phrasing

D: That’s Randolph Scott on the right.
E: That’s Randolph Scott? I never recognize him. It’s a mental block. I always think of him as a villainous type.
D: He is the villain in this.
E: I mean look like a villain. He looks so harmless. He looks like half of Gary Cooper.
D: Aw.
E: You know what I mean! He looks like if Gary Cooper and Ralph Bellamy got together to make a, a, a second banana.
E: … that sounded so dirty!

things I did not scream on the sidewalk

“SIDEWALKS ARE THREE PEOPLE WIDE. DO NOT WALK THREE ABREAST!” – to the obvious tourist group dawdling their way down a busy downtown sidewalk in front of me. I also didn’t bother with a curt “excuse me” and a bustling break through their passage-clogging cluster; just as I was about to, I spotted a young woman sporting a mohawk walking toward us and thought “I bet he’ll step sharply out of her way.” And indeed he did.

“SHE DOES NOT EXIST TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO YOU!” – to the man from that same tourist group, who waited until Mohawk Woman was just past him, still well within earshot, then dropped a dry “Very attractive” to his female companions. For the first sixty seconds after not-screaming, I was proud of my restraint; for the next 24 hours and counting, I wish I had let ‘er rip, and maybe jammed a “FUCKING!” in there somewhere.

“I DO NOT NEED YOUR HELP!” – to the dude who approached the crosswalk where I waited, gestured at the thinning traffic, stepped out into the street against the light, then looked over his shoulder to see if I was following.

“SO MANY ELECTRODES!” – to the nurse smoking outside the hospital, as we both glanced up from a distasteful survey of the littered street.

thing I did yell on the phone today, for no explicable reason:

“DUUUUUUUUDE!” – in greeting to my sister, who started laughing so hard that I started laughing, too, delaying our conversation by a good two minutes.

established

Establishing my food-critic cred: my slapped-together ten-minute lunch includes a tuna melt (tuna mixed with labneh and scallions, grilled between local-ish American cheese on English muffin bread), red potato salad (also in a dressing of labneh, olive oil, lemon, and scallion), green beans with butter-toasted almonds, and a dish of fresh pineapple spears. These are the joys of preparedness, chickadees.

Establishing my blogger cred: I changed back into pajamas to eat it.

Establishing my willingness to experiment within highly gendered expectations: am wearing new shoes with said pajamas and watching the “Sex and the City” pilot for the first time. For the latter, I credit Emily Nussbaum. For the former, I have no excuse.

nose

… that thing where you’re doing dishes and you smell a faint sour whiff of something somewhere and you sniff the air around you and you sniff over the trashcan and you sniff the actual dishes and let’s admit it you sniff in the vicinity of your armpit and you can’t find it but you finally sniff the sponge in your hands and you accidentally tap the very tip of your nose with the wet edge of the sponge and you recoil less at the unexpected warmth and damp than at the smell because WHOA THAT’S IT so you put all the presumed-clean dishes back in the sink to rewash them and you fill a small dish with bleach solution to soak and de-smellify the sponge and heck the dish brush too while you’re at it and then you wash all possibility of sponge-smell and bleach traces off your hands and then you do it again just to be sure and then you go out for a walk while you wait for the bleachy solution to clean up that sponge and as you’re rounding the corner you realize that you scrubbed and bleached everything in the sink and washed your hands but you never washed the tip of your nose.

Yeah, that thing.

doorways

What’s scarier than reading uncanny stories all afternoon? Reading uncanny stories all afternoon, then looking up to realize that the darkness has encroached all around you, leaving you in a pitiful little pool of light spilling from your screen.

Scarier than that: with the goosebumps from those spooky stories still riddling your arms, tiptoeing down to the laundry room, unbalanced by heavy sacks of towels and sheets, flipping on the switch and knowing that some of the lights in that dark, dank basement suddenly fizzled. Scarier: having to tread down those stairs into that half-dark, around the turn at the landing into a room you can’t yet see, knowing that the dark in the spandrel just a few feet to your left is almost total.

Scarier than that: coming back upstairs and seeing your front door open — not just open, but swinging to and fro — and asking yourself “Didn’t I close that? I’m sure I closed that.”

Scarier than that: feeling foolish, knowing that the breeze (breeze? what breeze? the air is stifling still on this sticky, humid, unmoving day) must have nudged it open, entering the apartment door (which you’re sure YOU CLOSED). Then, feeling even more foolish, quickly and casually patrolling the few spots in your tiny home where an interloper might hide: peep into the kitchen, crane to see the bedroom corner closet, glance into the living room. Approaching the shower curtain, stop for one quick second to think of the sheer futility of this inspection. If there were someone something lurking there, they it would surely make quick work of you.

Scarier than that: having cleared the tiny apartment, sit down and prepare to laugh at yourself, closing the door firmly behind you. The laugh dies in your throat as the door pops itself off the latch and slowly creeeeeeeeaks open, inch by inch, letting the darkness ease in. Tell yourself it’s just the humidity swelling the jamb and playing havok with the latches, and I’m sure it is just the humidity. Just the humidity.

voices

This weekend, I started hearing voices.

Tiny, tinny voices in barely audible bursts, piping up periodically over a long evening alone while I searched them out in vain, and then again the next night.

At first, I thought maybe we were picking up some interference on our landline cordless phone, but that wasn’t it. I put my ear to the wall, thinking maybe it was trickling in from the apartment next door. I double-checked the old digital answering machine in case the recorder had corrupted and was playing smothered bits of garbled old messages.

