The Center of It All by Ruth Maus

after Ben Lerner

The invalid mother is a big responsibility. And I am the lone guardian. This
does not explain my neurosis, however, as I was a mess already. Who am
I kidding? I am Mother Teresa, a surefire candidate down the compassionate
path of sainthood and hell, I’m not even Catholic. I am some kind of artist,

or I teach tricks to housecats who would otherwise behave like turnips.
Sometimes I’m a cleaner of polypropylene carpets, knowing what products
take out what stains. Maybe—just saying—I repackage the products in little
plastic bottles that I purchase at the dollar store and give them away at dirty
bus stops to dirty people. My guilty pleasure would be redesigning the
human body for maximum efficiency, a Volvo’s engineering, all
redemptive and able to withstand

violence. We all die sometime. Maybe I am somebody who measures
capacity. I could throw down the gauntlet to those terrorists who confiscate
it. I’m already a terrorist myself at the center of it all. I know this because
I take charge in a crisis and because the numbers don’t lie. How many
times have you been in the

hospital? But I am not who you think I am. I appear calm when the
hospice folks call to tell me of a new wound or the need for pureed
everything. I smile when dealing with doctors and nurses and appointments
and meds and special compounded meds not covered by insurance. I
purchase the lift, the incontinence products, the wheelchair, all approved
with my excellent credit history. The expense like a chisel, like groaning.
Maybe I absorb the fat shitstorm of nursing homes and Medicare. Even
when I can never take a vacation or a day off, life flattens like a midway of

nice manners. I have encountered a theory of unborn innocence. Actually
I made it up, what with the lack of innocence and I’m pretty well born
at this point. Maybe even old. It goes like this: why can we all help each
other during a crisis, but after the soup and after the protoplasm and after the
rosary, when the other drivers get behind the wheel everyone becomes
rude? Honk if you are rude.