Category: writing challenge

Right to health? Health and interventions are not the same.

Right to health, what? What do you mean by right to health? Right to medical intervention is not the same as health, in fact it’s far from it. Access to preventative screenings is several steps closer to giving people the information they might need to promote their health – assuming the screening is accurate and not prone to false negatives or positives. In the ideal setting the intervention would be early enough that it was minor and effective.

Healthy people generally have the least contact with the medical field unless you are part of the medical field (as I was). So I’ve had lots of contact, just not many interventions.

The current system rewards interventions with payment and interventions breed more interventions. Iatrogenic mortality (one source) is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. (medications, surgeries and hospital based infections are often fatal). Basically, if the system drives illness-based-wealth, we will get more illness. Because there is money in it, lots of money, goodwill and power. Why else would churches be a main player in hospital ownership? Hm, religion is a player on the field.

Non-healthcare people generally seem to believe the medications they take are keeping them well. Most medications only control the symptoms of being unwell, they do not cure the underlying disease or chronically poor behaviors promoting the disease.

The great exceptions are antibiotics, which are rapidly being undermined by stupid use (meat animal growth enhancement and as placebos for viruses) driving evolutionary changes in bacteria. And vaccinations, which are a proven prevention strategy, being undermined by misinformation and fear (and inadequate understanding of the risks of the diseases being prevented).

One of the reasons surgeons are the rock stars of the medical profession is because with a scalpel they can cure disease (sometimes).

Let’s take for example the approach to an ever increasing chronic problem overweight/obesity. The answer, the weight loss industry – diets and surgery.

As a dietitian I know something about it although, because I’m an idealist, I never partook of its riches – it seemed wrong to me. The best predictor of unintended weight gain is going on a weight loss diet. The efforts to find one main cause for the obesity and subsequent diabetes epidemic have not really uncovered ‘a’ culprit, but the ‘best predictor of unintended weight gain is dieting.’

If you never, never were restricted, shamed, never went on that first diet…and next and next it is exceedingly likely that you would weigh much less now. It is more likely that you would have maintained the internal system for hunger and satiety cues that those without weight issues use to maintain their body weight. You wouldn’t be charmed by recipes or be entranced by foodie shows or have undeniable need to eat when not hungry. You wouldn’t be a prime candidate for adult-onset diabetes.

However if I wanted to partake and make money off weight loss systems I would use some modified diet, controlled portions, an external system. Because then you would continue to need my services ($) after great initial success and praise, then, oh darn you failed, lost your focus, lacked willpower, but some people succeed and you could be like them! See they’re famous on TV.

Or I would get aligned with a weight loss surgical team and do counseling about how to deal with minimal stomach volume. Lots of clients, effective surgery (people definitely lose weight following surgery) and follow up issues usually related to absorption problems or eating through – regaining and need for another surgical intervention. Nice economic system. Justifiable because of the serious health problems that come along with obesity.

If I wanted you to be able to really become free of this chronic problem I would have to help you see it in a completely different way and you would have to resist the multiple forces driving you towards dieting, food policing, scales, portion controls, fast change, elective surgery and whatever newest and greatest extreme exercise craze. And nutrition and exercise would be of the gentle long-haul quality, something you could and wanted to continue forever without will power. You would pay attention to your own body, how it reacts – you would be aware. Sounds spiritual, it is.

Makes you think – maybe. But we don’t want to have to change our behaviors, they are ours and we’re used to them. So what if they are making us sick, making us feel sick, making us less than happy.

It is the government’s responsibility to make the decisions that will benefit the whole country. Decisions like ensuring clean air, clean water, untainted food sources, fairness in economic systems and security in those systems. Perhaps being the police force for the world is part of that, probably not. It is also important to prevent endemics of diseases that would threaten the population and the population’s ability to produce healthy food and a reasonable living, which ties into education. The government which we deride, is us. We vote, we buy, we accept, we want, we demand, we blame and we ignore our responsibility to think choices all the way through.

