Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Dear everyone,

Somehow another month has gone by, and I find that I'm resigning myself to the fact that days will never be as long as they were when I was six. It's a sad joke that the more we appreciate the days that we have, the less time feels like it's moving at normal speeds. It was just yesterday that I was six.
I will be interested to see how different traveling is when the destination is one that I'm looking forward to. I haven't gone on a trip that I haven't dreaded since my final visit to Seattle before I moved, but then I hadn't ventured many places that I didn't want to go. I've been overwhelmingly homesick on my last few trips, to Florida and North Carolina, the sort of homesick you're only supposed to be when you're ten and at summer camp.
It isn't as though my journey to Florida was all bad. There's a certain quality I've only found in the friends I made in college, a sense that although we're all so different we're expected to be unabashedly ourselves. As a result, I find that all the knots in my shoulders melt, that my brain feels rested, that all of my laughing muscles hurt. I leave these people feeling as though I could accomplish anything because of the simple fact that they believe, unreservedly, that I can. It's a sense of support that I've found nowhere else, and the few hours I spent with them are worth whatever other troubles I suffered on the way there.
Steph and Ryan picked me up at the airport yesterday (twice), while my kneecaps dissolved in complete relief at being home. My walk to work this morning was not so much walking as it was prancing, a gleeful little going-to-the-office dance. And now I am at my desk. The sun is sometimes out of and sometimes behind the clouds and the base of my spine is on fire. I'm eating a honeydew melon and drinking beer, and my hands are covered with fruit juice because with tasty juicy fruits I turn into a four year old or a terrier and can barely keep my face out of them. I am avoiding calling certain people to let them know I'm back in town because there are certain self-destructive behaviors I'm not overly keen to dive back in to.
I appreciate that my friends keep getting married and reminding me what an adventure being in love is supposed to be. They're very brave. There are more things than I can even begin to express that choke me up about weddings, and I encourage you all to keep pairing up and giving my sentimental little heart real life reasons to go all a-flutter.
Somehow we're halfway through the year, and I haven't even really begun in earnest to put my plans from months ago into motion. I need to sit every single one of you down and find out your hopes and plans and secrets. I need to learn your native language so that we can exchange the same syllables. If need be, I will grab you by your shoulders and shake you until you realize how perfect you actually are.
I honestly don't even know who the vast majority of you are. But I will.


Monday, May 30, 2005

At the Tampa airport, the lady in the security line in front of me is wearing heavy perfume. She looks to be, roughly, in her late 60's, and she is wearing a brightly flowered shirt. She turns to kiss the man standing next to her on the cheek--he is also wearing a flowered shirt. He asks her to call him when she gets home, and she agrees, hurrying off to catch the next shuttle to the gates. I catch up with her just as we emerge on the other side of the shuttle, and watch her pull a tissue from her purse to wipe her eyes. I wonder just when the moment was that she started crying.

Lying on Neven’s floor last night, I looked for shapes in the popcorn coating while he drunkenly psychoanalyzed me. "The problem with you," he said as though he’d just then realized it "is that you pine for the right men and pick the wrong ones." "Out of everything you could have come up with, you give me that? I thought you were providing information." I rolled over onto my stomach and combed the carpet with my fingers, disappointed with the lack of new insight.

In Dallas, one of the golf cart elderly transport vehicles passes me. The horn is broken, so the lady driving is yelling, "Beep beep! Beep beep beep! Move!" Anyway, I think the horn is broken. It could be that she just feels like shouting.

Around the table at the wedding, conversation centered on plans for our own matrimonial events. At the end of every obviously well thought out item, someone would throw out a halfhearted variation of, "But it’s not like I’m ever going to get married, anyway." We all seemed to be terrified and not a little confused by the prospect, but up for the adventure nonetheless.

