Email 3: Laura to Anne
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From: Laura Vance <[email protected]>
Date: Mon, Feb 25, 20-- at 8:12 PM
Subject: Re: Your letter
To: Anne Hartz <[email protected]>

Anne -- it's wonderful to hear from you. I'm sorry to hear about you and Dave, and now I feel guilty for feeling sorry for myself and Robert, but really things are bad all over and I should have stopped feeling guilty about feeling worse about my own misfortunes than those of other people a long time ago. Do keep in touch with him. This breakup, if it is a breakup and not just a temporary problem, isn't either of you's fault, and there's no reason you shouldn't stay friends through it if you're honest with each other and keep in touch.

What's been happening since I wrote? Well, Monday we went to work, as I said we were going to. I called Robert a couple of times during the day, I was so worried about him, but he seemed to be less depressed than he was Sunday; work helped. After work we fixed supper and ate and managed to find some other things to talk about besides the prevailing weirdness, though we talked mostly about that, of course. One of his co-workers had killed himself Saturday evening. Another was in Macon Saturday, visiting family, and came home with a prehensile tail and retractable claws. In contrast to the hospitals, things were less busy than usual at the UGA library, since a lot of students who had gone home for the weekend hadn't come back to Athens yet -- some still haven't -- so Robert and the other librarians spent a lot of time in the breakroom listening to news, or websurfing. "*Even* more time than usual, you mean?", I said, joking. A lot of websites were down, or working only intermittently, but CNN and a few other news sites were up again by then and he had some interesting stories from places where the changes were even stranger than in Athens. If you just got Internet access back a couple of days ago you might not have heard about them; it sounds like you might have been even busier than me, with Greenview being understaffed as well as overfull. I'll paste in some links at the end of this email.

Athens Regional is fully staffed -- well, no more understaffed than we were before the changes. I think we've had only one suicide among the staff, plus two or three accident victims.

I said Robert was doing better Monday than Sunday, but Thursday evening I came home and found him sitting on the edge of the bed, naked, staring into the mirror. He was in such a fugue he didn't notice me come in until I put a hand on his shoulder. He didn't startle, even; he just looked up at me and said, "This is what I am now."

"Right," I said. "It's what we both are." I started getting undressed too. "I'm not going to have your babies. We're not going to spoil our grandchildren and give them noisemakers for Christmas to pay back our children for all the sleepless nights they caused us. But you've still got me. Tell me I've still got you."

I sat on his lap and put my arms around him. It was like sitting in my mother's lap when I was a little girl; warm and safe, but not exciting.

"You've still got me," he said. "You'll always have me." We crawled in under the covers and lay there holding each other, not saying much, until we got hungry.

Next day on my break I met Mom for lunch and I cried my eyes out because I was never going to have any children, not now, and Mom cried too, but not as much because she already has a grandson in Perth where men are still real men and women are still real women, even if they have stubby vestigial wings that they can't fly with. (I'm attaching a picture of Todd that Lena sent me. Isn't he the cutest thing? Lena tells me he can get off the ground for a moment or two when he flaps his wings hard enough; they're bigger relative to his body than hers or Terry's.)

It hasn't been that bad since. The hospital's starting to get less insanely busy, and the library's returning to normal levels of busyness with most of the students already back in town if they're coming back at all. I'm starting to hope that the worst is over, at least around here.