The financial system is a completely made-up, arbitrary system. Its consistency important only because it stands for other things. Its regulation is very important because of that factor. Money means nothing if there is no health, no clean water, no clean air, no untainted food, no way for the majority to have security, except of course those with the most will be able to garner the last of the supplies and sway the ones who also want the power of money.

Having people driven into insolvency, poverty and death instead of being a productive member of society is tragic. Having subsidies, benefits, cheap loans for companies who will significantly damage the air quality, water quality, food quality, devalue employees, is idiotic, and amazingly short sighted; except if your over-riding purpose is to quickly accumulate money – which is most corporations primary goal.

Continuing to support a system that benefits from illness is dumb. Continuing to promote systems that encourage the formation of morbid chronic diseases is also less than brilliant.

Yes we should have freedom to choose with informed choice, but then we also get to have the results of those choices and how educated are we in our choices? Are the repeated pieces of marketing doing all the education? Are students even taught how to evaluate the risks vs the benefits of a health care protocol? How many men get treated for prostate cancer, when the statistics show that 49 will get the treatment and only one will benefit by not dying from that cancer. The other 48 get the side-effects and no life saving, but you don’t know it, you might be the one who is saved. Would you be tough enough to say no if your doctor told you of your cancer and what he could do to possibly save you?

We have tried this current system of private insurance health care for a while now and the results? Well U.S. does not have statistics that support continuing as we have been. But the players have a lot of money on the field and it is better for them financially if things continue and people already in ‘disease’ are afraid.

Afraid of the things they might lose, afraid they won’t be saved, afraid in a culture that keeps death at arm’s length and wants to hide from the declines of aging. Afraid medications won’t be there, in denial that sick old people often just want it all to end, denial about the level of mental illness in the population…  Do you think fear and denial make a strong country or are they more likely to set up ill-thought-out panic? Scare mongering seems amazingly blatant lately.

And everyone in the system can’t see a way out of the system, that’s the way it is with systems, they overtake ones whole perspective. They blind us to the potential benefits of other ways.

But yes, I call for choice in interventions. However I think there needs to be proof of homework, proof of viable research for the choice being made. Where is the risk/benefit ratio? How likely is this intervention to actually produce a healthy recovery. Would a surgeon from another medical center agree to have it done to him?

Choice based on proof of quality of life after intervention and understanding of the likelihood of little benefit and a myriad of unpleasant side-effects.




Writing 101: Size Matters

A sky blue and off-white metal rectangle on thinly hidden wheels was my school year home when I was 12. It had entry sheds at both doors. They kept the cold breezes from freezing its whole length and stopped the spring mosquitoes from swarming in.

Its front end held the kitchen which was quickly followed by the living room. Then down the tiled hall were bunk beds in bedroom one, bedroom/storeroom two, Pepto Bismal pink in bathroom three, and at the end the master bedroom big enough for a double bed and dresser with a mirror reflecting the way you came. It was 80 feet long and 10 feet wide, I think, or maybe 60 or 70. The size didn’t matter, what fit in, fit in. We played outside, except when it was really horrible. Then we filled the living room. Filled it until it was time to clean up and put everything away so you could walk or sit.

We lived there from September to May, abandoning it for a lake cottage in the summers.

I haven’t thought of that place for a long time. Somehow the house wasn’t important. It was the outside and the activities and the friends that mattered.

Mirror, mirror; DP challenge Wall to wall

What is posted on the walls of our home? What mood does the posting reflect? That is the daily post challenge.

In our house the walls mirror our life and the things we have done, places and animals we have known. The walls also show the gifts we have received. The artwork is, for the most part, created by us – each family member. The photos taken by us and framed and updated in the frames as new interesting photos are taken.

