Post Road Magazine #22

The Memory Pavilion

Elizabeth Kadetsky

In the dream, I am showing off the walls of my new apartment in Manhattan. See here, the shine? I point out to my friend. Here. Look. The texture. I stroke the new finish to indicate it is soothing to the touch. And

to the eyes. The colors are brilliant, luminous — dusty rose in the living room, a pale blue in the bedroom. The painting has come out so well there is a powdery effect, the walls giving a little beneath the gentle pressure of a finger, and they are slightly iridescent. Actually, they are like velvet, with minerals flecked into the weave. Perhaps they are velvet. The blue is especially beautiful, with golden highlights, a quality of goldenness that calls to my mind something I have read about in the Upanishads: akasha, the quality of radiance. Brilliant as 100,000 suns. This characterizes a sublime state, amanaska, a stage of enlightenment in which the seeker transcends the mind.

This is in fact my old apartment, where I grew up, but in the dream I have gotten the lease back, so it's also my new apartment. Unlike all my other dreams in which I move back here, this time neither my sister, Jill, nor our mother is living with me. This, I realize in the dream, represents a breakthrough.

My subconscious must be getting closer to where it needs to be, I confide to the dream-friend, closer to reconciling its longing for the past, closer to accepting the reality that Jill's and my childhood in which we lived in this apartment with our mother has gone the way memory should go. The past is over. The central conflict of my life, about my yearning for the world of my youth, went and resolved itself. Once you get your childhood back, there's no more hankering for it, I say to the friend. Nope. Its cathartic nature explains the vision-like, synesthetic, and intensely sensory texture of this particular dream.

My friend is Julian, the child of a psychiatrist, which perhaps explains why he is peering at me with a sage expression, a little skeptically.

More nights than not, I dream about the apartment, given up by our mother owing to unpaid, back rent — an insurmountable sum — in 1995. It's our lease that got away; every New Yorker has one. Our old rotary telephone — ringing with calls from creditors — got disconnected, though the number remains framed in my memory, is my password for things lately, and is a number I recite in my head sometimes to hold back nerves.

222-861…, 222-861…. It's an incantation, though whether to bring back the past or make it go away, I'm not always sure.

When I wake up, I have a headache. It is several seconds before I realize that, no, actually, I don't live alone in our old apartment, painted in iridescent blues and golds that evoke a feeling of enlightenment. And also — in spite of my optimism in the dream — no, I haven't yet sorted out this most intransigent conflict in my life, this drive to reclaim my past, or re-experience it, or release myself from the grip of it, or collect it in pieces so I can give it back as a coherent narrative to my mother, who has misplaced her version of it.

My dreams stubbornly encourage me. There will be no relief until they come around: The lease is gone, get over it! There's no getting it back.

I feel a pang. My headache reminds me that Jill, who lives with our mother in her place in Queens now and is her caretaker, has been talking about hiding the Advil owing to our mother's taking so much if it, complaining of headaches. Could our mother's persistent headaches suggest there is a problem larger than Advil abuse, I question, still more awake now. Did Jill ever take care of a tooth abscess that was pointed out to us by a dentist six weeks ago? Could the untreated abscess be causing the headaches? Since I woke up, I have had a dull pain behind my sternum. I feel a heaviness. Emptiness. Blankness. Every time I come back from this dream, I have to grieve that apartment all over again. Then those sensations ebb. And now I feel panic.

I call Jill and get her voicemail. She is not easy to reach on the telephone, never has been. She is my older sister, but at a certain point, maybe in my twenties, I started to feel like I was the adult of our threesome. I put that New Yorker cartoon on my fridge: Why do I have to be the only sane one in my family?

I call my mother, get her voicemail, and then call our mother's adult daycare center to see if I can find her. I get Tamara, a nurse.

"This is serious problem," says Tamara, who is Russian. "I did not know your mother has tooth abscess. This must be taken care of."

"That's why I'm calling."

"Why this not taken care of already?"

"I don't know, the issue is, I'm trying to find my mother to ask about her headaches, if they're maybe actually a toothache."

"Headache," says Tamara thoughtfully. "The other day your mother says she has headache. For headache we elevate legs and give water first. No aspirin. At first, no aspirin. Later, if water and leg-elevation not work, we give the aspirin."

I wonder to myself why Russians seem to always drop articles where they are needed and add them where they are not needed. How could not understanding the article rule create such a regular misuse of it? There must be some algorithm.

