The End? #MeToo
One day before the midterm elections I entered a waiting room to join about 8 witnesses who were there to defend Dr. B. They were there because of me. The door not yet shut behind me; a witness that knew my face spoke loudly, “Wendy you need to sign in.” Every eye in the room looked up with a burning gaze. The whispers came, “that’s her isin’t it?” Then came low-brow salon talk, a simplistic way of forming a bond akin to something one might find in a playground. A class clown emerged. Realizing that her new posse would laugh at anything she said her announcements got progressively simplistic and not funny. The room cajoled in spite of the words a sense of meaning. They served a single purpose, to isolate me. They laughed over a story about a barn’s screen door. We all knew how little we had in common. We were divided over the same lines in our small town of under 5,000 people where I’m a part of the “downtown crowd,” and they are the hicks; as we are in our country, we are split red vs blue. I know nothing about barns or their doors. A week ago I was in LA getting botox and although my handbag was purchased thrift, new it had cost as much as their car. The feeling of agency that helps me to experience the world and which saves me from narrowness is met today by ignorance, that I watched the witnesses in the waiting room hold on to with ever increasing pride as though it could mask the hole they are trying to cover. The first male witness entered. He looked around realizing that one of the people in the room might be the one who made it necessary for everyone to be there. An unhealthy, grey, wrinkled woman who looked like she smoked a lot was knitting and leaned over to tell the rest, right in front of me, who I was. They glared at me with hate.
We are different these women and myself. Each of them naively reported in affidavits that they’d signed that they had been touched inappropriately by the doctor. They didn’t mind, they said, and likened this to being Dr. B’s style. Your not supposed to get fingered at the chiropractor. Besides, its not about if one minds, there are laws that govern what a chiropractor can and can not touch. You are definitely not supposed to get fingered at the chiropractor. I thought of the women who support Trump and the things they say, “boys will be boys.” I wondered how deeply driven their pain had become that for them to let another woman profess hers was to threaten the mechanism they built within themselves to seal their pain up; a bottle secured in place, capped and corked, waxed over and melted with hot solder to make sure that it never got out. My existence this day was like a sledge hammer. “I won’t hide. Here I am.” I threatened to unleash all they had been buried.
“I’m in a shark tank” I texted to the assistant attourney general who had been handling the case and was to call me in to testify. “I have to get out of here.” He replied, “go home and wait for my text.”
At home I tried not to read the news on my laptop. The midterms are tomorrow. I don’t want to see the women who support Trump holding their banners. I was just with them in the trial waiting room. I slowly walked past the sketch on canvas I’d started a few days ago which sat on an easel in my studio. It was to be a painting of the doctor that I’d likely burn. Not before letting everything that I felt out into the colors and brush strokes which, would express far more than my words ever could. I desperately wanted to finish it. Not today. I’m on trial.
Waiting to testify as the key witness in a trial holds so much emotional energy that nothing can coexist with it. You can’t distract yourself or pretend anything else is happening. The world freezes. My own salvation from unloading this heavy burden waits at bay, along with the sure anticipation of an attack by a lawyer whos aim today is to destroy my credibility, make me cry, and tear me down. I watch videos of Sturgill Simpson and LP to distract myself in the kitchen, keys jingling in hand, I am waiting. I have not slept in four nights and my adrenaline is high. The call comes about an hour later and I return to the trial, this time the assistant attourney general is waiting outside and rushes me in past the angry group of witnesses.
The trial goes well. I kept my composure. I was more astute and polite than the doctor’s attourney. Once I realized that she didnt know how to find her documents of evidence according to the order in our looseleaf binders I continuously asked her, “which tab in the looseleaf?” At one point, after she came at me huffed up with anger and with heat in her face, she raised herself up higher than me and leaned in toward me. It was as if she’d charged herself with aid of a power outlet and when could not take any more ampage she started at me with, “Isisnt it true that….?” I put my hand up between her face and mine, palm facing her and took a long slow breath and said, “this is your venom not mine. This (pointing to her) is not how I feel.” She threw her papers up in the air, blew a bunch of air out, rolled her eyes and then landed slumpted on her elbows. It went on as such, and with ease I flitted her questions away like I was playing a game of tennis. She was both unprepared and unprofessional. I’d broken her. When the doctor was asked about what he claimed was an authentic pelvic adjustment (that just happens to deliver his hands inside of women’s vaginas and that no other chiropractor has ever heard of) he confidentally said he’d done the adjustment 4,000 times. There was another attourney in the room — the doctor had hired one that specialized in criminal cases. He said nothing. Perhaps the most memorable moment was the most disturbing. When the room muddled around on a break the doctor, walking past me, flung a water bottle in to the trash can beside me. He added thrust for an impressive racket that was clearly meant to startle me. I kept my head down and wondered who may have noticed.
