i miss places

before everything went on hiatus for a year, we had two trips to seattle planned ... the first, to go see brandi carlile play at benaroya hall (which got postponed at the last minute when brandi had vocal chord issues, and was rescheduled for a time when we couldn't go, and i truly thought my life was over), and the second, taking elizabeth for spring break.

we love seattle. admittedly, we haven't spent nearly enough time there to get our fill or see and do everything on our list, but we love it enough to always have it simmering on the stove of "maybe we could live there." it has water and greenery for me, mountains for marc, and it's temperate enough that we're both happy. sounds perfect.

as i get antsy to resume travel, i drift back to wandering around seattle by myself while marc was in meetings just before christmas in 2018. we had three glorious, packed, and too quick days there, and now - having not left my house, husband, or daughter for 13 months - the idea of being alone in one of my happy places sounds heavenly.

(full album here)

the day we arrived, we took a walk to the pike place fish market and then the seattle aquarium. first order of business was beecher's mac & cheese ... that was literally the only thing we wanted to hit on day one.

IMG_2825

IMG_2868

IMG_2838

IMG_2841
IMG_2862

(seriously considered the blob fish.)

we got back to the room, which had a lovely view of puget sound, and chose to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant instead of heading back out.

i just need to say right here: i still think about that dinner. poutine with beecher's cheese curds and duck fat gravy. holy crap, you guys. no, it wasn't healthy ... yes, i should have made better choices ... but i wanted to lick the plate.

 

IMG_2867

IMG_2870

the next day, i had a full seven hours to explore and wander and do whatever i wanted. i walked north to the space needle, the chihuly museum, and the museum of pop culture, after stopping by top pot for a chocolate glazed and an ovaltine latte ... which sounds more odd than it tasted.

 

IMG_2925

IMG_2921

i chose to not go up into the space needle, knowing marc would want to join me for that on our last day, when he was done with work. but that didn't matter ... i was so in love with the chihuly museum that i wandered through it twice.

IMG_7543

IMG_7548

IMG_7564

IMG_7579

IMG_7603

IMG_7635

IMG_7630

the museum was also full of fun things ...

IMG_7688

IMG_7689

IMG_7690

IMG_2900

IMG_7675

i got a text from marc that he was back in the hotel, heading to the gym to work out, then we'd order room service ... the home team (the vikings) were playing the current location team (the seahawks), and that was the plan for the night. okay by me ... i was worn out from a full day of walking.

IMG_2826

IMG_2926

the next morning, i met two dear friends for breakfast while marc had meetings, then he surprised me by calling to say he was playing hooky for the rest of the day so we could explore together. we found the living computer museum, which sounded like something he would enjoy. he did. when we got there, he was like a 12-year-old, all over again. when the guide was about five minutes into his spiel (to marc, who was the only person taking the tour), he whispered to me, "this might be more my thing than yours. don't feel like you have to take the tour." he was so right, and i so ducked out to explore on my own while he absorbed and geeked out over it all. he was as nostalgic looking at the old computers as i had been the day before at mopop, looking at helmets from "money python and the holy grail" or set lists written by kurt cobain.

IMG_7755

IMG_7759

after the old computer place, we found a spot for pho, took an uber to kerry park for the iconic view of the seattle skyline, then wandered the queen anne neighborhood to look at beautiful houses (that was for me).

IMG_2957

IMG_7728

IMG_7737

IMG_7740

IMG_7739

dinner that night was a trip to the ballard neighborhood to meet one of marc's high school friends for thai at pestle rock. my trout tod yum knocked my socks off. after hanging out there for awhile, we said goodbye to mark and walked a block back to the ballyhoo curiosity shop, where we had poked around for a bit before dinner. it was full of fascinating, fantastic things and i wanted more time, but sadly they were closed for the evening. we drowned our sadness in some seriously tasty lava cake at hot cakes.

IMG_2937

IMG_2941

IMG_2948
day three was our day to explore together, and we started with a slower wander through pike place, starting with breakfast at piroshky piroshky.