"I give her the water and then rest and I ask her, how she is feeling?"

Tamara says. "'Goooood,' your mother says. So your mother is all right. No headache now."

I imagine my mother lying beneath the healing gaze of Tamara, basking in her care and attention, and then indulging Tamara with a positive report in exchange for her empathic service.

"Gooood." "Tooth abscess," Tamara is saying, "this can spread to brain and cause

sepsis in brain. This is serious problem. You must take care of right away." I know, I want to tell Tamara, but the abscess got intercepted. I was looking over there. There was a swerve. This looking in the wrong place must be what the yogis call viparyaya — error — I continue thinking, as

Tamara goes on.

Headache, headache. I further tune out Tamara. Her words come through the receiver as a

torrent of blurred speech. Occasionally the term headache stands out to me, crashing through the monologue like a car careering past a divider line. It awkwardly rights itself after each swerve, and then I hear the torrent of blur again.

What is it exactly, this susceptibility, even desire, to believe that the problem in front of one's face deserves the most attention when it does not, and actually there is a more glaring problem, seemingly hidden, but obvious, like adrista — the unseen? Could there be a coherent process at work here, in which the adrista — that hidden thing — slowly finds its place in a rational story line, perhaps even the way the dream state — nidra — collects fragments of things and arranges them in a narrative? Blue paint, the apartment, Julian.

Why we never took care of the tooth abscess, I should be explaining to Tamara, is because I lost track of it. There was a different swerve, to some other problem: the Medicaid application; locating the right day center; finding cash to pay the lawyer; negotiating with Jill about her caretaking, her free rent, her small salary. There was the fact that our mother is dying bit by bit, one brain cell at a time. I allowed my mind to go elsewhere. Tamara, I think of confessing to her, I even liked it, my mind in that other place.

My mother's condition began to worry me in around the fall of 2007. She was just sixty-seven. I wasn't much on speaking terms with Jill. She'd moved in to our mother's new place in Queens in 1997, and things never seemed to get stable for Jill after that.

Now, she was calling me to vent. Our mother was leaving dishes boiling on the stove long after there was liquid left to cook them in, and doing things, of an unspecified nature, to endanger the life of Jill's cat, Lucky, according to Jill. "She's trying to kill Lucky," Jill fumed. Or, "She's trying to set the apartment on fire." One day, Jill cried into the phone, "You have

no idea what's going on over here! You don't understand. Nobody understands."

I did understand, though owing to different signals. My mother had confided to me that she was on probation at work. While my mother and I were taking a walk together around that time, she also told me she was having strange perceptions, a feeling of a kind of an aura materializing around her and then a sensation of "floating." Around then she and I traveled up to Massachusetts to see her family. One night, she woke up when I came into our bedroom, and popping up to sitting, stared at me angrily. "Who are you!?" she accused me, and then looked around the unfamiliar room and exploded: "Where am I!?" I noticed that she had covered her bed with items she'd found in my suitcase. Then she put her head back on her pillow and conked right back out.

Walking into town the next day, she asked me where we were. I teased her for asking me the same questions over and over. "Don't do that!" she protested. She stared at me with a particular combination of vulnerability, humiliation, and anger that I hadn't remembered seeing in her in quite that way.

One day during that trip, I took out some yarn that I'd discovered in a shopping bag left behind among my grandmother's effects. I asked my mother to provide stationary arms to stretch apart a skein while I unspooled it and rewound it into a ball. This was a misstep, my first of many. She immediately lost track of this task, and quickly got the skein tangled. We set about trying to untangle it, and I watched my mother get lost in each tangle, re-tangling and folding the yarn and then following its path to its next tangle, until she got distracted and folded that one over and created a new tangle.

That was when I knew this was an illness she had. I didn't know yet, hadn't done the reading yet, that one of the main known characteristics of Alzheimer's is a thread that builds up in the nerve cells of the brain and curves into knots, called neurofibrillary tangles. Seeing my mother tangled there in that yarn, and watching her weave through crowds at the Amtrak station on our way up there, I got my first intimations that whatever this illness was that she had, it had something to do with tangling.

"Your mother is so kind, so nice. We enjoy very much working with her." Tamara has changed the subject. She is saying this for no apparent reason except perhaps to acknowledge that our mother, the day center's newest participant, is a welcome addition. But my mother's pleasantness in particular is just a fact of existence that Tamara feels the need to exclaim upon, thus giving us further opportunity to follow a rabbit warren of thoughts elsewhere, away from what none of us prefers to think about, this rot-eating-a-hole-in-our-mother's-head problem, this tooth and brain-sepsis problem and neglecting of the obvious.

