Here’s this week’s episode of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing serial novel of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense lawyer, and her family and friends, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:
“It’s 9. I’m going to bed,” Tim said. Since Milagros split up with him he’d been going to bed earlier and earlier, probably trying to make up for never actually sleeping.
“Now?” Charles said. “Do you realize the museum has just barely closed? You can’t even stay up as late as the museum.”
Tim sighed. “I know, why do I always close so early on Friday nights? I should at least wait until all the customers are gone.”
Seeing as the only customers were Charles and Milagros, it didn’t seem like that big an issue to me. Milagros was only there to see Angela and Charles was only there to see Milagros. So there wasn’t much point in Tim staying open.
“Speaking of the museum, have you seen the Duncan Hewitt exhibit?” Charles asked Milagros. This was why he’d taken all that trouble to bring up the museum in the first place. “We should go, it’s really great.”
He’d been circling around for months even though Tim wasn’t even dead yet, just sleepless and depressed.
But Milagros didn’t want to stay up until 9 with Charles. “No thanks,” she said. “I don’t like museums.”
“Didn’t you guys all just go to the Boston art museum?” Charles asked. A magnet of the MFA’s portrait of Homer looked at Milagros suspiciously from the front of the fridge.
“Because that’s ancient art. I only like art when there’s no artist’s name attached to it. It’s less like celebrity worship.”
“But didn’t you used to have a book of photographs by Dintsa on the mantelpiece?” Charles asked, screwing up his eyes. He always stalks his love interests culturally.
“You mean Rinecke Dijkstra?”
“Something like that.”
“That’s her name,” Milagros said. “Thanks for the confidence.”
At least that forced Charles to stop circling and go back to his tree branch for a little while. His pursuit of Milagros was literally making Tim sick on top of already being sleepless and depressed. And Tim wasn’t a very good patient, even at the doctor’s office.
“Wipe the area,” the nurse said during one of Tim’s visit to his GP, handing him a sterilizing wipe before he went into the bathroom for a pee test.
“What area?” he asked.
She looked up from her papers. “The area.”
“Okay,” he said.
Finally he came back out and gave her the cup.
“I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I wiped everything,” he whispered to me. “My penis, the toilet seat, and the floor.”
You could easily tell he was having issues. But the doctor didn’t see it that way.
“What brings you here today, Tim?” he asked, glancing at the form in front of him. It’s very important to get the name right.
“I’ve been fainting,” Tim said. “And I’m not sure why, maybe lack of sleep, maybe something else.”
The doctor put a fresh chart on his clipboard.
“Any problems with your skin?” he asked, looking out the window. It was like multitasking except you’re only doing one thing.
“I have eczema.”
“So nothing there,” the doctor said, marking the chart with his pencil. “Stomach?”
“Irritable bowel syndrome.”
“So nothing there.”
“My heart’s racing.”
“So nothing there.”
“Any problems with fainting?”
It was pretty clear the doctor wasn’t giving Tim any meds.
Things didn’t go any better at the dentist. The hygienist didn’t seem to think much of Tim’s complaint of headaches.
“So do you in fact brush your teeth two times a day for two minutes at a time?” she asked scornfully, chipping plaque off his teeth with her little shovel.
“It’s possible one time yesterday I only brushed for 1 minute 57 seconds,” Tim mumbled.
Then the dentist grilled him while poking around in the recesses of Tim’s mouth.
“Where are the three teeth that used to be back here?” he asked.
But at least he gave Tim a prescription for sleeping pills. Not that Tim was necessarily going to be able to fill it.
“Your insurance doesn’t cover this,” the pharmacist said, giving him back the script and moving on to the next customer.
“How much is it?” he asked.
“$25,” she said, without looking up from her computer, like it was obvious he didn’t have it.
Besides making Tim miserable, his health problems were also getting on Ethan’s nerves.
“You’re not the only one who’s ever sick around here, by the way,” Ethan said to Tim while Charles and Milagros were arguing. “I have a rash all over.”
“When did you get it?” Angela asked.
“I got it last night before we went to bed but I thought you would yell at me if I said anything.”
But Angela was more worried about Tim.
“Next Friday let’s do something. What was that play you were telling me about the other day?”
Tim shrugged. “They took these two Ingmar Bergman movies and made them into plays. They’re supposed to be really good. I don’t want to see them though.”
The only thing that seemed to interest him in fact was the museum.
“I have a question about ancient Greek art actually,” he said to Milagros. “Are the people who are there now the same as were there then?”
Charles answered for her. “Yes, they’re all 4,000 years old. Pensions are out of control.”
Angela tried to make up for him.
“Did you actually get to the museum today?” she asked Tim. “I thought you said you were going.”
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “I ended up getting stuck at my desk, I can’t remember why.”
But Charles had an answer as he gave up and put on his coat to leave.
“Because at the beginning of the day you think anything’s possible but at the end of the day you realize nothing’s possible.”