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Another dream of Bangladesh – this wound that does not heal.
We're in a cool building without light. Everyone is scared. I haven't been told why, or else I've already forgotten. Babies cry, women hold their sari ends to their faces and shake their heads, knowing something I don't.
I make my way to the door, look out to the crumbling stairs leading to the street. A car arrives. Dark. Dusty. The door opens and out comes Stephanie, in crisp blue scrubs. She wears an eye patch and walks with sorrow and determination. I realize how long it's been.
falling in love with him was sudden, easy, unexpected... like walking out into the snow and realizing, with a certain quiet urgency, that you need to pee. trying to decide whether to go back in, or to try to make it home.
our talk was all exclamation points and commas. ideas like car crashes: they smashed into one another, and then exploded.
the last time i talked to him, there was none of that. he complained about his uncles and aunts. he told me about his new mistresses.
for once, i didn't ask him to visit, and he didn't offer.
daily I close myself in the bathroom. i don't ever lock the door, and wouldn't particularly mind (most of the time) if loved ones joined me there.
it's the warmest room in the house. and the smallest (though not by much). and it smells like shampoo and aftershave and damp towels... like home.
it's a place where it's acceptable to examine one's own face for 10 or 15 minutes (who's counting?), to keep the shades drawn -- even at midday, to be unquestionably alone with a book.
i retreat there, to smoke and to think. do women everywhere do this?
it's happened... finally. there have been close calls before, but this is it: i met my dopperlganger. my science fiction twin. my little miss separated-at-birth.
except I didn't really meet her. i read some of her writing, and now i don't have to meet her, 'cause i've already deduced that she's a brighter, more put-together version of me, just walking around in black pantsuits and meeting beautiful, interesting people on the train.
oh sure, i've done some interesting stuff, and i floss, like, three times a week but i write on a subdomain and no one but you reads it.
When he was five ("No, six!" he yells, from the kitchen), he was the favored son at the mosque across the street. His grandfather had passed; his father had grown a long, patchy beard and prayed there five times daily.
One day, as his mother washed clothes behind the house, she heard her only son calling his father -- and all the other fathers -- to pray. "Allaaaahhhhh" he squeaked, and everyone smiled as they made their way toward the voice.
He swears he sang it perfectly ("Did you write that I sang it perfectly? Even the Imam said so.").
last night i dreamt that my friend jen was dating david cross. and i wanted to be happy for her; she deserves to be with someone skinny, dirty and bald who tells stories that make wine pour from her nose.
instead i was a smoldering ball of acrimony and jealousy.
in the dream, i forgot my own (only-slightly-less-hilarious) husband; i interrupted them at the coffeeshop and showed up at the restaurant where they were having dinner, crying, "david, like me better!" but he didn't.
i remained bitter toward Dream Jen until about noon, when i pretty much got over it.
Overheard on the bus
"So then I called him this morning and was like, 'What the fuck happened to "I'll come by after work"? And he was all, 'Sorry, baby, I fell asleep.'"
"Huh. I've heard
"Yeah, that's what I said! And he was like, 'No, seriously, I was gonna come over but I got fucked up and passed out on the couch.'"
"What-fuckin'-ever. I mean, does he think I'm just gonna sit around all motherfuckin' night waiting?"
"Hell no. Who would?"
"Dude, he better be there by 10 tonight or I'm
gonna get mad."
When I found him, he was sitting mute and unblinking in Art class. On the desk before him, a giant, lopsided heart cut from pulpy red construction paper.
"Hey, what's that?" I asked.
"What? Oh, that." He rolled his eyes. "We hafta do a stupid project about LOVE for Health."
"Love?" I repeated (a counselor's trick).
"Yeah, I hadda interview my girlfriend Nadia and write down 10 things she said would show her that I loved her."
"What were they?"
"Tsht, I don't remember."
(Eyeroll. A beat.)
"But the teacher made us write them down... like I'll ever need 'em."
Late last night, under the starry sky, the rhythmic squeak of windshield wipers, eyes wide and brain buzzing, I thought of at least 400 reasons to write. And now here I am, vacantly staring at the screen, fingers itching to put something on the page, and still... nothing comes.
How often have I played the part of Unforgiving Reader? Criticizing each misspelled word, grimacing at each stray comma. Speeding past the sign painted "Expresso", I smirked and thought better of myself and my tiny private creations. But now I hang my own signs, and shudder to face the same scrutiny.
To make a quilt -- whether from torn old shirts, or pre-pressed, never-been-washed calico prints - is not an act of creation so much as an act of assembly. Not the work of a musician, but that of a DJ.
It's an art that I haven't totally mastered, nor have I been able to give it up since my grandmother taught me how years ago. I've made them for friends, for lovers, for my nieces. I have a ten-page list of people I'd like to give quilts before my mind goes.
Chance are if you're reading this, you're on the list.
I don't just do this; it's part of who I am:
When something terrible or funny happens, I have to tell people. Students, ex-lovers, old roommates, and colleagues. The telling makes the edges softer. Seeing the look of understanding makes me feel more human, less ill-fit for the world. (Ahahaha! The world is my counselor!)