IMG_2998

IMG_2999

IMG_7928

IMG_7934

IMG_7946

IMG_7947

IMG_7958

IMG_7888

after a tasty lunch at an indian place, we grabbed a ride to the museum of flight.

(uber driver: total customer service. five stars.)

IMG_2986

IMG_7771

IMG_7778

IMG_7792

IMG_7810

IMG_7834

IMG_7828

IMG_7837

IMG_7852

IMG_2981
(the concorde was so narrow ... my claustrophobia couldn't handle it, and i got off as soon as i got on.)

our last night in seattle, we had an amazing dinner at dahlia (which, i'm sad to say, has closed), then went on the underground tour, which was full of crazy, interesting stories. i wish i could remember them all.

IMG_2971

IMG_2967

there was so much more ... it's amazing how much we fit into three days! the one thing that didn't fit: getting back to the space needle.

next time.

 


bucket list

i fell off the blogging wagon. it was meant to happen at some point.

not quite sure where the last six days have gone, but it feels like a blur. i haven't been crafty or creative, no big thoughts in my head ... i did ignore life to read a book in one day, and that felt delicious. henry has called a few times just to chat, which is always a joy. i'm back in physical therapy for a 30-year-old shoulder injury from my swimming days; that's fun.

but really, not much to talk about.

however, my brain has been drifting often, lately, to the What Comes Next dreaming. the bucket list, if you will. i may as well put that list here, for accountability and motivation ... and something to write about, when nothing else of interest comes to mind.

in no particular order ... here we go:

1. live abroad

Gleaming-in-the-sunshine-houses-in-Frigiliana-Spain

after obsessively bingeing "mediterranean life" and devouring "stanley tucci searching for italy," i have decided that i absolutely HAVE to live abroad at some point, for at least a year. and it needs to be in a place with a slow pace of life, fantastic views and places to explore, simple and fresh foods. and serious bonus points if an ocean view and bougainvillea are involved. i'm leaning hard toward andalucia, spain.

 

2. see everything

T8y26upm9dm21

one benefit of living abroad for at least a year, especially if we're somewhere in europe, is the ease of travel around that part of the world. i want to see it all, but REALLY see it. not just the touristy highlights, but the small towns, the little fishing villages, that tucked away spot with the best food, the most gorgeous view that no one knows about except the locals.

we also have a dream plan to live in a place for a month, once a year. try on new parts of the country and world, one month a year at a time, until we feel like we either have it out of our system, or find where we want to land permanently. currently, my short-list includes seattle, nantucket, maine, tulum, cornwall. pretty sure marc's list would include mountains, deserts, and ultra-modern glass and cement boxes in the woods. (the idea for short-term living came about because we obviously can't agree on where we would like to spend our retirement years. i am very much a new england girl, and marc is ... not. so, short term places or we go our separate ways.)

 

3. write a book

i've started and abandoned so many projects. one needs to be given the life it deserves and brought to completion.

 

4. learn another language

D38ff234749e4ad2498556e12aad2a07

see numbers one and two. learning spanish makes the most sense, but marc speaks spanish. i feel like i should cover italian, just in case. i started duolingo a month ago and can tell you that a boy ate an apple. i have a ways to go.

 

5. learn to sail

IMG_1137

i just want to. my goal is to end up on water at some point before i'm dead, and i'd love to be able to take a little boat out for a sail.

 

6. learn to play the guitar

 

7. learn to bake breads from scratch and make homemade pastas

 

8. live with intention

slow down. simplify. have and do less. quality over quantity. less multi-tasking, more focus.

 

9. have a meal at the lost kitchen

The-lost-kitchen-maine-exterior-greta-rybus-1536x1066

since first learning of this place a few years ago, i've become obsessed with entering the lottery to get a seat, then taking a spur-of-the-moment trip to maine for a meal. it will likely have to wait another two years, until elizabeth is out of the house. i'll pass the time with erin french's books.

 

10. find my purpose

we all want that out of life, though, right?

