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Jane Rideau Demuth

At Transformation

Illustration by Brittany Molineux

Jane Demuth | Longreads | May 2019 | 23 minutes (5,756 words)

It’s March 13th 2017, the eve of a late season snow storm that will blanket the Northeast and shut down major cities, and I’m on the ninth floor of a high-rise hotel in downtown Philadelphia chugging bottles of laxatives on a tightly prescribed schedule and making regular trips to the toilet. I am alone. As I count down hours one by one, my mind is reluctant either to focus or to rest. I flip through the TV channels briefly, but none of the broadcasts catch my interest. I talk to my brother on the phone several times; he is also in the city, and wants to know if I need anything or would like his company. It is thoughtful and generous of him to offer, but solitude feels like the right choice for me in this moment. I do not know what moods will strike me in the coming hours, but in the past my fears have sometimes coalesced in a fiery blaze of anger, and I do not wish to subject my brother to this. For an hour or so, I listen to music on my headphones, but the songs toward which I thought I would gravitate on this day are not hitting the emotional sweet spots I’d hoped and expected they would. Mostly I nap, on and off, between bottles of laxatives, prophylactic antibiotics, and urgent visits to the washroom. This morning I awoke at home in the Hudson Valley, feeling calm and clear for the first time in months, but a lengthy run of restless nights and a mounting air of anticipation have taken their toll on me. Tomorrow I will be checking out of the hotel early, and although a pharmaceutically induced period of unconsciousness is on the agenda for later in the day, right now I am grateful for actual sleep in whatever increments it offers itself.
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