Starość nie radość, Helena says. Don't get old. All you get is shitty underwear.
It's true. The underwear is parachute-shaped and the color of a dusty lozenge. It is American underwear, the sad kind from a pack that understands the wearer has given up. The bra is handmade and older than I am, but even its pre-war hardware is falling apart. I guide the straps over her shoulders and pull it closed with some effort, hook it shut with the only hook still attached. I laugh.
See? You wanted to be fat.
I know, she says.
In the pictures my grandmother is skinny bordering on gaunt. Razor jaw, high cheekbones, thin lips. Sinewy. If it were now she could've been a model. But it was then and she was a schoolteacher and there was a war, and besides that the standard of sexy was different. You didn't see anyone salivating after bones. You had to look like you could get through a winter.
The murmur was nothing but the hospital mandated a cardiac diet, though she refuses to eat if she can't eat what she likes. We go to the kitchen one step at a time. I make her sweet coffee and runny eggs like she likes them and she stares at the birds while I stare at the screen.
Every month I make a calendar on butcher paper and nail it to the wall. Every day I stand in front of it for longer than normal in case I'm forgetting an important date, a deadline or someone's birthday. I worry that things will roll off of me because I'm not all the way conscious. Perhaps the paranoia itself a form of consciousness. My mother has never allowed me to nail anything to the wall so I tape four sheets of paper together and stick them there instead.
Since I got here in June I've done this six times.
Every day I write one thing I did in the little square. Something to remind me I inhabited my body that day. If I write, I write down the number of words that I wrote. Sometimes it's seven hundred and sometimes it's seven. The seven are usually harder to come up with. If I read, I write down the number of words that I read. If I weigh myself, I write that down too. I write down 135 and 133 and 137 and wonder which are the parts of me that keep expanding and contracting to make all those numbers possible in one day.
I write down the crazy things too.
For example: last week I almost bought a goddamn candle for $7. They have all these candles that are for different things, any area of your life that needs help, Motivation Creativity Sex. There's even one that says Manifest A Miracle. Is that the emergency button for candles? I think about that but decide it should probably be reserved for the terminally ill, children with cancer and people going bankrupt. Anyway.