 


elizabeth

RszIMG_2330matte

when my baby girl was born, i had some ideas of what to name her, but it wasn't until i saw her little face that i knew for sure: harper.

she was three years old the first time she told me she didn't like her name. she thought she would prefer to be called rainbow sparkle my little pony. i talked her out of that.

for the next 12 years, she would occasionally tell me she didn't like her name, didn't feel like a harper. and every time she misheard her name when someone was saying "parker" or "piper," she would become embarrassed and more annoyed with her name.

she mentioned numerous times that she wanted to change her name.

and this week, she asked that we finally, formally, please call her elizabeth.

to be fair, she is starting a new school where no one knows her. she has two more years at this school to try it out, and the school is full of kids trying on who they think they are, be it a new name, new hair color, or new gender. the teachers and administration and classmates are supportive, open, accepting, and nonjudgmental. it's really the perfect time to give this new name a go and see if it feels more her.

on the day that she asked me if i would please stop calling her harper, i told her that if, over the next two years, she feels more comfortable in the skin of elizabeth than she has as a harper, upon graduation we can do the paperwork to change her middle name to elizabeth, then she can decide whether to tell people she goes by her middle name or reclaim her original name as she moves into the world.

her names were given thoughtfully, with reason. but to her point, we gave them to her. we had to name her before we walked out of the hospital. if she's going to live her life, she wants the choice of what she answers to. i can respect that. i'm a michele; growing up in the 80s, every fifth girl was named michelle ... right after the jennifers, amys, stacys, and heathers. i get it.

her dad is struggling with it. not that he doesn't like the name elizabeth or feels particularly wedded to harper (heck, he wanted to name her sam or julie, so i don't think he really cares either way WHAT her name is), but he is worried she's being influenced by the environment in her school that encourages self-discovery. well, buddy, welcome to Gen Z ... especially Z-ers at an arts high school. they're gonna experiment, and they're gonna find themselves, and by god they are going to be better off than we were in the Knowing Who They Are game.

what i would have given for radical acceptance and freedom and support. i wasn't even allowed to get my ears double pierced until i turned 18. (guess who's making an appointment to get about five new holes in the next week or so? i'm learning so much as a 47-year-old.)

i look at these kids fighting through the generational layers of rules and suppression, and i have to think they are going to save us all. when you aren't dealing with your own shit on a daily basis, you're much more free to love, accept, and change the world.

go forth, elizabeth. change your name, change your game.

IMG_8425


nothing glitter can't fix

Screenshot_20210409-123511_Facebook

i needed last week's little scream-into-the-void and a couple of quiet, disconnected days. it was henry's conference meet weekend, so i was glad for the distraction. even though i couldn't be there (which friggin' KILLED me ... i can practically count on one hand the number of swim meets i've missed in 10 years), it was nice to be able to watch the livestream and cheer him on that way.

pro: no swamp ass from sitting in a hot aquatic center for three days. con: no hugs for or from my boy. i still yelled at the screen and cheered, while marc looked at like i was insane.

whatever, dude.

what i also missed, though: apparently he led the pep talk on at least one of the days.

FB_IMG_1618613681952

as a junior, he's a captain, and absolutely loves his role as leader, supporter, and cheerleader. in fact, we spoke the other day about his summer plans, and he told us he is talking to his coach about working with the local team this summer. then he mentioned he is considering taking his fifth year of eligibility (thank you to the ncaa for giving these kids another shot at a year to replace the one messed up by covid) to start his masters, which we had suggested but he kind of blew us off, UNTIL he talked to his coach about what it would take to coach at the collegiate level after graduation, and his coach highly recommended a masters. (even if a masters isn't needed, thank you, doug! because if he doesn't coach, or coaching doesn't last forever, he WILL need that masters in political science to do anything in that field.)

not to bury the lede, but that means he's decided to turn his passion for swimming into a career.

i'm so excited for him. while he loves competing, i think he loves the sport and the teams and the teaching and supporting even more.

so proud of him.