More carving, kinda retro...we don't worry about fashion, just what we like to have around.
More carving, kinda retro…we don’t worry about fashion, just what we like to have around. The brown chair is less than a year old, the kitty scratching post came soon after – it seems that the fabric of the brown chair inspires kitty claws (as you may notice, he’s been using the scratching post).
Dan, my husband carved the rays.
Dan, my husband carved the rays.
Clusters of photography include events like white water rafting, paddling a sale boat due to lack of breeze, rock climbing...
Clusters of photography include events like our first Airedale standing on his hind legs looking over a large wave on Lake Michigan for his ball, white water rafting, paddling a sail boat due to lack of breeze, rock climbing, wood pendulum clock by Dan…some old history and some new history.
Gifts dangle from the ceiling fans, plants add life, paintings done by my daughter or myself grace the walls.
Gifts dangle from the ceiling fans, plants add life, lamp from found pieces, paintings done by my daughter or myself grace the walls.

The mood is creative, eclectic, comfortable and colorful with lots of light coming in. The walls are white in the main areas to serve as a background for art. I like finding things and making things.

So do you make your own art and display it?

Supercalafragilisticexpialidocious – the transporter

“I Love to Laugh,” long and loud…OK so I know all the words of the songs in Mary Poppins. The challenge is to tell about something that transports to childhood…let the transporting begin!

Every grade-school summer, from about a week after the end of the school year to a couple of weeks before the beginning of the next school year, our family lived at the small cottage on Pearl Lake outside of Redgranite, Wis. This lake is in the sand country of Waushara County. Sand that is sparkly tan going toward white, or a little red in some places and creates a lake bottom that is nicely firm, if you do enough walking over it to squish the weeds. I didn’t like walking in weeds as a kid so I swam over any weeds I could. Otherwise, a totally lovely place, of course our beach had/has lots of rocks in with the sand.

The cottage, is a white cottage with an almost flat roof. A cobbled together, old, recycled combination of things from 1949 and 1960s and 70s building cycles build on a cement and rock base (the rocks mostly were picked up from the beach).

Actually there are also some recent updates which have expanded the kitchen (moved it out of darkness) and improved the flow. But I remember how we would awaken in our bunk beds to the sounds of Dad making breakfast on the small gas stove and the smells of pancakes on the iron griddle or burning toast in the toaster and coffee – Dad loved coffee. Mom was the one who was always playing records; Moon River, Que Sera Sera, The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins soundtrack. Dad liked the Big Band Era, Peter and the Wolf, Sheherazad and lots of orchestral arrangements.

We’d have breakfast on the porch table in our swimming suits if it was anywhere near warm enough and get ready for a day of doing things in or on the lake. Of course there were chores to complete first, dish washing, housecleaning and any project we were working on and these were done to music. The sand came in with us each day and had to be removed each morning.

In the early days I remember doing the wash outside with a ringer washer on the porch cement slab, wooden spoon to push the clothes into the ringer and a metal tub of rinse water, then ringer again and then hang on the line. The fear of getting caught in the ringer made it memorable.

If it wasn’t warm enough, or was raining the chores still had to be done, but after, or before if you wanted to procrastinate, it was reading or puzzles or games to music. Oak trees, huge cottonwoods that swayed threateningly in the summer storms, and white pines surrounded us as did black locust trees, which were seen as bad trees because they wanted to fill in everywhere – now they have, as no-one has been chopping them back. They all stayed very drippy after rains. Small cottages mean kids are booted outside as soon as possible – “go out and play,” which was fine with us.

I didn’t get to see the movie Mary Poppins until well after I learned all the songs from the record. I remember seeing the movie in a theatre, inside, so it was likely in the fall as most of the summer movies we saw were at the outdoor theater in Wautoma. I sang all the songs, people in the theater noticed my accompaniment, although I didn’t realize it until informed later. Oh well – hey, I knew all the words!

Comedy of Errors – just go with it

School bus drivers, almost like the postal service, rain, sleet, hail, dark always make it through, unless they don’t, and then everybody knows about it. It’s hard to hide a bus.

