My sister swears by edibles for whatever ails her, and just for fun. Gummies. Chocolates. But especially these cookies a co-worker bakes.
“One before bed and I sleep like a baby,” she assures me.
“No weird dreams?”
“Not at all. And they’re pretty yummy too. Like a butter cookie. Not all twiggy like the brownies from back in the day.”
She’s 61. I’m 65 and suffer from insomnia. For us, back in the day means the sixties, when we lived in Mill Valley, across the bay from San Francisco. Epicenter of the Summer of Love. Free concerts in Golden Gate Park. The pitter-patter of bongo drums. Contact highs.
“You’ll love these,” she says, handing me a zip-lock plastic baggie with six pale cookies inside. “But be careful. Maybe start with half. It’s way stronger than what we used to get.”
I stash the blonde cookies in my kitchen goodie drawer.
The next afternoon, I have the house to myself.
It’s hours until bedtime, but I’m curious about those cookies. I pluck one from the baggie and settle on the couch with the remote. Not bad. Nice crumbly texture. No weird aftertaste or green bits to pick out from between my teeth. I gobble the entire cookie while scrolling Netflix.
The accented chatter of The British Baking Show provides a soothing soundtrack. I close my eyes. What’s this? An intriguing thought, then another, and another. I stumble to my office for notebook and pen.
Back on the couch, I scribble furiously. Fast as my wizened fingers can propel the pen across the lined page. A prescient insight glimmers at the edge of consciousness. Did I just write prescient? God, I’m good.
What’s this? A stabbing pain between the ribs. My back is seizing up. Must. Lie. Down.
I roll off the couch. Notebook and pen clasped to my chest, I zig-zag to the bedroom. Mustn’t lose the prescient…thought…thing. I mound pillows. Resume mad scribbling. Picking up where I left off. Which was where? Breathe. Concentrate. Something about time. How it passes and the numbers get bigger. Like mine. How we—me and time, time and me—age in tandem. At least in this dimension.
The bedside clock flashes 6:09. It would be cool if I could say I was 69 in 96, or 96 in 69. But then I would have missed out on childhood and adolescence. So maybe not so cool.
Ah, the summer of 69. The whole year actually. I was 15. I remember this one time. I lay on my bed, in my bedroom in the peak of our A-frame on a Mill Valley cul-de-sac. Mesmerized by the digital clock. I couldn’t work out how all the numbers fit inside. In a flash, it came to me. You only needed 0 through 9!
Every conceivable time combination with just 10 numerals. Four flipping stacks of 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9.
If I stared hard enough, and didn’t blink, I could catch the flip, even see the fingertips of the tiny guy who hid inside the clock and made the numbers change. A skinny guy in a black full-body leotard. Faceless. Or you’d see the glint in his eyes. Were there four of them trapped in my clock? One for each stack. Furtively flipping. 24/7. What if they escaped? I was alone in my bedroom at the top of the stairs. With the door shut. No one to hear my muted screams.
Memories. I’d forgotten all about those little clock men. I get it all down in my trusty notebook.
The clock on my bedside table now is electronic. No stacks of flipping numbers. It flashes 6:39. Whoa.
I kept a notebook in my teens too. Back then, I wrote in code. Mom was nosy, and scary. Now I’m the mom. Or I was. Was I nosy and scary?
I used to write in circles. Starting in the center. I’d turn the page round and round until I ran out of space and words dribbled off the edge. “Help me, I’m falling,” the letters squealed, as they tumbled onto the floor and skittered from sight. I was always so sure I was writing the most amazing thing ever. And maybe I was. But afterwards, my crabbed circles were indecipherable, forever lost.
No need for subterfuge now. I have no secrets to reveal. Or hide. I write on the lines and take extra care forming my letters.
What’s this ache in my belly? Half a measly leftover salad from Panera for lunch. No fresh baguette to slaver with butter. No compressed carbohydrates to fill the holes in my gastric soul. Must. Have. Sustenance.
It’s slim pickings in the kitchen. No fresh bread. No stale bread. Half a box of wheat thins and my husband’s Chips Ahoy cookies. He won’t notice if I eat a few, then rearrange the rest.
The crackers and cookies are gone. Bedspread and sheets littered with crumbs. How did this happen? I’ve eaten all my husband’s cookies. Again. Must destroy the evidence. But my belly is a bowling ball. I’m pinned to the bed. Eyelids heavy, so heavy. Must digest. Must sleep.
Now the bed is spinning. I’m Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, only this isn’t Kansas, there’s no twister, and it’s not cows, farm houses and Auntie Em in a rocking chair swirling by. Only queasy regrets. I grip handfuls of bedding and hope I don’t lose the Chips Ahoy.
So much for my sister and her soporific cookies. She promised I’d sleep like a baby. Bah.
I do sleep. Which I only know because the cell phone wakes me. It’s her.
“Hey, hey, hey,” my sister says, peppy as ever.
“I tried one of your cookies.”
“I got pretty high.”
“In a good way?”
“Not really.” I give her a brief recap. “That doesn’t happen to you?”
“Nope. Hey, can I interest you in an evening stroll on the levee? Watch the sun set. Get those endorphins firing.” She’s practically humming with good cheer.
“Ah, no. I’m digesting.”
I drop the phone, glance at the clock. 7:39. I pick up my trusty notebook. At least I wrote. I squint at the last page. Turn the notebook upside down. Sideways. Riffle through the previous seven pages of barely legible scrawl. Mysterious blank spaces. Strings of conjoined words that trail past the margin and off the page.
I check the bedspread and sheets for puddles of letters. Nothing. Gone.
Some things don’t change.