Because in the end, it's all a bargain. Acceptance might work for death but it's a real downer if you're trying to live. Accept what, exactly? That you can't drive or water ski or tie your shoelaces? Lindsay plans on doing all three someday. And so we bargain. We bargain with our doctors, we bargain with our mother ("it's a Yin Yang thing," Judith says), we bargain with our boyfriends and, mostly, we bargain with ourselves. I'll start my diet tomorrow, after this last ice cream sundae. If I get out of this lie, I'll never cheat again. Don't let me die in this hospital, God. Episodes of House have neatly packaged endings. For everyone else, just an endless series of bargains.
"What's fashion to me anymore?" Lindsay asked recently. "It's not what your markup is in your store. It's not what price point you have for these sunglasses. It's about having faith in yourself and being happy with who you are." As she says this, you can't help but notice she's not wearing her arms very much anymore. She's found a comfort level and it doesn't involve acrylic. Rayna DuBose, the Tech basketball player, told me recently that she rarely wears her left arm or either of her two legs around the house. Lindsay seems to be following suit.
"In March, I needed to travel with an IV tube 24/7 due to an infection in my knee joint," she writes me in an email. "I really wanted to fulfill my obligation to my students, so I had to teach with no prosthetics (and a IV pumping out of my sleeve). This forced me to show who I am without them. Fortunately attitudes toward me hadn't changed, so mine didn't either. I am learning how to be efficient in doing things with and without prosthetics."
Lindsay understands these kind of bargains better than most. She knows all too well that Kevin, her fiancé, lives halfway across the country. But watching them at the pool one afternoon this summer, it's clear they savor their time together. Lindsay desperately wants to go in, but she also can't get her knee wet; the open wound has finally begun to heal, once and for all. Kevin says it's too risky, but those are fighting words to someone like Lindsay. Like a surveyor, she scopes out the possibilities and within five minutes she has Kevin picking her up and depositing her onto the pool's stairs, a compromise that allows her to wade and yet keep her knee above the water line. "She's been the most loyal companion that I've ever had," he tells me.
The Bargain says that without a master's degree, the teaching gig might have run its course at VCU. "Maybe I'll get my master's then," Lindsay says. (She can always go back to tending bar at 3 Monkeys, Judith says, the two laughing. "They said that job is always open.") The Bargain says that even though Lindsay has ultimately embraced the pool downstairs, the same pool she once vowed she'd never use, she's still unsure about tonight's girls outing to the bar after the fashion show. "Social anxiety," she says in the car. And the Bargain says that the folks at Duke think she might be a candidate for a rare hand transplant, though Lindsay is thinking that maybe she feels more like herself without any prosthetics at all. It says that even though she's lost a child once, she can't wait to try again. These days, she's liking the name Siena for a girl.
The Bargain even says that for all the progress you make, the downward stares are always there, and in many forms. I email Lindsay to say that the publisher of the Washington Post — where this story was to have run — has, based upon a three-sentence synopsis, deemed her story "depressing," certain to further the exodus of precious advertisers from the Sunday magazine. Advertisers want happier stories, the publisher explains, and a few months later this story is killed.
"WTF?!? How rude," Lindsay types back, though like a lot of younger adults she's probably not reading too much print anyway. Gastroenterology Monthly be damned; Lindsay wants to be on television, and a recent Facebook status declares her intent: "I want to be the star of my own reality series." Perhaps she doesn't realize she already is.
Dr. Brown is more to the point. "The human spirit, especially a young spirit, can't be beat by anything. You can't tell someone to sit down who does not want to sit down. Simple as that. My interaction with Lindsay Ess makes me a better surgeon. I'm a better doctor today than I was two years ago. Interacting with her has taught me so much about what spirit is and what we're made of as human beings."
Since I'm asking so nice
Would you just entertain?
There's nothing left to hide you away
just show a little bit of brain.
The Bird and the Bee have sung, the models have strutted, and the fashions are a huge success. The 2009 VCU annual juried fashion show is over. At a cocktail reception, Lindsay revels in the well wishes, though she ultimately decides not to go downtown with the girls to the meat market bar. The Bargain loves split decisions. As the elevator takes them down to the first level of the commons, where students are still lounging around, Judith asks her daughter if she's proud of herself. She's talking about the just completed show. "I guess so," Lindsay says.
I believe in myself. I can achieve greatness.
Outside, not a soul is stirring. Lindsay waits by herself in her chair for the car, illuminated only by an overhead streetlight. Judith pulls up and runs out but before she can do her patented lift, the wheelchair hits a bump and Lindsay is almost knocked to the ground. "Mom! Be careful!!!"
"I'm sorry, Lindsay."
"Well, sorry doesn't count when it's the ninth time," and with that mother and daughter disappear into the Richmond night.
|© 2017 Matt Mendelsohn Photography|