Friday, May 28, 2010

Topical Rubs

One of my CRPS MedWorm RSS feeds delivered the following non-news news to my inbox this morning -- an announcement that the targeted enrollment number for a Phase 2b trial of a topical cream has been reached. Yes, I know. Kind of a meh-moment.

The meh-moments have been accumulating around here.

The Internet's medical router -- "over 6000 authoritative RSS feeds go in, hundreds of new RSS feeds by category come out" -- MedWorm is a terrific tool for the lazy researcher. Check it out if you try to stay on top of breaking medical news. You know, like for topical creams...

Before addressing that pressing news, though, I must report that Ivan Ljubicic, now in a tied fifth set with American (and ultra-cool dresser) Mardy Fish, needs emergency fashion advice.

Actually, the situation is not an emergent one, as Looby has long defied dictates of color, fit, and the remotely chic. He is a tall, pale man sporting a shaved head (almost always adorned with a *white* headband). His height is undeniably 6'4" but I refuse to believe that he weighs in at the reported 200 pounds.

I further deduce that the sun did not shine in the Serbian-dominated part of Bosnia of his childhood -- nor, apparently, are there opportunities for tanning in his current home of cloudy-dowdy Monaco. He looks positively jaundiced in a bright yellow shirt that fades rapidly to white, ballooning over white shorts, white socks, white shoes. Badly stained white, of course, as this is the terre battue of Roland Garros, after all.

My eyes! My eyes! Ljubo just treated the viewing audience to an around-the-world hip rock, hoping, I think, to approximate Elvis, but... well, failing. Next up for The Lube-Meister? Brazil's Bellucci, and more bad white clothing. I mean, at least wear *bright* white in lieu of the dirty-white, dishwater look.

Ljubicic is actually signed with designer Li Ning... a fact which begs more questions than it answers. Li Ning is one of the leading sports brand enterprises in the PRC. I know when I think of tennis fashion, the PRC fairly leaps to mind. Jelena Jankovic is also sporting their clothing/shoe line.

In the interests of full disclosure, let it be known that I'm a fan of "the war child." Only a fan would care about the nefarious effect of red clay on His Whiteness.

What am I wearing? An oversized, longitudinally-striped night shirt and dark grey chinos. My stripes are pastels, my fabrics all very worn, soft cotton. Turquoise earrings. [No bra, no underwear of any sort, no socks, no shoes -- I cannot tolerate any of them against my skin, or pulling on my shoulders. That's a bit of trivia I bet you wish you had not read.]

In other meh-news, when did Baghdatis achieve a 25th ranking? No offense, but he's basically a country club sort of player. I enjoy watching him, and root for him because he has always seemed to represent the good local player whose level of game rises against better players, making for some exciting points before he eventually winds down to his actual level of proficiency.

He tends to respond in kind... that is, if he is given a fast, flat ball, his return will be faster and flatter. He is a counterpuncher but lacks the speed and placement capabilities required to win majors.

I might feel differently were I sporting undies or red stilletos.

Maybe if I get ahold of some of EpiCept Corporation's analgesic topical cream, I would be able to once again wear proper foundational garments. How's that for a segue?!

Targeted Patient Enrollment Reached In Phase IIb Clinical Trial For Epicept™ NP-1 In Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

EpiCept Corporation (Nasdaq and Nasdaq OMX Stockholm Exchange: EPCT) today announced that the targeted enrollment in a Phase IIb trial for EpiCept™ NP-1 in chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CPN) has been attained. The trial is being conducted by National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded Community Clinical Oncology Program. EpiCept™ NP-1 is a patented topical cream formulation of two FDA- approved drugs, 4% amitriptyline and 2% ketamine, and is intended to provide long-term relief from the pain of peripheral neuropathies. CPN may affect 50% of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

The double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study has enrolled more than 400 patients suffering from painful CPN for at least 28 days following the conclusion of chemotherapy. The primary endpoint of the 6-week trial is change in average daily neuropathy intensity scores from baseline to the endpoint. Secondary endpoints include the percentage of patients whose neuropathy intensity decreases at least 30% from baseline as well as various other measures. Topline data is expected to become available by year end.