IMG_5105

today has felt a bit more normal. i'm trying to stay away from news ... it just enrages me daily and makes me feel so powerless. instead, i decided to tackle a project i've had staring me in the face - literally: it's been sitting on my desk - for two years.

i found these sweet, laser-cut wood ornaments at world market, and bought them with the intention of covering them in glitter. i am a sucker for any ornament on the christmas tree twinkling with glitter. my one girly quirk. somehow, having them on my desk, right next to my address book, just to the left of my computer monitor for two years didn't ever give me that push to bedazzle them. but today was the day.

 

20210419_132935

20210419_140643

20210419_140708

the cutest, right? who knew therapy could be as simple as white glitter?


damages

my brain is constantly whirring around at about a thousand miles per hour. today, it's closer to a million.

i wish i was able to just plug in, matrix style, and download everything in one concise, coherent, spell-checked, edited lump. but since i can't, i'm left with the conundrum: how much to share? how deep to go? how much hurt do i purge and how much do i hold back? how much time do i put into this before i decide, ultimately, to delete the whole thing and let it go?

to be honest, as i type, i'm still uncertain about the answer to any of those questions, so i'll just keep typing. maybe i'll hit post, maybe i won't.

this is clearly why i've never gone to therapy. if there was a way to walk into a room, sit on the couch, and start in the middle - no need for preamble or introductions or timelines or feelings, just "here's today's bullshit and why i think it's bullshit and and what its bullshit origin story is" - i would prefer that. my husband and i have talked about this a lot over the years, and every time, it comes down to: what if i spend several hours with someone, unloading things and trying to work through things, only to find either they don't get it or they are an idiot and i can't connect with them? then i've wasted time, money, emotional bandwidth, and got nothing in return. so i just don't bother.

i am really good at the "i'm fine" thing; the "i don't have it as bad as someone else" or "my thing isn't that awful" or "whatever. it's done. my life is good, so no permanent damage."

yet i'm not happy. not really. not deep down, where peace within yourself starts. so damages were done.

and when i try to track my ups and downs, i find that most of my downs come from being disappointed in someone or something, or someone/something letting me down or not living up to the standards or hopes i put into them/it. or willful ignorance; THAT one really sends me over the edge.

i hate being let down by things i've been trained or conditioned to hold up. i hate being let down by people based on assumptions i had about them. i hate being let down by the nebulous idea of "people" or "the world." i hate being let down by myself. and let me tell you - that one happens a lot. low self-esteem and self-sabotage are my two strongest personality traits, mainly because i was never taught what good self-esteem is, or given the tools to build myself up and keep going.

my husband - bless his heart - is my biggest cheerleader, and i'm grateful every day that he chose me and continues to choose me and believe in me. but he has also never once in his life had a moment of self-doubt or soul pain, so his ability to truly empathize is ... not great. when i get down, he tells me to fix it, or let it go because i can't do anything about it anyway. which, hello ... as an enneagram 4, that's the LAST thing you want to tell me.

there are truly times when i wish i could be an island; just me, no hurt, nothing to make my head or heart or gut explode in rage or sadness ... no one to let me down or disappoint me with not being who i thought they were. i dream of leaving, moving away where i know no one and don't speak the language so i don't HAVE to know anyone. the older i get, the less i need or want people or their input or their voice in my head. but ... the privilege of that ... i can't do it. if those truly suffering can't flee, then neither should i.

maybe the point is to use my hurt as a means to protect others. use my damage as a way to fortify others. maybe it's time i took a chance on therapy. maybe i go get those tattoos i've been planning and the piercings i've always wanted, and say, "fuck you, i'm 47 and i'm a whole goddamn person who owes you nothing." maybe i learn to smile and nod when faced with something i know is immovable rather than scrape my hands and knees against it. maybe i learn which fights are worth fighting and which aren't worth my well-being. maybe i keep my monster in the closet so it doesn't destroy the world. or maybe i learn that it was never a monster in the first place, just something that has always felt unworthy of being cute and cuddled, and grew fangs to protect from the hurt and loneliness.

or maybe i'm fine, and today my brain is just too unsettled to see it.

