Friday, January 30, 2009


I’ve been thinking a lot about strangers. About walking into a dark room, three strangers sprawled out on a couch. Your friend introduces you. You might never see them again. Here they are, these strangers, and that moment is perfection. You’re wearing a sweater. The girl on the right is wearing a similar sweater. You are similar. Her grey hair falls across her grainy cheek. You don’t know much else. The boy is sleepy. He yawns.
Strangers are so different than the rest of us. You can never enter their world. When you press ‘sandwich’ on the cash register, and the woman--Tina--on the other side of the counter smiles, all you know about her is that she looks like the type of woman that will find the exact change--$5.29--so you don’t bother with getting a penny, two quarters and two dimes out of the cash register. She leaves to fill her water cup.
I like dim lights and sweaters. I was warm once, inside the home of my first boyfriend’s grandma. It was December and her Christmas tree lights were the same as my great-grandma’s. I didn’t know his grandmother. I couldn’t talk about knitting and that was everything to her. She wasn’t very good at it and the scarves she made were ugly. Yet here we were--and she was still a stranger to me--and all I could feel was the same homesickness I felt at my great-grandmother’s. My great-grandmother lived on a lake and her house felt green and moldy and old. I was young and I thought, “We go here every year before Christmas” because that was what all the adults were saying but I didn’t remember much besides sliding across the lake in my new black shoes. My cousin had ice skates.
Are we born into a world of strangers? We can’t know but we can feel. I was born into a world of bright light and warmth. I was jaundice and they kept me under a bright light to take the yellow out of my skin. My favorite color is yellow. I lived with my grandparents and my mother and father. My father snuck beers within the shelving of his headboard. My mother cried because she I was jaundice and she laughed because I was her baby. My grandparents’ house still feels like home. They were never strangers. I grew through their home to the homesickness I feel today.
I like to create new strangers. I like to feel myself new to the world bright and blinding like sun on snow. I like old strangers. I like the familiarity of Tina as she enters Za’s to buy her sandwich and sit in the corner chewing methodically. She doesn’t know my name but she smiles at me when I ring her up. I like finding myself through the glimmer of strangers’ Christmas tree lights and warm sweaters. And I like that the dim light and warmth of others’ comforters reminds me of the perfection of my own dim light and warm comforter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

To be alive, Today

I'm so happy to be alive today. I was so tired this morning, rising, early, for class. My bed was so warm, my boyfriend was still asleep, snug, I did not want to shake myself, cold, from my covers and arrive tired into the dim, cold morning, alone. January 20, 2009. I had to get up today.

It was still cold when I walked the bright, clean path between my morning class and work. I shivered when I stepped inside Za's. My glasses did not fog up with the warmth of the restaurant as they usually did, the restaurant was almost as cold as outside. My manager was worried today, not that many customers were showing up. He couldn't understand why. I knew why. Who would come to eat chicken alfredo and greek salad when they could be watching Obama's speech? When they could see our president stand in front of a flushed, earnest crowd, eagerly anticipating the words of a new era?

And so with little food to cook, I had to clean. I thought "this is a historic day" as I scrubbed rotted banana bits off the floor behind the smoothie freezer. I thought "this is a historic day" as I wiped clean the pipes of the front sink. I thought "this is a historic day" as I swept the basement of months' worth of dirt and lint and grime.

I just watched Obama's inaugural speech. Not live, by myself, cold, in my bed. I am so happy, to be alive, today, to have froze this morning on my way to class, to have warmed my stiff hands on a hot rag in the back of an Italian restaurant, to have gone through the mediocre motions of my mediocre life and known that the world was turning in an inspirational way, and that all around me, others were also happy.