About EpiCept™ NP-1

EpiCept™ NP-1 is a prescription topical analgesic cream designed to provide effective, long-term relief from the pain of peripheral neuropathies. Peripheral neuropathies are medical conditions caused by damage to the nerves in the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system includes nerves that run from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathies are associated with conditions that injure peripheral nerves, including herpes zoster, or shingles, diabetes, chemotherapy, HIV and other diseases. Peripheral neuropathies can also be caused by trauma or may result from surgical procedures. EpiCept™ NP-1 Cream is a patented formulation containing two FDA-approved drugs, amitriptyline (a widely-used antidepressant) and ketamine (an NMDA antagonist that is used as an anesthetic).

I shouldn't make fun -- EpiCept's idea of compounding amitriptyline and ketamine for relief of neuropathic pain is well-founded, logically, and I am glad to see it in the pipeline. I don't know enough about the various types of neuropathic pain to say whether the CRPS incarnation is truly comparable to this focus group of chemotherapy patients, but I would imagine some applicable correlation. Besides, it is virtually impossible to have meaningful test results if the cohort is limited to CRPS patients -- I tire of reading about results involving all of 4 or 13 subjects, 3 or 12 of whom have dropped out due to side effects...

In the Supportive Care in Cancer journal (ISSN: 0941-4355 Print; 1433-7339 Online), a similar study announced its results on 24 May 2010. The topical gel used here has the addition of baclofen in its compounded form: baclofen 10 mg, amitriptyline HCL 40 mg, and ketamine 20 mg in a pluronic lecithin organogel.

Again, from a lay point of view, the combination makes beaucoup sense. It's ironic that I can't use topical meds -- I cannot tolerate lotions, creams, gels. Still, it sure sounds like a good idea!


Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a troublesome chronic symptom that has no proven pharmacologic treatment. The purpose of this double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial was to evaluate a novel compounded topical gel for this problem.

Patients with CIPN were randomized to baclofen 10 mg, amitriptyline HCL 40 mg, and ketamine 20 mg in a pluronic lecithin organogel (BAK-PLO) versus placebo (PLO) to determine its effect on numbness, tingling, pain, and function. The primary endpoint was the baseline-adjusted sensory subscale of the EORTC QLQ-CIPN20, at 4 weeks.

Data in 208 patients reveal a trend for improvement that is greater in the BAK-PLO arm over placebo in both the sensory (p = 0.053) and motor subscales (p = 0.021). The greatest improvements were related to the symptoms of tingling, cramping, and shooting/burning pain in the hands as well as difficulty in holding a pen. There were no undesirable toxicities associated with the BAK-PLO and no evidence of systemic toxicity.

Topical treatment with BAK-PLO appears to somewhat improve symptoms of CIPN. This topical gel was well tolerated, without evident systemic toxicity. Further research is needed with increased doses to better clarify the clinical role of this treatment in CIPN.

In the women's draw, Serena is looking very good, Venus, also. As I've consistently noted, I am not a fan of the Williams sisters. It's a snooty attitude and I try to revise it every year.

First impressions do endure: I was a non-fan from the beginning. Initially, they seemed to be cobbling together victories with novelty shots and spurts-and-bursts of brilliant power that alternated with amateurish errors.

Venus can thrill me at times, when she moves well to the ball, and executes once she gets there. I am frustrated on her behalf when she hustles to get there, then seems unable to convert the hustle into a point. Another hold-over of my hypercritical past (I am downright magnanimous now) because she is, of course, awesome in her court presence.

The sisters sometimes smother my potential enthusiasm by their attitude -- conveyed as much by a lazy overhead as by a blistering verbal outburst. Then, too, I think they've both sometimes made excuses for poor play that was inexcusable, and have failed to adequately respect their opponents off court.

