As I lay sprawled on the floor of the subway car, my rapidly bruising knees straddling one suitcase as I desperately grabbed for another, I looked up and saw the faces of my fellow passengers. Startled. Pitying. Unfazed. No one reached to help, of course. This is New York City and as an adult I was expected to be able to ride a subway without falling down, for chrissakes. Even the drunk and staggering homeless guy who had recently struck up his pitch for donations in the middle of the car was still upright.
"Ah." I thought. "It's come to this."
It was the perfect euphemism for my life last week. Try as I might to hold it together, to act like a grownup, to care for my children and get on with things, I find myself, still, with the wind knocked out of me on occasion.
Evie, of course, was the hardest hit. Taken to a new foster home, all while I received a heart-wrenching series of emails telling me alternately that they were "sooo sorry" to do it and then putting more responsibilities for communicating her needs to her future caregivers on my shoulders. And then, in the very next missive, informing me that I shouldn't be upset. Shouldn't care so much. That I was all wrong in my approach to fostering. That I should be wrapping her in my blessings instead of wrapping my arms around myself and rocking silently on the sofa.
And then I found myself in the after hours clinic, with my pants around my ankles getting injections in my, well, let's say hip, because the hours of sobbing and rocking on top of the lingering cough from last week's cold had led to a migraine of soul-crushing proportions, just when I thought my soul had taken all it could bear.
The next morning dawned with just a shadow of the migraine, and a few hours to pack for a two month sojourn to the mainland. I had timed it this way on purpose, thinking that after Evie was taken I would busy myself with packing and readying the house. I had not anticipated the emails and the heartwrenching and the consequences of such. So I worked in a flurry of bed sheets and laundry and scrub brushes and toothbrushes and counting pairs of underwear and socks, trying to fit everything in - into the time and space I had available, neither of which seemed sufficient.
And through all of it was Sam and the kids. Sam took us to the airport early, bidding us an enthusiastic farewell as we shuffled into the agriculture inspection line, waving weakly as he drove away. The kids stayed by my side, as we made out way through, ag and security, the Starbucks line and the Pinkberry line, the line to get on the plane and off, and back on. The ten hour flight from Honolulu to JFK was uneventful. I sniffled and coughed and drank codeine laced cough syrup straight from the bottle and patted Lucy clumsily on the head while Max fetched me endless cups of tea and our seatmate watched nervously.
In New York, we climbed into a cab fresh off the red-eye, with little sleep and even less energy. My brother met us on the sidewalk, also sleepless and bleary. We ate, and then we lay down, all three of us sprawled across the futon in the deep sleep of the terribly sleep deprived. I can tell you with certainty that I slept with the hope that I would awake feeling refreshed and less in need of my cough syrup, because if I kept drinking that shit I was going to give people the wrong impression.
And now here I was two days later, lying on the floor of a subway car with my skirt around my hips and my children looking on in horror. So much for fresh starts and good impressions.
But really. It was fine. I climbed up, brushed myself off, and carried on.
It's what I do best, after all.
And when we got off the train in Connecticut, and began to settle in, I thought that maybe, just maybe, everything would settle down. My health, my emotional state, my sleeping habits.
Which is why it was so startling to find myself on the side of the road at 11pm, an empty solo cup in my cup holder, and a half empty solo cup in my hand, explaining to the police office that I had not been drinking anything - not even cough syrup - as I squinted in the flashing red and blue lights that were blinding me in the rear view mirror.
I pleaded my case, explained that I was sober - had been for 6 months now - and the cups held nothing but club soda. I clarified that I was shaking because I was freezing cold and scared shitless, that I had not been pulled over in at least 20 years. That I had paid that parking ticket I got last summer.
Crowds of people who had also been at the gala walked by. Tux jackets flung over shoulders, high heels in hand, they padded by barefoot - quieting as they neared us, watching me sympathetically in the glow of their neon necklaces.
"Ah," I thought to myself. "It's come to this."
14 minutes ago