Three years ago …
After spending a scary, sleepless night in a tiny cottage by the ocean in Westport, I drove slowly down the coast, trying to reach my father in northern California.
Pumped up on synthetic adrenaline (prescribed by a could-barely-breathe-herself doctor who diagnosed me with toxic-mold-induced asthma), full-body hot flashes surged through me on an hourly basis. Sweating, crying, praying, driving, I continued south as best I could.
The Interstate was not an option — way too much traffic and speed. I ended up on winding coastal roads, late at night. Cold. Still wearing the cotton pants and cambric shirt a neighbor had given me, and hot pink Crocs, no socks. Every time I stopped to check out a hotel or motel, the industrial cleaners they used in the rooms nauseated me. My senses — all of them — were in overdrive.
Exhausted and terrified in Florence, Oregon, I called 911, “I think I’m having a heart attack.” The EMT’s arrived quickly. One kind-faced man held my hand while others attached monitors to various parts of my body. Another advised me to stop taking the Albuterol. I had already done so, but it would take awhile for it to work its way out of my system. Their machines said that my heart was fine, just battered. Yeah.
After my breathing and pulse returned to a more normal rhythm, the patiently efficient EMT’s bid me goodbye. I started the car, turned it around, and headed into town. It was morning.
A huge Fred Meyer sign rose up on the right. A familiar sight! I had a Fred Meyer card! A chain store throughout the Pacific Northwest, I shopped there regularly for food and sundries. I turned into the parking lot.
Once inside, I headed for the clothing department. I needed warm shoes, and clothes that fit my swollen body. Long-time Queen of the FreeStore, for the first time in years I bought brand-new clothes: a pink and black sports cami, a hot pink cotton t-shirt, a long black stretchy skirt, grey fake sheepskin boots, rainbow colored socks, a lime green knee-length raincoat. I tried everything on in a stinky fitting room, and threw away the clothes I came in with.
“Lip balm?” I asked the compassionately helpful saleslady. She led me to another area, health and beauty, and found a tinted balm in a pretty pinky-brown shade.
“This will look good on you,” she said. I put it in the shopping basket.
On the way to the check-out stand, a flash of turquoise caught my eye: a small sequined purse, with a heart-shaped clasp. Perfect for the credit cards I’d been carrying in a brown paper bag. (Unsure what was moldy and what was not, I left everything behind except my computer. I was hoping to keep my job.)
The turquoise said, “You are still an ARTIST.”
The sequins said, “You are NOT DEAD.”
The heart said, “You are LOVABLE.”
I slung it over my shoulder. Let the healing begin.