Okay, okay, none of that is true. It all comes down, really, to fashion sense, to The Togs. They are both accredited designers but who can forget Serena's Klingon industrial black affair from that long ago U. S. Open? One piece, of oh-so-breathable spandex, it is the iconic image conjured whenever I hear her name. Ridiculous and unfair, as it has been eight years now, but that's the way it goes.

It must have been meant to convey the trend toward unrepentant female strength and power, but as Robin Givhan noted back then, it came off as "trash talk," and was a "disservice" to Serena. There was a brief attempt to make it a "teachable moment," during which White America was to confess its discomfort with the Black Female Butt. Clearly, there is truth to the notion that eurocentric white standards continue to dominate, and clearly, Serena and Venus have both enjoyed providing an in-your-face response. I promise, though, if Anna Kournikova were to sport the rubbery unitard? I would have been equally disapproving. Less disappointed, perhaps, because I've not the visceral connection with Kournikova that I share with the American Williams, but no less turned off by it.

It is late-coming, but I might turn the corner as a Serena fan. I like that she is now so fit and that her form is consistent. I'm sure she's very relieved that I am coming around...

I may have to let the catsuit issue die a natural death.

As for Venus, whose heart didn't stall when her skirt flew up to reveal... flesh colored tennis underpants? Actually, my heart didn't skip a beat but I understand much of Paris required resusscitation. I even like the corsetted red "bustier," and if she can tolerate the feel of all that lace, well... cool.

I will never forget the frilly, white, totally retarded looking tennis undies that my stepmother so wanted me to wear. There was no way not to feel stupid, no way not to be totally focused on one's own ass. They were as kryptonite to my forehand crosscourt passing shot and my blistering backhand.

Millions of women are reveling in her diss of the white ruffled bloomer and the attitude and times represented by that infantilizing bit of elastic and polyester.

As many again are thrilled by her incredible and unapologetic behind.

CNN has put together the obligatory long view of the Williams' sisters various fashion statements.

The woman I hope to see win is Justine Henin, someone who also sometimes suffers in the vagaries of body types and sexual tensions. I remember totally losing it a few years ago -- she had just won one of her four French Open titles and I was whooping it up online with fellow enthusiasts when there came a barrage of comments about the size of her breasts. She had just finished schooling the world on pristine clay court play, only to be assessed by her bra cup measurement. It was infuriating, frustrating.

Witness this "Mister Poll" and its enlightened stance:

What do you think of Justine Henin's looks?

She is so ugly I want to vomit!
She looks like a man!
She is just an average girl - not my type
She is ok I've seen better
She is nice
She is so hot she makes me hot thinkig about her!

What do you think of Justine's breasts?

She is a titless wonder - yuck!!
She has got really tiny breasts - I'm turned off..
Her breasts are really tiny and I love them!!!
I never noticed her breasts
They are just an average size pair

How would you feel if you were Justine henin and had her breasts?

My shame would be so great I would never go out
I'd be straight into surgery. Boob job please!
Padded push up bras with extra padding please!
I'd be so embarressed but I would cope somehow.
It would be ok I'd just be fine.
I would love it I'd be out topless bathing!!

Should Justine be punished for her public display of small breasts?

Yes - make her play topless and laugh at her!
Yes - bend her over and spank her bare bottom!
Yes - ban her from tennis she is ugly!
No - as long as she has a boob job!
No - She is ok.
No - She makes me hot.
No - But I still want to see her play topless!!!

Would you have sex with Justine Henin?

No way - She is an ugly dog!
No way - She is probably half man!
No way - with that titless wonder! ha!
No thanks she is not my type.
Yes - but I need lots of alcohol first!
Yes - She is so hot.
Yes - I've got to have her now!!!

It boggles the mind.

Well, I am in a shitload of discomfort and am now off to find an opiate. Maybe I will exchange my oversized, longitudinally-striped night shirt for something more appropriate to day wear. Maybe, like Venus, I can titillate the boys of The Manor by mere illusion and suggestion... because, unlike Venus, I don't have the goods to pull off a flirtation based on anything else.

