Adventures in Clusterfuckistan, Part 3

By: Ann Brown

Do not disturb sign in the hotel

So, yeah. It’s cancer. He needs surgery.

That’s a normal greeting in Clusterfuckistan. It’s hard to one-up someone around here. Playing the “poor me, my husband has cancer” card to this crowd of the homeless, the terminally ill, the hopelessly fucked is completely useless. I know. I’ve tried. Man, you’d think the fucked would be more generous of spirit with their fellow fucked brethren.

So, the surgery is over. He did great.

Instead of going home that first night, my sister, mom and I took a room at a hotel across from the hospital. Bleary-eyed, after midnight, we stumbled to our room, got into our pajamas and stood around, unable to settle down.

Karen walked to the window, opened the curtains, and said, “oh, man. Look. We are right on top of the freeway.”

I joined her and we spent a few minutes staring at the trucks going by. Robin’s surgery was over but things were far from okay, far from normal. I was deep in uncharted Clusterfuckistan territory.

You have absolutely no idea where this story is going next. I promise.

One of the trucks speeding down the Interstate gave a quick honk. Who knows why he honked. And who knows why my response was to lift my blouse and flash him.


In Clusterfuckistan, yours is not to ask why. And until you have waited through a 17-hour day of your husband’s 10-hour surgery and slogged to the hotel across the way to watch the freeway traffic at midnight, don’t judge me. Yeah, you. With the drink in your hand.

That said, I am aghast at my behavior. I am writing this post while hiding my face in my hands. Don’t look at me, look away. Oh God, Yom Kippur cannot come fast enough.

Note to self: Is flashing explicitly forbidden in the Bible? Or just strongly not recommended?

Karen saw me do it and she screamed in horror/delight. Mom was on the toilet and had no idea what her girls were up to.

“Let’s both do it, okay?” said Karen.

And we did.

And we did it again.

And again.

Karen counted to three, we closed our eyes, lifted our pajama tops, flashed our boobs and then fell down laughing. Only the fourth or fifth time, I looked over at Karen and noticed that after she counted to three, she DIDN’T LIFT HER PAJAMA TOP. She just laughed while watching me do it.

Oh man, it’s 1957 all over again. Remember the story of how Karen used to convince three-year-old me to go out into the middle of the street and pull my pants down for the neighbors to see? Remember how she was the pimp in the story, never the exposer?

Big sisters do not change. You can take that truth to the bank.

Being a good sport, however, she agreed to go full frontal with me the next times. And she did.

Enter Mom from the bathroom, wondering what all the screaming is about.

The daughters she raised to be good Jewish girls, now in their mid and late 50’s, were standing in front of the window of room 258 of the Monarch Hotel in Portland, Oregon; one daughter was wearing her 24-year-old maternity underpants held up with a safety pin, and the other daughter was rocking a pair of stretched out ratty bikini briefs that predated the Carter administration, baring their nekked bosoms to the cars and trucks making their way from Salem to Seattle. What’s a mother to do?

Yeah she did.

The three of us. Two hundred years – if you combine our ages –  of boobage on display. I dare you to call it riske. I dare you to call it sexual. You really can’t even call it even marginally attractive. To the driversby, I suspect we looked more like, I don’t know, a string of six beige water balloons in various stages of deflation hanging from the window, detritus from a wild hotel room party. Which, frankly, is probably how my boobs would describe themselves in real life.

Come to think of it, the way our old boobs hang so low, we really should have pulled down our pants to show them. I mean, let’s be honest, they sit more at the waist these days than atop the upper chest. (My middle-aged upper chest is now used exclusively for catching toast crumbs and salad dressing.)

It all reminded me of when I took a CPR class with some other women my age. The young instructor said, “follow the nipple line to find the spot for compressions” and one of us asked him, “um, would that be the nipple line with or without a bra? ‘Cause it makes a big difference.”  He immediately signed all our certifications and let us out early.

Flashing my boobs was curiously settling for my nerves. After a half hour or so, I was ready to climb into bed. Karen and I shared one bed, Mom took the other. We were very quiet for a long while.

And then Karen started giggling.

And I started laughing. And Mom started laughing.

And one of us peed in our pants.

And in the morning, while Karen and I went to the hospital to visit Robin, Mom went to Macy’s to buy us decent underwear.

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