Friday, October 31, 2008

When I was little, my grandfather had a clock that would tell the time when you pushed a button. He told me that inside the clock lived a little man that he fed peanuts to, from the can of salted peanuts that he always kept next to his chair. I stuck one under the edge of the clock, in a little groove that fit the peanut perfectly, and sure enough when I went to look later the peanut was gone.
We kept this game up for years, long past when I was old enough to know that he was taking the peanuts out himself.

My grandparents met at a dance, my grandad 17 years younger than my grandmother, who had already had one marriage and two children with her first husband. He had come through a complicated and painful childhood and though he never said much, I remember him always watching me, his only grandchild, and smiling indulgently. He was always there, this big firm presence, always smelling of cigarettes and whiskey, always with his deep gruff voice and big laugh. We lived so close that I saw or at least spoke to my grandparents often, frequently several times a week, and my grandad always felt like my personal special grandparent. Growing up, he was the most solid thing in the universe.

He died today, my grandad, in his chair sometime while my grandma was at work. The world already feels emptier.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You know, I really don't like Halloween, and not just because it stands between me and Thanksgiving. I am always in favor of getting dressed up in silly costumes--I will be an awesome giraffe--but I hate being scared. And Halloween seems to give everyone an excuse to hide around corners or send emails that scream or tell stories about things that hide in dark places, and I am so not down with that.

Some of this is probably related to that time when, trick or treating, a man in a mask scared me so badly that I fell down into the space between his trailer and his steps, which hurt quite a lot. And when I am thoroughly startled I tend to cry, which is embarrassing. But I have always hated being scared. I remember as a kid catching part of Jaws when I was supposed to be sleeping and having one of the worst nightmares of my life, all about my family getting eaten by sharks or killed by assassins on the run from sharks, if they managed to escape the sharks. I don't watch horror movies, and it makes me so mad when the trailers for them come up at other movies, because why spring that on an unsuspecting public? Not cool.

When I was dating my college boyfriend, I perfected a trick of looking carefully only at one corner of the movie screen at scary movies, so it looked like I was watching when I was in fact bracing myself so I wouldn't shriek and hit the deck when something noisy happened. The suspenseful ones are the worst, because I hate it when things jump out unexpectedly more than I hate it when people touch my ears, even. I've never understood why anyone would think it's so much fun to be scared. (I have the same confusion in relation to spicy food. It hurts! How is that fun?)

All of which is just to say that while I am super excited about pumpkin carving tonight, I can't wait for Halloween to be over. Time for Thanksgiving, already.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A few nights ago I left the bar early enough to walk home through the dark, scurrying between pools of light from the streetlamps. They've been building a house along my route, the frames of the walls raised and covered in plastic, now that the rains are on their way. I walked past, nearer to midnight than anything else, and found the place lit up inside, the plastic striped by the shadows of the inner beams. Probably heavily inhabited by ghosts who had been wandering the greenbelt, waiting for a new place to inhabit.

I am probably more superstitious than not. There's no real reason not to believe in ghosts, or at least, not just because I can't see them. Which is actually a pretty accurate picture of how everything else works for me, too, because I am a lot more afraid of what I can't see than of what I can. I will talk to you for hours with total enthusiasm about all of the dead babies in jars that I saw in Philly, all of the things that should turn anyone squeamish, but I will run from silent houses.

What isn't there is always worse than what is.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A serious drawback of having absentmindedly gnawed off all of my fingernails over the last few weeks is that it's now tough to open necklaces, which not only makes it difficult to accessorize but which also made my attempt to untangle and hang up the jewelry on my bathroom counter take twice as long as it should have. I've been cleaning my apartment in anticipation of having people over in a few days. My apartment was a lot cleaner back when I went out less often and had company more often.

I like to blame all of this anxiety on the election, which certainly does give me a metallic panicky taste in the back of my throat whenever I think of it. I have broken myself of most of my more fidgety habits except in times of trouble, and these are certainly those. I have been spending too much time rattling around my apartment when I would much rather be distracted, I think.

In any case, I've only got about another week's worth of use out of this excuse, and hopefully soon I'll be able to wear necklaces again. I hate feeling under-accessorized.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Right now feels like the second before the chorus of your favorite song kicks in for the first time, tight with the upswell and waiting for that crash that almost always makes you involuntarily pump your fist in celebration. The air is waiting.

A few days ago I was sitting on my living room floor, cutting out what will be a ruffle on the bottom of a dress and watching a documentary on FDR and that was when the air changed, when it crystallized around me, when everything suddenly became weighted with a teenager-load of anticipation. Like life could at any moment turn into a rock video. These feelings get farther apart as the years get longer, and they fit less comfortably, but it's still a better fit than the alternative.

