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Excerpt, Essay 12, The Feast of Dreams

(An essay about menopause.)

I wake up at 2 a.m. in a pool of my own sweat and stumble from the bedroom so I do not wake up Sandy. Before menopause crept up on me, I did not realize how many parts of my body could perspire, particularly at once, particularly without the provocations of heat or exercise. Not just the warm infolded recesses—armpits and such—but my back, my arms, my calves, my stomach, my scalp, the underside of my breasts: all are slick with fresh, warm perspiration rapidly cooling on my goosebumped skin now that I have yanked off my sweat-dampened pajamas and am standing stark naked in the shadowy living room, fanning my middle-aged flesh with the front section of yesterday’s New York Times.

Dot, our thin, nervous tabby, followed me from the bedroom, and now sits, considering. The cats seem to know when we are troubled or ill; if, at the end of a long, bad day, I fling myself on the bed and cry, or if Sandy is prone on the couch with a pounding sinus headache, not just one but both feline sentries usually materialize to knead our shoulders and hum in our ears. But the cats seem undecided about menopause, and tonight Dot looks frankly dubious. “Should I really leave that cozy spot on the bed for the second time this week,” she seems to ask, “or is it ok if I leave you here? You don’t seem that sick, and look—you’re already settled in with the latest Atlantic.” Apparently that was a rhetorical question, as Dot then wanders out of the living room, tail up.

In all these points, Dot is correct: menopause is not going away any time soon, I seem to be resigned if not exactly adjusted to the situation, and menopause is not an illness—or so I keep telling myself in a too-loud voice. …

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