Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Christine, Continued

If you're just joining the Saga of Christine today, you can read the first part of her story here.

Christine loved the bus. She sat in the first seat behind the driver, and told me to take the window seat, where I sat squashed and apprehensive. Christine had two volumes: loud, and deafeningly loud, and so as we sat on the bus and she told me how her mom had shaved her that morning, legs, armpits and mustache!, the whole bus heard of it too. Of course, Christine had no shame; she didn't understand that you shouldn't be so vocal as to what you shaved, and who helped you. She then proceeded to explain how her upper lip always smarted right after shaving, and she had me inspect its redness and rawness.

And it only got worse from there. Other conversations she saw fit for loud discussion on the bus: when I had first gotten boobies, whether I had ever seen a boy naked, whether my VAGINA ever itched like hers.

Jason waited for us at the bus stop near our home. Christine was excited to meet him, and even more excited to convince him of what she could not convince me: Over the past few days, and certainly over the course of this bus ride, she had tried valiantly to induce me to have children.

"But Jamie, I love babies! I would play with them all the time," she told me, as if that was the one thing preventing me from wanting them. "My Mom says I'm not allowed to get married, and I'll never have babies" she confided, and my heart was sad that she had some knowledge of her diseases, and that they caused her to miss out on things other people take for granted.

When we got off the bus, there were a few people at the stop, and she demanded to know which one of them was Jason. The other people look confused and perhaps a little scared, so I steered my massive friend away from the crowd, and there introduced her to my husband. "You need to shave," she told him, as she formally shook his hand. Then she asked for a piggy back ride. Jason blanched. I thought it was good of him to meet Christine in the first place; if you haven't been exposed to the mentally ill, they can be a bit intimidating. I had not prepared him for this scenario however, and he looked at me with panic in his eyes.

It's worth repeating again that Christine is a big lady. Jason is a big enough guy, but she outweighed him by more than a hundred pounds. I covered for him, let her down gently, and apparently a little too gently since she then expected me to take up Jason's slack, and carry her home on my own back.

Not bloody likely.

So, we made it to the grocery store, all three of us on foot, to pick up baking supplies. Inside the store, I learned quickly that Christine was not shy to ask for anything, and that for as long as I would know her, she would constantly ask me to buy her things. In every aisle we perused, she found hundreds of things I could give her as a gift. A hundred times, I refused her. She asked for canned peaches, raw hamburger, and an ice cream scoop shaped like a cow. When we passed by the bakery, she stood admiring the cakes.

"I'm getting a chocolate one for my birthday" she told us. "I'm having a party, and you're invited, Jamie. You can get me a present. I think I'd like a new Barbie. Jason can come too, if he shaves. He can get me a My Little Pony. Make sure to wrap it nice, I like lots of bows. The party is at 2pm. You can come early, but don't come late."

Christine would always be inviting me to her birthday party. She had it planned well in advance; this was currently in May, and her birthday was on boxing day. Every day that we saw her, and sometimes several times a day, she would invite us to that party. When the party finally came and went, she started inviting us to the next year's.

When we made it to the apartment, I thought I was home free. I was wrong. The baking thing did not pan out; she informed me that she did not want to help, but that I should make the brownies without her, because she definitely wanted to eat them. So, I put in The Tigger Movie, and left her with a juice box and a bowl of Cheezies. In 10 minutes she had wolfed down the whole bag of Cheezies, and 4 boxes of juice. She wanted more. This was habit with Christine. I had to suggest to her that she'd had enough, and even then she told me that I was mistaken. Christine could literally eat indefinitely, and so I learned to watch her like a hawk to make sure she didn't eat herself sick.

When the brownies were ready, she perked back up again. She decorated them herself, basically making a mound of pink on top of them, with candies generously applied in an indiscernable pattern. I wrapped up the tray so she could bring them home to share with her mother and brother.

We waved goodbye to her, as I tried not to cry tears of exhaustion and frustration. I knew that the next visit was only a week away, and I felt desperately that I was in over my head.

And then my cell phone was ringing. Christine was home, and wanting to chat. She would call me obsessively, not just daily, but hourly, and sometimes more. She would leave long and disjointed messages that would make me smile at the sheer lunacy of the situation. She told me that next week I should make two trays of brownies, because she'd eaten the whole tray herself on the busride home. I tried to think of things as funny, and not discouraging, but I wasn't always successful. Making Christine a part of my life was the most difficult, and ultimately the most rewarding, thing I have ever done.

Every week, I deleted dozens of messages inviting me to her birthday party, still half a year away. Even when I showed her pencilled in on my calendar, it was never enough, and she never gave it up. "You can come early" she'd say, "but don't come late."

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