Everybody loves our mother.

They used to love our mother as well, but Jill and I always felt she was fooling people when we were kids, with that charm of hers, so put on, with that big wide smile that would eat you up. "Isn't it ironic," Jill likes to say now, "that I am taking care of her, feeding her, ministering to her every need, when she couldn't bother to make a meal for us when we were growing up?" It's true, what Jill says. We survived according to our mother's fashion-model diet: coffee, an Entenmann's donut or two a day, more coffee, perhaps a small plate of noodles and butter for dinner. This is ironic, I assure Jill.

Jill says our mother is faking it to everyone, even to me, to everyone except Jill, who bears the brunt of our mother's sour moods. Faking it means putting on a brave face, or covering for lapses, such as when someone says to our mother, It was so nice to see you yesterday and she responds without missing a beat, Yes, it was lovely. Our mother gets mean and morose and depressed when they come home from appointments, and she cries a lot, says Jill, and sometimes she moans. "It's the moaning I can't stand." Our mother moans when she's hungry, says Jill, or wants attention, or feels an inarticulate desire for something she doesn't know anymore what it is.

We held our lease in Manhattan for twenty years exactly. It is the first ten of those I want back now. In my mind they form an epoch, less a span of time than a block. The heft of that block matches the nostalgia I feel for it, something weighty and substantial, enough so it drives me through the streets of this city seeking out my past in that uncorruptedly corrupt state only a New Yorker could feel remorse for: the new Bendel's, laid out like the old; the new MoMA, so pointedly evoking the last.

Our era begins in 1975. Our mother was newly divorced for the second time, newly escaped from yet another claustrophobic suburban marriage, eager to find her way again as a model in the world of high-glam fashion. She was five-foot eleven and a-hundred-ten pounds, with watery black eyes and eyelashes that looked dipped in tar.

Continental was the new hip. There were outdoor café tables, an affectation from France. Also new and from France were green-glass bottles of Perrier adorning those tables, typically holding wildflowers. Suddenly everyone knew how to pronounce parmesan, edam, gouda. Woody Allen seduced Diane Keaton beside a platter of Rondelé. At home, we consumed low-rent, supermarket versions of the delicacies: powdered cappuccino, broccoli and brie in a bring-to-a-boil plastic sac.

In spite of its gourmet pretensions, this was New York at its nadir. There were strikes of garbage, scaffolding removal, doormen, token booth clerks. Laid-off cops rioted at the Brooklyn Bridge. It was the dark days of fiscal crisis, the era of Ford to City: Drop Dead, the height of gov-

ernment layoffs, before the pooper scooper law, during days of drought and people yelling racial slurs at each other at top volume, and of the pushy, shove-y New York — the rotting little island, as outsiders called it; the cesspool, as our father called it; "Fear City," as it was memorialized on a T-shirt that a friend used to wear; the place your life "wasn't worth a nickel," as our mother's then-boyfriend used to call our fine city.

In the universe of my dreams, I am, now, the same age as my mother, then. Our story takes place in a timeless in-between, metaphysically breaking the rules of nature. In this imagined place where no one ages, my mother and I could be sisters or best friends. This is what she always wanted. Okay Mum, you have it. Here it is: the prime of life, the prime of our lives. Time collapses, the generation between us is elided.

I have a photograph from that period, taken by a fashion photographer during a break on one of her modeling shoots, which my mother gave me as a gift not so many years ago to mark my age and match it to hers. She wears a man's mechanic's jacket, zipped up, with her hair silky and glossed, swept around her cheekbones and unstyled. She looks down, so as to accentuate the arresting clarity of her bone structure. She is stunning, beautiful.

When we moved to New York, what held my attention first was celebrities in our building — the Rodney Dangerfields, whose daughter, Melanie, was my age, and the Carolyn Kennedy–David Nixon power duo. Brooke Shields was a year above me in a private school nearby — we saw her on the street or in local shops. Mason Reese lived in the neighborhood too — the child actor, also my age, then well known for his memorable line in a Dunkin Donuts commercial: This is what a munchkin looks like!

What I recognized in the display was what was withheld from us, what gave us the impression we didn't belong — our fatherless threesome, cash poor. Perhaps there were others in our building behind in the rent soon as they got there. I don't actually know.