There are other sexual misconduct cases against the doctor that came before this one (for which the chiro board slapped the doc on the wrist with the requirement of him taking an ethics course) and more in cue after this one. As soon as the asstant attourney general said, “I’ve no further questioning for this witness.” I was free. I bolted. The relief was so great I could not find words. And yet, in spite of how awful his lawyer was, and regardless of his own self incrimination, I knew this may very well go the way of the doctor continuing to practice. That’s how these things often went for reasons that only lawyers can explain. I would have to live with the outcome come what may. Several nights without sleep, months of worry, nightmares about the doctor and new fears of lone men I’d meet out running on the mountain, and now finally it was over. I went straight to the brewery knowing I’d see friends and feeling too hyped up to go home. There was a kind of energy that still had to burn off. George was at the bar. We smoked a cigarette together out back in spite of the fact that I don’t smoke. It seemed the right moment to have one, it’d been five years since I stopped grubbing because I recognized the value of the life that was ahead of me as a runner. I had just started running back then and I was pretty sure that I found something that I loved and this made cigarettes easy to let go of. I chugged a last sip from my drink, a half-and-half mix of cider and beer and texted Mikey, “see you in 5 min.” I can’t let myself think about running right now. Just days earlier, by an LA doctor’s diagnosis, the injuries I’d been having from running we’re recategorized under “a connective tissue disorder.” I’d never run again. I might hike. But feeling my own feet beneath me, I knew from the clicking and grinding in the joints that I’d be lucky to walk without pain, maybe I could still dance, sometimes. “Don’t think about it Wendy, not now,” I told myself, “just move forward.” In the months since my feet had failed me I’d already taken in so much loss. Each morning I watched Mikey run out to the mountain, a place I’d once considered a kind of church. Stuck at home I had no way to generate the endorphins I’d become accustomed to making and were responsible for the feeling of happy that I had become familiar with. I had no replacement for the magic that happened 1.5 hours out on the trail when both sides of my brain linked together and delivered to me a brightness and gentle cascade of clarity. Real healing. Problems that had stumped me were solved. Ideas in rough form finished themselves and became hyper-clear and ready for life, for my life. Inspiration poured into me as if my mind were connected through every cell to the whole living landscape. This was joy. I’d found the philosophers stone. Not today, and not tomorrow. The gift had been retracted by the universe, taken back. “You can’t have it anymore,” was all I could hear and it felt so utterly unfair. I was willing to work for it and so few are. What about the diabetic couch potato, can’t they have this disorder? “Why me?”
By night fall my body burned 101 temperature and I knew why. It has all been too much. The midterm elections, the trial, the long haul waiting to see doctors in LA for a mixed up and ultimately bummer diagnosis, and the world being on fire (metaphorically and literally). California was burning now, north and south, Trump was spouting punshing words to the residents of the state that had just fallen into oblivion. I couldnt take any more, my body crashed. The next day I burned 102.8. The day after that I raged at 104 with fevers that bowled me nightmare followed by horrible nightmare. I dreamed about my mean mother’s manipulations to make me care for her lack of love and her unrelenting despair. I dreamed of her dying. I dreamed of going to the hospital and finding that the nurses were the women in the waiting room at the trial. In a town as small as the one I live in, this was likely to be the case. I dreamed of doctors molesting me while I was knocked out on drugs delivered through an IV. The following day my MD told me go to the hospital. Fearing that the fever dreams could become reality, I replied, “hell no! I’ll monitor at home. I’ve got the gear.”
