The Apple Part
I arrived at the mall a bit early. I woke promptly at 6 and cooed with the realization that I wasn’t in pain. Nothing was demanding attention with aches or pangs or sharpness. I moved rather smoothly through my morning routine - answered some email, read updated blogs, traded my empty coffee cup for Chienne’s leash and we briskly walked for 20 minutes. I washed my face and pulled my hair back before pulling on jeans and frowning. I selected a light t-shirt and zippered sweatshirt with a thought that if things did not go well with Friend, I wanted to be physically comfortable to endure the emotional difficulties.
I hoped, however, that the day would be easier than I expected. Traffic moved smoothly. I pulled neatly into the optimal parking space. Then I sat on a pretty wooden bench inside the still-closed mall nearly 45 minutes before my Apple appointment. So I called Friend.
“Did I wake you?” I asked, knowing that she sounded tired, but not incoherent.
“No,” she said and told me she had called the vet at 8. “I’m waiting for her to call me back.”
“Oh,” I said softly. “So you don’t know anything.”
“No,” she replied simply and we sat in silence for a moment while I worried my bottom lip with my teeth. I do that when I’m worried. I told her to try to rest a bit more and we’d talk later.
With that, I rose from the bench and joined the randomly scattered people walking through the sun-drenched structure with the bright white walls and tiled floors. This mall has two stories and many windows. There were staff members polishing and cleaning and the classical music pouring from the hidden speakers was disturbed only by the gentle thud of rubber soles touching the gleaming floors.
I decided I liked the robes at Crabtree and Evelyn with their pretty floral patterns far more than the solid ones displayed at Restoration Hardware. I nodded with approval at the khakis and thick leather belt on a male mannequin at Banana Republic. I admired the closed doors at Tiffany and Co., thinking the store looked like a vault protecting something precious. I cocked my head at the baggies of water in the window at Aveda and peered at these strange pink and green creatures on a table inside Hallmark. I smiled at the young woman arranging cookies in an attractive display case, breathing in the sweet, warm smell. I said good morning to the man dressed far better than I was, grinning as he touched one hand to his forehead to greet me before returning his arms to bend at his sides as he power walked far ahead of me. He’d lapped me twice by the time I returned to the Apple Store.
I was greeted by the concierge. He checked me in while I wondered why he was wearing a sweater that was balled up around his neck and draping over the top of his chest and shoulders. I decided that it was meant to be some sort of wrap-type weirdness just before I might have asked why he didn’t get a shirt with some sleeves so he could wear it like a human would. Ultra-hip Mac folks, I thought with a shake of my head, but sat obediently on the stool he pointed out and logged on to the wireless network while I waited my turn. I sat through two appointments before mine - my genius was already running behind. The first man’s computer wouldn’t connect to the internet. I looked away from where I was already downloading email and reading news to blink at him in horrified sympathy. FirstMan didn’t notice, but Genius offered me a grin for my efforts. Thinking him scruffily adorable, I smiled back and blushed a little.
SecondMan had some sort of odd problem with his refurbished machine and Genius had to talk to SecondMan’s technical people at work on SecondMan’s cell phone. Growing bored with eavesdropping on their conversation but finding the atmosphere rather pleasant - surrounded as I was by expensive and beautiful computer equipment - I opened one of the papers I'm revising and spent several minutes thinking through paragraphs and refocusing the introduction.
“Katie…” Genius said and he sidled up to the counter in front of me and smiled easily. “Thanks for being so patient. What can I do for you?”
“I’m afraid something is dying,” I told him with a worried look at Nick. “The stupid color wheel is around all the time lately. It used to be that the fan would run only when I was doing something computationally intensive. But now it’s on even when I’m sending email or playing online.”
By this time we were shoulder to shoulder and he was reaching across to touch Nick’s keys before asking permission. I nodded to his belated question, amused, and watched information windows appear.
“You don’t have much free space,” he said and I nodded. Then I blinked when he looked disapproving. Not wanting to disappoint Genius, I frowned and asked how much I should have.
“I recommend at least 10%,” he said. “And you have an 80 GB drive.”
“So I’m 6 GB too full,” I said, abashed and thinking briefly that Friend had told me a while ago that I needed to get some data off poor Nick. Genius nodded and asked if I had external storage. I nodded in return, looking up at him and getting distracted when I noticed he had really pretty hazel eyes.
“So back up data and delete a bunch of stuff,” he suggested. Then he started to talk about erasing my directories and reinstalling the operating system.
“Delete everything on purpose?” I asked, horrified less than I would have been had he suggested I stop using the internet but horrified nonetheless. “That’s scary.”
“Well, yes,” he said, ducking his head as if that would hide his smile. “But if you back everything up, you should survive it.”
“But my programs,” I protested. “And what if something gets corrupted and I lose it forever?” I looked down at a how-to sheet that he handed me and glanced up at him to raise my eyebrow. “This does not make it less scary,” I said firmly, unimpressed.
“OK,” he agreed, leaning across the counter to grin at me again. “But if you do have hardware problems, the reinstall would identify them. And if you don’t and things are just all cluttered in there,” he tapped Nick with his index finger, “then this will help considerably.”