Halfway home we fly through an electrical storm. I know that I should be trying to take pictures for the 'Electric' show, but I'm too busy being scared and trying not to look out the window. When we come out on the other side the horizon is a rainbow as far as I can see in either direction.
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I was standing on a corner in Dunedin, waiting for Neven to come outside and squire me to a drinking establishment for cocktails and Psych 101isms. My toes, without shoes, picked up and dropped small rocks. I was tired out, drained from the time change and the mean-spirited jokes and the constant talking. My waiting was impatient--I needed to vent, and Neven was taking at least a year to emerge from his house. And so my foot that wasn't scrabbling through the dirt was tapping impatiently. That's why my eyes were on my feet, and why I saw when the small black racer snake crawled through the grass right in front of me.
I jumped. I'm not afraid of snakes, but I wasn't expecting to see one just then and the movement startled me. But it didn't even pause--just went on its way, paying me less attention than if I were a rock.
Nev stepped onto his porch just in time to see me hop backwards. He giggled at me, pointing, curly black hair reflecting the sun. I smiled too, shaking my fist at him, and when I turned back the snake was gone.

I leave for the airport in a few hours, and I can't wait to get home.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

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Mr. and Mrs. Davis.

Holy shit, man, we're dropping like flies.

The rest of the pictures are here. I apologize for their incredibly poor quality, but the lighting at the reception sucked for picture taking purposes.

This has been so many years coming that it's almost a relief that it's finally over. The ceremony was lovely, we all cried, and Amanda was absolutely radiant. I love weddings.

I did indeed inform the boy that I had a crush on in high school that I had, you know, had an enormous crush on him in high school, and received the incredibly gratifying response of, "What! But I had a crush on you in high school! Why didn't you say anything?" And that's always nice.
As a result, some incredibly unladlylike behavior may have taken place at some point. And if it did, it was totally worth it.

I'm so glad to have gotten a chance to catch up with everyone, and now I've got a whole new cache of memories that are so fabulous they make my skin hurt. I miss the Flagler kids more than I can say.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

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Oh, old times.

It took no time at all--about fifteen minutes--before I was wandering around outside barefoot, just like always.

I went to take a shower Thursday night, to wash off the travel stains. I pulled back the shower curtain and there, on the bottom of the tub, was a great big dead cockroach. I suppose it's just a lucky thing that it was already dead. There wasn't anyone around to save me from a live one.

That girl up there in the pink? She's the bride, and my old college roomie. I met Amanda in our Freshman english class. The blonde girl? Is Bethany, who was Amanda's friend. She was in that class too. Over the next few years she and I became inseparable. She was cute and blonde and so much fun, and I was shy and uncomfortable. I haven't seen her in a few years; we fell out of touch when she moved back here.
It's been years since the three of us were together, but last night was just like old times. We talked incredibly fast, shrieking 'do you remembers' at each other. For a couple of hours, I was the best parts of sixteen again.

Friday, May 27, 2005

My favorite chaser of geese died yesterday.

Haida was a sweet, sweet dog. Oscar and Lee have been through much lately, trying to keep her with them. It's a terrible loss.

Dear Haida,

I hope that you feel better wherever you are now, that you have all of your legs again and all the peanut butter-filled kongs you can chew on.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

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As soon as I stepped out of the airport, the humidity grabbed my hair in its fists and wrapped itself around my face.

I was up late last night on the phone, gossiping with the bride to be, reminiscing and giggling and talking too fast. I left for the airport at 3:30, ghosting through the streets of my city, winking at the lights that were on.

My mother has done huge renovations on her house recently. I realized the other day that a large part of the reason I've been so unsettled about making this trip is that it's the first time I've stayed overnight in this house since the morning I only barely made it out with my life. Some of you know bits of that story and some of you know none of it, but the bare facts are that my ex stepfather was not a very nice man and one night finally nearly made good on what he'd been promising to do for years. Since good and dead wasn't what I wanted to be at seventeen I ran, and I haven't stopped running since.
I've been a little worried about how I'd react to being here in the dark. And it's been a little hard, a little more than hard. But the house is so completely changed that it's almost not the same place where so much that was bad happened. Being in this town is always a little bit like watching a movie of myself undergoing surgery, but I think I might be able to avoid any extra nightmares.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On the bus:

"So I have this boil on my leg, right..."
"You have a what? A boil? How do you know it's a boil?"
"Dude, what else could it be? Do you want to look at it?"
"Fine. So, I have this boil. And the other day, I was wearing shorts."
"I hate this conversation already."
"This girl walked up while I was waiting for the bus and asked what the thing on my leg was. I told her I thought it was a boil."
"Was she cute?"
"Yeah. That's the point of this story. See, 'cause in the end, I got her phone number."
"Dude. If you get a girlfriend because of a boil, we're not friends anymore."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Turns out that remembering that I could once do a cartwheel and actually, you know, doing one are two entirely different things. My dignity? Tends to go out the window three or four times a day.

