July 2, 2000
You Can't Take Me Anywhere


Sunday morning.

David left a little while ago to spend the day visiting with his parents, out in Walnut Creek. I was invited to come along, but I opted to stay home ... not so much because I crave an Alone Day, or because I still feel a little shy around David's family, or because the upper respiratory stuff has left me feeling worn-out and raggedy  ...

... but because I suspect that involuntarily urinating on Mrs. Rafter's lovely sofa every 7.3 seconds would probably not endear me to her much.

Incontinence: the secret shame that dares not speak its name.

This is my least favorite thing about bronchitis, I swear to god. The rest of it I can handle: the maddening, itchy cough ... the sleepless nights ... the bleary cough-medicine "hangover" ... even the deep froggy voice. (Actually, I sorta like that part: it makes me sound like Buster Poindexter.) I go through this stuff every year, and I'm used to it. I know it goes away eventually. I know it isn't fatal.

I can deal with it.

But this business of peeing my pants every single time I cough is ridiculous. And annoying. And expensive. (Want to see my dry cleaning bill?)

And it's turning me into a veritable "shut-in" this weekend.

David and I went out and ran a few errands yesterday. We dropped off a couple of posters for framing ... stopped at Long's Drugs for St. John's Wort and fingernail polish remover ... dumped some old books off at the thrift shop ... had lunch at our favorite little Alameda taqueria ... made a quick stop at the fruit stand, to pick up tomatoes and basil for our world-famous *bed picnic bruschetta* ... etc.  

I was OK for most of it. We took things slowly. We didn't rush anywhere. David took me by the wrist and protectively led me across the street, like I was very fragile.

It was when we were standing in the middle of DiscoBob's in Albany -- sorting through bins of bootleg Elvis Costello CDs -- that I felt a sudden impending wave of *bronchial distress* coming on. (Read this: the cough medicine was wearing off.)
"We've gotta get out of here RIGHT NOW," I told David. I knew that if we hung around much longer, I was going to unleash an unholy torrent of coughing ... and bodily fluids. 

None of them pretty.

He quickly shepherded me back to the Subaru and we headed for home, posthaste. I popped a cough drop and breathed as shallowly as possible. Fortunately, we managed to make it all the way from Albany to Oakland without incident ... or *accident.*

"As soon as we get home, you're going right back to bed," David said. That sounded OK to me. A nice long afternoon nap,  followed by a leisurely evening of bruschetta, books and bad TV? Bliss.

We were ten blocks from home when we saw the smoke.

I think we both noticed it at the same time. I pulled off my sunglasses, thinking maybe it was just smudge on the lenses. At that precise moment, David said "Geez ... is that smoke or fog?"

"I think it's smoke," I said. "And it looks like it's coming from OUR apartment building."

As we got closer, we could see huge, billowing clouds of smoke wafting out into the street, originating (from the looks of it) from somewhere directly behind our apartment.  Alarmed, we pulled into the parking lot behind the building, and that's when we saw the grass fire burning energetically on the other side of the fence that divides our parking lot from the shoreline of Crab Cove. It was less than a hundred feet away from the rear of our apartment building. We could tell that the fire had just started, but it was clearly gaining momentum in the dry stubbly brush along the cove. We could see flames shooting up, licking at the fence. Little knots of onlookers were beginning to form in the parking lot, and people were rushing back and forth, moving their cars and asking if anyone had bothered to call 911. Sirens in the near distance assured us that this minor detail had, in fact, been taken care of.

The Alameda Fire Department was there within seconds, and while the burly young fire dudes attacked the flames, David  --  ever on the lookout for groovy photo opps  --  ran to get his camera. From a safe distance, we stood and watched as they put out the fire. The air was filled with acrid smoke. I involuntarily took a deep breath ... choked ... coughed ...

... and promptly wet myself.

"I'm going to go into the apartment now," I said, chagrined.

"OK," David replied. "Go get into bed, and stay there!" (Fine. Just let me change my PANTS first.)

Miss Fire Prevention on the scene!

This morning David brought me breakfast in bed, before he left for his parents' house. He was disappointed that I couldn't come with him, but I think he understands. It was another long, restless night, punctuated by ten-minute pockets of sleep and frequent trips to the kitchen for cough syrup refills. I can still taste the smoke in my lungs this morning. I feel depleted ... stretched perilously thin, energywise ... not in a bad mood by any means, not unhappy about anything, but just worn-out from coughing and not-sleeping ...

... and the constant irritating struggle to keep from PEEING on stuff.

Like the sheets David lovingly laundered just yesterday.

Or the sofa.

Or the seat of the car.

Or the chair I'm sitting in right now, as I type this.

But I figure it could be tons worse. I could be sitting in David's parents' living room, right at this very moment, making polite chit-chat, drinking iced tea, sitting next to his mother looking at David's baby pictures in the family album ...

... and wearing a diaper.

throw a rock