Leaving was particularly difficult, totally by surprise. The best caregiver of the tribe arrived, scrubbed. I wore 50 minutes of stage 4 sleep on the front of my shirt, the stain of a precipitous slumber after staying up all night staring at the fischer price intercom as it faithfully redlighted every cough on the inside and every auto on the outside.

The caregiver looked at me, caregivingly, and asked directly: how are you? I listed all the super-readiness of meals, laundry, utensils, detritus, stopping midway to hear her question for the first time during my shipshape litany.

Oh I’m terrible, thanks, but I believe you’ll finally have enough spoons for one day.

Spoons are important. Running out can be a real drag. She had made her point, though, and I took my coffee in and sat on the bed to have it with Ma.

She demonstrated emotional lability, which invariably includes some dead-on unfiltered true thing about The World In Which We Live, so I listen, quite on the edge of my seat. This is kind of like, at least I like to think, climbing out on the bow of the boat in case something beautiful is contained in the tempestuous spray you are bound to find there.

Her sadness is profound. It stems from gratitude. She cannot be consoled.

I think your hand is connected to your heart, I say, smoothing out the withering limb, it curls when you do.

Slipped into the traffic standing still outside her house and edged toward the critical intersection of the great migration downtown. I was leaving town entirely and just didn’t belong. With no makeup, cellphone, laptop or child to tend, I saw the sign far in advance of my five lane pod brethren:

A man walking around the conflux of 24 lanes of traffic at rush hour. A painter, spattered down to his shoes. His sign was about three by four feet, coming out of the will-work-for tradition of calligraphy:

Bob Cook Wrote Me A Bad Check.

I felt satisfied I had encountered the truth as I had hoped I would. Armed with the right knowledge at long last, I brought the radio to life, lifted the coffee and took the healthy gulp, checked the side mirror, and took off for home.

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