I've been paging through my high school yearbooks, trying to guess who might be showing up at this matrimonial shindig on Saturday. I haven't spoken to Amanda recently, so I'm not positive who of our old crowd she and Jimmie may have tracked down. I'm excited to catch up with whichever of them end up there, and it's no secret that I'm especially thrilled to see that unrequited high school crush.
I am even more thrilled to see my high school crush while I'm wearing my amazing new dress. Not all parts of my brain have managed to become a grownup.

My schedule is a little insane for the next few months, and I'll be in and out of town. I need to organize myself tonight to send the application for my Chinese visa sometime in the next few days. I need to buy plane tickets for two trips and start seriously planning a third. I need to decide how I want to get to the airport on Thursday morning.
My brothers will be here to visit in just a few weeks. I haven't decided if I'm planning any organized outings or not, but if anyone wants to hang out with us, meet them, and make them feel like total rockstars because cool people in Seattle know who they are, let me know. (You could also try and make them feel guilty for how much their poor sister worries about them.)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Years ago, when I stilled dabbled in fiction and harbored delusions of a literary lifesyle, I wanted to write a story about a man whose whole goal in life was to write "choose your own adventure" books for grownups. His problem, the source of all of his grief, was the sad fact that no one wanted to buy his books because adults don't want to go on adventures. I've since met many, many adults who love adventures, but the sketch of this guy has stayed in the corners of my brain ever since.

I've made plans for many different lifestyles over the years. I was to be a ballerina--no, an underwater archaeologist--no, a teacher--no, an editor, and I had everything worked out for all of them. In the end, I'm hard pressed to be anything but samantha, and too busy to worry about all the other versions I'm missing out on. I make it from day to day and that's pretty much as far as I get.

Spaulding Gray told us that it was almost impossible for him not to tell everyone everything. I'll be back in Florida in a few days, but the Florida I return to isn't a place of breezy palm trees and quaint alligators. It's a place where too much dirty water has gone under too many rickety bridges, a place where little feels clean anymore. It tears at my fingers, the past does, and yet I do not tell you about it because in the end I am not very brave. I spend too much time being grateful for things and not enough acting grateful for them, too much time trying to blame a child for the actions of adults.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

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Whenever I get a new haircut, the first thing I do is go home and undo all of the special styling things that my hairstylist has done. I always want to know what it's like without the magic, so there aren't any surprises.

I left the office early this afternoon, in a sparkly fifteen minutes between rainshowers. The bottoms of my chronically too-long jeans soaked up puddles and now and again got themselves caught between my feet and the back of my broken red loafers. It's been another couple of weeks of long days and late nights, and although I pretend like I'm surprised that I'm still a little bit sick, I know what the reason is.

There have been slugs on my morning walk in for the last week or so, and I always want to pet them. Last night I had an armful of cute sleeping baby. I am calm, and a little bit exhausted, and enjoying the back-and-forth of the weather. I need to work on my posture.

I am still in love with Seattle, all over again every day. I have a great big huge ridiculously not very secret crush on one of you, and these blustery undecided days make me almost brave enough to call and say so, except I have no number to call. Which is probably, in the end, for the best.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

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There's a certain time every day when the light outside and the light inside my apartment cancel each other out and it's not dark or light in here. When that time is depends on the weather. Today, that time is right now.
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"To me, all sports are just a game of 'who's got the ball?' Who's got the ball? I don't give a fuck...I want a pretzel."

When Tara and I drove around the corner on our way to Neumo's, we found a great big crowd standing in a circle outside. Turns out Mike Doughty was hanging outside with his guitar, having what appeared to be an impromptu show on the sidewalk.
I love that guy.