The celebrities attended private school, but there was also a lower social rung in our neighborhood and in our building whose kids attended a well-rated public elementary school across the street. I fell yet another social rung beneath my classmates there.

Our building accounted for the largest single demographic of students at the elementary school, and took up a whole block. With the pretension intrinsic to the moment, it had been named The Pavilion — it was just a decade old when we got there. In a survey of momentous New York City architecture, the critic for the Times, Paul Goldberger, condemned our building as the first in a wave of "white brick block-blusters" causing blight upon the eastern avenues of uptown, Yorkville. It had a grocery, a valet, a coiffeur, and an electronics store. It had its own zip code, and its

own catacombs of behind-the-lobby hallways stretching between six elevator banks to three separate towers, each with its own system of terraces and stairwells in which to play hide-and-seek and get lost and have dreams about, dreams in which one can never get home, like Kafka's Karl Rossman taking too many unconsidered turns inside the labyrinth.

I no longer have that dream, about getting lost in the labyrinth. Nor do I have an old recurring nightmare about an intruder coming through the front door, which we, like many in our building, were in the habit of leaving unlocked. The only dream I seem to have lately is about moving back in.

Now, Jill evokes for me, in lurid, amusing detail, a situation concerning their laundry at the apartment in Queens. It has been piling up for months, she says. It's possible. I haven't been coming in when I've seen my mother, meeting her outdoors because a long time ago I got in the habit of avoiding Jill this way. Rather than haul their clothes to the laundromat, they get new ones for free through a recycling program at a rehab center where Jill volunteers. When Jill tells me this, I imagine them climbing over squalid heaps of dirty clothes to get from bedroom to bathroom.

I find myself actively avoiding the inside for fear of what I will find there. I envision a situation comparable to that of the hermit Collyer brothers of Harlem — living amid one hundred twenty tons of debris and fourteen grand pianos.

I recently learned about this on NPR. "The house was labyrinthine," according to a court order for the demolition of that home in 1947, "with tiny passages between towers of stacked books, boxes, papers…." Maybe Jill heard this too. Authorities discovered the detritus of the Collyer brothers' domestic existence once the brothers had passed away inside, with "Langley, dead about a month, decomposing under a crushing stack of newspapers, apparently a trap gone wrong. He lay about ten feet from where his brother, left without his caretaker, had died." So, this is, more or less, what I am imagining for my sister and my mother.

But, no. When I finally go over, I see that their two beds are made up like army cots, the blankets taut. Two laundry bags are neatly tied up at the door. There are clean socks and underwear drying on a line in the bathroom. There are notes on stickies on the counters, the refrigerator door, the desk: To go outside — 1 keys + 2 cell phone (items highlighted in yellow). There is a page with an empty circle drawn in its center. To take in AM, it reads underneath, for pills.

Jill writes these reminders in heavy ink or pencil lead, as if she is pushing hard into the page to make sure it doesn't escape from her, this line she is inscribing, as if she is afraid it will get forgotten, of its own accord, while she is in the middle of transmitting it through her neck and

shoulders and arms and fingers. All her life she has suffered painful episodes in which she dislocates her shoulder. Writing vigorously like this would do the job fine, I think. Her notes use the full range of tools available to the scribbler: caps, italics, underlines, highlights in yellow. These flourishes also adorn bills and receipts that Jill delivers to me these days, some so scrawled over I can't read what they say, nor use them effectively for reimbursements from a Trust I have to set up in order to qualify our mother for Medicaid.

I have organized our mother's finances according to a complicated, scaffolding-like structure. Order gives us respite from worry. "In time of trouble, I had been trained since childhood, read, work it up, go to the literature," writes Joan Didion. "Information was comfort." There are now three bank accounts to facilitate a system of reimbursements and loans and shuttling of income required for Medicaid. This owes to a loophole in the law that I could explain right here except it took me three months to understand myself. I look over the receipts and imagine I am everybody's father.

For one year, our father paid for private school for Jill — the public junior high was not so well rated as my elementary one, though eventually we both went there anyway. A fancy set took Jill in, and at their center was Chevy Chase's kid sister. Therefore, we were SNL acolytes at the beginning: first show, first season. His sister became an honorary member of our household, and though neither my mother nor I ever met the man, Chase came to go by the name "Chevy" in our home — for instance in such phrases as "Chevy broke his back on that fall," or, "Chevy got on pills for his back," or, "Chevy's in for rehab now."

