I needed help getting out of bed; I needed help opening a bottle of coconut water. The picnic was obviously not going to happen, but I was too devastated to mention it.
Listen to me read the below here:
C and I have been trying to have picnics lately, building them into our weekends as a matter of course. The picnic basket is one that we brought out of the closet, a bit dusty, after years of disuse; it was a wedding present, complete with wine glasses and cloth napkins. The picnics are simple and glorious, an affirmation of life and love as we snack on cheese and gluten-free crackers. We try not to let Daphne get into the ginger cookies. We were going to have one on Sunday, as per the standard plan.
But I woke up on Sunday and noticed that I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without weaving crazily, as though I were drunk, and by the time noon rolled around, I was flat on my back in bed and called out to C that I felt I was “out of spoons” — “spoons” being the common terminology used for people who live with chronic fatigue.
The fatigue became muscle weakness. I couldn’t walk without help, either leaning on C or grasping various pieces of furniture and propping myself up on walls. I was too weak to hold a pen to write longhand, though I could still hold a phone in one hand and tap out messages with the other. I needed help getting out of bed; I could no longer speak a complete sentence; I needed help opening a bottle of coconut water. The picnic was obviously not going to happen, but I was too devastated to mention it.
C looked out the window in our bedroom. We have bay windows in the bedroom, letting in an abundance of light at certain hours, and we could see that the sky was pure blue and bright. “How about we set up that hammock,” he said. He’d bought a hammock last year after being inspired by his father’s hammock at his childhood home in Louisiana.
So he went down to the backyard and set up the hammock. He came back upstairs and helped me down to the backyard, holding me up so that I wouldn’t tumble down the wooden steps. He eased me into the hammock and covered me with a lightweight blue quilt. I looked up at the sky, the sky full of blue and, occasionally, sprinkled with the finches that have returned this spring—finches that warble and show off their bright red bellies, finches that come in boy/girl pairs.
Our friend E came over with hot dogs and tater tots. I ate mine, somewhat messily, in the hammock, dropping food on my sweater. I watched the #bindercon hashtag fill my Twitter feed; I’d taught a workshop at the inaugural BinderCon in New York, a symposium dedicated to women writers, and had been invited to the second one in Los Angeles, but declined for a number of reasons, the primary concern being my health. I wished I were in Los Angeles, watching Claudia Rankine talk about trauma and microaggression, attending the Buzzfeed-sponsored VIP party.
I read the hashtags. I ate my hot dog. I enjoyed the spring air and the sun and my husband and our friend and the sound of Daphne running around the yard after a little orange ball, and it was good.