Dear Mike Doughty,

I noticed that you were wearing pants this time around. Not that I made it a point to look at your pants. Um. This is not the point.
The point is, hooray for you coming back to Seattle and playing another show for us. And thanks for playing The Gambler--you really do need to know when to fold 'em, y'know.
I've said all that I have to say to you a million times before, so this time around I just want to say thanks. Please consider my idea of doing a guitar showdown with Lou Barlow. It'd be such a party.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

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All I need is air in the spare, kids. Air in the spare.

So evidently the thing about hot air balloons is that they won't, um, lift off if it's raining. Rather unfortunately, it was doing just that this morning in Walla Walla when we woke up unbelievably early to go look at them.

Hot air balloons or no, it's been a good weekend. I went to my first ever prom on Friday night, and then got to drive across the state with two lovely girls yesterday morning. There were cherry trees, tumbleweed, hats, and free chocolate Frosty milkshakes. And they did light up the balloons at night, so at least we got to see them on the ground.
Man, those suckers are big.

We drove away in the rain this morning after a little bit of shopping and went wine tasting. I was in search of a Syrah and came away with a sweet Riesling instead. And as always, the best part of leaving is coming home.

Thanks for the weekend, ladies!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Alright, fellows, I have to ask you this, because I’ve gotten it from three consecutive men in the last bunch of months and I’m curious. That walking on the outside of the sidewalk thing? In case of, um, runaway carriages or something? Where do you get that from?
I’m serious. I want to know. Do you learn it in guy school? Is it a father-to-son passing down of information sort of thing? It doesn’t appear to be age group specific, since there’s a twelve-year difference between the youngest of them and the oldest. It’s not a regional thing. And it’s also not all men—I’ve walked places with lots of you who don’t make a point of always being closest to the street.
I’m not complaining even a little bit: I think it’s sort of adorable. I just want to know who tells you to do it. Come on, guys. I’m willing to give up female secrets for the information.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

My dad blames the hospital for the death of the father that he never really liked, anyway. I’ve never been sure what actually killed him, what the specific ailment was that required a tube in his throat. It’s a touchy subject.

Going back to Florida always makes me grumpy. I just can’t figure out how to be anchored by the past without being covered over by it, how to make the happy memories weigh less than the sad ones, and the sad ones weigh less than the terrifying ones. I feel more and more like a character in a Tennessee Williams play every time I go back for a visit and I can’t walk anywhere without tripping over a million little ghosts of the same sad girl.
I am very tired of the notion that I’ve just climbed out of a box of after school specials but haven’t yet gotten far enough away that they can’t snag me and drag me back in.

My nana’s Parkinson’s seems to be gaining momentum, rolling her faster and faster back inside her own head. She didn’t really like my grandfather either. And yet there must have been a time, however brief, that she loved him enough to throw over her family and her religion for him. We can’t really say what it is that happens between two people in and out of love, the transactions and the compromises and the angry tightening of lips. I wonder often if, as she finds herself further and further down the tortured crystalline paths of her own brain, she ever thinks fondly of him—if disease is enough to overcome fourteen years of absence and all those other years of angry marriage.

Good things are coming. This weekend Cat, Caroline, and I are off to look at hot air balloons in Walla Walla. Next week Tara and I will be going to see Mike Doughty, and I’ll be getting a haircut. The Peach People’s wedding is going to be an awful lot of fun. There’s really no reason for me to be as gloomy as I get whenever I think about this trip, but the bottom line is that I hate Florida and always have.

Not too long before my grandfather died they moved him into a different part of the hospital that I couldn’t go into—you had to be fourteen, and I was only nearly eight. And there was a point where it was made known to me that he wasn’t ever going to be coming back down that elevator. I don’t remember any of what happened then, not who told me or how. All that I remember is the nurse that came down with them turning to me while she waited for the elevator to take her back up. My arms were wrapped around a stuffed koala bear that had been in his bed with him since he’d gone into the hospital, my whole upper body curled around it. The nurse bent down and took me by the shoulders, looked me straight in each of my eyes individually, and nodded. She might have spoken, but the elevator doors opened then with a chime and she stepped inside. And then the mirrored doors slid shut and I was left standing there, looking back at myself.

