Where exactly did it all go wrong?

Where exactly did it all go wrong?

I read once that when Genghis Khan entered Khwarezm he was deeply offended by the sight of its canals and ordered them all torn up. Rivers, he felt, should always be free.

I could take a few moments to verify this with an Internet search or, even better but more time-consuming, going downstairs and looking through my library–I’m sure I still have that book, since I generally don’t throw books away and I don’t typically borrow books (because then I have to give them back, and I want to keep them on my shelf for those rare but vital occasions when I need them again). But that is irrelevant for the sake of this thought exercise. Let’s assume he did just that and go from there.

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3. In Which Our Heroine Decides to Change, and Then Decides to Not

3. In Which Our Heroine Decides to Change, and Then Decides to Not

So one beer led to another and in the morning Erica felt like death but worse. Her head hurt and her mouth was dry and she was pretty sure but not entirely sure but still pretty sure that there was some kind of food under the covers with her. There were vague memories attached to that feeling. Late night pizza delivery, too tired to eat, I can eat in bed no its fine then I can just roll over when I’m done. Oh good God there was most of a slice of pizza in the bed.

She stripped the sheets and dumped them into a laundry. Erica didn’t have extra sheets, so these would have to be washed today, and since she had to work she was going to have to drop them off at the expensive cleaners across the street. Which, she decided, was a fitting punishment.

The pizza slice wasn’t quite stale yet, and before putting in the trash she had a serious thought about taking a bite, but then she saw her blouse hanging on the back of the chair–the blouse that Mr. Handsome Man had criticized so unfairly–and in that moment a wave of strength and determination came over her. She dropped the pizza slice in the trash, and then grabbed her blouse and did the same, and then took the bag out of the trash can and walked through her living room and into the hallway and dropped the whole thing into the laundry chute.

And then sprinted back to her door in order to stop it from locking her out.

It was five-thirty in the morning and even if she was awake for all the wrong reasons, she was at least awake and ready to start what would be the first day of a new life.

Through a fog of nausea and headache and the curious sensation of being both full and hungry at the same time, Erica got herself ready. By seven she was fully dressed, and that included spending extra time going through her clothes to determine what actually looked decent. Her pickings were slim, but eventually she settled on something. The remainder of the clothes, a depressingly large chunk of her wardrobe–none of it expensive but in aggregate quite a bit of money–she threw in a heap on the floor. She would deal with it later.

On days when she was rushed, she would stick something in the toaster–bagel, waffle, Pop-Tart–and then eat it on the way to the subway. On days when she wasn’t in a hurry, she would stop at the diner by the subway and treat herself to a fantastic diner breakfast, where everything was enormous and drenched in an extra layer of love and butter. Today, however, she was earlier than ever, which meant that she had time to really think about what she wanted.

What she wanted was to be a three again. Love and butter wasn’t going to get her there.

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The Moment You Realize You Lost a Limb

The Moment You Realize You Lost a Limb

Follow my blog with Bloglovin–or don’t, I’m just experimenting here.

Once when I was young I delivered to myself an impressive inner monologue, probably while showering, comparing growing up to exploring an enormous Baroque castle. One of those palaces with a million doors that led to a thousand rooms in a hundred different wings, with all sorts of secrets hiding within: kitchens, courtyards, libraries, ballrooms, water closets. You are free to explore with the caveat that you can only move forward, and with the twist that every time you open a door, a random number of other doors in other parts of the castle will lock themselves up forever. In some cases that won’t matter–you were never going to go in the direction, and most rooms have more than one entrance anyway–but in some cases some very nice rooms and even some entire wings would be closed away from you forever.

I don’t remember the context at all, what made me think about it. I can’t even remember how old I was, which particular shower I was standing in. I just remember the image, of life as an endless number of possibilities, and how aging gradually reduces the option until eventually there are few, if any, paths left open, and what’s left is your life.

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The Wishing Stone

The Wishing Stone

“Would you like your table now or would you like to wait for your party at the bar?”

Lisa started to ask for the table, but then crinkled her nose and pointed to an empty stool. “I better wait at the bar.”

And wait she did. Wait and wait. First with a wine, then with a second, and after that she let herself graduate to a cocktail. The first in order to have something to do with her hands, the second to give him a little more time, and the third because even though she didn’t even want him to come it still hurt that he didn’t.

And then he came.

“Sweetie, I’m so sorry.” He used his sad voice, the one with a little whine and a choked little tear. “Were you waiting long? Of course you we were waiting long, what am I saying? I’m sorry. Are you in a hurry, can we still do this?”

She sighed. “Sure.” Lisa motioned to the bartender and reached for her purse.

“Oh no, let me.” She didn’t protest, and in a fraction of a second decided against making a comment or even a face. He was already in the hole, and would probably dig himself further in before the evening was over; she didn’t need to pile on. At least not at first.

The maitre d’ showed them to a table for two by the window. Lisa sat where she could see the front door. It gave her the option of planning out escape routes if she needed them.

“Hi, my name is Derrick, and I’ll be your server today. Here are your menus, take your time. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Hi, Derrick. I’m Tom. This is my daughter Lisa.” His charming voice. Tom Grand was a man of many voices. He toggled through them with ease. “Water for the table, and I’ll have a Diet Coke.”

Lisa downed the rest of her cocktail and arched an eyebrow at her father. “She’ll have another one of those,” her father chuckled. Derrick the Waiter chuckled, too. When he was gone Tom leaned forward, playfully, conspiratorially.

“I don’t want you to think I’ve gone religious or AA on you. I just figure it’s been a long day, I probably should focus on rehydrating tonight.”

She hadn’t thought about his choice of beverage at all. At that moment she had been thinking that she probably didn’t need another drink, and that although she had been very hungry not long ago she suddenly didn’t really feel like sharing a meal with her father or anyone. She just wanted to go home. Barring that, she should probably switch at least back to wine.

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Rain

Rain

Rainy season has arrived in Kampala, later than expected but, according to a climate-change expert I know, not outside the range of historical norms.

The rain slows my Internet, muddies my carpets, makes everything cold and generally bums me out. True, it does also make flowers bloom and whatnot. But right now I’m cold and blue. No flowers are going to fix that.

One summer in Brooklyn I remember it rained every day for a month. When the skies finally cleared I said I hoped I never had to experience rain again; a few months later I moved to the Gobi Desert.

It’s been years since that near-Biblical Summer of Rain in New York, and since them I’ve lived in plenty of rainy places. But still, I don’t like it.

I don’t know if I’m actually depressed or jus sad about a lot of things. I know that people who have experienced real depression can tell that there’s a difference right away, but if you’ve never actually experienced the more serious condition–or if you’re not sure–then it’s hard to tell.

There was a time once when people would ask me, “How are you today?” and I’d always answer “I’m always good.” It was sort of my catchphrase for a year or two. (When I lived in Italy it became “Sempre bene,” which sounds great with a little half-shrug and a smile.) One day, probably around the time of that epic rain-summer, I stopped answering the question that way, and it never came back.

I remember it, though. I want to get back to it somehow. I can’t just say it, though. I need to figure out how to make it so. Then the words will come back naturally. I just don’t know how. My life is good, and while I could complain I know that it’s churlish to do so because, basically, I’m doing all right. But I can’t say I’m always good, or even usually good. I’m good enough, I guess.

Except for the rain.