Photo by D. Renzoni

Herman drove bus for years. He was otherwise a Wisconsin dairy farmer, wiry, calm and steady, gray-haired thoughtful; this combination of work goes together pretty well, one on a strict schedule, the other flexible, mostly. He was friendly, not too talkative, good with the kids and it was an orderly bus. He would say hi to each school kid as they got on the bus and bye when they got off and usually the only other time they noticed him was if his blue-gray eyes found them in the internal bus mirror, then they quit or quieted whatever they were doing. Just eyes and maybe a little frown.

Every morning, every evening the drive was the same until Tuesday. Tuesday morning Herman’s wife, a nice, slightly overweight woman who had long believed in dairy products fed him soy milk and some cereal blend she had seen on Dr. Oz. She seemed a bit nervous when instead of frying eggs and bacon, she placed these items on the table with a bowl of stewed prunes. He smiled and ate and wondered if they were having anything more? She told him of her new dietary program they were joining for the next 21 days, all smiles and encouragement. Stella had decided to become vegetarian, whole grains, fiber and hoped he would too since she was cooking. She said she had the beans soaking for tonight’s meatless meal. She would be meditating while he drove bus that morning, “Isn’t that the most interesting thing?” He agreed that it might be interesting.

He went out to warm up the bus that he kept in his backyard every night. It was gone. Gone. How could it be gone? He had the keys in his pocket. He went back into the house and said, “The bus is gone.”

Stella responded, “Oh, I know. A person came last night while you were milking and took it. They seemed real nice. They said they were doing the Dr. Oz program, too.”

“Do you know their name? Or where they were taking the bus? Or when they were bringing it back?”

“No, I think they said their name, but I can’t remember…I’m working on a memory program too, so, but anyway they said they’d have it back when you needed it, some little mechanical fix of something. I’m meditating now, so if that’s all you wanted.” She put her ear buds back in and walked away.

“Ya, OK, I’ll call the school.” He dialed administration, Mr. Strict answered, “Good morning, Mr. Strict speaking.”

“This is Herman, bus driver on route 11, my bus is missing and I want to know who picked it up and how I’m supposed to do my route this morning?”

“Did you report this to the police?”

“No, I thought I should check to see if it was part of a planned fix first.”

“What kind of plan? Who have you talked to about this plan?”

“My wife said that last night a guy came here and said he was supposed to pick it up…so he did.”

“What guy? When did you plan to get the bus? What fix?” Mr. Strict went on to explain the anti-terrorist program he was working on and the threats to security he’d been fighting. He felt there was a possibility of a mass kidnapping via bus or even a bus bomb potentially blasting the cafeteria section of the high school since the new mealtime regulations had caused such an uproar with more fiber and less meat or…

Herman listened quietly, then said, “The kids on the route will be waiting, is there another bus? And are you going to call the police or do more checking?”

“I’m calling the SWAT team right now, group meeting, we may need to close down the schools, search everything, call in more support.”

“Hmm, maybe we need to check with maintenance first and just the regular sheriff’s department and how about the administrative secretary to contact the families on the route if its going be a long delay?” said Herman. “I’ll wait right here or do you want me to drive to the bus garage?”

“Good ideas, Herman. Yes, if you could go to the bus garage…ah, if this is a terrorist plot, but anyway, you go to the garage.”

“I’m going to the bus garage, honey.” No answer, so he wrote a note and put it on the kitchen table. The old blue Ford truck started with no problem even though it was very cold that morning. Herman figured if he got another bus he’d still only be about 15 minutes off schedule. He drove three miles and through the trees saw a bus in a farm-yard that looked a lot like his and slowed down so he could check the number, that was his bus! He pulled in and went to the farmhouse back door, knocked. The woman answered in a German dialect. He wasn’t sure what she said, but she appeared to want him to get the bus out of her yard. He asked to use the phone. No phone. No electricity. He told her he would leave his truck there and take the bus, she nodded and waved her hands, but he didn’t know for sure if she understood or not.

