When FND came on in me like a crushing tank, I remembered something weird about that time yesterday. I was having up to 20 violent seizures a day, completely mute and thoroughly confused. It was an awful time.
What I remembered was this weird desire to put my hands on the right side of my face. It somehow was soothing to me, as weird as it was. So yesterday, when I was feeling overcome with fatigue and wishing I had no guests coming for dinner, I put my hands to the side of my face and had that same sense of ‘everything is okay.’
And guess what: when I do that, I become fluent. It’s even weirder than mirror talking or becoming fluent when I sign. So last night, when my bad speech was exhausting and frustrating me, I put my hands on the right side of my face, and voila, fluent! It doesn’t work on the left side of my face.
It felt extraordinarily good to do nada all day on yesterday. No studying, no baking, no cooking, no worrying—nothing. Well, a bit of ‘cooking.’ The non-grain pizza bread came in a package of two, so I used up a lot of my leftovers from the meal to make myself another pizza for myself last night.
I’ve never liked pizza. I’d never made on before yesterday, and now another today. It was so delicious—and safe for my diet. I’ll be making many more, I’m sure. If I must stay on this diet forever, it won’t be a problem. Not at all. I’ll dreadfully miss garlic, but garlic infused olive oil is safe and yesterday I ordered three bottles of it on Amazon. (There is none here on the island.)
And after dinner I saw this photo on the Internet. Meet Millie-Mae.
I called her Marilyn because … Marilyn Monroe…M.M., like Millie-May.
When I asked her to tell me a bit about herself when we met. She coyly lowered her head, looking up at me with a shiny come-on smile and her great big beautiful eyes.
“Why I’m just a simple ol’ southern gal. trying to get a ring on my poor little finger.”
That’s the log line of the life ocalled Millie-Mae. But she was anything but simple. And she wasn’t poor, and she was raised in the Bronx. The bit about the ring was the only true part of her synopsis. But … she wanted the money that came with it, not the man. Or the woman, for that matter. At least that’s what she said.
I met her in Harlem. She came up to me in a bar.
“Now I bet there’s an interesting story behind why this nice white American boy is slummin’ down here in Harley tonight. Wanna buy me a drink and tell me your story, sonny-boy?”
“Please,” I said, and I ordered us each a house special.
I’d never met anyone as exciting, as over-the-top as Millie-Mae. As I paid for our drinks, I was seeing how taking her home to meet mom and dad might play out. We had a great time together. We laughed a lot and did some sharing about ourselves. And you know, I think every single thing both of us said was the truth. That’s rare now in the city.
But I knew she was out of my league. This girl was older than me and way, way more city that I’ll ever be. Besides, I had to be in good shape at work in the morning, so around 11:00 I said my ‘well I better get going’ thing, and she was quick to reply.
“You goin’ home alone whitey?”
“I dunno. Am I.”
“You inviting me?”
And she came home with me. ON the subway, she talked and I nodded in all the right places or grunted my approval or disinterest. I even asked a few questions. But all I could think about was what one Hell of a time I was in for. But sometimes a girl can be too good looking and too smart and savvy. And sometimes junior gets intimidated instead of excited.
Within seconds of putting our stuff down, I went to her. I put my arms around her and leaned in to enjoy the best kiss of my life, the most exciting thing to happen to me this decade, and she put her hands up and against my shoulders and spoke, as if to a child.
“Hold on sunny boy. Not so fast. I ain’t here for the love. I’m here for the bed, the roof, and some dinner if you’ve got it. And one of us is sleeping on your nice comfy-looking sofa.’
And she sat me down. Nicely. Maybe another chance? Maybe I was too quick? But no. She said she’d been hustling for beds and meals, but just that. She had no choice, she said. She’d lost her share of an apartment because she couldn’t keep up with the rent. Covid had closed the restaurant she worked in.
Then she gave me the nicest rejection I’ve ever had. She said she actually liked me. She asked if she could stay just one night. And then she’d go because I was the first person she felt that she could be friends with and that she wanted our friendship to grow. I believed every word.
She stayed for six months. Three months with no income, and then three with Covid assistance money. Then she decided to go back home, to her parents’ place.
I walked her to the 72nd Street station and I hugged her goodbye. Every cell in my body was saying don’t go, that I have never loved anyone more. God. That was, what? Thirty years ago. She went back to school, and I came out to LA, but we talked every week—often for an hour or two. And we went on vacations together and later, with her and Dave. She married for love, not money. And then it’s be me, them and the kids.
Since her card arrived, I’ve experienced no emotions. Except when she came to stay with me. She called our visit, ‘the final farewell tour.’ I cried several times a day for six days. Then she got on a plane and went home and died. Of course, she chose physician assistance. In total control right up to the last moment. In sound mind and body. A winner.
I grew up happy, hopeful and insecure. I identified as observer. A reader. Millie-Mae was my life’s sideshow. I could not live her life, but when I was with her in hers, I was in heaven. Ask any of my friends. I’ve become a hit at parties—a participant. In fact, a welcome participant, because of the stories I tell about things I did with Millie-May.
She called me Plan B. That’s where the nickname I live with, ‘Planner,’ came from. She gave me that name when she told me she was marrying Dave and moving to Denver.
Nobody lived big better than Millie-May, the loving lawyer. She made my life better. I can feel my emotions again. I feel gratitude now, not pain. Sadness, sure, but more than anything: gratitude.
Thank you for inviting me here today to speak to her glory. To be with all of you who loved her.
I’m Rich, by the way. Thank you.