979. Mother’s Little Helper

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The week following her treatments was pretty miserable. There’s no other way to put it. I can give you the medical terms like “digestive difficulties” but those words don’t really convey what it was like. (Maybe if you read the whole list of digestive difficulties you’ll start to get an idea.)

A hotel was a terrible place to be with stomach and intestine problems and it was worse because when you have nothing to fill your day with but what meal you’re going to have, and then you can’t eat, well… you can see why I chose the word miserable.

Claire was much more miserable than I was, of course, but it was not easy for any of us. She refused to come out of her room and refused to let Ziggy in because she didn’t want anyone to see her in “that state.” She only let me in because she was lonely and she needed help. Among other things I needed to negotiate with the maid for more toilet paper, and that was the easiest and neatest of the tasks.

“That state” meant with her scant hair wrapped in a scarf. She wasn’t up to putting on a wig or, as she called it, “her face,” not with the amount of puking she was doing. At one point I ended up holding the ends of the scarf while she did.

“Oh my goodness, how undignified,” she said when it had abated for a while, as she sat on the bathmat, leaning against the tub, exhausted.

I was sitting in the doorway on the floor. “Been there, done that,” I told her. “Though not for the same reason.”

“Oh, do tell.”

“Just from drinking too much from emotional distress,” I said. “My hair’s long enough to get in it unless Colin would hold it back out of the way. Which he did.”

“Does this happen often?”

“Um, I think only once. Possibly twice.” There was that one night I didn’t remember, after the riot at the punk show. It was possible he’d done it for me that night, too. “I mostly try not to get to that point.”

“That’s wise. Tell me about Colin?”

She wanted to be distracted from the fact she was sitting on the floor of a motel bathroom, miserable. I gave it my best shot. “He’s six feet tall and when his mohawk is up he’s even taller.” I held my hand over my head to demonstrate. “A total hunk of a man. We met because we’re roommates. I moved into this big house with a bunch of other musicians and artists a few years ago, including the drummer from the band that Ziggy and I were in at the time. After we made it big, he and I bought the house from our landlord and fixed it up a bit but we kept a couple of roommates, Colin included.” I couldn’t remember then if Kevin or Lars had moved out before or after we bought the place. “So Colin still lives there now.”

“Do you still live there?”

“Technically yes? I mean, my stuff is there, but for most of the past year I’ve either been on the road or at Ziggy’s. And actually Ziggy and I rented a place in Boston together…” I realized I was getting off track. “But about Colin. So he came on tour with us as a roadie a while back and he’s great to have on the road. And we eventually got to know each other well enough that, well, he’ll hold my hair while I puke.”

“Does that mean you slept with him? Is that what that means?”

Man, she was blunt when she was ill. “Yeah, basically. Colin approaches sex like an indoor sport.”

“So he’s equal opportunity.”

“Yeah. And he tries not to get attached. But he ends up kind of attached anyway? I guess? Like, he’s got an ex-girlfriend who he doesn’t even see anymore, but sometimes he watches her kids.”

“How interesting.”

“Then there’s another ex of his that he still sleeps with sometimes.”

“A boy or a girl?”

“An older woman. I sometimes feel like he takes care of me because he’s trying to pass on all the caretaking that she’s given him. Like, to be worthy of it or something.”


“Yeah, Colin’s interesting.” I missed him suddenly. Thinking about him made me think about Flip, who I missed in an entirely different way. Hm. “Hey, did they give you anything for the nausea?”

“They did, and I already took it,” she said with a resentful growl.

“And for the pain?”

“It’s all in the bag out there.” She waved her hand toward the bedroom. “I really don’t know what half of it is supposed to do.”

I was familiar with this kind of helplessness on her part. She often used this ploy when I was growing up to get other people to do things for her. It wasn’t that she wasn’t capable of understanding. She just didn’t want to deal with it. I really couldn’t figure out what advantage there would be in having someone else know what was up with her medicines, but I also figured she really wasn’t about to change a habit this ingrained. Plus medicinal stuff is complicated… Maybe she really didn’t understand it all.

If so, what were the chances I could figure it out? Medicine not being my favorite thing, of course. But I could at least try. “Okay if I look through it?”

“Go on.” She made herself comfortable (not really) on the floor there by putting another towel under her arm where she was leaning on the tub and I went and searched through her purse for her prescriptions. There were several bottles and I wrote out the names of the drugs on a piece of paper. I didn’t even recognize some of the names, but maybe they were the generic names for things I might know. The bottles only had dosages and warnings on them: any material that explained what was for what, exactly, was either lost of non-existent. Fine. I’d go to a trusted source.

I called Flip.


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