And so I've told the wallet story to 7 people in the past two days, and I'm starting to feel less stupid about the whole thing. Another day like this, and tomorrow, I'll allow myself to take off the Dunce Cap before leaving the house.
Dear Orlando Bloom,
We haven't met – mostly because you're a beautiful, famous British movie star and I'm a fledgling guidance counselor in Wisconsin – but I need to tell you Something Very Important.
We are meant to be friends. See, my friend Liza does astrology here and there, and she ran a comparative study of our charts; we scored a 4.67 for compatibility. Such a high score obligates us to have coffee sometime, if you ask me.
So, call me, like, whenever, ok? I'll be at home fast-forwarding through all the Sean Astin parts of "The Two Towers". Waiting....
Jhumpa Lahiri, how DO you do it?
So, I'm reading The Namesake, and am dreading the day this book is finished. The characters are mine now; they inhabit my brain now... along with Owen Meany, Lady Macbeth, and every possible incarnation of Carrie Fisher.
It's not just that the characters are Bengali, not just that they're conflicted.
Yesterday, sitting in a high school cafeteria, I read about the death of the father. A childhood fear about parental mortality raced back to the surface and disrupted my day. I had to close the book right away and call my own dad.
(What do pathological liars resolve to do differently?)
On New Year's Eve, as we watched one of the many shows broadcast LIVE from Times Square, we had some good talk about American New Year's traditions.
"Why would that man want to announce to the whole world that he wants to lose weight?" he inquired. Good question.
I wonder sometimes why we believe that acknowledging the need for change is as good as actually changing.
After all, that man could go back to Times Square next year, 40 pounds heavier, and make the same resolution. He'd receive essentially the same reaction.
Television shows that I wish had never been taken off the air, assuming they are all off-the-air and not just hard-to-find (listed in no particular order):
The Bob Newhart Show
The Mr. T cartoon (with the gymnasts)
Murder, She Wrote*
Strangers With Candy
Just Say Julie
Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman**
Kids in the Hall
In Living Color
My So-Called Life
The Carol Burnett Show
The Awful Truth
* My Grandma wanted me to include this one.
** Just kidding.
*** Shut up.
The sound of rain on corrugated tin.
Washing dust from my body after a long journey.
Watching Hindi videos late at night with my sisters-in-law.
The rickshaw wallah who took me to school each morning.
Faded yellow curtains blowing in the breeze.
Sun. Sun. Sun.
Tuhin scrambling up the mango tree and tossing down green ones.
Playing pick-up sticks with eleven year old boys.
Having tailor-made clothes.
Redefining what "enough" work is.
Buying hard candies and cigarettes one at a time.
Early morning tea and eggs with my mother-in-law.
Yeah, you could say that that I miss it.
In my hometown, there is a park. In this park, there is a giant monument erected of the 10 Commandments etched in stone.
Around the monument is a fence, with signs that read PRIVATE PARK.
True: The monument cannot stand alone in a public park. So the plot of land was sold to the organization that wants the Big 10 to stay.
Also true: At the same meeting, the city council determined that the homeless could no longer sleep in the same park, should be roused in the night by cops.
Folks, only tombstones can stay; live bodies must go.
in this dream, i'm at work when dr. aziz walks in to announce that he needs to have his ears cleaned. seconds later, s. walks in with a long rod, a hammer, and a pressure gauge, which (presumably) will be used to accomplish this task.
just then – in waking life -- s. clicks on the light in the bedroom. i bolt upright and try to describe every detail.
"is aziz bangladeshi?" he asks.
"no," i shake my head. "we met him at the party. remember?"
he laughs --we haven't been to a party in months – turns out the light.
Each Spring, stoned and optimistic, I climb into her 4X4 and we lumber down alleys on trash night to look for new furniture. Usually, we find rotten tables, three-legged barstools, broken fans, and couches no better than our own. We save what we can for her wood stove, for the odd projects we've individually undertaken.
We find piles of clothing, towels that my grandmother will wash and donate to women's shelters, and unopened cans of food. "The true crime is throwing it away, not salvaging it," we tell ourselves. Our husbands are dumbfounded, but no longer embarrassed, by this ritual.
Something that Rhymes about Someone Who Sucks
Will I one day talk about Bush
The way my parents talked about Reagan?
Will I shake my heavy head, wring my hands
When I hear his name in the news again?
Will my kids belly laugh at Cheney jokes
without really understanding?
Will they sit on the couch and flip off the image
Of his plane taking off and landing?
Will they scoff at people who voted for him,
Not just once, but TWICE?
Or will they roll their eyes with exasperation
and say, "Always talkin' politics... jeez, Mom, get a life."
That's what we call him. He's the family historian. The radical out-of-work journalist uncle.
I'd only been in the country two days when I met him; he had a BBC addiction I would soon come to share. He lounged around the house, and I wanted him to stay with us forever.
After I married his nephew, but before we said goodbye, he said he had a book to give me. One I'd enjoy. About politics. (I got goosebumps.)