Postscript: Fred and I just butt heads over... Well, over Venus' butt. I confess to having hit Shrill Tones pretty quickly. Poor Fred. He saw nothing problematic about the black-lace-over-red-corset design but became apopleptic about the tennis undies. What sent me into Shrill Land was his insistance that it was not the flesh-colored aspect of it... No! It was the "fit"! I think my eyes were bugging out. We were watching Venus play Dominika Cibulkova. Now, Dominika's tennis attire bothered me more than Venus' playful dress, mostly because it just looked so damned uncomfortable. I tire of women being uncomfortable on purpose. It's a pet peeve. Most every time I have seen her play, Cibulkova wears the same approximate thing -- a tight, bunched up sheath-type dress that is very short, over shorts that appear equally tight and bunched. I kept asking Fred if the "fit" of Cibulkova's tennis undies did not bother him, as they appeared as form-fitting (that was our chosen euphemism) as all get-out to moi! He kept muttering something about them being fine and "more like shorts." Jesus H. Christ, we do not want to tell our truthes, do we?

He dusted off his usual mumblemumble example -- doyourememberonetimewhenwehaddinneratredlobster? A large [black] woman came into the restaurant wearing see-through leggings without benefit of sufficient tunic to cover her nether regions. He apparently hasn't gotten over it. It was pretty disgusting. We were and are in total agreement on that point. What it had to do with anything, though? I dunno.

Am I NOT supposed to challenge that? Am I NOT supposed to ask what in hell that has to do with Venus Williams, a professional athlete wearing tournament-approved clothing? Am I REALLY supposed to believe that Fred's issue is with the fit of her undergarment and not the fact that she has a beautiful black butt that makes him... nervous?

To summarize: No problem with the coquettish lace and bustier... No problem with the undies virtually disappearing due to their flesh-coloration. BIG PROBLEM because they were clearly too... tight.

Well, hell.

Let's get out of this mess with something we can all be comfortable with. If you appreciate Andy Roddick like I appreciate Andy Roddick, you will appreciate this insightful analysis of his game. View it many times in succession to allow the tennis tips to meld with your Inner Athlete. If his unclad upper body bothers you? Take it up with someone else, as I am fresh out of Shrill:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


In the inimitable J. K. Rowling's Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Lupin takes his Defense Against the Dark Arts class on a short field trip from their usual dungeon classroom to Hogwart's version of a Teachers' Lounge**,where a boggart has taken up residence in an old armoire.

A boggart, in case you have forgotten, is a shape-shifter. It assumes the appearance of whatever its viewer most fears.

Neville Longbottom, for instance, most fears Professor Snape. Harry Potter is terrified by Dementors. Ron Weasley is distressed by spiders.

Gathered around the wobbling wardrobe, Professor Lupin prepares his class: So the boggart sitting in the darkness within has not yet assumed a form. He does not yet know what will frighten the person on the other side of the door. Nobody knows what a boggart looks like when he is alone, but when I let him out, he will immediately become whatever each of us most fears.

To defeat the nightmarish boggart, each aspiring wizard must project onto their fear some farcical aspect, something funny, something silly. Neville imagines the intimidating Snape to be dressed in his grandmother's stuffed vulture hat, long green dress, and a fox-fur scarf -- the look completed by her signature big red handbag.

The charm to repel a boggart is, of course, Riddikulus!

***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** **

This morning, in the process of sorting through old files, I came across a few draft chapters of a book that I don't remember writing.

I have been guilty, in the past, of claiming authorship where none was warranted. First there was that Jacques Prévert poem, Les paris stupides, followed by the sordid Beatrice Ravenel affair and my conviction that her poem, Fear, was actually my own.

There's no doubt about it this time, though -- the prose is voluble, excessive, relentless: it's me, all right, inflicting those words.

My unfinished novel was tucked in among a bunch of my academic fits-and-starts. In final form, it might have been a mystery. A real whodunnit.

I think it is sometimes overlooked, that the general, overarching requirement for a doctorate is to publish "an original contribution to human knowledge."

