Ringing out the old

Meals and Other Information, Red Star Line, 1921
In-flight entertainment, 1921.

All the guests came. Even Press-n-Seal, though she worried that her presence might be more hurtful than supportive. “Not that we serve the same purpose,” she half-apologized as we gathered in the darkened living room, “but if he sees me next to Cling Wrap—”

“He’ll be fine,” Cling asserted.

“I’m not saying there’s a parallel…”

“Of course there’s a parallel,” said Cling. “That’s why I want him looking straight in my eyes when we say ‘Surprise.’”

“Maybe I’ll stand farther back.”

“You’re sticking with me.”

“I don’t want to embarrass him.”

“It will bring him hope. Here’s you all bright and mega-sized, and here’s me. Standing tall. Still in the drawer.”

“Amen,” called Holiday Baggie, fiddling with a lamp near the couch.

“But how often are you out of the drawer,” I wanted to ask. But I’m new here, and although most higher-end kitchens have made a place for my double-sided parchment-foil promise, I haven’t exactly earned bragging rights.

“It’s going to be a great party,” said Aluminum Foil brightly. “Wax Paper is going to be amazed at the new opportunities out there, in crafting alone—”

“Sh-h!” hissed a Twist Tie from the window. “He just parked!”

We all froze in place, and stared at the front door. No one moved. The mantel clock ticked steadily, calmly, the quiet heartbeat of a gentler era, when spaces between seconds lasted a full, round second, when kitchen drawers held three simple things: foil, cling wrap, wax paper.

At last, the jingle of keys, the satisfying hardness of one key going into one lock for which it had been fitted. A turn, and a click, the door opening, figure hunched slightly in the light from the hall, and in all of us—surely the others felt it too?—an instant realization that we were invading, that we had no right, that he should be allowed to leave the drawer in his own way, privately if that’s how he wanted, that he deserved his privacy if nothing else, but suddenly—

“Surprise!”

Holiday Baggie switched on the lamp, and someone else found the too-bright fluorescent ceiling light, starting the fan too though it was the middle of winter, and Wax’s face was flooded with light while his thinning hair ruffled in the breeze.

He gasped, and broke into a shocked smile, which I suspected—something in the eyes—was not truly spontaneous. “Well, for the love of Pete,” he drawled, yes, far too casual to be genuine, “Who let you bums in here?”

Cicada

Russian sheet music cover
Reverse cicada.

This morning I heard a noise outside the bedroom window, like a chain saw was going off, which seemed strange because it was only 7a.m.

I looked out and on the roof below, a small bird was holding something in its beak. The bird dropped it back on the porch and the machine noise stopped. The bird picked it up again and the buzzing resumed. So loud, I couldn’t believe one little bit of bird bait could make that much noise, but the sounds and the timing lined up.

The bird also seemed confused. It flew away, leaving the thing behind. I kept watching, but no more chain saw.

Non fighting words

Love is a battlefiled.

Maybe one of the reasons I keep feeling that I’m fighting the same battles is that I do things at the same time of day. I write in the morning, even when I’d rather be doing yoga or meditating or getting out with the dog, but I seem to have worked this habit into my bones. Even when I don’t feel much like writing, which is lately, I grab the pen and begin.

Every year at this time, we have a blow-up about taxes. It’s similar to a vacation blow-up, where there’s some funny little thing you joke tentatively about for a few days—his inability to say where he wants to eat, her unfortunate tendency to navigate from a map of the wrong town—and then, by the third day, maybe about four o’clock, when you’re hungry and tired and hot and thirsty and have had to pee for ever, someone says something that might have gotten a laugh a few hours ago but suddenly is grounds for divorce.

“It’s such a beautiful night, let’s work on taxes!” is the non-vacation version. By the twentieth time I say it, we’re usually days away from when we have to get our completed worksheet into our accountant, the beautiful David Turrentine. I generally start my casual references in February, saying things like, “If we just do a few hours a week, we’ll be done before we know it!” or “I worked on mine for a few hours today and I feel great!” To me, this sounds encouraging and helpful, just like it sounds to Dave when he says, “If you just concentrate on the map you won’t feel so carsick.”

“How am I supposed to look at a map when we’re about to topple into the Irish Sea?” is the equivalent of “You don’t understand how much I hate taxes.”

“Everyone hates taxes” and “People drive this road every day.”

“You don’t.”

“It’s really just a matter of doing what needs to be done.”

“But why do they plant hedges right where you need to see what’s coming? It’s like they want to make it as difficult as possible.”

“I’m sorry, that’s just how it is here.”

“I’m not blaming you, it’s just…you have all these expectations.”

“I know you’re doing your best.”

“I really am trying.”

“I know. For God’s sake watch out!”

“I see it.”

“Then why are you driving straight into it?”

“It’s a parking lot. Come on, let’s get some lunch.”

“Don’t forget to save the receipt. Technically, this is research.”

“Don’t start on next year already.”

“But if we start now…”

But this year, we seem to have sidestepped the blow-up. Even though I started earlier than usual this year, with my first “Feel like starting on taxes?” in January instead of February. Even though I danced around the kitchen last night singing “I’m done I’m done I’m done” with my printed report in hand, when Dave had only set up his card table a few hours before. Even though we have to have our stuff to David T. by tomorrow, not Monday as I originally thought. Dave is deep in now, and I think the danger has passed.

Which is good. I’m grateful for the win, but it feels weird. It’s like when I look at the new kitchen and see why we’re not going on any fancy vacations any time soon. It’s totally worth it. It means progress. It means change. But I have to remind myself that change is good. Change is what winners do. And anyway, there’s always next year.

In Which Dave and I Install an Air Conditioner

installing an air conditioner
There's no I in team, but supposedly there are three in air conditioner.

I offered to help carry it upstairs. Dave ignored me and carried it up alone. I opened the storm window. He positioned it for fit and then set it on the ottoman to attach the side and top extra parts. “I need a drill,” he said, not moving.

“Want me to get it?” I offered.

“Yeah,” he said. “Get the cordless drill and the driver, and the drill bit set. Thanks.”

I went down the basement and poked around the workbench. I saw the drill but the driver? There were a couple of possibilities. One thing that looked almost exactly like the drill, one smaller red thing that I thought maybe didn’t work anymore. Or had we replaced that one with this one? The workbench area is a mess. Plastic bins everywhere, from the condo when we kept things meticulously labeled and stacked, but now half empty, lids gone, things taken out and not returned. Like water, junk seeks its own level. I grabbed a new-looking drill bit case and carried it with the drill and the possible driver upstairs. “Perfect,” said Dave.

I sat on the bed while he did some stuff with the drill or the driver. Then he put the air conditioner back in the window. I stood up for that. “I need a level,” he said.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I need to make sure it drains,” he said.

“Well. I’m not going back down,” I said.

“I’ll go,” he said.

“Oh,” I said, and went back down. The level wasn’t in the toolbox, where it used to live. I stared at the workbench for a while and then turned the light on. I saw it standing in a corner by some paint cans. I carried it upstairs. Dave did some more stuff. “Oh,” he noted. “An extension cord.”

I brought up an extension cord. I put some clothes away. He gave me the manual and said maybe I should read about the remote. He put in some insulation and I read about the remote. He said something about nesting birds and replacing the accordion things with Plexiglas. “That’s what I did at my old house,” he said. Yawn.

He turned on the air conditioner and I controlled it with my remote. Project complete.