Sometimes — okay, often — when I’m speaking with my partner, I feel as though I negotiate a maze. Only instead of visual twists and turns, I face the twists and turns of logic that has somehow spilled over from an alternate dimension.
(Photo: Pittsburgh cartoonist Joe Wos works on the world’s largest hand-drawn maze in an attempt to get into the Guiness Book of World Records.)
I think my fascination with my partner’s reasoning is part of what keeps me sane. Her reasoning is a puzzle to me as much as Wos’s maze is. I try to fashion its pieces out of what she tells me.
One piece is pattern: If A looks like B, then A=B, or at least A and B are somehow intertwined. Another is an avoidance of ambiguity: A must equal B because there is no other explanation.
At least, that’s my current theory, subject to change.
For example, some of her recent reasoning stems from the overlay of several events that have occurred over the past few days:
1. We received a robo-call from our local Sheriff’s office, warning us that people are going door to door posing as solicitors. The Sheriff’s office is now enacting a Florida statute that requires solicitors to be licensed. People witnessing suspicious activity are to call 911.
2. Two boxes mailed to my partner by her sister have arrived, with memorabilia from their parents’ house, including a single maraca. Everything was very well protected in packing peanuts. My partner gave me a wonderful guided tour of the items.
3. A tall silver beer can appeared in our somewhat overgrown yard. (I plan to do yard work this weekend.) This is not unusual; every so often the yard sports some litter. In the course of washing the can for recycling, we found garden snails inside. We get tiny white garden snails here, whose shells are about a quarter-inch in diameter.
4. A business card (full-color and laminated) from a lawn care service was left tucked beside our doorbell.
My partner explained to me that the FedEx delivery guy had delayed bringing the boxes to our house so that he could make up lawn service cards to leave by people’s doorbells. That way, he could do solicitation without a license because he was already delivering packages. She further postulated that the beer can had been his. He had heard the maraca rattle inside its box, so he put snails inside the beer can and left it in the yard so that the can would rattle when picked up. “Because he’s immature,” my partner theorized.
It’s true that we had a several-day delay between the time FedEx delivered the boxes to our town and the time they reached our door (according to the tracking log), but that included a weekend. Our town has no Saturday FedEx service. My partner had been antsy for the packages to arrive.
As I lay in bed that night, I envisioned the FedEx truck pulling up. The young man descends in his crisp, navy blue uniform with its white-and-orange logo, silver (and empty) beer can in his hand. He can hold it while transporting the two lightweight boxes from the truck’s cargo area. Bright sunlight brings everything into sharp relief.
From deep inside the big box a red-painted maraca with pretty floral highlights makes a pleasing sound (which, by the way, I did not hear when I was moving the boxes around, but never mind). The delivery guy smiles. The sound has given him an idea. And despite the fact that he can’t see whatever is inside, he somehow knows that it’s a maraca.
But first he has to tuck a landscaper’s card by the doorbell above where he’s left the boxes, because he has delayed delivery of the packages just for this purpose. The full-color, laminated cards are quite beautiful for having been made so quickly! Is he distributing the cards for a friend? Or does he moonlight as a gardener?
He must moonlight as a gardener, because then he steps through the tall grass in the yard to root about for snails. Or maybe he spots them on a bare patch and gathers them up, dropping them one at a time past the laid-back pull-tab on his beer can. shakeshakeshake He looks meditative and happy, on his knees in the grass and dirt and with the sunlight on his face, holding the can up to his ear and listening to all the snails rattle around. (In my fantasy, he’s more Zen than immature.)
He leaves his improvised silver maraca half-buried in the overgrowth to surprise us, like the hidden toys that used to come in cereal boxes. He steps away from the yard, re-enters his truck, and drives off, with more packages to deliver and landscaping cards to leave behind.
Just in case it isn’t clear, I don’t believe any of this. But I love the images. I want to see my partner’s reasoning rendered in gentle watercolors on a graphic novel storyboard. Sometimes she strikes me as a kind of Scheherazade — if Scheherazade had stepped Through the Looking Glass.
At other times her reasoning isn’t as captivating. Like yesterday, when she wanted to make an appointment with a neuro-ophthalmologist. When I asked why, she pointed to headaches and a bit of nausea. She was sure it meant her MS was flaring up, and she remembered the neurologist mentioning a neuro-ophthalmologist. (I didn’t remember.) She wanted to know which city I wanted to drive her to, that would have a neuro-ophthalmologist.
This time I envisioned a Monopoly board. Go directly to Jail (MS). Do not pass Go (any reason other than MS).
I pointed out the time in May when she had thought her thumb might be cancerous. (At first she hadn’t remembered. Then she said she might have said something like that.) In other words, jumping to a worst-case scenario before considering other options.
She couldn’t think of any other options.
I asked her if she’d had enough to eat. Enough to drink. Enough electrolytes. She said yes.
I suggested that changes in barometric pressure could be causing her headaches (she is no stranger to headaches) and nausea. I pointed out that we are also now again getting pollen alerts.
She asked me what city I preferred, that had a neuro-ophthalmologist.
I said, “I don’t know.”
She said, “Pick one.”
I suggested we could call the neurologist’s office, first to see if he had indeed recommended a neuro-ophthalmologist, second to see whom he would recommend if so.
My partner repeated, “But what city would you go to?”
I said, “Whatever city had a neuro-ophthalmologist that Dr. G would recommend.”
That didn’t satisfy her. “It’s better for me to plan ahead when I know what city it is.”
I pointed out (trying really, really hard not to laugh. Plan ahead? Say what?) that whenever we went to a new doctor, the office sent us directions and a map and/or I put together driving directions by going to Mapquest.
My partner said she didn’t like Mapquest. Mapquest didn’t give her landmarks.
I said, “Well, why don’t we call Dr. G’s office tomorrow and see what he says? That way, he would also know which of your records to pass along.”
This went back and forth for a while until we agreed to table our discussion for the time being.
As we talked, I picked up one of my soft weights and started doing some light strength training. My partner commented that she had — from the other side of my closed door — listened in on my side of the call for the “I’m So Over” Hot Topics show, where I had mentioned finding ways to keep myself from picking at my cuticles during conversations like this one. She said she was happy I had found another outlet. (Have I mentioned we have boundary issues? Thank goodness for my cell phone.)
A few hours later my partner asked me to look at the bottom of her nose. I noticed a reddish bump on the skin between her nostrils. She pointed out another one at the outer edge of her left nostril.
She figured they were fire ant bites that she had gotten while retrieving the silver beer can from our yard, the one with the snails inside. She’s very sensitive to fire ant bites, so she figured that’s what had caused her headache and nausea.
When she said that, I felt a little like this inside:
Today she said something to the effect that she’s realizing that having MS does not mean that everything is a symptom of MS.
Now I feel like this inside:
My partner is even letting go of her theory that her brother-in-law could be a serial killer. She’s been figuring out various mileage equations and has come to the conclusion that his culpability is highly unlikely.
More important, she told me that she realizes her obsessions are her way of running away from something, especially something over which she feels she has no control. Through the twisting maze of her other-dimensional logic, that realization strikes me as a beeline of clarity.
As for the twists, they can drive me to distraction, but they can also entrance my storyteller’s heart.
(Added to my Caregiving Olympics event of Endurance Listening: Maze Running!)