A text came in on my phone the next morning. My ears ringing loudly, head pounding, chills oppressing me into a shivering, blurry haze, I lifted my head to read it. The text was from a friend, a bartender at the Brewery that is located directly across the street from Dr. B’s office. She wrote,
“Have to mention something weird. I saw yesterday… Dr.B had a gun on his hip while he was packing up to leave… He had his shirt tucked around it and acted like he was showing it off for everyone to see. I was leaving the Brewery…and I wouldnt leave till he got in his car and drove away.”
Minutes later burning 103.5 I struggled to read a headline that had just come through the media. Mitch McKonnell (R), responding to the blue wave in which a record number of women we’re taking seats in the house, said, “we’ve got to address the suburban women problem.” “Thats me,” I thought wondering if Dr. B had read the quote that morning before he loaded a gun into a holster on his belt. Was he thinking, “I’ve got to fix the suburban woman problem?”
The text sent me into another round of chills. Uncontrollable. I covered myself in every blanket I owned, a wool hat on head, socks 2 pair thick, and I hugged myself for warmth deep under the sheets where my wheezing, crackling breath felt like a small busted heater. A tiny space between the top of my ankle sock and where the bottom of my leggings reached exposed a tiny band of skin that felt as though it let in an artic world that drove cold currants to my shivering body, pure ice. Soaked in sweat that saturated all of my clothes, the sheets and the blankets. I panted, and whispered to myself, “hang on, hang on.”
When the fever passed I texted the asst attourney general the note the bartender had delivered to me. He told me to take this seriously and watch my back. All the while I thought, “I’m a freakin’ Jewish girl from Long Island. This wild west shit is not my world.” It was too much for me and I wondered if I had stayed too long? Mikey and I pulled out three guns, two 22’s, and a 9mm and started practicing how to check the chamber, unload and load, turn on and off the safety, swap the clip. I placed a large bear mace next to my sick bed on the night table along with a knife. Periods between fever were few that day. I cried, sometimes unsure exactly about what. It didnt matter. The world’s on fire. The worlds on fire.
The next day an x ray revealed that I had pneumonia. A friend said of lung infections, “its grief, you’ve got to let it go.” My doctor asked if I knew why I was stuck in fight/flight. I feel more akin at times to the generations younger than myself who’ve had less time to fossilize their hearts. My protest to horror is to keep my heart open and working, I can feel the pain of this world. I can feel. I have not blocked it or punched it down deep like the women who support Trump. The pain is right on the edge, with me, evident to anyone who wishes to look. It’s raw, its live, its real. It’s also killing me.
Though I started up antibiotics on day 5, it was day 10 and the fever burned high. I lacked the energy to cross the room. Mikey described me as a puppet without a puppiteer, I collapsed everywhere that I put myself lacking the strength the hold myself up. My doctor emailed me a note. The lung xray showed calcification on my heart. I’d have to see a cardiologist once over pneumonia. I was already headed to the heart doctor since the collagen disorder made it necessary for me to get an echocardiogram to see that my heart was not tearing off. A Sufi, it has been my life’s path to prevent fossilization of my heart, I had no idea how to feel about this. I thought, “I’m going to die a death of irony.”
Michael came with soup. Yarrow dropped off herbs. A woman named Arly that I’d never met but was a fan of my work back in New York wrote to me on Facebook, “I want to help you.” She called on the phone from the east coast and with a thick NY accent she recited beautiful prayers over me that came through a speaker that was perched over my pillow. For over an hour, unable to reply, almost too weak to breathe I laid there open help all and any.
I know the reaper is near, I’d been fighting for my life for days: my vitals were terrible, it was clear all the while that death was possible, and sometimes even close. The first night the reaper appeared as a cement vault in the shape of a knot with dark and dreary walls, ceilings, and floors. The nightmarish form contained endless hallways and staircases, some that narrowed as I progressed down them causing a feeling of claustrophobia. Like an illogical sketch by Dutch artist Escher the beasts knotted, maze-body produced a sense of doom that was utterly final. None of the halls went anywhere. The building was so deep in the earth that the quiet was deafening, it was a tomb near the moulten core of the earth. The quiet told me that there was no return once here. This was a place forgotten by its isolation. The reaper asked one question, “do you want to live?” I was frozen by the realization that one could not lie to the reaper. If I said yes, and I didn’t mean it, she would take me. I refused to answer. She came again and again. She comes every night still. Between visits and the fevers I think about the only question, “do I want to live?”