That's the horror story nestled in the heart of academia, and my personal boggart.

When the message is that simple (by which I mean complex) exegesis just won't do. The mind reels before the shrinking chasm of The Original. Yes, that was always my cocktail party, ready-to-wear remark: some witty allusion as to how the task becomes more difficult with each passing day. In my field, at least, The Original is surely shrinking. This, of course, explains some of the stranger juxtapositions among the disciplines and excuses the postmodern tendency of criticism to be literature, and, therefore, its own object.


I mean, if I had not been allowed to pervert science to my needs, creating a kind of scientistic discourse of Pure Woo? There'd have been no game theory, no long thoughts on chance, no way to decently drag Duchamp and chess into my narrative to render my writing on Leiris that much more... original; I'd not have been able to pass off a nodding acquaintance with sociology's group structure theory and thermodynamic notions of entropy as an original analysis of the graffiti so ubiquitous in the Paris of May 1968. [We all know that the energy being degraded was my own!]

Original? Without doubt. Worthy? Worth any little teeny bit of while? Not really!

Is there any relationship between my obsessional pursuit of The (publishable) Original and the frenetic style over which I seem to have no control? Am I really so ruled by The Poofy Hat? (Some prize the hood in their academic regalia -- I go cuckoo for the doctoral tam!)


***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** ** ***** **

Here, have a taste of the suspense novel I don't remember starting (but had the good sense not to finish). I've removed anything that speaks directly to plot, as the story line is almost good and maybe worth developing. You know, the next time I decide to knuckle down and write from within a fugue state.

The working title:

I reject the cruciform

With a simple refocusing of the eye, I reject the simple white cruciform, trite and true. Dogwood blossoms are too easy. They are also too hard, also at the same time. O, odious redundancies! That's me: Sweet Tea Back Porch Southern Zen all over the place, uh-huh. I rummage through my Rubbermaid container, pull out a purple pencil. It should probably be coded “lilac” in perfumed italics, or even “lavender” in a gothic font, but no, it is a simple cheap purple pencil, unlabeled.

One requires the right tool for the right job. This morning, the first without my chipped San Diego Zoo Mountain Gorilla mug of viscous caffeine coffee, this morning, I sketch in luxuriant malice. My purple pencil is a perfect match for tracing the circles of succulent wisteria just outside the window. Wisteria, this morning, serves as the ideal for decaffeinated artistic malignancy. Metaphor for, you know. None of this is truly shocking; I am not avant-garde; My rage is tame. I am easily amused. This is called being finger-down-the-throat cutesy and since my tolerance for nonsense is low, I don’t alarm myself. If only my desire for the genuine java bean were not so great. The mug that a long ago muscled lover bought me has never been washed, because he, in his sophistication, taught that suds would bruise the flavor. Of what use is this mug now? Perhaps I will scrub it with granules of Ajax, leave it to soak in Clorox. Should I warm to a puckishly Earth Mama role, I could root a sweet potato or an avocado in it with the multicolored fancy toothpicks we somehow keep amassing in the junk drawer. Toothpicks for that someday party, for the martinis that don’t get made, much less shaken or stirred.

I could so easily be an alcoholic, although that is sure to offend those who are, I mean I understand it is nothing to be desired. But that Some Thing could be valued for so much more than just what it is! Just the thought of it, it as a mathematical absolute, caught between upright lines, the smell of it, the weight and color of it, its infinite varieties to suit weather and mood, or to subtly alter them through alchemy. Grow the bean high, and on this side of the mountain, cold mist in the morning, bright sun in the afternoon, each and every one under the gaze of the enigmatic swarth of the black eyes of Juan Valdez.

Juan is my muse.

My brain does this, goes absolutely serpentine before the sensual or in this sad case, on this sad day, its loss. Booze or coffee, does it matter? Pick green bud beans gently in Costa Rica, say, or Guatemala, Colombia, and Nicaragua. The farmers, how hard it is to think of a farmer of coffee. Well, the farmers are as restricted as their family of two old, old trees, or they are middling farmers, the progressive cooperative community, pooling and pooling, those scary folk! And the coffee bean farmer is also a rich bastard, a man on top of a pyramid, a plantation and all that that might imply. Dealers everywhere, in every twist on habituation, are like these coffee bean farmers. And there is always a ghost of a man in a poncho, disappearing on his mule.