He went out and started his bus, then got on the radio to tell the school that he found the bus and was starting his route. He chuckled to himself about finding the bus on an Amish farm, weird maybe the garage guy left it in the wrong yard. Herman headed for the first pick-up on his route. The kids were a bit chilled from standing outside longer than usual and a couple of families seemed to have thought they missed the bus and so had taken the kids to school themselves.

The roads were icy, the sun glaring directly into his eyes on the east heading parts of the route making it hard to see. A large flock of turkeys, at least 20 big birds were right in the middle of the road as he came around a corner. They launched into flight, eight to 10 pound missiles right at bus windshield level. Herman braked, the bus lurched and skidded and slid and toppled gently and firmly into the ditch. Kids screamed, books and bags shifted and Herman wanted to swear, but he didn’t.
“Everybody OK?” he asked. There was one little girl who was crying, but an older sister said she was fine. Herman called in to report the accident and got Mr. Strict. Mr. Strict wanted to know if he thought the bus had been rigged.

Herman said, not unless the flock of turkeys was part of the plot and requested the wrecker. Mr. Strict didn’t say anything. Herman repeated that the turkeys were just in the road at the wrong time. Mr. Strict said he didn’t want to call for the wrecker and wanted to know if it was actually needed.

“Yes, we’re going to need it to get out and someone’s got to come pick up the kids in the meantime.”

“You sure you need the wrecker, it costs more to get the wrecker and you know we’re holding down the budget, except if it’s terrorism.” Herman repeated that a wrecker would be needed and that it didn’t seem to be terrorism.

“I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” said the sweet, teary faced girl. Her sister tried to hush her and told her that the only place to go would be out in the snow and everybody on the bus would see her and she’d never live it down for the rest of the time she was in school. She got real quiet after that and said no, she’d hold it.

Then a dog came up to the front of the bus, it squatted and peed when it got almost to Herman, the pee running sideways and towards the bus doorway. Herman looked at the kids, “Whose dog is this?”

“It was on the bus when we got on,” said one fourth-grade boy.

“We thought it was yours, and she’s real friendly. I guess she had to go, too.”

Everyone sat quietly and watched the stream of pee run down the bus steps. The dog looked at the bus driver, wagged her tail in apology and went back to the back of the bus. The bus radio buzzed, Herman picked it up. “What? There’s a SWAT team at my farm? But I shouldn’t worry about that…My wife’s invited them for calico bean stew this evening? OK with me, sure, more Dr. Oz fans, OK dokie.”

In northern Wisconsin the roads become icy, the ditches become snow bound, the animals become restless, winter gets long, memory gets short, terrorism seems possible and losing a bus may be the least of it all.

1999 – DP Challenge; Buffalo Nickel

Fourteen years ago some icy snow was still on the ground after the melt the week before, not knee-deep like this year, and the birds had started to sing the songs of spring. I was working, working, working; a corporate consultant with corporate email, voice-mail, name tag,

I'm still using the same corner desk, but multiple computers later.
I’m still using the same corner desk, but multiple computers later.

laptop, home office,  corporate American Express credit card, corporate headaches and gray (or maybe white or black or navy…I’d had them all) Ford Taurus  traveling across Wisconsin from Milwaukee to Superior visiting two to four nursing homes a week. But I also had four weeks of paid vacation, sick days, 401K, stocks from the corporation and a regular automatically deposited pay check.

I had a personal mission statement in my Covey Franklin planner which read; “I value truth and information and new understanding. I value family and love and building relationships. I value excitement and adventure and physical harmony. I value achievements and accomplishments and recognition.

photos from 1999 004
I’ve long since gotten rid of the yellow jacket, Dad is gone, those knitted gloves on my daughter are still in the drawer and I can’t remember ice skating since. In 1999 Pearl Lake froze clear and without snow cover…the whole lake for skating!

I aspire to success in family, which is strong interdependence and comforts and optimum growth for all. I aspire to success in business, which is recognition and compensation. I aspire to lead to influence toward success. To teach wellness and healing and growing. I aspire to be an outstanding speaker. To be heard. And to always be learning and understanding. I aspire to personal well-being, physical and mental that will support the achievements of all my life’s mission.”

