“vanilla bean noel” 

I miss my husband. He’s in Spring Hill, Florida, overseeing the movers and the carpet installers at his late parents’ house, readying it for the $200,000 sale which a lawyer will handle (it’s 6 percent instead of 1 if real estate agents get involved). He’ll be gone for about three days straight while our son James and I stay put at the cousins’ in Barefoot Bay, on the Eastern coast of Florida. 

When most people heard we were off on a two-month trip, they reacted one of two ways. The moms gave me a sympathetic look, and a, “Buy a portable DVD player.” The others told me how lucky I was to get away from the rat race and spend that much time with my family, “Think of the adventure! The romance! The family moments!” 

I feel acid reflux coming on.

Nobody cautioned me to stay put at home, while Eddie took off alone to take care of his own family’s business, the cost to our sleep, our sense of safe, comforting schedules, our sanity. The last two visits down to Florida, Eddie didn’t need me around anyway; he insisted on painstakingly sorting through his parents’ things, opening every envelope, turning every page, going through boxes of junk I’d loaded up for Goodwill in seconds flat, and undoing my work. I didn’t need to be there, save for the visit he’d made alone before his mother died first. 

It’s because of that visit that I’m thousands of miles away from home, suffering from one ailment after another, watching my son suffer, missing our routines, our friends, forgetting how to be. 

At the time, November of a year ago, Eddie’d returned with the stomach flu, but he didn’t realize it until he’d thoroughly convinced himself that he was going through a full-blown nervous breakdown at the prospect of taking care of his parents, not yet dead, and their estate. Both of us thoroughly shaken, we’d agreed it best that from now on, James and I were always near, our physical presence enough, even if we didn’t lift a finger. 

Of course several times throughout this trip I’d second-guessed that decision, wondering if maybe we’d be better off just letting Eddie take care of his late parents’ estate on his own, in his time, unencumbered by my frequent bathroom breaks coupled with an equally frequent need to eat, James’ need to run around, preferably in a playground or a beach with other kids, the freedom to run rampant in a hotel, a manufactured home, his late grandparents’ house, anywhere we just happened to be bunking at the moment. 

I just plain don’t know who I am and what I am supposed to be doing here, nowhere, somewhere else. When we finally return home February 21/22, I’d planned on making several doctors’ appointments, a third-year checkup for James, an eye exam and an ob-gyn checkup for me, a mammogram… going on a healthier diet and exercise program, no red meat or pork, more whole grains, beans, give the treadmill more of a workout… heading back to church choir rehearsal, catching up with the neighborhood moms and the neighbor kids. 

James knows better than to attempt a tomato sauce
takeover. He has mac ‘n cheese.

It’s why I keep writing, despite faulty connections, lack of time, James mom-mommying me constantly, heavy periods, nausea, diarrhea, guilt at James mom-mommying me constantly and me unable to provide him with the fun time we both need because of my IBS-D which always kicks up into high gear whenever I travel. Truth be told, that’s why I’m not out exploring the world with my son as often as I’d like, the fear that a bowel attack will render me defenseless in the middle of nowhere, somewhere. 

Writing saves me from complete annihilation, until I disappear completely, lost in everybody else’s responsibilities. My boss Katrina (and probably Jeff, my other boss at SoapZone) doesn’t share my ability to focus the second I put proverbial pen to paper, far away from home. She understands, however, my obsessive desire to do so, at any cost, because right now, it’s all I have, all I am. I don’t rock climb, I don’t collect stamps, I’m not a ballroom dancer, I can’t paint or play music, on this two-month trip, I don’t even have my vibrator to keep me company (or the privacy with which to woo)… my hobby, my compass, my center and my inspiration, all of it has come down to the distillation of letting words flow out of me. 

A lot of my life seems on hold—a fact I cannot ignore when I’m away from home for any length of time. Waiting to find a place to build a new, bigger house, waiting to move in, waiting for James to be potty trained, to go to school, waiting for us to get settled so I can… what? Go back to school and fart around with drama and endocrinology courses for fun? Start up that magazine with my friends for laffs? Spend more time with my husband so I don’t feel this odd, isolated, desperately lonely sensation creeping up on me whenever he’s away for longer than two hours? 

