few years.
In my dream, a strange woman is wounded, and my friend and I find her beside a road. She mumbles to my friend, "I don't mean to take you away from your wife." He lifts her to her feet, then drapes her over his left shoulder. When he takes my left hand in his right, I realize that she has meant me. I am his wife. Only, even in the dream this is a mistake. I am not his wife; he has no wife, in or out of this dream. Still he presses me to his right side and we walk down a road together. Even in the dream our palms sweat, our sides warm and dampen. Soon the strange woman is gone, deposited somewhere she needs to be, and we are in an art museum. Still he is holding my hand and I am holding his, and I do not know which of us most thinks that we should not be doing this, that it should probably stop, that neither of us will be the first to move away. Still we cling, though more and more lightly as time shortens. Still our palms are sweating.
In my next dream, I am meant to be teaching students about free indirect discourse. I am meant to have left them notes, handouts, appropriate passages. I have instead skimmed non-representative sections of books I read in college and graduate school. I have looked only for marginalia reading "FID." I have found passages that will only confuse them. I have skipped town anyway, leaving them with only an inappropriate and vague introduction to a crucial narratological concept, one that opens doors to understanding a slew of major novels. Free indirect discourse haunts me. I begin again and again to explain it to my traveling companion. I am continually interrupted, interrupting myself, losing my way. I need textual passages in order to explain FID fully. But I have carried no books on this journey.
I found the dragon with his head in a gutter pipe yesterday evening, and for the second time in the day I got down on a lawn to take a picture. Later, while I devoured yet more Battlestar Galactica in an almost embarrassing way, the rain started, and I could hear it because the weather is warm enough (at last) to leave the house's doors open. It came first as a slapping, almost an unplaceable sound, until it picked up and became a storm. This morning I wonder whether the dragon will have flushed out onto the lawn, knocked back end over end, or whether he will simply have gotten a good night's cleaning.