Driving the Dark Roads

Dark_RoadsThe other day I got an email from a high-school boyfriend, which drove me headlong into remembrance of a time in my life I’ve tried to forget.

My husband is the only person I know who enjoyed high school, so I don’t harbor any delusions that my unhappiness made me unique among teenagers. In fact, my misery found plenty of company. My mother died at the beginning of my freshman year, and while my dad reeled, I got mixed up with the other kids whose parents or grandparents weren’t really watching.

After reading his message, I sat for a long while and tried to remember the year this boy, now a man with his own family, came into my life, the year I turned fifteen. What surfaced most clearly was a dark road. I’d just gotten my license, and we were always driving. Gas was less than a dollar a gallon, and though I usually couldn’t afford dinner, I could scrape together enough coins to get a few more miles.

So I canvassed the town, looking for some diversion. I didn’t have anywhere to be—no club meetings, no soccer practice, no piano lessons, and I couldn’t bear being at home. I’d scoop the change from my dad’s dresser, and if there was any left over after putting a couple of gallons in the tank, I’d splurge on single cigarettes from the quitter’s cup at the Shell station. [Read more...]

Sugar, Sugar, Part 2: May 8, 2015

Continued from yesterday

2629206224_7d8554b1d8_mWhen the editors of Good Letters first asked if they could rerun my 2011 post on my sugar addiction, which was posted yesterday, I couldn’t even bring myself to read the old post before saying no. I felt too weird and vulnerable about what I’d written and preferred that it stay buried in the archives. So I wrote other stuff, until I found myself coming back around to this topic in my life. Addictions don’t tend to go away. They are either active or in remission, rarely cured.

A new twist for me: Weeks after I wrote that original post, I had some medical tests done and got a new diagnosis and learned that in fact I’m a type one diabetic, not type two as originally pegged. Type one is an autoimmune disease and typically has an onset in childhood or adolescence, but it can also hit people much later in life, as it did me. Once properly diagnosed, I got some basic training on how to calculate and inject insulin and was on my way. [Read more...]

Sexist Assumptions and the Difficult, Dirty Work of Grace

IMG_7501My husband was deep into a bathroom remodeling project when he asked me to stop by the home improvement store to grab a faucet connector. He had purchased the wrong size on his previous trip, and I was out running errands anyway.

A young female employee met me in the plumbing section. I tried to decipher the details from my husband’s text but couldn’t figure out what the succession of measurements meant. The employee didn’t know either, so I called my husband to confirm.

After I hung up, the employee shook her head: “Don’t you love how men send their wives out to do their dirty work?” [Read more...]

Grace and the Incomplete Flush

oldcoolbuildingAlmost two years ago my husband and I bought a condo in a cool old building downtown. Great location, hardwood floors, exposed brick, pocket doors—charm and more charm. The trouble with cool old buildings is that they are rife with plumbing and electrical issues as ancient systems jury-rigged to keep up with modern times continually fail.

Our previous home had these same issues. The electrical never bothered me much—an ungrounded outlet here, a shorted breaker there, a little smoke wafting out of the dimmer switch of a summer evening. Life.

But the plumbing. The plumbing is another story. The primary symptom of its troubles (and all of my angst about it) coalesces around what is known in the biz as an “incomplete flush.” No matter how many times you flush the toilet, you can never quite get rid of all evidence that you had to use it.

[Read more...]

Crime and Grace Collide in Denis Johnson’s Novels

laughingmonstersOn the back cover of Denis Johnson’s new novel The Laughing Monsters is a rather extraordinary quote by David Means. Means was reviewing Johnson’s short novel, Nobody Move, for the New York Times Sunday Book Review in 2009.

The sentence from the quote that struck me in particular is that Johnson “routinely explores the nature of crime—all his novels have it in one form or another—in relation to the nature of grace (yes, grace) and the wider historical and cosmic order.”

Crime, grace, and the wider historical and cosmic order. A novel by Johnson is, then, according to Means, practically the Bible. Maybe better. [Read more...]