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,

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