Monday, May 09, 2005

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For the first time, I've brought my new computer out of the house, taking the wireless card out for a test drive.
I feel very silly, sitting here with my laptop and a cup of chai.

I hadn't planned on leaving tonight, but after an extended dawdle through the rain back to my rental kingdom I realized that the very last thing I wanted to do was stay home. I spent the day bowed under a great big project, and the thought of an hour out around other people was very tempting. At home there is a fruit bowl and cupcakes and a couch that loves me, but there is also a pile of unwritten letters and unread books. I couldn't take the extra responsibility.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

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"You know, you've never asked how old I am."
"I haven't?"
"Oh. Should I?"
"Is it important?"
"If it were important, I probably would have asked you two weeks ago."
"Oh yeah, good point."
"...Should I ask how old you are?"
"Well, I'm older than you are."
"Right, I figured that much."
"Alright, I give. Fine. How old are you?"
"You know, I think I chipped my tooth."
"You're not allowed to talk anymore, old man."
Happy Mother's Day, moms!

When my mother was my age, she had a two year old child and was two years away from her first divorce. She had long, straight brown hair, a twisty-mouth sense of humor, and a heartfelt love of rock-n-roll.
They've put up with a lot from me over the years, she and my stepmother. They've nodded and smiled at my freakish stance on not brushing my hair when I was seven, nodded and smiled while I plotted a million ways to leave Florida, nodded and smiled when I refused to use silverware. They have never tried to stop me from doing the things I wanted to do, and they've let me grow in whichever directions I choose. I give them a lot of grief for the choices that they've made, but I seldom allow for the fact that they were their choices to make.
And I remember her laughing like a kid, her hair fanning around me to make a curtain between myself and the rest of the world. I remember her haircuts, her boyfriends, her silly mistakes and her sillier jokes. I remember watching from corners while she laughed with men that weren't my father, and I remember knowing even then that although she was my mother she was herself too. She is many things that I will never know about.
I talk to my mother, these days, once or twice a week, and to my stepmother a few times a month. We are friends. And that's lucky, because as we grow up most people realize that their parents are just nice people. It has taken a lot of work and a lot of forgiving, but my mother is also my friend.

Thanks to everyone that came by last night! It means a lot to have you guys around. (Bonus points to Manuel for bringing along the hook and Elvis glasses, and to Brandon for coming to drink tequila in a house full of strangers. Pictures by Dayment have been posted.)
Update: Looks like I have my own Flickr tag.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

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I like anniversaries, as markers and signposts and as a clear place to pause and figure out what's happened between there and here.

Today, of course, marks two years since I found myself in Seattle. We had spent the week wandering across the country, talking to locals and wearing cowboy hats and singing along to everything. We had decided against Memphis and for tumbleweed, we had eaten huckleberries and freedom fries, and we had seen Wall Drug. We had been having an adventure.
Neither one of us had a clue what would happen next. Andrea was headed back to Florida via California to drink Mint Juleps and languish. I was staying here, without any friends or job or money. But I had an apartment. I don't think I'd ever been as sure of my own fool self in my life, but then I guess I didn't even know it was possible to fail.

We drove up to my apartment, unloaded my world from the car, and went off to hunt for a grocery store. It had hailed on us driving through the mountains, and as we had little experience with hail and none at all with driving through mountains, it was a miracle we made it at all. Somehow we happened upon the Albertson's in Greenlake, which seemed full of people who looked like the ones I had just left.
This was our first meal, spaghetti and a bottle of Riverboat Red from the Les bourgeois winery outside Kingdom City, Missouri. It was the best thing I'd ever cooked.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

And so it looks as though I'll be headed to my first conference at the end of next month, right after my family leaves town. Do I know anyone in Indiana? I don't think that I do. I'm terribly excited, of course (a free trip to a section of the country I've never been to, and an opportunity to learn so much about something that I love? This career shit works, man), but I'm a little scared as well. I am so much younger than other people who do what I do: the jump in position that I just made should have taken a couple of years rather than six months to reach. And though I generally try to pretend that the years that they have on me--that all of you, really, have on me--don't affect me at all, the bare truth of the matter is that sometimes it scares the stuffing out of me. I'm afraid of being found a fraud for things I didn't even realize I was pretending at.
I have a habit of tossing myself into new waters to make sure I remember how to swim. This time, it's someone else that's doing the throwing.