 


all that is left

IMG_4992

my grandparents' house was torn down today.

it's a long, sad, infuriating story, but all that remains now are the stories and memories.

my dad and his siblings were raised there. nearly every christmas of my childhood and young adulthood was spent there. i swam in the lake all summer long. i got ready for formal dances in high school and my sister's wedding in my aunt's pink bathroom, with butterflies on the wallpaper and movie star lights around the mirrors. it always smelled slightly of talcum powder. my high school graduation party was held in the backyard. i caught the first - unbeknownst to us at the time - glimpse of my future husband across the lake in 8th grade, when my best friend and i were on a paddle boat, and he and his friend were shooting at frogs with bb guns. we would meet again, for real, five years later, just yards away, on the college campus.

in that place in the brain that holds sensory things, i can still hear the squeak of the basement door to the garage, smell the fragrance of gasoline mingled with sawdust from grandpa's wood shop. i can hear the creak of the stairs, the heavy whoosh of the sliding doors to the deck, the white noise splash of the fountains on the lake, and the geese honking happily as they pooped all over the yard. i can remember the yellow and red tulips in the planter lining the driveway ... the daffodils and japanese maple in the garden behind the house, all of grandma's bird feeders by the front window. there was the low westminster quarters played on the bells of the college administration building across the street ... and on the grandfather clock in the great room. the ornate, heavy front door. the imposing stone fireplace and hearth, where we all sat to crack thousands of nuts over lifetimes of christmases. grandpa's massive congressional desk in his wood-paneled office. the game table and orange roller chairs where the adults sat to play hour upon hour of boggle, and the kids sat to do innumerable crafts. the red, white, and blue stripes on the ceiling of "the pit," and the crazy 60s carpet in the basement, covered with gameboards. i wish i had a picture of that carpet. i forgot to ask my mom for one when she went to visit the house one last time. though, by this point, the house was in disrepair, almost to the point of ruin, so who knows what even still existed of that carpet.

when henry was small, and harper smaller, my parents briefly lived in my grandparents' house. my grandparents had moved to assisted living, but the family wanted to keep the house alive for gatherings and sentiment. my kids got to have two christmases there - christmases they will never remember, but i'm grateful happened. they got to slide their stocking onto the pole grandpa always used, and sit on the couch to hear "'twas the night before christmas" read by their grandpa, just like mine had done with me and all my cousins. they got to bake cookies in the kitchen with grandma ... right in front of the drawer where my and my cousins' grandma kept tins of oreos and fig newtons and chips ahoy that we would all sneak. (i'm assuming we all snuck cookies ... i know i did.)

IMG_4999

IMG_5154familypix

the last time we were all there together was when grandma passed, 12 years ago ... before half the cousins married and had their own families; we all still felt like "the kids" at that point. the paddle boat was taken out ... and promptly half sunk, halfway across the lake. the fishing poles came out and everyone took a turn wetting a line. it was just like it always had been.

IMG_0526

but it was the last time. my parents moved shortly after - again, part of the long, sad, infuriating story - and that was it. for 12 years, the house sat ... empty, alone, neglected by those to whom it was entrusted.

knowing it was being torn down today was heartbreaking, but watching it fall apart was worse. all the years, all the memories ... disrespected. ignored.

years change people and traditions. the generations shift ... the oldest layer of relatives ages, and the newest grow up and have their own schedules. there are more bodies and moving parts, so gatherings are no longer as feasible or easy. a house is just the container that holds the moments; our hearts and minds hold the memories. but it's also hard to grow up and move on. sometimes you just want to sit at grandma and grandpa's house, hear them fussing over everyone, feel the security of your own parents nearby, hear the laughter and teasing, and know where the center is.

