My Life on a Couch, #4
by Em Bowen
It’s been two months now that I’ve been sleeping in a real bed, though I’m still occupying borrowed space. My friend deployed and I’m staying in her high-ceiling-ed studio with all her stuff. Her bed. Her dishes. “You can stay there but problem is I have furniture,” she tells me. No problem here. All my things live in paper bags.
Still, I’m on a metaphorical couch in all the ways. My grandmother suffered a stroke 4 months ago. The morning before I was going to do stand-up comedy for the first time, they found her on her kitchen floor. I’m driving her car now because she lives in her bed, except it’s not her bed either. She’s living in assisted living here in Tucson. She probably won’t go home again. Hard to imagine life could have so many lives within it. She thought she’d need help someday she told me out of the corner of her half-paralyzed face, “but not this soon, it pisses me off.”
All the days watching her starving these past months. You don’t get real food when you can’t swallow. Just mush. Chicken mush. Broccoli mush. I want to eat everything and I do, especially on days where I witness her hunger. I’m eating for both of us, remembering all the moments I starved my girl body. And for what? I will never do it again.
I’m spun up on uncertainty and remembering moments I can’t take back. I can still see the drop of my last love’s face as I turned away on the busy night avenue. A turned back and a path away from something you walked with for years is kind of like death. I wonder if I’m awake enough for these times. I go to my grandmother every week and I lay my head on her body. I touch her skin and I give back all the massages I tricked her into giving me when I was young(er). My hands have grown so strong I have to be careful not to bruise her.
She is in a bed that is not her own. These things happen all the time—faculties lost from people who could never lose them, who would never lose them. They lose them anyway. People who spend years of their life not needing a damn thing from anyone, one day need everything from everyone.
People we love leave us and we let them or we look away. I’m looking straight at her, my grandmother, and every week I’m scared to go back but I do. I lay my head on her body. She tells me I’m sweet. All my life ’till now I don’t think she knew me.