I checked the volume on my laptop, then on The Fella’s laptop; maybe one of us had left a YouTube tab open and it was, I don’t know, buffering and playing a few seconds at a time. I even bent down and listened to the cable box, wifi router, and TV speakers, wondering if somehow they were sending out tiny blasts of static that my brain was translating into words.

Was it coming from outside the apartment? Maybe someone was doing laundry in the basement under our living room and listening to a staticky radio down there. Maybe someone on the neighbors’ porch was wearing a walkie-talkie. Or maybe a cable-company worker was up a pole somewhere I couldn’t see, with his walkie squawking quietly down to me.

But here’s the part that made me so eager to find a rational source for these tiny little voices: I recognized them.

Yeeeeah. I would have shrugged it off, but I knew these tiny voices, and knew them well. I found them weirdly familiar, comfortable, sympathetic.

After two days interrupted by brief searches for the source of these voices, I shrugged and gave up, perplexed and a little unsettled.

And then on Monday morning, I grabbed my iPod and discovered it had been sitting on the living room table playing RadioLab podcasts at a low volume… since Saturday. Instead of turning it off, I’d turned it down. Every so often, Jad Abumrad or Robert Krulwich would get excited about something and RAISE THEIR VOICES — their oh-so-familiar and friendly voices — which I would juuuuuust barely hear through the earbuds.

Phew.

scrape

The scene: you’re sitting cozily under a blanket drinking your coffee on Sunday morning. Suddenly, you hear something scraping — repeatedly, insistently, roughly — against the ice and wooden planks of your front porch. Your mind fills in the blank by guessing:

A. the giant claws of some unknown, unseen beast that dares to venture out in the day only because it knows a warm and tender morsel is curled up inside the house, waiting helplessly.

B. It’s the guy they hired to shovel snow and ice, shoveling snow and ice.

If you chose B., carry on. You’re fine.

If you chose A., maybe lay off the Lovecraft for a while. And the caffeine. And get some sleep. But in the meantime, come sit over here by me. I’ll make coffee.

splat

Places I managed to drop bits of avocado from this sandwich:

- onto the countertop
- onto the cutting board
- onto the other-than-intended sandwich half
- onto the the plate
- onto the napkin
- onto the floor
- onto the MacBook trackpad
- into my cleavage
- down the front of my hoodie
- onto my chin
- I don’t know; I never found that bit. Uh-oh.

updated to add: I stopped typing, hit post, and went back to the second half of my sandwich, only to find a bit of avocado on the sofa next to the plate. And no, that was not the missing piece from the list.

tipsy

Even if you don’t feel tipsy during the Halloween party, look for these dead giveaways:

- A complete inability to remove the foil from the champagne bottle, or to figure out how to uncage the cork without removing the foil.

- Taking the stairs down from the hosts’ apartment ever so slowly, getting both feet on each riser ever so carefully before moving on to the next.

- Your partner saying “You’re doin’ great!” at least three times during the five-minute walk home.

- Shucking off your bra and tights from under your costume in front of a (curtained) window while cheerfully giving the finger to the hypothetical neighbors who might be offended by the unintentional display.

- Being ever-so-proud! that you remembered to wash your face before bed.

- Waking up late the next morning ravenous for every smeary, fatty mass-market food being trumpeted by TV commercials.

- When your partner reveals that he brought home a frozen pizza last night, you rush wordlessly to him, fluttering your hands, and finally manage “I’m so glad we got married!”

abundance

This small apartment is crammed full of stuff — most of it mine, and much of it so very crammed in that we can’t get at it.

I keep paring down. I dropped off several big boxes of clothing at Goodwill and still I can’t see the back of the closet. I gave away a food processor and I still have two left. If a guest admires a [book/scarf/toy/kitchen tool], sometimes I give it to them on the spot and thank them for taking it.

The place is still littered with toys, games, DVDs still in their cellophane, shoes I’m waiting to break in, shoes I stopped wearing, beautiful trinkets that we were given and don’t need, winter coats that are too fancy, winter coats that aren’t fancy enough, books jammed into boxes where we can’t read them, favorite dresses hanging in the back of a deep closet where I forget them, luxurious bath oils turning sour and stale on the shelf, down comforters balled up under the bed getting musty.

My mindset of scarcity creates so much sad waste. I’m saving those bath oils, that velvet dress, those perfect shoes, that lovely down throw, the most delicate wineglasses, the expensive bottle of spirits, the crisp linen dish towels handed down from my grandmother, the folded swath of uncut lilac fabric. I’m saving them for LATER. I’m saving them for BEST.

But if BEST never comes, if it is never LATER, then those luscious goods, those indulgences, those luxuries… they sit and molder on the shelf.

I’ve made a resolution for September: each week, I pledge to use or dispose of at least seven unused, underused, or forgotten objects: one every day, or a week’s worth all at once, however it works out. No matter how much I give (or throw) away, the count resets each Sunday: if I toss out or rehome 30 items on September 1st, I still have seven to go the next week.

Expect the updates to be excruciatingly dull for everyone but me. After all, I’m the one unearthing those velvet dresses, drinking the expensive spirits, giving away toys, and opening up space in my cramped home.

Though September hasn’t started, I have: some construction in our building forced us to clear out a long-ignored closet. I threw out a dozen spoiled, soiled, spilled, or otherwise unsuitable objects.