Midnight. Lying on my back, I blindly stare at the dark ceiling. Thunder rolls like sheet metal somewhere in the distance, sounding like something big and cumbersome headed my way, warning me of its imminent arrival in the pitch-black night. It's only a question of when.
I can't sleep so I wait for the rain. My head runs wild. My memory has begun to slough information and facts that I once readily recalled with ease.
I should know if a fraction or a decimal goes in the blank following seven and three hundred seventeen thousandths on my son's homework. Is this the start of dementia? How many other things have I forgotten?
I picture myself at the mall trying to count money. A man collapses nearby. The crowd looks at me expectantly. Then I'm there all alone, just me and the lifeless man. I methodically review the steps for CPR. I'm not sure if I remember them, but no one else is awake for me to ask.
One last glance at the dying man and I look away. Turning on one side and then on the other and then onto my stomach and then to my back again, I worry that my flip-flopping will wake my husband, and I kind of hope it does so that he can wait for rain with me.
But he snores, which makes me think of the check engine light on my dashboard. The men at the repair place told my husband to tell me that I'm not closing my gas cap tight enough. I hadn't noticed my hands weakening, but gas cap tightening is a clear measure of strength.
An undiagnosed degenerative muscle disease might explain why my check engine light keeps getting my attention.
They turned it off for me, but its on again, glowing a yellow warning. Something much deeper than a loose gas cap is at work on my engine. Cancer, maybe. I shudder that I even thought the word. Acknowledging it invites it to materialize, like on one of those ghost detective shows when the people call to the spirits to show themselves.
I shiver. But not wanting to think about it makes me think about it more, ruminating on all the different varieties that could stealthily show up and tap me on the shoulder when I'm not ready. As if anyone is ever ready for those danged telemarketers. Did I put my cell number on the no-call list? Anxiously I think back to the e-mail my father-in-law sent and whether or not I clicked on the link in it. If my father-in-law finds out I didn't he'll think I rudely ignored his attempt to aid in keeping peace in my life.
I can't ask him to send the link again, because maybe it was laziness that kept me from clicking the link. I worry that laziness might be worse than rudeness and cancer. Laziness might be why I didn't take the drycleaning today, or order more checks, or fold the laundry, or make that doctor appointment, or ...
3 a.m. -- The thunder still rumbles in the distance, maintaining its crouch. I convince myself that despite the threat of rain, both physical and metaphorical, it isn't coming tonight. Worn out from senseless waiting, I fall asleep.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.)