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02/01 Direct Link
She cleaned up the trash in the common area, dragging a coffee table down the stairs and dropping it by the garbage bin. It was heavier than she’d expected, all those months she’d passed it on her way in and out of the complex: a dark, tubular monster that looked plastic. But it was metal. Yellowed newspaper, sticky plates, crumpled cups. She tossed everything away: her good deed for the building. But this morning, there it was: a garbage bag outside her door. A message from her neighbors? The universe? Your efforts are futile. She stepped over it, grumbling.
02/02 Direct Link

Not that she wanted the month to be about waste, but she was noticing it now more than ever. All the things people leave behind them, disgusting little planets in orbit around their worlds. She would include herself, of course, as just another waste-making Consumer. But at least she kept it in its bins and various containers. Even the cats left their toys all over, stuffing on the floor, strands of carpet pulled out of their cat trees, hairballs, etc.

R sends her photos of cat poop periodically, when they've missed the box, with a caption like, "ANIMALS!" Exactly.
02/03 Direct Link
Someone said that, without literature, life would have no meaning. It’s true. But you forget it too often, getting up early each morning, fighting traffic, listening to news of all the horrid things happening in the world, running errands, doing chores, pretending all day that you’re someone else, someone soldier-like, when you just want to stay home and read. Unfortunately, things that nourish your soul are relegated to the minutes before bedtime, just before your eyes close, and you hope that—at the very least—you can carry the words of your favorite authors into your dreams.
02/04 Direct Link
Sara lost her mother two years ago, but she didn’t really feel the loss, it didn’t make her choke with panic, until the first New Year’s Eve. She heard the fireworks outside her bedroom window—she had gone to sleep before midnight—and she lay there, listening to the cracks. She thought, my mother only existed through 2010. Now it was 2011, a year she will never say, never write on checks, never celebrate. If there were a census, she would not be counted. And Sara realized the explosions outside marked an end, not a beginning.
02/05 Direct Link
He would learn to alter his routine for the good of others. Sometimes he wondered how his wife stomached him: his inflexibility, his insistence on staying in bed so late each weekend, his low-grade depression that left him disinterested in social activities, hiking, or anything that required driving through the city’s congested streets. He had a phobia of parking lots. He felt vulnerable in movie theatres when people sat behind him, especially children. He wouldn’t leave the house until he had finished his exercise. But today, he would take her to breakfast, first thing. He had promised.
02/06 Direct Link
Sometime during that day, Meredith thought, they were cutting off Zsa Zsa Gabor's leg two blocks away from her. The same place where Michael Jackson died a couple of years earlier, and Lindsey Lohan pretended to dry out. Again. Meredith couldn’t stop thinking about the leg, and where they would put it when the last tendon was severed. Would a nurse carry it, like a baby, down to the morgue? Would they throw it in a red bio-hazard bag? Perhaps it was lying in the dumpster behind the hospital. Someone had once caressed that leg, thought it beautiful.
02/07 Direct Link
She had a reputation for sending ugly packages through the mail—FedEx envelopes turned inside out and reinforced with black electrical tape; grocery bags stapled together so poorly that the parcel arrived torn, with tiny spikes of metal sticking out of it; boxes that had been stored in a garage or basement for years, with cobwebs and insect carcasses and other mysterious substances liquefying in the corners. No one in her family wanted a package from Emily; its arrival usually spelled doom in the form of a silverfish infestation or a mangled finger. Emily knew this, but couldn't stop herself.
02/08 Direct Link
He was out all day Saturday, driving around from errand to errand. This city he’d come to when he was 20—it had seemed so exciting then. Even the abandoned strip malls, the graffiti, the homeless people sleeping on sidewalks: it was sad but also poetic. Gritty. He’d grown up in a small town and never would have imagined himself here; his parents, holding his newborn head in the palms of their hands, never would have wished him to move. For years, he had loved the rebellion of it. But now, there was just nowhere else to go.
02/09 Direct Link
She no longer referred to them as mailboxes, but as “blues.” The Netflix envelope was a “red.” Let’s drop the red in the blue, she said, on the way to breakfast, and he glimpsed into their old age: his wife’s vocabulary reduced to the colors of the rainbow: ROYGBIV. Then, it would shrink to just the primary colors. And then, to what? What would be the last word she would say to him? “White”? And what would it mean? He thought about this as he drank his black coffee and listened to her talk about their orange cat.
02/10 Direct Link
He couldn’t find the right lipstick. Although he loved their colors, MAC was too dry and coagulated on his lips after an hour. It was worse if he added gloss. At the Clinique counter, the saleswoman took an hour finding his perfect color, and came up with Pink Toffee. She didn’t even ask if it was for him, which he appreciated. He wore it home, glancing in the rearview mirror at stoplights. It looked good but was too sticky. He tried all the other brands, but nothing was right. So he stopped wearing makeup and grew a beard.
