Invalid Afternoons

1. Precocious in her dotage, she teeters like a top unravelling, now spinning, now faltering, now lunging across living room carpets, over William Morris tendrils and Bokara medallions, past the leather sofa and beyond, arriving at the south window. She stoops over the hope chest with her watering can, drenching the amaryllis, dotting orchids and jade with ice, then pruning the cactus blossoms. One by one, she pulls off their delicate, erotic red heads, leaving the sheath for the next flower to occupy, and the next. She is not dying, she reminds herself, though today she feels a sort of emotional anemia come over her, a thinning inside, a rising-up of white corpuscles over red. There is shame, she thinks, in yielding to this voluptuous ennui, shame in failing to school the mind past boredom, past the exquisite temptation of absolute emptiness. Didn’t her mother tell her a commonplace— that she had no inner resources? To be complacently bored, she preached, is to be an ill-bred donkey:  Solo los burros se aburren, the refrain of her childhood. Her mother’s go-to line. She plays it now, over and over, and almost laughs to think somehow it has to do with her after a lifetime of ardor and infatuation. 2. In her nostalgia she thinks of snow and snow days, of lazy afternoons with children demanding snow men and snow balls and snow angels and excursions to the park along the majestic snow-laden Avenue of Pines, the ancient trees hanging over the picture-perfect American families, the snow-packed branches now protecting, now threatening. Now gone. Today the March winds cut through a snowless city, a barren light over it all, exposing late-winter detritus, impending decline, the house silent, as she detects in her lungs a breeze, imagines a multitude of voyages, remembers landscapes, a lake—near frozen—a boat, a shoreline, the sound of waves breaking inside her chest, an impediment, a voice— something from deep inside the rim,

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