Beyond that, a couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a park looking for four-leaf clovers and waiting to go to a party, and I couldn't find any. I never have. So instead I fished a lucky penny out of my purse and nestled it carefully down in a clump of clover, figuring that at least this way the next person looking for good luck wouldn't be disappointed too. A man walked past as I was doing it and looked at me like I was participating in suspicious activity, but I couldn't have explained even if he had asked. It feels more important to leave luck than it does to take it. Because maybe everything is about to change, and we could all use all the help we can get. Plato said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle," and that never really stops being true.

Someone told me that there is a word in Russian--razbliuto--that is for the feeling you have about someone you used to love. Those are the best words, the ones that fold around an otherwise indescribable feeling, providing a perfect spot to nestle what is too soft to be described otherwise.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Five scenes from the last two weeks:

1. Forgetting my cell phone set to silent in my purse and taking it out late in the evening only to find on the screen a text message attached to an unrecognized area code, but still knowing instinctively as my heart careened toward my rib cage who it was from. Mastering my reflexive urge to throw the telephone across the room, like finding a cockroach on a plate of cookies.

2. Sitting half-drunk on a too-high stool in a crowded bar, telling lies to an irritating stranger with my favorite girlfriend, much less interested in the conversation than in the story it will make for later.

3. Crouching on my living room floor enjoying the satisfying snick of my dressmaker's shears through pink and black fabric, and the way the sound melded with the soft music wafting from my stereo. Breathing in deeply the smell of soup cooking in a shiny-skinned pot, and contentedly admiring the glow of the raindrops in the streetlamps just out the window.

4. Nestling happily in the corner of a booth in our regular brunch spot, hands curled around a cup of coffee, humming along with the Beatles and watching out the bright window for my friends.

5. Sitting laughing at the bar and realizing that a familiar stranger is standing in front of me. Feeling all of my cells lean forward without permission when he bends forward to examine my Spider Man bandaid and thinking, well, hello there. And then immediately oh no, not this again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cryptozoologically speaking, of course, a lack of proof-in-hand doesn't necessarily mean that something doesn't exist, just that it hasn't yet felt like explaining itself. Megafauna cryptids could live in numbers to small for breeding populations but not like relationships anyway, and under the bed monsters could conceivably go transparent in the light. Just because their slices won't go under our microscopes doesn't mean that they're not sometimes as solid as solid can be, and only ignoring all of our rules.

It all turns out true in spite of microscopes and eyesight often enough, and often enough is plenty frequent for me. There are enough mysteries out there that some of them are bound to pan out in the end.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I've been having a lot of voting-based dreams lately, dreams where my ballot comes and I go to fill it out, only to find that every pen in my apartment has run dry, and then I leave to buy new pens but an earthquake hits, trapping me in the rubble of my apartment, civic duty unfulfilled. Leaking blood on to my ballot. I had intended, when the day came, to deliver the ballot by hand--have, in fact, taken the last couple hours off of my workday on the 4th for that express purpose. But I've become more and more filled with this sinking conviction that something will go badly wrong, and so this morning I sat at my little blue table in my slip and filled out the form, signed and sealed and stamped with more postage than required, and mailed it off.

It's all out of my hands now. I can be pinned under a fallen bookcase with no regret for that lost opportunity now.

Physically, I am a total wreck lately. My hands are bitten and bleeding and covered in bandaids, my left foot throbbing with some sort of muscle spasm from putting migrating insoles into my shoes. A few days ago I got a whooping cough booster and haven't been able to lift my arm since. I should be quarantined, because it's all too pathetic to stand.

Instead of quarantine, I think my Spider Man bandaids and I will go and party tonight. Now that I have voted, I can go ahead and fall apart.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

We met in the cool of the morning, stopped at a crosswalk light. I was thankful that you had paused in your running rather than running in place while we waited, and as we stood there your skin steamed lightly, exhaling softly into the frosty air. In the dim glow of the cloudy creeping dawn your smile looked like aspartame, but I figured that was only because you were tired.

I can't say for sure what it looked like in the outer atmosphere and farther when we started lighting up our world bright enough to see from satellites, but I have a pretty good idea. We had already managed to alter the daytime landscape, but then, daytime landscapes already alter themselves frequently and with little thought for asking permission. Mountains and rivers and lakes and deserts have been blooming and dying for much longer than we care to consider. Except that then we invented our lights and brought them all together, slowly at first, in clumps and small spidery projections, in defiance of the darkness. And that changed our landscape from far away in a manner that only we could have done.

When we're gone, that will be the first to change back. Dark will be dark from the farthest corners, and passing by new visitors would never know that we had ever been around.

