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Inside a cave! . . . . #cave #sthermanscave #fun #amazing #wildlife #nature #naturephotography #hiking #climbing #explore #exploring #godown #gooutside #travel #belize #visitbelize #canon6d #natgeo #maya #mayaculture #jungle
          Belize, LaBron, World Cup, Early NCAA & NFL Leans (Ep. 581)      Cache   Translate Page   Web Page Cache   
The Sports Gambling Podcast breaks down everything going on in sports including more LaBron talk, World Cup Semi-Finals picks and early NCAA & NFL picks. Plus Sean talks about his trip to Belize and Colby Dant in studio previewing The College Experience on @TheSGPNetwork.
          July 10: Kelly Caldwell • Dave Mondy • Lawrence Lenhart • Elizabeth Boquet • Amber Carpenter • Kat Moore • Donald Carr • Sonja Livingston • Cindy Bradley • Elizabeth K. Brown      Cache   Translate Page   Web Page Cache   

Today we present ten more dispatches from June 21, 2018 to you. More details on the project here, but, in brief, we asked you to write about what happened on one day in June, and are publishing the results, largely unedited, for the next month and change, roughly ten a day. If you wrote something (it's not too late!), send us your work via this submission form by July 12 (it's okay if you didn't RSVP before: the more the merrier).

—The Editors



July 10: Kelly Caldwell • Dave Mondy • Lawrence Lenhart • Elizabeth Boquet • Amber Carpenter • Kat Moore • Donald Carr • Sonja Livingston • Cindy Bradley • Elizabeth K. Brown





KELLY CALDWELL

Overnight, someone left three fat softballs in the dog run in Tompkins Square Park, and this morning, the dogs are delirious with joy. A few skirmishes break out, but for the most part, the dogs just play. They tug-of-war, and take turns “losing.” They catch a softball and then coyly entice one another to chase. They race back and forth in pairs or clumps of three, shoulders bumping, fetching and catching, til all of their long, pink tongues are drooping out the sides of their mouths.
     In New York City, people avoid eye contact and don’t talk much to one another in public spaces, but in the Tompkins Square Park dog run, on early weekday mornings, it’s different. We talk. We know each other’s names, not just the dogs’. Usually, we move around, following our dogs, sipping hot drinks and chatting with whoever we’re nearest to.
     Today, though, we’re knitted together at one end of the run. The only thing on anyone’s mind is the news: More than 2,000 migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. borders. It’s a firestorm that’s been raging for four days. We ruminate over the details: The audio released on Monday by ProPublica—seven minutes of children wailing, calling for Mami or Papa, and one clear, small voice repeating her aunt’s phone number again, and again. The ever-shifting and inadequate attempts by Administration officials to justify the policy. The lawsuit revealing that some children were subdued with powerful psychiatric drugs.
     We pause for a moment. A dissonance hangs over us, between the comic antics of our dogs and the heaviness in the air.
     It’s the stupid, pink dog dish all over again, I’m thinking.
     Three days ago, in my Advanced Memoir class, we talked about the subjective lens of the narrator, and a passage from Story Genius by Lisa Cron: “After all, we know from personal experience that when something genuinely horrid is going on, it’s always with us, no matter how much we pretend it isn’t. It not only filters everything we see, it tells us what to look for.”
     No matter what is happening in the scene, I told my students, you have to get the deeper emotion onto the page. The examples I gave were comparatively low-stakes: how after your first break-up, just buying your morning bagel was searing and poignant because it was your first break-up bagel.
     The example I did not give, but that I was thinking about, was of another morning in Tompkins Square Park, nine months earlier. My dog Pops and I had left the run, and stopped near the rose bushes so I could give him a drink before heading home. While I pulled out a water bottle and a hot pink collapsible dog dish from my bag, I was listening to NPR report that, in the wake of Hurricane Maria, more than half the people in Puerto Rico didn’t have clean water. In desperation, Puerto Ricans had reopened wells that were closed because of superfund-level contamination; they were drinking water mixed with untreated sewage. Water-borne diseases were breaking out, and health officials were worried about cholera.
     Puerto Rican men, women, and children are at risk of cholera, I thought, and I’m pouring filtered water into a pink, plastic dish for my dog.
     I’m not apologizing for watering a thirsty animal. That’s my responsibility. It is also someone’s responsibility to bring clean water to Puerto Rico.
     That was October, and still, every time I pull out that stupid pink bowl, I remember it. I’m thinking about it again, this morning, as Pops and I leave the run and I take out the dish. Thankfully, I’m interrupted, because we bump into Kate, a work colleague and a poet. She and I are both a bit sheepish at first, because she’s in workout clothes and I’m in grubby dog run clothes, but we get over it pretty quickly, partly because Pops is mugging and wriggling for her attention, but also partly because we’re genuinely delighted to see each other. “I can’t believe we’ve lived this close to each other all this time!” she says.
     That’s another thing I love about this park. In the heart of Manhattan’s East Village, it’s a magnet that draws in everyone. As Kate and I chat, there’s a teenage girl, possibly a runaway, panhandling for change, while nearby, parents in expensive suits and shoes lead backpack-laden kids to the bus stop. An older Hispanic man wheels a giant speaker past us—he’s a fixture here. He’ll set up near the basketball courts and blast salsa music for hours. The benches are all dotted with people in coveralls or khakis or sapphire blue blazers, eating egg sandwiches, drinking coffee, and scrolling on their phones, a few moments of quiet before heading to work.
     At my work, it’s a day of meeting, talking, and teaching. I interview a teaching candidate who wrote and illustrated a charming and funny picture book about a mouse and a chipmunk fighting over an acorn. Lesson? Learn to share. One of our interns wants to write an op-ed about the treatment of women in the music industry, and we work together to develop her ideas. I trade emails with my friend and fellow teacher Mary, who I haven’t seen since April, when she got hit by a car. She gives me an update on her shattered leg, and I tell her how much everyone at the office misses her.
     I’m running late to dinner, but I take a big, blue CitiBike down the Hudson River Parkway anyway. I don’t want to risk being even later because of a subway delay, but also, I want to take in the sunset. I’m not the only one with that idea—the paths are crowded with New Yorkers jogging and strolling and biking, and I have to pay extra close attention, because everyone’s eyes are trained on the river. Tonight, the sunset really is that beautiful.
     Dinner is a celebration. After two years of working in DC, our friend Indrani  found a great job back home in New York City, and she and her wife Dina are finally living under the same roof again. They got married last August and after their honeymoon, they rode separate trains to separate homes. Commuter relationships put a strain on both partners, and though Dina and Indrani handled it well, my husband and I could see it wearing on them. You can acknowledge your privilege all day long—we’re lucky we can afford two apartments, they’d say; we’re lucky to have such great support, they’d say—but when you’re exhausted because you got up at 4a.m. to take a three-hour train ride to work, you’re exhausted. When you yearn for someone, you yearn for them.
     Kent and I are thrilled that this separation is over, and selfishly, we’re thrilled that we’ll get to see our friends more often now. Indrani’s office is not far from mine, and we talk about meeting for lunch or after work in Bryant Park, a swath of green behind the New York Public Library, the branch with the stone lions.
     When our drinks come, we raise our glasses and all four of us toast at once. “Welcome home, Indrani!” I say. “Here’s to good friends and more good times together,” Dina says. “Well done, Indrani,” Kent says.
     Indrani chimes in last. “Here’s to being together,” she says, her voice thick with emotion.
     It brings everything to a screeching halt, and for one long moment, we gaze at one another, anguished. We will carry on with our celebrating, but all evening, thrumming beneath everything, is one, insistent thought: It’s not a privilege, being with the people you love. Or, it shouldn’t be. 
     At home, Kent and I find that Pops has soiled the living room floor. After more than two years of good behavior, he’s insulted the rug three times in just the last week. It’s been a busy week, and Pops has been home alone a little more than usual. “He might be a bit too accustomed to having you around,” I say to Kent as we clean up.
     But secretly, I sympathize. When your people are missing, you’ve got to do something.

