The postal carrier, day before yesterday, delivered an unpleasant surprise. Apparently, I somehow had missed an earlier notice, a few months ago, that property and personal taxes were due before October 15; the piece of mail bearing that news notified me of the oversight and informed me that I owed a delinquency penalty. Not much money, but too much, nonetheless. At any rate, yesterday morning I pulled out the checkbook, made copies of the tax notices, and headed to the tax collector’s office to pay my bill. I could have paid online, but the transaction fee was an absurd $57, which I refused to even consider paying.

At the tax collector’s office, I went inside to pay my bill, where a long line of people stood waiting to do the same thing. I stood in line for about twenty minutes, listening to an idiot in line behind me complain bitterly about the “socialism” of having to pay property taxes and his outrage at having to stand in line; if he were in charge, he said, he would “run things” far more efficiently. Just before my place in line reached the entrance to the office where taxes were to be paid, I reached for my checkbook. It was not there. I looked around me; no checkbook on the floor. “I must have left it in the car,” I said to myself, and left my precious place in line, knowing when I returned I would have to wait another twenty minutes or more to get to the place I lost. I went to my car and searched for the checkbook; I could not find it. “I must have left it at home,” I said, as I drove away, thirty-plus minutes away. When I got home, I parked in the driveway and conducted another thorough search. I found the checkbook, lodged between the console and the passenger seat. Apparently, it had slipped out of the console on a turn and found its way to its hiding place.

Angry with myself, I snarled and took the checkbook in the house. I called the tax collector’s office to verify that I could write a single check for both property and personal tax. Then, I completed the check, prepared a self-addressed and stamped envelope, and drove to the post office. I had opted not to do this earlier to save the cost of a certified, return-receipt-requested, letter. I was unwilling to make another trip to the tax collector’s office; I was, though, willing to pay the $6.95 fee to avoid making that trip. Bah!

My plan had been to go get a haircut after I paid the taxes. But, by the time I went through the process I just described, it was too late. I had just enough time to buy and eat a fast food lunch, then drive to the hospital, arriving just a few minutes after visiting hours began. My wife asked me, after I had been with her for two or three hours, to stay longer than I had originally planned (I intended to leave at 4:30). Of course I readily agreed; I left at about ten minutes before 7:00, the time visiting hours end.

Shortly after arriving my wife’s tiny room in the ICU, a nurse entered and told me I would need to don protective gear, consisting of a thin plastic/latex robe and nitrile gloves. She said my wife was in isolation because of her diagnosis of clostridioides difficile (C.Diff.). I did not bother to tell the nurse, who had not been there the two days before, I had not been asked by other nurses to wear the gear on those days, even though the diagnosis had been made on my wife’s arrival at the ER; I simply did as I was asked. The fact that two sets of medical professionals approached the reality of contagion in such different ways reminded me that medicine remains as much a human endeavor as a scientific one. As is true of so many aspects of our lives, context plays an enormous role in how we behave.

A few hours into my visit with my wife, she asked me to call her sister. That was among the only times my wife seemed truly engaged during the visit; it was good to see her at least modestly animated during the call. Afterward, though, she returned to what seemed to me a combination of exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Both she and the nurse told me she had not slept well the night before. She had thrown up shortly after being given one of her medications shortly after I had arrived, she said, and that experience robbed her of strength, as well. During my visit, she had another bout with the heaves; a nurse called a doctor, who prescribed an anti-nausea medication. The nurse said all the antibiotics my wife was being given could cause nausea.

By the time I left last night, my wife had told me things she would like me to try to bring to her today: watermelon, ice cream/sherbet, and cranberry juice. I have the first two at home; I will stop at the grocery store this morning to try to find the latter. The need to keep those items cold for the trip to the hospital rules out a trip to the barber shop again today. That’s all right, though; “urgency” and “haircuts” do not belong in the same thought bubble.


The sky this morning is a gentle mix of cerulean blue and soft white. As I look up through the trees out the window, orange and gold leaves against the sky seem to define my sense of what Autumn should look like. The dappled light filtering through the thinning canopy of leaves reminds me of my favorite Japanese term, komorebi; English should adopt that word or create a new one that translates the Japanese concept precisely.

The forest floor is littered with millions of leaves, appearing collectively as an intricately textured sheet of light brown and tan. The spots where sunlight touches them are bright; in the absence of sunlight, the shadows hide the texture and reveal only dark, indistinguishable shapes. It’s interesting to me that, every morning, the ground and the rocky outcroppings look different; they are the same every day, but my eyes and my imagination change them, as if I am seeing a new view with each new dawn.


I must go to the Post Office again this morning to return a package that was left at my door yesterday. I mistakenly ordered a box of size small latex gloves on Ebay; within seconds of realizing my error, I contacted the seller and asked that the sale be cancelled or replaced with a size large. Two days later, I received an email, telling me the shipment had already been processed and could not be recalled. I would have to refuse it, after which my payment would be refunded. So, I will ask the Post Office to take the package and return it to the sender. I should pay closer attention to what I am doing. I am allowing my distractedness to amplify my little annoyances.


It just occurred to me why I feel such hunger this morning. I did not have a proper dinner last night. I opened a bag of Trader Joe’s elote-flavored corn chips when I got home last night and munched on a few of them, but did not take the time to prepare a meal. Instead, I plopped down in front of the television for another episode or two of Bordertown. At 10:30, I awoke on the couch in a state of confusion; I have no idea how long I had been asleep, but I think it may have been more than an hour. I’ll have to go back and find a scene I recognize from the series to know where to retrace my “viewing.” Before I do that, though, I’ll have a variation on breakfast and will experience another full day; no more television until the evening hours. For now, I’ll start working on the day ahead.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Delinquency

  1. Bev says:

    It sounds like Janine may be feeling a little better if she has food requests and also spoke with her sister. The antibiotics may be knocking out the infection. However, yes, they are probably creating some nausea. The frustration of having to take medications – they help but sometimes create another problem. Well, good luck! I hope things are on the upswing.

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