I frowned at the paper he’d given me then tucked it in my bag. I smiled when he reiterated that clearing some hard drive space would help speed things up a lot and thanked him for his time. I waved to the concierge, shook my head at his wardrobe again and headed outside.
Then the Oranges Section
I was backing up data and sending increasingly worried emails to Friend from my desk at work not much later. Given the choice between a healthy laptop and a healthy pet, the latter is in a whole different category. There is no flirting with a genius or scoffing at an outfit or wandering the mall to window shop. It’s true stress and worry and grief. And so, when Friend called after 11 and her voice sounded flat and awful, I stopped the transfer of data to external storage, packed up and headed to her house.
I called on the way. “I’m hungry,” I announced. “And you’re going to eat with me.” I’d tried to coax her to do so yesterday over email, intensifying my efforts when she confessed to not recalling her last meal. Sunday, she guessed. Perhaps. “Would you like to go out or shall I pick something up on my way?”
Saying she needed to stop at a drug store, she agreed to go out. I arrived at her house and used my key to unlock the door. I heard the shower running and greeted the two boys who scampered to see who had arrived in their home. Then I looked at the prettiest of the felines, said hello and paused. I sat on the arm of the couch as I looked at her and blinked back tears.
“Oh, sweetheart,” I said softly as I looked through the black bars of the cage that kept her safe from falling down and hurting herself. Her head wobbled incessantly as she lay curled in a fluffy bed. Moving left to right as she couldn’t stay steady, my stomach cramped at the idea that Friend hadn’t exaggerated. Something was very wrong with the prize-winning feline who, if not terribly smart, more than compensated with her sweetness.
I moved down the hall to set up the transfer of my applications files, needing a moment to process the situation and distract myself a little. By the time the shower had stopped, I felt better. Has Chienne not limped before? Flapped her ears incessantly? There was always hope that things could get better.
“If we have an x-ray and it’s a tumor, I’ll make the decision today,” she said.
“I know,” I replied, sitting next to her on the couch.
“If her kidneys are failing, I won’t put her through an endoscopy,” she said.
“I know,” I said, keeping my voice as gentle as possible.
I nodded with satisfaction more than an hour later. I had moved the bread basket out of the way and was pleased to see an entire potato and several pieces of chicken tenders missing from her plate. We drove back to pick up the prettiest cat and took her to the vet’s office.
If laptops and cats are different concepts, so then was this office a world away from the elegant mall I’d occupied that morning. I looked down at the carrier sitting at Friend’s feet and winced at the meows of displeasure that frequently sounded.
“I hate the small ones,” I said to Friend. “Like life is just too terrible to even complete the cry. She’s breaking my heart.”
A nurse dressed in garish scrubs took the carrier to the back and the cries were heard at a distance as they took blood. Friend and I sat in the small waiting room surrounded by paneling. Dark brown paneling, I thought with a grimace. Though I supposed it did match the handwritten signs about costs of having a pet hit by a car or getting heartworms or some other awful fate. I glanced at the pet magazines shoved haphazardly in a rack and closed a book about dogs that lay open on a chair.
“I miss having fish,” Friend said and I was distracted from wondering why it was so freaking dark in there and looked over at the tank. I nodded and returned my attention to the window. It was covered with bars on the outside. And my nose wrinkled with the odor that lingered in the stale air.
“Someone’s ready to go,” Friend noted when a speckled dog emerged from one of the exam rooms and waited with her nose pressed to the door as her person signed a credit card receipt. I nodded, understanding the canine’s desire completely. This place was dingy and dark, depressing and decrepit. And I didn’t like it. But I sat beside Friend, offering what I hoped was some semblance of comfort and support. But I couldn’t resist noting my displeasure when we left.
“The paneling - who has paneling now?! - and the handwritten signs and the smell! It probably comes from the paneling and handwritten signs.”
“Or all the animals and the dog daycare they run downstairs.”
“Well, OK,” I conceded. “That or the paneling. But something smells bad.”
Later on, after I took Friend to campus to do a little work and we’d returned to her house so I could hold the prettiest cat, petting her while she glared menacingly at Friend who had forced her to take a pill to control her nausea, there was a phone call.
“So that’s good!” I said, pleased at the news of an infection and grabbing my keys to take Friend to pick up antibiotics. “If it’s an infection, then she can get all better.”
Then there was administration of antibiotics and a bit more petting. Prettiest Cat ate and drank and seemed to be keeping everything down. Friend’s mood improved a bit as well, and I was pleased to see her laugh and make plans for work tomorrow and start to look a bit less flat.
I called Mom on my way home and we talked as I made the trip to my house. “So the laptop is already faster - I backed stuff up and freed up 20 GB of space. And I think Friend’s cat is going to recover. I badly want that to happen so I’m going to believe it will. And Friend seems stronger today and I’m both pleased and proud.”
“It was,” I concluded with a sigh of relief before pulling into my driveway and greeting my desperately lonely dog, “a very good day.”