East St. Louis

    She failed the employees and the post office. Most of all she failed herself. That's what Marge Merrick told me on the phone
    She calls me every Christmas. Or just about. But this time, after 10 years she's unloading on me. "Robert. And how are you and
    that great medical unit where we used to have such great plans." "Where you used to. Not me
    Dr. Merrick." "I tried, Robert. I tried." "Noone ever said you didn't. I'll bet you're making up for it where you are".
    "It's difficult. But you know there are people who really want to know how to get or stay
    healthy." "Not too many, Doc. You know me, my BP still on the roof. Still smoking and taking a few pops of whiskey weekends."
    "Robert. That's no good. You have to stop that." Still at it she was. I know I should give
    up those smokes and take off twenty pounds. But you know I come up from East St. Louis. That
    town about as far away from a real battlefield as the hole in your sock is from the moon. But
    it's a battlefield. Looks it and feels it. Like Detroit and Camden. Everyone and everything
    walked away from it especially the government. Some of the building still standing but the crumbling
    still ongoing. I got away to become a nurse. I had to get away. The woman I was with down there
    couldn't stop buying with my paycheck. Anything on sale on television she'd buy. She had boxes
    delivered and stored in every room, three quarters of which she never opened. Then she put
    iron gates across the doors and windows and had them electrified. She was told that could
    get someone killed. She wondered if the guy putting them up was right when he told her it was
    illegal but he put them in anyhow after she slipped him an extra fifty. The other woman I'm with now
    is bad with diabetes but loves her dunkin donuts and can't stop putting sugar on her oranges
    on her bread and in her soup. "Dr. Merrick. Can't believe you got me to do all those exercises
    "If you remember, Robert, you not only did them you led the class when I was on vacation." I liked
    Dr. Merrick. But I didn't make much sense of her. I took her to the south suburban mailing center
    to try to get her to understand that in order to get the respect of the managers and the employees
    you had to get those with injuries and sicknesses every week at least. Make them believe you
    could do something for them, make the bosses believe you were doing something to get them off limited
    duty. Instead she wanted to get them to do things for themselves. Stay away from cigarettes and
    drink as much as possible, get out of their cars and walk at least a mile a day, eat fresh fruits and
    vegetables, cut the fats and fried and the soft drinks. God she hated that people drink from those
    bottles of cokes and pepsis at breakfast like infants on the nipple. You know. I wanted to be
    close to her . She could be confidential with me. Especially when I'd tell her stupid my wife
    was with the way she took care of herself. Then she'd tell me about some of the men she'd be
    seeing even though she like her husband. Like the Spaniard who she'd meet at the Quixote Institute
    who she claimed was teaching her Spanishin a round about way like nuzzling her in all kinds of ways
    ways and places. We needed each other but somehow her Spanish and my East St. Louis didn't mix proper.