At Walgreens Sunday night. As my cashier and I wrap up our transaction–and Walgreens transactions are always interesting, not to mention bizarrely personal–an embarrassed look flickers across her face; the look of someone who has been expressly asked to do something which they find painfully stupid. Without meeting my eyes, she picks up a few squares of paper next to her right hand, and slips them into my bag with all the subtlety of a first-time cat burglar–a cat burglar who is feeling a little nervous, out there cat-burgling a mansion for the very first time, and maybe accidentally knocks a crystal lamp onto the floor in the front entry.
When I get home, I see that the squares of paper are perfume samples, as follows:
When did Walgreens decide to inveigle its female clientele into purchasing celebrity designer perfumes? When I think Walgreens, I think: “Paper towels.” I think: “Nail polish remover.”
I do not think, “Big date tonight. Time to hit the Walgreens.”
[Well, I might think that.]
For the record, Faith Hill wins it in a walk.
The day of the Chicago marathon, I went to see my friend Jon run. [Alas: we never saw each other. Sometimes the universe does not choose you.] I selected a spot off the nine-mile marker, around Clark and Diversey.
It was early in the morning, and I was a sleepy me. I meandered towards the marathon route, yawning and wishing for a cup of coffee the size of a Christmas ham, when I heard cheering from ahead. When I emerged onto Clark, I saw a group of men sprinting by–clearly the pack leaders, the men who run the entire marathon in 2 hours, and then lap everyone else once more, for fun. One of them gave a jaunty wave to the crowd, and then they vanished, practically leaving a shimmery disturbance in the fabric of time in their wake.
Those guys? Basically those guys.
Two men behind me burst into disbelieving laughter–how do they do that? How do they run that fast? Bwahahaha! I stopped and watched people stream by for another hour in increasingly enormous waves. A woman across the street held up a sign which read DETERMINATION, and shouted encouragingly at anyone within spitting distance. I could not ascertain whether or not she actually knew anyone who was running.
Twice, people running by sarcastically commented to myself and the people standing around me, on my little patch of Clark Street, on the fact that we were not clapping for them as they ran past. What?
I don’t know. If you require someone to be standing there clapping for every instant of the 26.2 mile duration, my good people, perhaps you should not be running a marathon. Or, more to the point: Get out of my face, unless I’ve been able consume a coffee the size of a Christmas ham.
Posting will become more frequent, says me. It’s been down the tubes, of late–
YOU: Right down the tubes!
–But there is just stuff and life and life stuff–for instance, I’m in my friend’s wedding in Milwaukee this weekend, and that suitcase isn’t going to pack itself to be taken on Amtrak’s Hiawatha Express, now is it?
SUITCASE: No, I am inanimate!
And rehearsals are gearing up for a special evening of theater in mid-November, regarding which you shall hear more, and perhaps be exhorted to attend, if you live in the greater Chicagoland area–
YOU: Sounds like a plan, Stanley!
So what I’m saying is that I’m around, and all. There are just a lot of carrots in my grocery basket right now.
YOU: No, I don’t think that’s how that goes.
Flocks of Never
We had to throw things away
to sell our house,
make it seem like we lived
sparingly–a minimalist life.
As if anyone lives
with only one blue shirt
in the closet,
one pair of shoes illuminated
by a single light bulb swinging–
40 watts and a string to pull,
frayed twine and a soundless
plastic bell, to turn it on,
to turn it off.
For years, I watched ivy
spread over my neighbor’s house.
Each year the leaves
turned from green to red
to gone. When the leaves
fell, flocks of never
ate the purple berries,
tugged off the stems.
For years, from my kitchen window,
I watched Siberian snow geese
winter along the Columbia river.
Each day they’d rise
like heavy rain clouds blown by wind–
white plumage like morning sky,
black wings like shadows,
like rain. Sometimes, so early, the sky
still the color of ashy smoke,
thousands of geese would disappear
into a whorl of sudden snow.
In these moments, I’d imagine,
though I never saw anything
like it, the spray of twelve-gauge
buckshot entering the body
of a goose in mid-air,
and its mate, its mate for life,
would honk, drop down,
honk, follow the limp body
to the ground.
And because this is
a love story,
the falling goose,
the following goose,
the strange replaying of this scene,
the replaying of something
that did not happen,
never disturbed me,
the way it does now,
as I stand in my new house,
in my new closet
with no string to pull.
Instead a switch, like all the other
modern rooms, easier I suppose,
to turn the light on, to turn it off.
And strangely, with no geese
at my new kitchen window,
I have traded scenes: the repeated falling
goose for the last moment
in my old closet. Standing in the dark,
even my blue shirt gone,
I pull the string a final time.
I turn the light on to dust
in the corner, turn it off
to the empty dark,
thinking, how the severity of nothing
can fill up a room.
And because I cannot resist
I turn it on and turn it off
again and again, like I did
when I was five, maybe four,
when the simplicity of light
and dark was enough
to stay an afternoon.