The last time I viscerally felt at odds with myself, this empty vessel of a stranger, the robot strangers see when they pass through me, was about five years ago, when Eddie dropped me off at a B&B in Vancouver while he drove back to Washington, took a ferry to one of the islands and set up for a gig that fell through before he played a note. Alone in a strange but lovely city, I felt strange and unlovely, a walking zombie waiting for her programmer to return to make me home again. 

Eddie makes me feel home. Human. Witty. Wacky. Competent. Normal. 

I suppose I should’ve worked and lived on my own for a few years before marrying myself off at age 26, but my mom and I hadn’t spent any time together since her divorce and my father whisking us to the Mainland as her punishment for not loving him anymore, so I roomed with her in her Makiki, Honolulu, Hawaii apartment, from 12th grade through college until Eddie… 

I don’t think I’m incompetent. At least not at age 26, before the IBS-D, the unemployment, the kid. I could’ve figured out how to pay rent on my own pad, lay down monthly mortgages for a townhouse in Mililani with a best friend… after all, I figured out how to write a check and balance my checkbook (before my dad, then mom, guilted me into giving away my entire savings to them, there went my plans to see Paris). I might’ve had trouble setting up a computer and Internet access, maybe I could’ve slept with a computer geek for the assistance. 

Oh God no, not more tomato sauce…

Now, whoo boy, I dunno. I’d have to undergo a complete lobotomy, sleep with several rich men and hire a Super Nanny to function on a daily basis if Eddie ever went away for good. Something I don’t like thinking about. 

On a trip, however, I can’t help it. I cling to the oddest observations, anything to get me by. 

When we entered cousin Bev and Tim’s manufactured house on Kiwi Drive (most of the roads are named after fruit, Avocado, Papaya, Tamarind, Mango, cute huh?), I disappeared into the guest bathroom decorations, the palm tree motif on the shower curtain, bath mat, towels, toothbrush holder. I remembered Bev telling me from a prior visit how lucky she was in finding all the palm tree motifs in these separate bathroom items from separate stores, and how neat it was that the palm trees resembled each other as if made by the same designer. This time, I noticed a basket of bath salts, oils, body sprays and soap on a rope near the bathtub, on the sink, a soap wash called Vanilla Bean Noel. Every time I washed my hands, pushing down on the pump, I would say, “Vanilla Bean Noel” in my head, smile and sniff. 

I hate vanilla. 

Celebrities drop dead, disaster areas open up, a reality-TV show starts up again … every time I take off on a trip. The saddest was the passing of The Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson, a father figure to me. I never made love to his monologues, but I did feel secure and loved as a child watching the man react naturally to the laughs, or silence, never awkward. With him on TV, I would never grow old, never catch a cold, flu or stomach bug, never have a period, never worry about when it’s my turn to fly to Hawaii and, painstakingly flip through every page of my mom’s books. 

But Johnny Carson died from emphysema, the same as Eddie’s mom Jean. Emphysema is an ugly, painful, breathtaking disease that – once you succumb to it – it’s over within years. If you stop smoking, you maybe gain a decade. The entertainment reporters glossed over that part in their initial breathy tributes. 

Later, about a week later, it came out that Carson was interviewed as wishing he could stop smoking, knew it was killing him slowly. Upon his death, he made regretful mention of the smoking habit doing him in finally. 

Eddie’s mom couldn’t stop, even with her oxygen tank. She’d simply puff madly away on one addiction, then move on to another, way after the fact. Her final words to him, over the phone, “I’m not ready to die.” I disagree. She was ready the split-second she puffed again after doctors diagnosed her with the dreaded smoker’s disease seven years earlier. 

Well, I’ve wasted another hour thinking aloud in this personal column known as cubbyhole[s ic], hopefully to help keep my mind in semi-working order, keep my body preoccupied so it doesn’t remember to run to the bathroom every five to 15 minutes like yesterday’s debacle. 

After Tim finishes the second of his two cheesecake orders (his side business), he’s taking us to Winn-Dixie so I can buy more apple juice for James, maybe a Lunchables for his cracker and cheese craving, and soap magazines for me to paraphrase from for my next SoapZone News & Gossip, and Scoops & Spoilers columns. 

No Bizzarro yet. But by now, I think I’m sick of Italian..




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