Shrugging has become difficult for me. Over the last ten days or so my neck muscles have been cramping up again, perpetually constricted and sore much like they were last summer after the car accident. I know that I carry my stress in my neck and shoulders, and I know what this stress is:
I'm waiting for the gun to go off.
Anton Chekhov said, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the
following one it should be fired."
This is beyond a question of unnecessary elements. This is the tension that builds when a character on stage pulls out a gun and cocks it. You know it's going to go off, you know what it will sound like, and yet every second that it doesn't
go off just compounds the stress of waiting for the loud bang you know is coming.
Things keep going wrong. The flood itself, the extent of the damage, the complete lack of work accomplished over my absence, the contractor quitting, the adjustor who went AWOL for six weeks, the broken air conditioning, and now my insurance companies are flat out refusing to pay for any of the repairs to the walls and floor. No way, case closed, dial tone.
I have been fighting their decision, of course. I've appealed twice and I am preparing to appeal for a third time. People have implied that I'm lying, that I'm untrustworthy, that I'm trying to scam the insurance company, and I'm not, I'm not. I am writing check after check to pay for these repairs and I'm watching my bank accounts get smaller and smaller.
On one hand, I am grateful that I don't have to go into debt over this. I am emptying out my savings account, but I won't be in debt.
On the other hand, this means more than retrenching. I am not allowed to buy anything beyond the necessities. Worst of all, I can't travel.
Now, I do recognize that I live a privileged life. Not being able to travel is hardly the same as not being able to buy food. I have a job, I have an income. I do recognize how fortunate that is.
But I can't stand the thought of not being able to travel. We have an extra day tacked on to the spring break this year, ten whole days off in a row, and I can't travel. Jason's going to the opera in New York again in January and my winter break works out perfectly with those days, and I can't travel. I have a whole summer stretching out in front of me next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and I can't travel.
I will go to Chicago this fall. That's a need, not a want. I will see Metamorphoses at the Lookingglass Theater even if it means not eating lunch for a month. But then... nothing. Suddenly that Victorian image of young educated woman trapped by poverty like a bird in a cage is all to empathetic.
As I fight to reconcile myself to not traveling, I'm also waiting for the next thing to go wrong. Hence my complete lack of surprise Saturday morning when the Lowe's delivery man pulled out my old dishwasher to install a new one. "It's not going to work," he said. "You've got a pipe back there. I've been doing this since 1990 and I've never seen a pipe in a place like that," he said. "This dishwasher's not going to fit. I'll have to take it back to to the store," he said. He left, I gave myself two minutes of despair over yet another thing going wrong, then I headed back to the store to see what I could do to fix it.
It's not a question of what could go wrong; we're way past that point. I'm waiting to see what will go wrong next. The stage is filled with guns, all of them loaded, all of them cocked.
And the tension is killing me.