Friday, September 22, 2006

Like a Good Neighbor!

I have a neighbor who is pregnant, I think. I mean, I'm pretty sure she is. She's a nice lady and I always say hi when I see her in the complex getting her mail or whatever, and I would like to ask when her baby is due, whether it's a boy or a girl, the standard stuff you ask a pregnant lady, but I have a problem: I don't know for sure if she's pregnant. You see, she is a big woman. She's probably pregnant, but I am terrified of being the insensitive person who says "When are you due?" to the lady who isn't actually pregnant. I feel sort of rude for not striking up a conversation about the baby she is probably going to have soon, but I guess I prefer being that kind of rude than the kind of rude I'd be if I tried to strike up that conversation and found out she's just... round.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Only in my dreams

Last night I dreamed that my mother was dating George Zimmer from the Men's Warehouse commercials. You know, the guy who says "I guarantee it!" (And in case you're frightened right now, I want you to know that I had to look up his name. I didn't just know it.)

It was a very disturbing dream: my parents, who in real life are in the process of getting a divorce, were reconciling, but then I found out my mom was cheating with that nasty smoker-voiced bastard Zimmer and I HIT THE ROOF. I yelled at her, and then I yelled at him, and then I stormed angrily out of the big white house in which we were all brunching (don't ask me how I wound up at a brunch with my parents and the Men's Warehouse guy, because I won't have a satisfactory answer for you). I was furious, and I woke up furious, which is not the greatest way to start the day.

To top it off, it appears the rain has returned to our beautiful Willamette Valley. Grey skies do nothing to assuage the pain of discovering your mother is two-timing your father with George Zimmer. Consider me disillusioned.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

This Song Reminds Me, Part I: The Facts About Jimmy

The opening notes of Shawn Colvin's "The Facts About Jimmy" descend slowly onto my heart like a weight even now, ten years later. This song reminds me of waking up to my clock radio during the winter of my fifteenth year, lying under a heavy down comforter and quilt in a tiny drafty house my mom was housesitting for a math professor who'd gone on a 3 month sabbatical to Australia or Africa or some other A-country. More than anything else, it evokes the smells of that place: the handmade soap the math professor and his wife had stacked in the cabinet of the bathroom next to the frigid cubbyhole where I slept, the coconut shampoo I used in showers so long and hot my mother started scolding me before I'd even turned on the water, the musty smell of the cold blankets I slept under, the rich warm aroma of goose egg omelettes, the sharp citrus scent of the perfume I favored as a romantically-ambitious tenth-grader. This song was popular then, and it was on the radio several times a week at exactly the moment my alarm went off in the morning. I was taking an SAT prep class then, getting up at 5 a.m. in order to get to school by 6:30, and the combination of this song with the inky blackness of the sky, the thick white blanket of snow that obscured the landscape, the blinking traffic lights so early in the morning, sometimes draped my mind with a cloak of sadness so heavy and thick I had trouble breathing.

We were all sad then. My parents had separated for the first time, my mother first renting a tiny apartment on the top floor of the house of some people she'd met at the community college, then taking up this housesitting job on the other side of town. My brother and I would trade off spending nights with her-- one night with mom, one night with dad. Just to be fair. I don't remember seeing him much that year; I think it was the year we stopped fighting and became friends.

My mom cried a lot then, and my dad stopped speaking almost entirely. She seemed crippled by the enormity of what she'd undertaken, while he was just stunned into silence. He spent most nights in his recliner with a big plastic cup full of beer or wine, great purple circles under his eyes, staring blankly at the television or into the fire. She tried to stay busy, set a frantic pace, but every time she stopped moving, she would cry.

It was a cold winter in 1996. I remember fires. A fire in the pellet stove at my dad's house, our house, fighting valiantly to heat the family room against the chill of my father's pain. A fire in the woodstove at my mother's house, transforming the living room into the only room in the house with a tolerable temperature. She let me watch MTV on their satellite television-- my dad's cable package didn't carry the channel. I watched music videos and fell in love with Jakob Dylan.

And Shawn Colvin on the radio, singing my hurt on those cold, dark mornings.