It ended up being the textbook from my 12th grade Government class. Inside, he wrote, "Best Wishes, from Major Mama"
back in the days of radio stations with autonomy, there was one that I loved: REV 105.
they held a contest once. the winner (selected randomly) was to go bowling with mark sandman. i had fantasies of entering daily, of flooding them with postcards that were so uniquely hilarious that they'd have to pick me.
i think i managed to actually enter twice. i didn't win.
shortly after that, mark sandman died. overdose, i think. and then REV 105 went the way of TVs without remotes.
on days like today, i feel the weight of things that could have been.
I have a paranoid feeling that all of these entries, when seen in totality, will seem an endless stream of melancholy and nostalgia.
To combat this fear, I am posting my To-Do List for the day (and not another sad story):
· Contact Mary re: FISH
· Lunch with Lisa/Peace Corps
· E-mail Lynette re: staff mtg
· Check Mpls theater schedules
· Clean off desk
· Call Mom
· Check bank balance
· Cut backing for quilt for Urmee
· Make bed
· Laundry laundry laundry
· White Stripes CD from Jen
· Call Bobbie
Arundhati Roy Knows What's Up
"[A]t least nine out of the thirty members of the Bush Administration's Defense Policy Board were connected to companies that were awarded military contracts for $76 billion between 2001 and 2002."
"George Shultz... was chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He is also on the board of directors of the Bechtel Group. When asked about a conflict of interest..., he said, "I don't know that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it.... [N]obody looks at it as something you benefit from."
"In April 2003, Bechtel signed a $680 million contract for reconstruction."
Until last year, there was a great video rental store downtown. I mean really,
10,000+ movies, including heaps and piles of foreign films and good indy stuff that no self-respecting Blockbuster would even
of putting on the shelf. I loved it there.
While I was living in Minneapolis, they moved to a strip mall in the suburbs.
Six weeks ago, S. and I went there. It was depressing in a way that I never could have anticipated.
The foreign films: gone. In their place, six different "Girls Gone Wild" DVDs, and a handful of Gerard Depardieu "classics".
I went to the drug store today on my lunch break. I didn't have anything specific to do or buy there, but I have always taken a certain comfort in wandering the aisles of carefully chosen merchandise. The precise labels on each bottle of pills, each tin of ointment. The carefully stacked boxes of envelopes and cough syrup.
So, I bought stamps, checked my blood pressure, and eventually made my way to the greeting cards. Before returning to work, I reminded myself, with each pink and red card that I opened, that I am far too cynical for Valentine's Day.
being the extrovert, i'm usually the first to crack, to jump from the bed and say, "god, can we please just DO SOMETHING?"
but we don't ever go out, and i can't explain why. we're not grouchy (not
), we're not smelly (again, not always), we can both talk easily about current events and shoot pool.
we have friends who love us, wonder about us as they sit -- laughing, rosy-cheeked -- in the bar drinking whisky.
still, we stay home and talk about the things that others do. we make popcorn, play checkers, watch nature shows about night-flying bats.
Gifts I was, at the time, quite glad to receive but which now embarrass me when I see photos of myself with them, or find them in shoeboxes at my mother's house:
A keyboard with drum noises and pre-recorded backgrounds (i.e., "Bossanova", "Waltz")
A unicorn cross stitch pattern book
Hot pink socks
No less than seven Stephen King novels
High-top sneakers (with velcro)
A Garfield telephone
Fluorescent green and black mirrored sunglasses
Countless pairs of slippers with static-generating soles (used to shock the dog and family members)
Three consecutive years' Santa Bears from Dayton's Department Store
A Dustbuster (never used)
On mornings like this, what I miss most about living in a big city is being invisible all day.
I'm weary of seeing students at the gas station, a co-worker's uncle at the co-op, my French professor in the bathroom at the movie theater. I'm tired of the questions and evaluations that take place without advanced warning or consent.
What if I don't want my neighbor's girlfriend to see me buying donuts at midnight? What if I want to sing along to "Hey Ya" at a traffic light without turning and seeing a carload of familiar faces next to me?
I don't often admit this (OK, not true. I'll tell anyone.), but I once watched "Night at the Roxbury" twice in one night. Sure, I had a low-grade fever, and I also have a big, inexplicable crush on Will Ferrell.
But I still can't figure out what exactly made me watch this movie.
I even (and this IS something that I don't tell many people) wrote down a line from the movie and stuck it to the fridge for a few weeks. I still remember it:
"Tonight we have fun, not dwell on Scott Baio."
Heh. It's still funny.
i meet them in study halls, in libraries, in cafeterias. we sit on cracked plastic chairs under lights that hum and render everyone pallid.
we talk about grades, teachers, parents, boyfriends and EX-best friends and (this week) janet jackson's bare titty.
they send me unsigned e-mails saying, "whassup jess. do u no what time were meeting on saturday?"
and they're part of my life. i see them once, maybe twice, a week, but can still detect who's lost weight, who got new jeans, who has a secret crush on which rowdy senior.
i can't believe i get paid for this.
The Tip Jar