Yesterday I watched a mouse crossing the street, and though there were no cars around I still found myself holding my breath, willing the tiny thing to make it all the way there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I always say that spring is my favorite over fall, but that's probably a lie. Spring and I have a lot in common, certainly. Both of us always promising a lot of things that are beautiful and new but usually falling a little short and lapsing into rainstorms and unseasonable snowfalls, better in theory than in person, best in retrospect. I always find myself frustrated with spring when it gets here, and the fact that it hasn't ever quite managed to be what I wanted it to. Which is usually the same way I find myself with myself.

But fall always lives up to its reputation, hiding the sun in soft rains and cool layers of clouds, making home the coziest place to be and steamy bars more intimate and fun. Fall is when the real adventure happens, not during the trying-not-to-waste-them frantic days of summer.

And I have been falling it up, wearing coats and tights and waiting to use my clear umbrella, making gallons of soup and planning for pans of lasagna and nice warm casseroles. Developing quick crushes on fellows in sweaters, and spending nights on my couch with blankets and tea and Bogey. I have sitting at my little blue table in the dark, watching my city laid out before me and twinkling, and calling boys on the East coast too late so that I can read them Shel Silverstein poems over the phone by the light of the streetlamps. Preparing to do a whole lot of sewing, and high fiving with my mittens on, and talking much too fast.

We are about to have so much fun. Fall is twice as good as summer.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I thought that I told you a story about the Local Group of Galaxies getting together for tea, gathering from all over their 10 million light years to put their feet up and complain about their most unruly of stars, how difficult it is to slick down that black hole that sits right at the hairline. Where Andromeda got that particularly fashionable peak of dust, and how to combat solar wind drying. Like a chapter of the Foreign Legion or a knitting group, gossiping scandalously with the Irregular galaxies and feeling unsure exactly how to approach the Dwarf galaxies. Tittering nervously over their cups of emptiness and dark matter.

But thinking back I instead remember deciding to tell myself a story, tired with the effort of re-polishing that which disdain and indifference had tarnished. Tired of propping up smiles and anticipation with the dullest of toothpicks, attempting to keep inside and outside humors from mixing, to keep acids and bases separate and explosions minimal. I felt like Michigan J. Frog, sure that you would sell me to a flea circus the minute I started singing.

In The House of Seven Gables Hawthorne mentions a mirror that keeps each image that has stood in front of it, layered over and over and over and over, your face on top of my face on top of grandma's face on top of the mayor's on top of the vacuum salesman's on top of the religious pilgrim's. It seems like an awful lot of time for one mirror to hold without throwing itself to the ground and giving us all bad luck.

Or maybe it has, and we didn't hear the sound of shattering for all of this glass stuck in our feet.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

They sure did get hitched!

And we sure did get fancy and wear ties on our heads and meet Crosby and Nash in a bar and have dance parties and accidentally trash a hotel room. And make new friends and see old friends, and go on a hayride full of booze, and have my first s'more, and run down empty streets, and wind the whole thing up with nudity and makeouts.

Man do I love weddings. Someone else should have one as soon as possible. I will, as soon as they make my union with bacon jam legal.

In Philly there was lasagna and cheese steaks and babies in jars and more gangrene than you can shake a stick at. Philly is a pretty ok town.

And then I flew home, following the sunset for a while, watching neighborhoods full of streetlights turn on as the dusk folded its hands over them. Later, flying next to the big dipper, steady and unchanging and feeling closer than it should. Finally coming home to find the fall settled firmly in and unpacked, ready to stay a while.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I am heading to the airport shortly, to fly away to Delaware to watch these two get married, and then heading back to Philadelphia to hang with the famous Steph and Ryan. I will be back late Monday night. Don't wait up.

It should come as no surprise to anyone in the world that I love weddings, for all the sappiest of reasons. I'm pretty bad at that whole relationship thing, unless I'm forming an intense bond with an inanimate object or complete stranger, but I'm thrilled when, in the face of overwhelming evidence that things will go bust, people I like a whole lot are so stoked about each other that they want to give that whole forever thing a shot. Marriages, done right, are the ultimate show of enthusiasm, and you know how I feel about that.

And hell, I'm never going to pass up a chance to get all fancied up with my friends. Weddings are the greatest.

Anyway, since staying in town is for suckers, and because I want to stab anyone who uses the word 'staycation,' I'm also super thrilled to get to see Chang and Eng's conjoined livers and Grover Cleveland's tumor in Philly. My hope is that I will find someone there who is just as excited to talk about using maggots medicinally to remove the squishier remains of your conjoined twin when they die as I am, because I am really into that lately and everyone just looks at me funny. I hear Philly has other interesting things, too. Something about a bell?

Since I'm not going to be in town for this excellent rainy weekend, I think that you should do what I would be doing in my stead: listening to this song over and over while wandering around Eastlake under a clear umbrella. And then probably drinking too much and maybe kissing a stranger, but definitely giving high fives and talking too fast about the kind of things that prompt raised eyebrows. I am a creature of habit, but some of my habits are pretty awesome.