The paper says there is a glut of coffee this year and that they are all suffering. Some growers mix their beans so as to sell more, destroying what might have been purity, curse them, some of the purist processing their own, bless them, washing, drying, and removing pulp, finally roasting according to dark ancient family recipes.
For the sake of heaven, I had reached the point of not caring. Just get it to me fresh, I wanted to scream, before you infuse some insipid yuppie flavor in them – amaretto, almond, Irish cream. The wannabes.

The brewing was left local, the brewing was crucial, the brewing was up to us. Clean, cold, fresh water and the simplest of method. Even bleary eyed and hooked on the joe for good, the addict does it right. Sliding down into a subterranean bar midmorning for an early tonic, the ravaged alcoholic weighs, turns the glass in hand, listens to the ice chink. The coffee junkie goes for the heavy white diner cup and saucer, or for mugs testifying to visits here and there [where, in faith, I drank the bean, comrades], and proffers nose to steam, red line eyeballs the murky depths, anticipates.

Between half-completing an unaccredited degree program at a Podunk university chosen specifically to shame my parents, I worked a few years and lived with women who advertised for roommates. The first woman was Edith. Because her parents owned the house in which she lived, two bedrooms downstairs, the upstairs mysteriously closed off, a kitchen to share, a living room that would be off limits, a nice garden, lovely street on the bus route, I interviewed with them and not her. That would strike me as odd now. My bedroom, complete with a non-functional grand piano, my own phone, and a was an add-on to the house, with a separated entrance through the garden that remained nice and lovely throughout it all. That is the nice and lovely thing about things. How they just remain, if we will let them. Anyway, her father had some sort of distinguished past during which he had translated the Bible as part of some grand ecumenical academic movement. I would remember the details today, being interested in grand academic stuff but just then I wanted a cheap room and a nice roommate. He had a bulbous nose and wore cardigans. Her mother I recollect not at all, therefore I pronounce mousy.

Edith was an accountant. She was oval. She was oblong. She looked as if her hair were cut along the outline of an authentic 19th century porridge bowl. Edith was strict. She told me not to touch her food and drink, to never enter her room. But she was also kind in that she did things such as shop for me, a difficulty without a car. She would not shop with me, but she would shop for me. We went together most Saturdays to the Laundromat. She ate TV dinners every night, washed down with lots and lots of Kool-Aid. She studied something vague every evening in the living room, some course work from a community college. She had lots of books and manuals spread out on her sofa.

I worked a 7 to 3 shift and loved playing around in the garden, walking in the neighborhood, fighting the nesting female impulses, the desire to cook for two, to clean, rearrange, fix. Sweat streaming in rivulets down my scarlet face one July afternoon after a session of tousling with vines, I poured a big old glass of what had to be lemonade Kool-Aid from her ratty green pitcher, chugged some and about died on the spot. There is nothing inherently wrong with chugging cold cheap lemony vodka but this could not be a good sign, thought I, ever on the ball. Emboldened, I opened her bedroom door. There were at least one hundred pairs of dirty old lady style underwear strewn all over the floor, and bullets, lots of bullets. Vodka, vodka everywhere, the drops already drunk. Mostly empties, plastic bottles. Too scared to stay, I backed out, hearing the creepy crawly music creepy crawly movies play.

I tried to refill the crappy green pitcher with her special blend but it was so late in the afternoon, would the temperature be off? Would the ratio of Kool-Aid [wait, I also found some Crystal Lite, O, for the love of God, Edith, which one was in here?] match her discerning palate? Would my face give all away? Had I let too much fresh air into her dirty panty, well bulleted bedroom? Did I have time to get away and when would this bad movie music leave me alone?