If we were poor, our worldview was through the lens of the rich and the insulated. We can thank Chevy for what we knew of other existences. Today, it seems to me there is a thick slab of glass separating what we took in about our city, then, and history's version of New York in the Seventies. We followed the news on "Weekend Update with Chevy Chase." For this reason only, we knew that there was terrorism in Croatia:

And where did they hide their guns? And who made their little masks for them? How could these little crustaceans steal a plane?

Miss Litella, that was Croatians. Five Croatians hijacked a plane. Croatians, not crustaceans.

Oh. What are Croatians?

Another kind of shellfish, Miss Litella. And about Uganda:

Ugandan president Edi Amin announced he will undergo a species change operation in order to become a human being.

And in Denmark, reported Chevy, Sammy Davis Junior would be meeting with a surgeon:

. . .to discuss plans to undergo an operation to have his jewels removed.

And about New York, we heard:

In New York this week, Ramsey Clark, Paul O'Dwyer, Bella Abzug, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and [pause] Abe Hirschfeld.

We lost track of what went on around us, had perhaps lost ourselves in that same whisper of giggling and romance that had overtaken our city. It was not a part of our worldview that just over the bridge in Bushwick, Brooklyn, there was an epidemic of insurance-related arson fires so pronounced whole blocks had gone missing. In a whole sweep of landscape, there was nothing to rest the eyes on but the churches.

We never left Manhattan except to see family in Boston. On the Amtrak for custody visits with our father, Jill and I peered out as we rattled past buildings with burnt-out windows and char marks in the South Bronx, or at abandoned factories along the Eastern seaboard with giantsized product replicas on their rooftops: a Swingline Stapler, a pack of Lifesavers. We didn't know what to make of all this economic collapse, didn't know how it connected to either of the two lives we crossed between in Boston and Manhattan. Today, I read about how the TV stations looped images of mayhem from the 1977 blackout: mobs in packs hurtling through darkness; looters stabbing each other in tussles over a refrigerator or a TV set; four men wrenching a parking meter from the ground and using it to smash the window of a jewelry store. I watch this on YouTube.

About that fateful summertime week of the blackout, I remember only that Jill and I were up in Boston, and that we spoke to our mother on the telephone to hear how she'd fared on Seventy-seventh Street. She'd walked up the stairs to get home, our mother reported to us. Fifteen flights!

My mother and I go outside, toward our regular café downstairs from the apartment in Queens. The subway station is one stop over the river on the 7 line, two stops from my apartment downtown. Her tooth has been pulled. There was no sepsis.

"What would you like to do?" she offers.

"We were going to lunch," I remind her. We do this all the time. "Really? Do you have any money? Because, I don't have any money."

We also have this conversation all the time — since I took over managing the money.

"Don't worry, I'll take you. With your money."

"Oh, okay! I'm really in bad shape. My memory. . ." she trails off. "Don't worry, though," she assures me. This is one of several repeating impulses of hers lately, to remind me that she remembers me, and that she believes she will always remember me.

"I know," I say. Actually, the situation gives me an odd sense of apprehension, as if my disappearing from my mother's consciousness will coincide with my actually disappearing in real life. The foggier she becomes, the more I feel lost in a fog and murky.

My nostalgia is reaching the point of compulsion — that is what I mean to say. Popular culture doesn't help me, with its endless re-spooling of Manhattan and Annie Hall. That one played in Bryant Park recently. I watched, sitting alone, trying to transpose the refurbished Bryant Park against my memory of it, when junkies and rats ruled the walkways. The media seem to yearn as much as I do for New York City in that moment of transition, before Giuliani got out his Teflon. My longing doesn't fade. Just when I think I've gotten past it, there it turns up again like an old boyfriend who's stuck around the neighborhood long past when he should have quit.

Contrary to all manner of doomsday updates from Jill, health seems to exude from my mother's clear eyes and skin. At lunch, she is saying things like, "I don't feel that — " making a hand gesture, reaching out and grasping, waiting for me to help her out. She's losing language, and this is the most evident symptom. Plaques and tangles hit different people in different parts of their prefrontal cortices. Every time she loses a word, I imagine a fleck of her brain has sloughed away.


"Yes, desire. I'm not thinking about the past, not comparing this that I have now to something that was maybe different, or better or worse, before. I am just — " she purses her lips and looks far off and pushes a straight arm forward as if imitating a race car hurtling ahead.