Feeling much better today, thanks. An unexpected visitor yesterday evening helped cheer things up, and my throat no longer feels like I've been trying to swallow sand spurs. I met a very nice roly-poly this morning on my walk in to work and I didn't trip over my own feet once today.

Steph and Ryan were here on Saturday, typing stories on Ethel, my typewriter. They were doing so well that I set them a task, to start a story with the sentence, "If you feel faint, it's because all the blood is rushing to your still-intact hymen! Lose it ASAP!" and to end it with "That is the power of grapes."--lines pulled from my envelope of words. They did splendidly, and now it appears that they've brought home their own typewriter to love and cherish. It makes me want to do a little dance.

My party is coming up this weekend, and so I'm getting into the usual panic about playing hostess. (This time, there's someone famous who says he's stopping by. I've got tequila, my friend.) I'll fret about it right up until people start showing up, and then I'll quit it and enjoy myself. This is what always happens, but knowing what's at the end doesn't make me any less spastic now.

Things are still just slightly off center. There can be, often during strokes, damage to certain parts of the brain that make a person able to see noses, mouths, eyes, but not a whole face. It makes recognizing the person to whom you are speaking nearly impossible, visually. I feel a little bit like that now, as though I'm seeing fits and snatches of something and if I could just cross my eyes properly I could figure out what it is. And I should know by now that the best way to open a stubborn jar is to leave it alone and come back later. But then, there are a lot of things that I should know, and one of them is that knowing and believing are generally not the same.

Monday, May 02, 2005

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Dear everyone,

Hello! I had intended to write you this weekend, but then I got sick and spent all of my free time clutching my shoulders, trying to make the room stop spinning. It's stopped now, so now is the time to get down to brass tacks. Or, you know, whichever other kinds of tacks.
But I hope that your April went well, and that you got some of what you had planned accomplished. You've been so quiet lately, and I've been worrying about you in all the usual ways and also some brand new ones. I worry that you're spending too much time looking over your shoulder, that you're going to turn around and run smack into what you never saw coming. I worry that you keep losing sight of the million little things that you're so good at in the glare of the few big ones you can't just get right. I worry. And this is not the time for that. It's spring! Our toes should feel like they're each tied with helium balloons. There seem to be too many days where that's just not the case.
I've been doing a pretty good job at things recently, at standing up straight against the thousand pound weights of my collarbones. I have been seeing people and behaving irresponsibly and writing a million notes inside my head. I have only panicked a little.
I called my mother this morning to tell her that I saw her gout and raised her a strep throat. We went back and forth for a while about whether my strep throat against her gout could be considered a see and a raise. The doctor, diagnosing me, informed me in the usual way that I should get a houseboy to fetch ice cream and apple juice. I asked her to write me a prescription for one, one that did magic tricks. And also, where would I fill that? She just laughed and patted me on the shoulder.
Had I told you that I've been having strep throat? It feels like I've been eating gravel.
My favorite dog west of the Mississippi has been having health troubles lately. I'm sure good wishes would be appreciated. Haida is a sweet dog, a lovely dinner guest, and a fantastic chaser of geese. I hope everything goes ok.
I stopped by my favorite sandwich place on my way into the office from the doctor's office today. It's been a while since I've been down there, and every time I go in I remember why I love it so. A man named George handed me a mother's day poem he wrote for his mother when she was 87. The boy with a hoodie making my sandwich sang songs and danced the whole time, and the fellow who often gives me cookies smiled and waved with his hands full of bread. This city always makes me feel like it's glad I'm here.
I can't wait to see you all again. I've been cooped up for days and my hands are itching to organize picnics and hugs and funny jokes. I want you to teach me how to make origami cranes, how to make wounded fish swim. I want to be a whole bouquet of flowers sitting on your side table.