Friday, February 26, 2010

Free Drycleaning

Over Valentine's Day weekend, my new husband and I traveled to St. Louis, Missouri. I had never been to Missouri before, ("Who would go there? It's a place called mis-er-y!" I can still hear my little sister say from many years ago), but it wasn't too bad: a broad, friendly place with snow on the ground.

We went for a wedding, our first as a married couple. At the reception, the bride and groom were toasted by the best man and the maid of honor. We've all been to weddings. We've all heard the usual offerings of meager prose and poorer poetry put forth when an honest "Best wishes" would have sufficed. But at this wedding, the maid of honor gave a startling and beautiful confession. To the best of my memory, here it is:

"I couldn't confess this to you earlier, my friend, but now that you are safely married, I can tell you this. In my capacity as maid of honor, it was my job to bring your dress with me from New York, where you had the fittings done, and where I live, down here to Missouri. On Thursday night, just before my flight, I had some pins in the dress for some last minute fixes. I pricked my finger. I didn't notice I was bleeding. But later, when I went to pack up the dress, I saw it: down the front, drops of red, like Jackson Pollock's later work. Horrified, I went online to try to find the best cleaners in New York. And on I found the aptly named New York Cleaners. With three hours before my flight, I grabbed the dress, ran across town on the Subway, and with trembling hands turned it over to the Korean man behind the counter. He pressed the fabric down, examining the stains, and his brow furrowed. This worried me. 'Wait here,' he said, 'Let me see what I can do.' A while later, while I contemplated whether you would ever forgive me, the dry cleaner retured and held out the dress. It was perfect: without stain, wrinkle or blemish. 'How much do you think you owe me for this?' he asked, eyes merry and triumphant. 'I would gladly empty my bank accout,' I responded - though I'm a young professional in New York, and my offer would still not have been a large one. 'But,' I said, 'Tell me what you think is fair.' He cocked his head at me and looked me over in assessment. 'It's free,' he said at last, and he handed me your perfect, white wedding dress."

And that, dear readers, is gospel.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

From the Archives: Seeing Bobak in Berkeley

Written maybe early 2009? Not sure.

Bobak. Like always you were willow-thin, with skin the color of almonds, and hair black and curly as a dark lamb's. You, the most polite of boys. You used to say, "Thank you, sir," to the referees when my father, your coach, subbed you into the back row at volleyball matches, but you laughed at your opponents through the net and from the bench, taunting them in the tongue of the shah. They could not understand you. That day, though, you were walking down College Avenue. Your shadow was long in the orange light, and it crossed mine, coming up the hill towards you. The air was warm. I had not seen you since we left high school, and after we said hello I took it upon myself to spoil your afternoon by telling you that my father died, believing, as I still do, that you loved him a little. When I told you, you were very polite in your condolence, as I knew you would be, and I still wonder why I told you. You would never have known otherwise, and your afternoon would have gone on warm and beautiful in the orange light in Berkeley.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Notes from the Frozen East

Snowmageddon has entered day five? Day six? Who can count? It's all a great white drift. Trees kneel prostate under their crowns of snow, like princes called too early into kingship. Roofs threaten to collapse under the burdens, and workers walk the frozen rooflines gingerly to shovel it off. And still the snow falls.

Within, days bleed together, busy, cozy, restless. And always the beeping of Snow Cats, the scrape of shovels, the tromp and slide of galoshes through snow deep as the thigh, driven into sculptures by the wind.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow Day

The week before Christmas, I shoveled the driveway. That's no act of breaking news, but for me it was a first - and what a first! The sky had opened and blasted the earth with twenty inches of chilled whiteness. My roommate's car was blotted out, a vaguely vehicular hump. The stairs had ceased to be.

So in the first clear morning after the storm, when the sky was penitently blue, I began to shovel the driveway. It's sixty or seventy feet from the front door to the road. Three or four hours later, with swollen pink blisters on my hands and the sense that my bones had dried to powder with the effort, I retired inside, believing I should, mercifully, never see such a snowfall again. Not here in D.C, the capital of sloppy winters and torpid summers.

But six weeks later, and behold: the snow comes on, cold and silent and perfect, a great hand falling to hush the mouth of the world. Twenty to twenty-eight inches of it.