Finally it was 1:35 a.m. when the local classical radio station started that wound-up misery—technique posing as music. Lila swallowed the last shot of cough suppressant in lieu of something stronger. Actually she was hoping for buzz since the stuff was outdated by some 12 years. She fumbled for the old Walkman then fingered through the cassette tapes. Chose Kitaro playing what David called the Endless Wave. She put the earphones on, punched Play and got back into that time and place. Saw David coming down the hill in Santa Cruz towards her, when he wrapped his arms around her in that great hug of his, and she was back. Back when she was dying. The second time.
The surgeons had ripped her from stem to stern, laid her open like a filleted fish, making her into a traditional shaman. They called it laparotomy seeking some unnamed mumble-mouthed cancer. “Best kind to have, if you’re having it,” said one, to cheer her. She’d live, it seemed, if she could overcome the surgery.
Six weeks later she took a plane, heading for the wilds of Mexico to recover in the care of a nurse-mother, who had retired to pursue her real vocation—chasing men. The arrival in Mexico airport featured two scruffy young men, who would transport her down the ramp in a luggage cart instead of waiting for a non-existent wheelchair. They were double-parked with a van equipped with a mattress in the cargo-space, on which she could recline to endure the rattling four-hour drive.
Some urges you don’t want to enquire too closely about. Lila figured the mother had succumbed at last to penitential discipline to make up for abandoning Lila as a two-year-old to the careless mercies of the first orphanage. There were others. Notwithstanding, the mother could provide a roof-balcony on which Lila could spend her days watching the washing dry, listening to the clang of dissonant church bells, while pulling her psyche together, now she’d be sticking around.
The mother’s life had been a wild one—a series of liaisons had made it exciting, mobile, and now in her last decade it took on an extra flourish. She had begun a career as the Crazy Englishwoman. This meant she was known for her parties (and indiscretions) to which the entire expatriate community was invited, also the butcher, the baker, the telephone installer, and others useful or interesting.
During such an indulgence Lila submitted to her first unfamiliar brownie, causing a disruption exactly like this Kitaro tape she was listening to in the middle of the California night. Of life running down, producing a dreamy sort of dislocation. Which was why she’d saved the tapes, she realized. Even with nothing but an antiquated but faithful Walkman on which to play them, as her life ran out of spunk like the tapes, she’d keep those moments, as she had envisaged. To travel on memories in the middle of the night.