" — concentrating on now?" "Yes, concentrating on now."

These days I feel a kind of awe and respect that I used to experience in the presence of a guru I knew in India, who would sit across his desk from me in his library exuding a nameless thing so simple and bright and joyful I couldn't grasp it in my mind as a palpable quality. It was pure life — pure living — uncomplicated by want. Nirguna, it seemed to be — without qualities — a term that also describes a state of transcendence. Transcendence is luminous — amanaska, like those walls — and yet also empty — nirguna, a peaceful kind of empty.

When I don't feel awe I feel bafflement. It's hard to tell which version of the situation is true: the one I perceive when I'm with my mother — or Jill's. Sometimes I think there is something crazy going on in that apartment in Queens. I will never find out about it until the two are discovered buried there beneath a pile of belongings.

I concoct scenarios to describe the space between what one of them reports and the other, the not-this and not-that scenario, but the some-

thing-else scenario that I haven't the imagination to conceive of: the swerve — right there in front of me, so darkly invisible. It is as if there were a floor beneath me, but it is not really a floor, and I am dangling in midair only I don't know it, and I won't know it until I look down at that floor and see that it isn't there at all, at which point I will drop, suddenly and windlessly.

What if everything I think is, isn't? My own reading of things could easily be a matter of viparyaya — erroneous interpretation. Neither Jill nor my mother is a reliable narrator.

Patañjali's Yoga Sutras concern themselves in large part with the skill of discerning truth — pramana — given the many layers of deception and delusion one encounters in one's own mind and in others. Yoga is an art of seeing clearly.

Who is doing the deceiving? My mother, or Jill, or that part of me that wants our past back?

"What?" my mother is pressing me, at lunch, as if it's someone else's fault that she doesn't understand, as if it's not fair, this situation, as if the world has played a mean trick on her.

"In order for you to qualify for Medicaid you have to have an income below. . ." I repeat.

"What?" Her eyes say to me, How dare you?

"You need Medicaid in order to go to the senior center." The real answer is I want her to have Medicaid so that if and when Jill bails or flames out, a system will be in place for my mother to move somewhere else, or to receive long-term care, or to find full-time home care, paid for. I don't say any of this explicitly. I also avoid correcting the euphemism that has fallen into the everyday speech of our family: the senior center. It's adult daycare — there is a bold sign emblazoned with the phrase on the entryway to the very building. She flunked out at a free senior center where I sent her one day, close to her apartment, on Queens Boulevard. "Your mother is not appropriate for our level of care. She needs full-time, one-to-one supervision," said a harried social worker who called me in crisis that day. I don't remind my mother about this.

"I'm afraid she's unlikely to see eighty," Jill wrote in a text to me recently, replying to a note in which I warned their spending was too high. There is a monthly amount we can take out if we want her savings to last until she's eighty-two, said a man at her retirement fund. And they are spending too much.

I think a lot about what will happen when our mother dies. The life expectancy after diagnosis with Alzheimer's is five to ten years. Jill and I heard that and immediately dismissed it. Not our mother. She was diagnosed at sixty-seven. She'd said on several occasions, earlier in life, that she planned to live to ninety-nine, and there was never a reason to doubt

this. Her mother lived ninety-four years, soused on liquor for seventy-five of them. What will happen to Jill?

Two days ago, a storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on our city. It is still thick, plowed or salted along walkways, and there are exhaust-grayed mounds of snow-plow detritus lining the curbs. You can't bust through except where the steps of a thousand pedestrians have carved walkways at the crosswalks; it's that time of year you can't cross at the middle of a block without climbing a mountain to reach the sidewalk. My mother stares out the window of the café. I've tried to give her triggers about the day program — the food, the driver — but they've called up little, just pleasant associations about "the people," who are "very nice, very kind, I can't remember any of them, I can't see a face. But I think they're nice. Very kind." I can see she is thinking hard, trying to get a visual, when she says this.

"Look at the colors," she adds. More and more, this is what we can do. We talk about the colors we see. "The light's different. It's not always like this. Everything is so — "

I look hard. "Blue? It's bluer." "Right."

And the asphalt is blacker, so black it's not even black anymore. More like silver. "And silver," I say.

"Right. And over there" — she points eastward — "the clouds are so, slow."

"And still," I say, agreeing. It is not a bad way to spend an afternoon, I

think, seeing colors in a new way.

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