I often had a flight out to some meeting, Dallas or Memphis or Atlanta…somewhere with easy airport access. I was in demand for helping teams do projects, like business opportunity planning (how should a facility put together a plan for example an Alzheimer’s unit, or wound unit or what would be in and who would be on the teams that quality reviewed facilities). During February my big project was on staff retention. In the nursing homes we prioritized problems and worked to solve them, the success rate was gratifying. It was fun and I was doing what I had said I wanted to do.

I was worried though; my daughter was a ninth grader and I wasn’t home enough. She wrote for English:

Alone is a room with no doors.

It’s an empty room with black curtains and locked windows, frostbitten walls and holey floors,

They creak and stir with age.

Alone, is a crowd that stretches as far as the eye can see, yet not a friend in sight.

Alone, is silence, a restless silence, that burns and scorches the soul.

Alone, is me.

Cereal advertisement :)
Cereal advertisement 🙂

My husband worked for UW-Extension in 4H, which involves a fair amount evening meetings, he wasn’t home enough at the right times. And I was working, working, working.

We had a Disney World/Sea World, Orlando, Fla., trip planned for late April. I had enough air mileage that there was a free ticket to haul along a girlfriend for company for our daughter; it was a fun-filled trip. In between April and June, my husband, felt he needed to intervene ‘crossroads with daughter.’ I disagreed – too reactive.  Plus, it’s the time of life for changes, I kind of remember that age, ha ha. Of course, he did, too. Then in late June, she and I went for a week of horse camp, we had a great time and I began the planning decision to quit my full-time corporate life.

Ice skating on Pearl Lake 1999.
Ice skating on Pearl Lake 1999.

Interesting that the penny I pulled out of my desk drawer had such an important year stamped on it, a year that changed the trajectory of my career, but also changed some of my daughter’s life choices and gave me the chance to more fully honor my mission and values. And it all started in 1999,  when the birds were announcing spring, as the  snow disappeared in northern Wisconsin.


This writing challenge was based on the idea of finding a piece of change and writing about what you were doing that year of the coin. I pulled out my old work calendars, photos and journals and checked the NOAA forecast and Farmer’s Almanac for Milwaukee weather (since my records only mentioned workouts of walking and on the Nordic Trak…which indicated snow sports not happening).

Can you go back, find a year and write about it? Was it a changing time in your life or someone else’s?

What I love – both exalted and mundane

MorningJan312013 012White, white snow blanketing the earth.

Gray , gray clouds building in the sky.

Black, black crows cawing the coming Spring.

Brown, brown dash of churning legs fly.

Deep, deep breath inhaling the heavens.

Wide, wide thoughts of life going by.

High, high branches reaching for the sun.

Low, low machinations affecting everyone.

Love it all.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Saturday morning thoughts – out the window

Looking out on an otherwise unremarkable view, or maybe it is remarkable if you’re not used to seeing a field and a treeline out your window, there is a 300 foot tower, looming over the landscape with a strobe light at the top, red lights flashing warning during dark times, round dishes facing differing compass points, long diagonal cables anchoring it to the field at each 50 foot section and a small, fenced in terminal house at the base.

Sometimes I think it’s pretty – in an Erector set, Eiffel tower kind of way. Sometimes I think it’s an eyesore, bird killer, spying enabler attempt to move cold metal into the rural landscape. Sometimes it’s just a way marker, like a stack of stones gone ‘postal.’ Sometimes it’s just ignored, not interesting, it never moves or changes, really.Jan42013 001But there it is, in the dawn light, in the day light, in the evening making light. Something that wouldn’t have been there 10 years ago, it’s a modern view.

Where are we now – DP Challenge 1000

“Thank God, there you are! I was worried when you took so long to show up,” I scolded softly as he pulled me into an embrace.

