Tonight Dave and I will go to the Delaware Press Awards where we will win a first place award for our anthology, Equinox.
Though the award will be for us, for publishing the book, the magic of the book is really due to the writers within it.
Here is a piece by one of my favorite authors, Judith Speizer Crandell. Judith, to my way of thinking, is a magical realist, emphasis on the magic. That she has been tragically under-published in her career is truly your loss, but it’s time for you to stop missing out.
If you’ve never read magical realism, it may take you a second read to “get it.” You can do it, Sunshine, and you’ll be glad you did.
I am so glad to know Judith and her writing. And now you can be too. And so I present to you:
“Delia and Connecticut”
Connecticut awakened me, her fine hair falling around her face as she bent over. She pushed it away several times but it repeatedly returned as if it were destined to do this throughout her life.
I was in my long white nightgown with its washed-out pink rosettes, more white-on-white than pink-on-white now. She shook my shoulders.
“For Christsakes, Connecticut,” I finally said,“Let me be. What is it you want–it’s, God, it’s–”
I could barely focus on the square box of a traveling alarm flash-ing the green neon numbers of 4:40AM.
We were at her parents’ vacation place in the Adirondacks. The clock was something she’d insisted that I pack and lug from New York City, along with three sweatshirts, jeans, overalls, tennis shorts, two pairs of sneakers, a flashlight, and a stretched-out black bathing suit whose bright purple, pink, and yellow stars had faded. Oh, and my camera. And on my pillow when I arrived lay a new pen and a paisley clothbound blank book, courtesy of Connecticut.
“What the hell,” I finally said, seeing her Paul McCartney down-turned eyes turn even more downward. “I’m up. I’m awake. Funnel in the coffee and we’ll go for that 5:00AM canoe ride you’ve been talking about since we left New York. Damn, dawn in the mountains arrives early in April. I’m afraid it won’t be five on the dot though. You’ve got to let me piss and brush my teeth.”
“Thanks, you’re a pal, kiddo,”she said. “It’ll be cool.”
Where did she learn to talk like that? Maybe it was the age difference–I was forty-one and she was two decades younger. I know she saw me as an older, wiser woman, but that was bullshit, incomplete, not all of me, some idealized version that fit her needs. Of course, that’s not being quite fair to her. I’m incomplete to other people, too–my mother, my sister and her two daughters, as well as the doctors I work for in their ob-gyn practice, which is where I met Connecticut. She was a patient with an inflamed pelvis. I had been nice to her–particularly nice, she said later, and so began our friendship, with her seeking me out because I was nice.
The guy she was living with–was it Alexander? John?–who was around nineteen and wouldn’t lay off her, even with her infection, had finally left. She managed to look me up, and within one hour of the call was crying over cappuccino in my one-bedroom railroad flat with the tub in the kitchen.
“This is really neat,”she said, between sobs, rubbing her long fingers over the top edge of the claw-footed porcelain bath as we sat at my only table.“I love the tub in the kitchen and the bed in the loft.” Her sobs somewhat subsided as she settled in.
I could have done without the tub arrangement maybe, but the loft was great for rolling in the hay–now where did I pick up that expression?
Several years after I got back from Vietnam, where I was a nurse, I reconnected with a doctor I had an affair with over there. Part of our evac hospital unit staff. Blood brother, blood sister. When we were in-country, we made all sorts of sick jokes like that. We had to laugh because if we cried, oh God, if we cried and didn’t laugh, we’d turn our hearts inside out like dead pink rubber balls and be good for nothing and no one.
So instead, we drank, smoked weed, made love, and triaged the wounded, walking to the OR through canvas-walled wards of screams, mopping blood and guts like washer ladies from Ireland, wiping front steps and shining facets like babushka head-covered ladies from the Ukraine, scrubbing kitchen floors and then putting newspapers down to keep them clean. You could read last week’s news by sitting on my Aunt Sophie’s floor. You could eat off my Aunt Kathleen’s front steps and see yourself in her plumbing fixtures. I was a blend of vodka and Irish whiskey, but I rarely drank them together.
That’s another story. This one’s about Connecticut, my twenty-one-year-old pelvic inflammatory disease patient who became intimate enough with me on one particular night of pain to get served cappuccino in my kitchen alongside my bathtub. And to reciprocate, she had lugged me into the mountains and then into a dented silver canoe on an early spring morning with yellow, white, and purple crocuses popping out everywhere….
If you are as hooked as I am, you’ll want to get a copy of Equinox and read the rest of Judith’s story. And why not? It won first prize in the great state of Delaware, and first prize nationally too! That is some damn fine writing there by Judith. We are so lucky she shared it with us.