IMG_0463


my high/low for the day

i'm so tired today. so tired. friday, harper had school IN a school building for the first time in 13 months. she was so excited ... i was so excited for her ... but that 6 a.m. alarm was no bueno. it's been a long time since i've had to do that. on top of that, her new school is 20 minutes away, without traffic, so i get to add "commute" to my list of activities as re-entry into Normal takes place. before i picked her up, i ran some errands - another 40 minutes in the car, and after lunch, i drove her to get her first vaccine shot at a CVS an hour away. in a rain storm.

it was such a long day.

the quarantine year has made me soft.

there is nothing creative in my brain right now, but luckily i have this handy little "inspiration guide" in my office ...

20210410_170319

i opened a page at random, to see what topic i could and write about today, and this prescient little nugget presented itself:

20210410_170658

 

well ... okay.

another weekend in pandemicland, and we are continuing various projects and tasks around the house that we can't stand to look at anymore notice as we spend, literally, every minute of every day inside these walls.

one project that has long been on the list is putting some sort of organization system in each closet. we decided to start with harper's because - just being real here - her closet is usually just a pile on the floor, everything she doesn't want to put away for real, or whatever she's told us she put away but really just tossed onto her closet floor. my hope is that with actual storage in her closet, things will have a place and she will keep it organized.

now, please understand that i DO realize this is likely an exercise in futility. i've always given her ways to organize ... large bins to toss toys in at the end of the day; specific bins for specific things so she can clearly see where things go and doesn't have to figure it out on her own; a dresser in her closet so at the very least she can jam stuff in drawers and call it a day ... and nothing has worked. her design aesthetic is somewhere between "creative chaos" and "hoarder."

but maybe now? a girl can dream, right?

yesterday, marc hung the support pieces, i painted the closet the same cheery peach as her room, and today we got the organizers up and everything put back in. it's lovely. i'm envious. i want to do EVERY closet now.

20210411_113346_resized

20210411_113404_resized

and today: our room.

i've been trying to figure out the curtain situation in our bedroom for quite awhile. in fact ... we moved in nine and a half years ago ... so i've been trying to figure out curtains for nine and a half years. i'm picky, a perfectionist, and cheap. those things lead to a LOT of delays in decision-making.

i finally i found curtains that i liked, though, and ordered them ... and was given a four- to five-month delivery window. and back in february, i bit the bullet and went to a custom drapery and upholstery place to order the rods, because of course our windows are too wide to just order curtain rods from a normal place, like a normal person. again, about a two month delivery time. but the curtains arrived last month, i picked up the rod on friday, and today was the day! the rod looks beautiful, the curtains look beautiful, and i was so excited about sleeping in room that is fully dark for the first time in so, so long.

all of these things were total highlights for me this weekend.

and yet ...

what's a high without a low, amiright? gotta keep the universe balanced.

when the closet organizers were going up, i asked harp for her opinion on where she wanted things. i got a very dismissive, derisive, "i don't care!" from her super grateful little self. so that was fun.

then we moved on to the curtains, and discovered that the room slopes about half an inch, from east to west, which made it interesting to figure out where to put the brackets. then we discovered there are no studs on the window wall. i mean ...wtf?? but we did the math and decided 1/4" wouldn't be noticeable over 164", started to drill into the drywall, and discovered that there IS a header, so the top holes on each bracket are in wood. thank goodness. i was envisioning the entire thing pulling out of the wall over time.

but then marc started to put up the rod, and the screw that holds the rods together broke off as he was screwing it in. so: custom hardware, broken. store, not open until wednesday. and as i was putting the drapery hooks into the panels, i discovered flaws on one of them. so: panel, unusable. needs to be returned, and then i have to await the arrival of a replacement.

i mean ... swear to god. does any home project ever go right on the first try, with the first round of stuff you've purchased? because i don't think it has EVER happened around here. there are always multiple trips, returns, something broken or scratched or missing a part or a hole is in the wrong place or whatever.

we talk a lot about moving, about other places where we would like to live. as we were getting through our day, though, i told marc, "it's taken us nearly 10 years to feel like we finally have this house 'finished,' and every project goes less than smooth. as soon as i get the urge to move and do this all over again, please remind me of this nonsense."

and he fully agreed.

we just couldn't agree if we were going two steps forward, one step back, or one step forward, two steps back.

