“Ice” in the Devilfish Review
(This is an expanded version of an essay that appeared at Queen Mob’s Teahouse.)
I had straight hair until I was fourteen. It took about a decade after the shift to stop doing what straight-haired people do to their hair–mine just wasn’t going to be smooth and neat no matter what–but I didn’t figure out full-on curly for at least another decade. I can braid it and it will stay in without a clip. I can hold a bun together with a pen (which turns out to be a handy way to store pens). I can’t wash it every day or it gets crispy and impenetrable, although more like a bramble patch than dreadlocks. I massage in a handful of official leave-in conditioner or unofficial hand lotion or cooking oil, and shampoo it out an hour or a day later. Regular conditioner every day. The official products have too much fragrance in them (or curly hair, which is more porous than straight, holds a lot of fragrance). Walnut, almond, grapeseed oil–do some grooming and then make a salad.
When my hair was changing from straight to curly, I tried to get it to do things: curl away from my neck, say, or not stick out so much. After a few minutes or hours, though, it would go back to its natural lie. The stylist who got it straight used three products and a flat iron. The plus side is that I can wear a bike helmet or a stocking cap or forget to pack a hairbrush, and it doesn’t have much effect on the result.
All this hair, you’d think I’d have no trouble staying warm, but I like to wear hats. I also like to knit, so I have plenty to choose from. Wool yarn grips itself and holds a shape as well as warmth–it will mold to your body after you’ve worn it a while. This summer I made a cloche out of a bamboo-silk blend, and it’s much more fluid. That hat flops and drapes and I can’t keep the brim out of my eyes. My kids and even the twenty-year-olds in my office wear their stocking hats all day long as soon as the weather cools even slightly, so I tuck that one lock that doesn’t curl as short as the others toward the back and don’t hurry to take my hat-cum-hairband off once I’m inside.
I have two nieces and a son with bone-straight hair; another straight-haired son is starting to turn. My hair is turning gray, which means its texture is changing again, corkscrewy strands sticking up from the rest of the waves. I’m still a little surprised to see it–curly and salt and pepper–but here it is under this lighting too, and that Instagram filter. I’ll give myself another decade to adjust.
We are . . . somewhere in Boston. Somewhere Priceline could find you a deal, missy, which turns out to be an inconvenient distance from the airport or any attractions we might hit before joining the rest of our party and heading north. Our actual destination this trip is Maine, but the six daylight hours in Boston could be put to vacation use, too, right?
For a spatially oriented person, that “somewhere” turns out to be anxiety producing. I don’t know where we are, my nerves are all telling me. How can I do what needs to be done next if I don’t know where we are? I’m itching for a map, something to spread out on a table or suitcase or browser window and find north, orient the hotel and the harbor and the–do we want to go to Beacon Hill? The aquarium? Tell me, kiddo, what are your druthers, and here it is, in this quadrant here in relation to our current location.
The itchiness started in the airport, where one is already forming lists of what needs to be done next and plans of attack. But we had arrived late, and decided to grab the bird-in-the-hand dinner option from a Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk–welcome to New England. We ate our sandwiches and reviewed the options to get to this hotel that was too far for a courtesy shuttle. We sat under a map of the subway. Read the rest of this entry »
We’re getting ready to spend three weeks up north, and I’m trying to decide what to pack, bookwise. The mp3 player is crammed full of audiobooks for the drive, thirteen hours on a well-known route so no wasting time with maps. The destination has a good library, so I ought to be able to relax about any decision I come to. I’m already daydreaming about the beach chair, the Adirondack lounger, the swing in the woods for the print reading once we arrive. But what to bring, what to bring! Do I
- Take those couple of titles I’ve been slogging through–at last here’s some distraction-free time to knock them off.
- Take only what fits in my suitcase, except that
- We’re going by car, so I can take more than one suitcase.
- And what about my e-reader?
- (adds “e-reader charger” to packing checklist)
My grandparents lived in suburban Chicago, and one of their solemn duties when the small-town kin came to visit was to warn us of the dangers of trains. My grandfather took a train to an office in the city most days, and we’d go to the station to pick him up. Or we’d take the train in ourselves to sight-see, museum trips with a little extra thrill, launched as they were with warnings.
Don’t stand near the edge of the platform, of course, but also–and long before any of us were driving–don’t stop on the tracks, don’t drive across tracks at an angle, look both ways before crossing even if there are lights and a signal. Then some cautionary tale, always a different incident–although we heard more than once about the mother who could only get one child out of their stalled car.
Where I live now, the trains are freight and out in the country. Instead we tell tales about the river. The Missouri sluices past gravel bars and snags, muddy eddies made less opaque where creeks join the flow, but no place transparent enough to see the fish, rocks, or tree limbs underneath.
Don’t dive in. Read the rest of this entry »
Our street sign is gone again.
“We live at the corner of Hope and Midterms,”
I’m going to tell the next guy who asks
Although hope is frequently disguised as beer pong
Shirtless baseball in the street
This time with a real ball
And at home base–yes–
My bag of recycling
Wine bottles and vegetable cans instead of beer by the case
I go outside to mow
But my deadlines aren’t clustered in April.
Tanner thinks his dad should take
his broken down ole car to Maxwell’s.
But in the divorce
I got the mechanic.
It was strange to dream of you once more.
Your crisis rippled through households to me.
Past hurts, anger and duties
now mine alone.
I am submerged
in a dishpan of daily demands,
washing the plates while you watch,
asking for more
this time I throw one
and break it.
I can fix any toilet
if you don’t mind getting wet
(and it helps if you have a second bathroom because
sometimes it takes me a long time).
I also install shut-off values and new faucets.
I wasn’t going to start
but in the new house
the toilet was the first thing to go.
And the plumber
The No Kiss Blogfest–a scene in which they don’t.
(Links to more non-kisses here.)
From a work in progress:
“Do you want help?” Declan asked.
Julie shook her head. “It’s all done. And I only have the one roller.”
“I can do the trim.”
“The paint has to dry first.”
Dec stopped in the doorway, which blocked her way out of the room. “Am I interfering with something?”
“I don’t know,” Julie confessed. “You’re wearing a suit and you spend all your time doing odd jobs for people. Don’t you want to, oh, take a night off? Go a movie?”
“Cinema’s in Glenkillen.” Read the rest of this entry »