Sugar Time: Grown-up Chick Lit
By Jane Adams.
I was watching a Seinfeld re-run and picking at some leftover kung pao chicken when an octopus curled its tentacles around my midsection and squeezed. I should have thrown this food out two days ago, I thought, and then the octopus squeezed again and took my breath away. Beads of sweat popped out on my forehead and my skin went all damp and clammy. Great. A hot flash and heartburn at the same time. Welcome to modern maturity. That’s the time between your first copy of the AARP Magazine and your first social security check, when you start getting used to theidea that you’re not only middle aged any longer, you’re old. Unless you expect to live forever, of course—which, up to then, you sort of do.
There was a little pink bottle of Pepto-Bismol in a striped ditty bag in the bathroom that I’ve carted all over the world in case I get sick from eating food from the street, which I never have and always do; my philosophy is, if you’re going to play it safe, you might as well stay home. But I couldn’t get to it—a wave of torpor held me down on the couch like an invisible force field. After a few minutes the octopus seemed to relent, so I tried moving. But then it snaked itself around my ribcage and let me know it was still there.
The phone rang, but there was no way I could reach it—it was only a couple of feet away but it might as well have been in the apartment next door. It rang seven times before voice mail finally kicked in; I counted them while I tried to remember how long ago I’d ordered in that chicken.
Maybe it wasn’t food poisoning; it might be a kidney stone. I’ve never had one, but once on a flight from L.A. the man in the aisle seat told me in excruciating detail how he’d once passed one on the seventeenth green. Actually, I don’t remember whether it was a kidney stone or a gallstone, only that when the stewardess held out the little cup of olives for his martini, the way they used to in first class, he’d just gotten to the part about how he still managed to finish the round a respectable three over par. He didn’t say that passing a stone felt like a contraction that went on and on, although to be fair, he couldn’t have known that. But he also didn’t seem the type who’d asked his wife how it really felt to birth little Tiger Woods Junior, either.
I took shallow, silent little breaths so the octopus wouldn’t notice, and let go of the remote; for some reason I’d muted the TV when the octopus struck, and when the phone stopped ringing it was suddenly unnaturally silent in the room. I felt alone and abandoned, like I’d fallen overboard without anyone on deck noticing while the boat disappeared over the horizon; when I turned the volume on again my arm tingled the way your foot does when you try to move it after it’s fallen asleep, and then the tingle heated up a couple of hundred degrees and radiated in waves down to my fingers.
“Oh shit,” I said out loud, “I’m having a heart attack!”
Tory looked up from her pillow—not hearing any magic words like ‘Let’s go out,’ or ‘Do you want a treat?’ she went right back to doggy dreamland. It was beginning to dawn on me that if I didn’t do something, call someone, get myself moving, I was going to die right here, all by myself, on a faded green velvet sofa surrounded by greasy white cardboard containers, a half empty can of Diet Coke, and the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Shuffle off this mortal coil in my ratty old sweats, irony of ironies, to the theme song from Going It Alone, which follows Seinfeld on weeknights on Nick at Nite. Live by TV, die by it, I used to say. But please, God, I didn’t really mean it.
I managed to drag the phone over, but then I couldn’t decide who to call. Ignoring the mocking voice in my head—Help, you’ve fallen and you can’t get up, call 911, what are you waiting for?—I pushed “6”on the speed dial for Tel Aviv taxi instead. I’d rather be dead than carted through the lobby on a gurney under the rheumy gaze of Mrs. Bosenberg, who lives in one A and keeps an eye on the lobby, just in case Louie the night doorman is sleeping on the job.
Mrs. B.’s apartment is rent-stabilized, which means they can’t throw her out. So is mine, and the only way anyone ever leaves a rent stabilized apartment in New York, especially a classic five on the upper West Side, is feet first. After the relatives of the deceased have finished sitting shiva, the owners haul away all the dark, heavy furniture and slap on a few coats of paint before they put the place on the market for a sum that could foment a revolution in an African backwater. Since nobody was doing that to my stuff, especially not until I took my vibrator out from under the bed, cleaned out my stash of recreational drugs, and threw away some pictures I’d just as soon nobody saw, I’d rather let Mrs. B. think I was catching the red-eye to the coast.
Jane Adams has been writing about work, love, sex, success, intimacy and friendship in women’s lives for nearly three decades. You can continue reading Sugar Time by buying it from an independent bookstore, through Amazon.com, or for your Kindle.