‘This is it’

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“What the Living Do” by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

Bad habits

You know how you pick up a bad habit and at first it feels awesome, and you’re like, “Why did I not start doing this earlier?!?” and you want to do it all the time, and you begin to redefine who you are based in part on the fact that you are now a participant in this particular bad habit and what that means for you, practically and philosophically. And then eventually you start feeling shitty, and you can’t figure out why because you never suspect the bad habit as the culprit right away. But if you start really paying attention, you realize, yeah, that bad habit you picked up really is to blame, and is really bad for you, and has caused you to squander certain parts of your time and your self that you can’t get back. And sure enough, that bad habit did redefine you. Now as someone who has to recover from said bad habit. As someone stupid enough to pick up a bad habit, fully aware.

Making a break

I once made a bindle and ran away from home up this road. Think I was around 6 or 7. Sister came to retrieve my in my dad's giant silver Ford. I did not get very far. I never do.

I once made a bindle and ran away from home up this road. I don’t remember what awful domestic injustice led to this action, or which cartoon convinced me I needed an actual bandana-tied-to-a-stick bindle to carry my things.

I think I was around 6 or 7 and the day was waning but I started the trek up the gravel road next to our old house, toward the hog barn and grain bin, completely unsure of where it would lead once it passed the cluster of farm equipment I was familiar with. I had followed my dad up there several times to watch him work, but I still had no idea where that road eventually led. I remember watching pigs be born in that little hog barn, and my dad having to help the sow deliver. I think I remember that, anyway. Turns out my memory is an unreliable narrator.

My sister came to retrieve me in Dad’s giant silver Ford pickup. I didn’t resist.

I did not get very far. I never do.

Summer

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It took him a little while to be open to the idea of going out in the middle of a water minefield, but he eventually decided he could dig it.

Can I just add that Mt. Juliet’s Splash Day at Charlie Daniels Park is adorable? We had all kinds of super nice church folk coming up to us and giving us water and icy pops all day long. I got warm fuzzies while eating a free hot dog and working on an epic sunburn.