 


that thing i (used to) do

in 2001, a friend introduced me to the world of scrapbooking. i had a one-year-old baby boy and no baby book, because my tastes were picky and my family tree asymmetrical. creating scrapbooks felt like a nice way to commemorate his milestones and hang on to our stories while fulfilling my need to have it look the way i wanted it to look.

over the next few years, i honed my style, taught myself photography, and soon had spots on a couple of online scrap website design teams. by 2007, i had done work for a few manufacturers, had pieces published, and then i won a spot on the memory makers magazine masters - their top 10 designers for the year, who created for the magazine every month and represented it at trade shows and in idea books.

it was a dream. i made wonderful friends, got to be creative, had an outlet, and had a "job" for the first time since leaving my career in publishing when henry was born.

through memory makers, i got a book deal, spent a year as a contributing editor ... and then the industry shrank, seemingly overnight.

it still exists in small and new ways, but i'm no longer a part of it. that time is over.

occasionally, i'll pull out stuff and play around, but it's no longer a part of my daily life as it used to be. for the last several years, i get things done only when i go on crafting weekends with friends, but covid has gotten in the way of that over the past year.

as i was cleaning my office a few weeks ago, i found a plastic bin of supplies that never got put after my last weekend with the girls. as i was going through it, i found page protectors at the bottom with things i had created. just looking at them and touching them makes me want to cast off my to do list for the rest of the week day to just create and play and re-immerse myself in that world.

i'm reminded that i NEED creativity. i NEED to get these stories and thoughts written down. and i NEED time to do my own thing, just for me.

as we all do.

20210408_132634_resized

20210408_132712_resized

20210408_132743_resized

20210408_132846_resized

20210408_132915_resized

20210408_133021_resized

20210408_133050_resized

20210408_133128_resized

20210408_133207_resized

20210408_133223_resized


too much

last year, a friend invited me into a writing group that was going to work through ursula k. le guin's "steering the craft." this piece came from one of the exercises, inspired by a rental car my husband had for a week while his car was in the shop:

 

Too Much

The date might have been going well, but she was only aware of the overwhelming, suffocating bubble of his cologne. It was everywhere, all around her, moved with them through their evening.

When she opened her door to him, his cologne greeted her first. He started his car, and her olfactory system was assaulted by a choking fog of cedar citrus spice blasting from the vents. As she inhaled with the tiniest, most shallow breaths she could muster, she wondered if he wore more than one cologne, for the brutal, craggy layers of scent that kept crawling their way into her nose. When he talked, she only heard the symphony of notes wafting across the table toward her: first, a bright top note of bergamot; then a crescendo of geranium that resonated in her lungs; lastly, a lingering musk meant to leave a warm finish, but instead left her wanting to claw at the scarf around her neck and gasp for fresh air, when no fresh air could exist around him. What she ordered for dinner was inconsequential, for she could only taste the dissonant chord of melon pine.

After, he asked if she wanted to see a movie or go for a walk, and she answered—too eagerly—in favor of the walk, praying for a stiff breeze to clear the haze around him long enough for her to decide if he was worth the sensory overload. As fresh air moved in, brushing aside the haze of flora, she could see him more clearly … kind eyes, a smile that showed he was nervous and trying too hard. She made a small joke and he laughed enthusiastically, the geraniums shedding red petals in all directions. She thought maybe he was an okay guy after all, maybe after a few dates she would feel comfortable enough to mention the cologne ... see if he could go more lightly.

On the ride home, the thick sweetspicy air seemed less oppressive than it had earlier. She had scaled the wall of botanicals and found a genuinely nice guy on the other side. When he walked her to her door, she smiled at him, said she was glad they’d gone out, suggested they do it again sometime.

His cheeks turned pink. He looked down. He looked back at her. “I’m really not attracted to women who wear so much make-up. It’s like you’re trying to hide something. But it was nice to meet you.”

And he walked away, leaving a trail of blood orange that snaked around her heart, melted into her incredulity.