02/11 Direct Link
The night janitor was making himself known. For years, Sara hadn't thought about the fact that someone cleaned her office every night, vacuumed and polished the desk she leaned her elbows on all day. She became lazy: kernels of popcorn on the floor, cups full of liquid in the garbage can, shredded paper confetti in corners. That's when the mornings changed: her computer mouse would be on her seat, or the speakers overturned. One day, a damp rag was draped over the power strip, ready to spark and demolish the place. Sara left it there, and so did the janitor.
02/12 Direct Link
Meredith talked about a "path of pain" when she referred to her chronic kidney stones. Most people in her position would rush to the hospital, but not Meredith. She sat on the recliner, a stein of iced tea next to her, while the stone bounced around one of her kidneys. "From there," she said, "it squeezes its way through the ureter, then into the bladder, and then it razorblades out through the urethra." It took a week or two, and then her life returned to normal. She didn't know what caused the stones, just accepted pain as part of life.
02/13 Direct Link
If AM’s Coast to Coast doesn’t lull her to sleep, Susan turns on her bedside police scanner. She’s lived in this town her entire life, and, at 61, she knows every crack in the sidewalk. But there have been noises these past few months, since she retired, rustlings in the bamboo surrounding her backyard. The other night, something heavy dragging down a driveway... Hers? Between moments of silence and static, the dispatchers’ voices she’s come to know soothe her. The 10-66 is more than a mile away. The 11-44? It won’t hurt you.
02/14 Direct Link
This morning, she grabbed a banana instead of a car key. At lunch, she took someone else’s keys. At first she wondered if this was another sign that she would get Alzheimer’s, like her father had. Or if she already had it. But when she thought about it, yes, she would rather eat a banana than squeeze into her car for an hour of traffic and a day at the office. And yes, she would like to try someone else’s keys in doors around the city, see where they led her. Leave herself behind for a while.
02/15 Direct Link
He was one of those doctors who acted like he was legendary, even though he was stuffed into a back office with stained ceiling tiles and a view of a Van Nuys gas station. On the recorder, he referred to her issues in fast-forward shorthand; all of them sounded like the names of pets: "spondy," "arthie," "postie." Did he finish with "ridiculitis"? He thought she was making everything up! She silently fumed as he talked about his residency at Johns Hopkins, but she felt better when she found out "radiculitis" was real, and that he believed in her pain.
02/16 Direct Link
She went to the party to get out of the house; to drive the freeway so fast that her breath would catch in her throat and make her value her life more; to forget about the emptiness that was so loud now, so insistent, after He had left; to get away from the stares of her cats, always wanting food or attention--didn't they know she couldn't be trusted anymore?; to see G and talk about the past; to find someone else to love, at least for the night; to make her apologies and leave early; to be disappointed. Again.
02/17 Direct Link
“I might eat an eel turnover,” he said, “but I couldn’t eat an eel pie.” Nothing was being offered in the waiting room—he was flipping through a food magazine—but he felt compelled to state his position to the woman in the next chair, and the receptionist. They both made a face that was half smile, half disgust, and he turned the page. But he did wonder, even while he was being positioned for his radiation treatment, who thought of eating such a horrifying creature? He had seen them in aquariums, those dead eyes and sharp teeth, waiting.
02/18 Direct Link
When she was an adolescent, she would sometimes put a tangerine in her pants and pretend she was a boy. She liked the bulge when she saw herself in the mirror. She hid her hair in a baseball cap and donned a big jacket, walked outside, to places where no one knew her. Tough, she stared down girls, even grown women, because she had a tangerine, because she could do that now--be a bully like the other boys, take what she wanted. She hated the girls who were scared; she wished at least one of them would fight back.
02/19 Direct Link
She had to stop reading the comments after online news stories, especially on sites frequented by people who—let’s just say it—were not very smart. The comments depressed her, showed how ugly humanity could be, the hatred between conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, gays and straights, everyone. People looked for a reason to argue and belittle, to make themselves superior, and she had to stop searching for a reason why. She already knew why: because, at the core of it all, humans were still animals, and in the animal kingdom, fear and violence were part of survival.
02/20 Direct Link

A new sign in the canyon on her commute: Backyard Movie Night. She thought of the person who would plant this in someone’s yard, facing the street. Probably from a small town in the Midwest, like her. She wondered who would attend, if anyone. More Midwesterners. It sounded good to her, spreading a blanket on someone’s lawn and watching an old film—Philadelphia Story?—project onto a white sheet, the spring breeze wrinkling Katherine Hepburn. The sky turning purple, jasmine in the air, crickets…but there were no crickets here, just cars.