She knew. Hid in my bedroom, sitting stupidly behind the enormous piano, fingering its silenced keys, I could hear her banging things around, grousing. But silence set in, Edith studied her vodka, I slipped under my covers, and said a stupid benign prayer.

I had the next day off. I had sex and a sauna with my married friend Phil and his wife Marion in the morning. My friend Baber and I met up with some folks for big, cold carrot juices at a nearby health food store, I bought things I could not afford but that felt good and witchy – seaweedy and blue-clay-from-specific-earth kind of things – got on my bus, hooted and hollered my way home. Sex was fun in those days and the good feelings could be stretched to take in several days. Once home, I would make some witchy seaweedy tea and decide whether to fashion food or a facial mask from the clay. It cost the same either way. I caught the phone on what must have been its twelth ring. No good with keys, I was jumbling, missing the lock because in there was a person who so badly wanted to talk that they were willing to ring, ring, ring.

It was Edith’s boss, a nice enough sounding man, though definitely with the same ovoid tendencies. A CPA, I suppose. She had called in sick to work, was she better, could he expect her tomorrow, could he speak with her? Honest to a huge degree of fault, Mr. CPA, I don’t know if she is sick in the way you mean, I pray she is not here, and that, yes, you will see her tomorrow. Speak with her, why no, I thought it better to leave sleeping dogs lie.

She drove her car into the house about an hour later. Smashed the windshield to pieces, broke her nose. The house damage I am unable to recall. Edith wore a garish red embroidered pancho. We visited the hospital; Her parents showed up. “You’ve lasted longer than anyone,” was the cold day old meatloaf praise of her father.

My first serious girlfriend had huge perfect breasts. Something of a problem for her at times, a little uncomfortable. She finally found a front loader, one that left her breasts looking smooth and natural and, she hoped, perky, under the tightest clothes. But I loved that stiff wireless white garment more than even she, liberating the flesh, loosening the five hooks and eyes, burying my face in pounds of springing soft creamy teat. That is the last time I remember things making sense and that was over 30 years ago. The days of gathering together, of holding her pressed flesh in my cupping hands, flicking her excited pink nipples. Somewhere after my hands held expensive cameras and clicked on images without merit, important people wrote me checks and praise, but I had nothing left of the old exuberance in my fingertips. I just took pictures of things, always looking for her breasts to pop out of that ignominious constraint into bright freedom. Failing to find them, I wrote. And like all writers of fair success, I have come under attack at long last.
Your honors, the peanuts in the gallery, my friends and foes, my journalistic toe-taggers, I claim the Belle of Amherst.

I have imagined her breasts.

Miss Dickinson, dearest stricken Emily, wrote in what the ersatz experts call fascicles, described as a building toward refinement. I call it fire, hesitancy, and total destruction of the evidence. That which only showed progress, the picked and boiled rubbery chicken ribs of her affairs, were ground to cinder. But the polished white neck and knuckle bones that held her careful structures, these were penciled in twice, then inked over with care, before she flew down stairs and up stairs, insane and out, the earlier goods to destroy. You must see why she speaks so strongly for me, and the honor in that, the recluse come out to defend the misunderstood?

Don’t scare her off.

**One day, I should write about Teacher's Lounges. They are strange fixtures, at once a sanctuary and a black hole of depression. Archaeologists will furrow their future brows at the odd collections of Mister Coffee machines, take out menus, decrepit computers, and mind-boggling stacks of microwave-proof plastic food storage containers.

These rooms are magnets for single serving 5 ounce cans of Chicken of the Sea tuna packed in water, also for any hot beverage or foodstuff that starts out as a dehydrated powder -- hot chocolate is always a favorite, as are dehydrated noodle soups. Teachers' Lounges are the final resting place for stained and slightly odd-smelling mugs bearing humorous inscriptions or high praise (My dog ate my lesson plans; Teachers: Opening Minds, Inspiring Hearts!) -- and for reams of outdated pedagogical directives stuffed into 3-ring binders, all carefully titled with a hand held embosser Label Maker.