Photo Cheri Lucas

We were both looking so foreign in the stolen clothing. But now we looked like we fit in here or maybe if not still like tourists. The first rule is to become like everyone else, to be unnoticed or briefly noticed and then forgotten by questioning eyes sliding away not wanting to interfere with a private moment. Don’t make a scene, don’t become too memorable. Why did I think that thought?

“Did you have any trouble?” He whispered into my neck, breathing me in as we clung in our brief lover’s embrace.

“No, you?” He shook his head just enough so I could feel his response as I hugged his warm, spicy scented, athletic body. “Where do we go now? Should we try re-boarding the tram and see where we end up?”

“No, let’s not. We just got here and got these clothes. Let’s find something fresh to eat and maybe a place to play before we try to return to our own time and place again. Maybe we’ll like it here. Maybe we’ll stay for a while.”

The sun was getting lower in the sky making the narrow streets shadowed and cooler than they had been just minutes before. The air was dry, desert-like but with the smells of bus exhaust, mint, curry, garlic sauteed food and it was clear this wasn’t a land that ever worried about ice or snow.

So different from where we come from, why did we end up here? Where was here? Thoughts kept cycling through my head. Was this real or was I hallucinating. It seemed real. Could I trust him? It felt like I knew him, how well did I know him? Oh, just go with it, it’s a lovely place.

“Did you figure out where and when we are?” I asked him, Lucas, that was his name.

“No, not yet, but this place is old. You have any ideas?”

I shook my head,  “but I’ve got some money, I found some where I found these clothes.”

The people of this foreign place were rapidly disappearing into their own four-story dwellings to settle in and have their suppers.  We kept walking at the same pace not faster, not slower than anybody else. We headed downhill, towards the water we guessed would be at the bottom of the stairs and the lively center of the city’s evening life.

“Do you think anyone is chasing us, or did we escape?” I asked in a soft voice.
“Cherie’, I think we should assume we’re still being followed and if we’re not, then all the better, but let’s see if we can find some outdoor bazaar, we don’t want to be alone in the streets. Start memorizing our path so we can return, we’ll want to be able to pick up our other things before we leave.”

“You think I should memorize the streets?” I asked, surprised by the request.

He looked at me oddly. “Of course. It’s what you do, sweet heart.”

I smiled, warmed by the confidence in my abilities and the endearment. Can I actually memorize pathways?  Why can’t I remember more about him? I concentrate on the streets, on the direction, on the sounds and scents on the way. I can hear lively street music and it’s getting louder. We’re soon in crowds of laughing people; a religious celebration with fireworks. We eat and dance and dance and dance until we need more to drink and then collapse laughing.  The language is like Spanish and Italian, we can get by with the words we know. This is a wonderful place, maybe we can stay in this place…this place…

“‘Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding the truth,’ Borne said that,” droned on the patronizing voice of the psychiatrist, my psychiatrist, at least that’s what they said in their flat nasal voices. He is talking and talking. I thought they were supposed to listen.

Maybe I can truly escape. Maybe next time they won’t find me and then insist I deny where I’ve been. He hasn’t stopped talking.

“I want you to try this new medication and we’ll speak again in a month. You may go back to your unit.”

A month, I’ve got a month. I nod as he dismisses me and returns to keying in his new plans for me on his z5Z computer. I walk down the pale green hallway, green for balanced mental health in the safe clothes from that place. No patterns on these walls, no vines that could look like snakes, of course I’ve never seen snakes on the walls. Fake vanilla scent sprays into the air as I pass to blanket me in calming aroma, but I’m already calm, planning my next journey. The doors are all key padded, locked and camera monitored, but that won’t matter I know a route, I’m the memorizer of pathways.

Getting away isn’t the problem. The problem is recall – mine and their’s. They seem to be able to bring me back. What will it take and how will I prevent my recall gaps and enlarge theirs? If I hadn’t been able to search his computer files I wouldn’t have seen the photo, Lucas and me in the foreign city, in a different time. Maybe some sort of linkage – it was real, it wasn’t illusion. I can escape, but can I go someplace where they won’t find me and where I can find him, again?