02/21 Direct Link

She’d spent weeks waiting for a mummy head snow globe to arrive from Manhattan. Ordered for her girlfriend from a store that specialized in oddities. Her girlfriend’s birthday came and went: still no head. Should she have ordered the muskrat skull, or the taxidermied piranha? Would they have arrived faster than a mummy? Who knew about the small choices we make in life that end up having major consequences. Sara vowed to write a scathing review on yelp, but then he arrived, and she fell in love with the way snow gathered along its ancient eyelids.

02/22 Direct Link

At 45, he was just discovering the xbox. Each DVD, a world into which he could escape. He spent hours building a home, enchanting his glass battleaxes, mixing invisibility potions and poisons, completing quests. Sometimes a thought would enter his mind that he should spend this much energy on his real life, his real home, and he knew it was true. But still he couldn’t stop. The Dark Brotherhood was depending on him to kill the Emperor! The Stormcloaks couldn’t possibly overthrow the Imperials without him! No one had ever needed him so much; he had never felt so important.

02/23 Direct Link

Meredith began her day thinking about retirement. At the absolute soonest, it would be in 10 years. She would be 55. She came from a family of “early retirees,” so she didn’t feel guilty about only working for 40 years of her life and then stopping to enjoy it. Other people—Suze Orman, how she hated to hear that woman’s advice on retirement—would say it was impossible, that she needed to work until 65 or 70. But they were missing the point, she thought: it wasn’t about how much money you should save, but how much of yourself.

02/24 Direct Link

In the elevator this morning, a co-worker offered her a ride to the out-of-office meeting everyone was on their way to, and she declined. An awkward silence followed, during which the co-worker glanced at their other colleagues with an astonished expression. She knew she should have been polite and said yes, even though she was not in the mood to talk this morning, or to listen, or even to smile. She wanted to be alone, why was that always so offensive to people? Still, she wished she thought more about her actions; sometimes she shocked even herself.

02/25 Direct Link
His fascination with maps lately, especially electronic ones with touchscreens and lifetime traffic updates: He didn’t know where it came from. For 20 years he drove around with a five-pound Thomas Guide in his back seat—he could have used it to navigate to Pluto—and he opened it maybe twice. Why did he need a live map flickering at him from the dashboard during his daily commute? He supposed it was the promise it held. I can take you anywhere, at a moment’s notice. At any time, you and me, we can leave this world behind.
02/26 Direct Link
He brought his point and shoot to work with the hope of venturing out during lunch hour and photographing the cherry trees south of Wilshire. They had just begun to bloom last week and he was astounded by their beauty; how had he not noticed them before now? He thought about them at odd times, as if he were in love. Every June, he'd waited for the jacarandas to explode in violet and blue, but this color, like a pink whipped cream, with swirls of maraschino, made him turn his head while driving, made him believe in the Universe's kindness.
02/27 Direct Link
Every night before bed this week, she read Christopher Hitchens’ “Mortality,” the last words of a dying man with a brilliant mind. What she carried with her during the days was not the passage about how religion was a poison, or how prayer was not noble but actually selfish--which she agreed with--but the feeling of drowning and suffocating. Hitchens had esophageal cancer, and after pondering the weightier issues of life, including what he considered to be Nietzsche’s flawed philosophy, he always returned to his body, the thing that made him vulnerable, the thing that made him average.
02/28 Direct Link
Sara’s thoughts on “Madame Bovary”: The Lydia Davis translation was excellent, nuanced, humorous. She enjoyed the introduction, which drew her attention to Flaubert’s use of the imperfect. She admired Flaubert’s exquisite language, and his courage in addressing ignored or taboo subjects. She appreciated his statement that women are not as free as men, and his depiction of the resulting frustration. She did not like the characters and suspects she wasn’t meant to. She does not like women being punished, no matter how irritating they are, at the end of novels because they desire more from life.