Five in Five: Tuesday, January 30

(Image by Lonely Planet)
  1. Watching a Nova documentary about the ruins of Petra in Jordan reminded me that my idea of heaven, if I get to write that script, is this: for all of eternity, I will be reclining a third of the way back in a movie theater, a naturally refilling Large popcorn on my lap, watching reels of actual human history project onto the screen in front of me. Since I have forever for this exercise, the images flickering on the screen will be detailed and take me inside the story of every last human experience, all while I sip on a Diet Coke that won’t kill me because I’m already dead. Naturally, in addition to snacks and all the mysteries of history explained, I’ll have good company in the seats around me, not a one of them with his hand on his penis as we compare reactions to finally discovering the truth about Jack the Ripper;

2. As soon as I finish my plate of sauteed greens for breakfast every day, the spaces between my teeth are ridden with green shards of kale and spinach. Thus, I have become incorrigibly sanctimonious about the pink and glowing health of my gums since I now floss two times per day. I’LL NOT BE DYING OF GINGIVITIS SO KEEP YOUR BETS ON A STROKE;

3. There’s this nice woman, Elena, who works at the neighborhood post office. She is a straight-shooter when it comes to the choice between paying the metered versus a flat rate, and for that I love her hard. Elena is from some Eastern European country; I venture the tests and rules of civil service have felt like a natural transition from the Old Country to the New. Yesterday, as I was packing up a fencing jacket for return, I experienced a revelation. See, this guy came in, and he started speaking Russian to Elena. Full disclosure: when they started talking, there were two seconds during which the walls got blurry, and I genuinely thought I might have entered a parallel reality wherein I had been transported to Russia; before my grounded brain re-engaged and reassured me I was still in Duluth, I zipped through a freak-out as I wondered how I would communicate “Please mail this to New Jersey” in English if I were, in fact, in Russia. I also — truly! — patted my pockets to see if I had any stray rubles tucked away, for to have neither payment nor language would stab with double humiliation. ANYHOW, once I felt certain I was still in Minnesota, I returned to packing, sealing, and addressing the box while eavesdropping on Elena and Guy. They said many things to each other, and I don’t have time to recap them all here now, but I can report they said hi, yes, no, please, and good-bye. Full of manners, these two caused me to inhale sharply as I realized I didn’t need to worry about not being able to communicate my mailing needs if this were actually an alternate reality — because, cher bitches, as my deciphering of their exchange indicates, it turns out I speak Russian!;

4. A student just submitted a Brief Summary Report activity, in which he was to take three articles on the same topic and synthesize the ideas into a short essay including a thesis, quotes, paraphrases, and summaries (along with the requisite parenthetical citations). The document he submitted was entitled Synthrdizing, which makes me wonder what in life he actually cares about since it’s clearly not the easy stuff;

5. In 2001, when we moved northwards and left Austin, MN, we were unable to sell our house for 26 months. For the first phase of that financially difficult time (carrying two mortgages, which ate up 55% of our monthly income), we rented the Austin house to one of my former students — a single teen mom — with the caveat that she would pay what she could, and any amount would be helpful to us. She had a full-time job as a bank teller, and her parents were simultaneously very involved and strongly in favor of her and her daughter learning to live outside of their home. Her mother had been my student, as well, so I thought this girl seemed like a good bet — and we wanted to pay back some of the many kindnesses the world had reaped upon us in our time. So we told her that since it was a relief to have someone in the house, she should take the first couple months to get on her feet and not worry about paying rent, but after that, if she could come up with $150 or $200 each month for us, then she would learn to manage a budget, and we might actually eat something more than rice and beans every once in a while. Another part of the deal was that the house would remain on the market, and she would keep it “showable” with the understanding that she would move out when we closed with the buyers. After a handful of months, we got a call from the realtor that this former student was, indeed, the living expression of a single teen mom after all. We knew she’d never paid us any rent yet had managed to buy a brand-new living room set of matching furniture, but we hadn’t known she was throwing parties or that our formerly tidy lot was littered with cigarette butts left behind by drunken lads who deeply dismayed the undertaker next door. In essence, the realtor said, “You guys need to get down here and put a clamp on this girl.” So we dedicated a weekend trip to driving the four hours south. She knew we were coming. But. When we entered the house, it was clear the place was not “showable” at all and that we’d need to evict her immediately. Most memorable were the carpeted stairs heading to the second floor. Every riser was laden with hot-dog-sized clumps of lint, hair, and weary world residue — so thick we didn’t need to vacuum but, rather, just picked up the debris sausages by hand.

Today, as I ran on an inch of newly fallen snow, I was reminded of those clumps and that strapped time of crystallized disappointment. The texture and movement of the snow was so much like untended staircase accumulation that I feared burping rice and beans.

Typing: 23:06 but I swear it felt like 7:00

Editing: 13:42








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