In the warm, thick-aired front room of a railroad flat on Ainslie Street, my acupuncturist scribbles away, left-handed, in pencil on a stack of blank white printer paper. She writes what I tell her - pimples on the back, irritable. She writes what she learns from my tongue and my pulse. She writes, on a separate sheet of paper, all of the things I am to do or consume or acquire. Almond pancakes, to be made with Benefit Your Life almond flour. Houston's digestive enzymes. (She is a poor speller, and she misspells Houston: Huston.) Bone marrow broth. Liver. A slow cooker. Soak my feet in warm water every night.
It is 10AM on a Tuesday, but her thick black eyeliner already seems smudged and weary, though not unpleasantly so. Did she do it on purpose? Or is it just her eye makeup from yesterday having migrated to her lower lids? Either possibility seems equally likely, and it seems just as likely that she may have simply been born that way, with Cleopatra black rings around her eyes and tattoos crawling down her arms marking her from birth as the strange, flaky, and infinitely wise Brooklyn-based healer that she was to become, just as surely as the boy Lhamo Thondup was marked, by tiger stripes on his legs, as the fourteenth Dalai Lama.
This week, I am to meditate every day, either once for thirty minutes, or for two minutes every hour. I am also to perform a separate ten-minute healing meditation three times a day. Has she stopped to think how much of my time and mental energy this will occupy, this along with taking the pancreas, liver, fermented fish oil, and now digestive enzyme supplements that she has prescribed, all at the correct intervals, matched with the correct meals? No matter: I am going to do it. I do everything she tells me to do, except that I haven't managed to eat liver yet, and also I buy cheaper versions of the supplements, not the fifty dollar brands she has recommended.
Today, she looks at me with infinite compassion when I tell her that the treatment has left me feeling a little enervated. "Yes," she says, in her slightly dreamy voice, "that happens. In fact, when you get home, you should go to sleep for awhile." Does she realize that I live forty-five minutes away by subway? That after the forty-five minute trip there, the hour treatment, and the forty-five trip back, a nap of any length whatsoever will basically mean that I have devoted my entire day to my acupuncture treatment? What if I had a regular job? How would I manage then?
However, I do not have a regular job, and the only thing that I absolutely must do today is to bake the banana chocolate chip "cake" (bread) that I promised my son this morning. And my acupuncturist - as always - is right: despite the fact that I haven't been much of a daytime napper recently, I am indeed powerfully sleepy when I arrive home in Harlem. I take off my awful squeezy maternity jeans (tight clothing restricts the chi), and sprawl on the couch, my hair still redolent of Nag Champa. I will sleep just an hour or two, then get up, drink some broth, take some supplements, and make a cake.