—Kelly Caldwell

Kelly Caldwell teaches creative nonfiction and is dean of faculty at Gotham Writers Workshop. 





DAVE MONDY

(click images for larger versions or click here to download a higher-res pdf)









—Dave Mondy

Dave Mondy's essays have been named Notable in Best American Essays 2015 and 2017, Best American Sports Writing 2017, and have appeared in Best Food Writing 2014 and 2015. He has also received multiple Solas Awards for his travel writing. His work can be found in Slate, The Iowa Review, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. He received his MFA in Creative Nonfiction from The University of Arizona, and he's currently working on a book about the true stories and strange truths hidden within famous sports photos. www.davemondy.com 





LAWRENCE LENHART 

DO

I peek over the wife-shaped hump in the bed, see the baby monitor lit green. Our eleven-month-old son is standing in his crib, his fingers curled around the rungs. We had decided the night before that I would be the one to wake with him this morning.

THINK

This is a good system, deciding on these sorts of things the night before as it prevents the kind of pleading, arguing, groveling that happened during the first months (e.g., “I did it the last two days. Will you get him today?” “I didn’t get to bed until late. I need more sleep.” “I fed him twice last night. Will you please step the fuck up?”).

DO

I alternate between sleepy eyes as I change his diaper, throw it in the pail, remind myself I need to change the bag SOON.

DO

In the kitchen, I make a bowl of cereal for myself (Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond) and prepare a goblet of Cheerios (no milk) for Milo. That’s my son.

DO

I set him on the floor in the living room and surround him with his favorite toys. He smiles at me like he’s just hit the jackpot. Like he might be spoiled. I turn on The Vietnam War. I’m only 6.5 hours into the 18-hour Ken Burns documentary.

THINK

I am watching it because 1) it’s summer and I have the time; 2) it fits into my ritualist disenchantment process with America; and 3) my wife just discovered (through Ancestry.com) that she has a half-Vietnamese uncle. Apparently, her grandfather had an affair during the war. After some encouragement from his Amerasian friends, her half-uncle signed up for an Ancestry account and discovered his half-sister (my mother-in-law).

THINK

There’s this one thread that’s not working concerning Denton Crocker Jr. (aka Mogie). I see what Burns is trying to do with his story, and maybe that’s the problem. It’s a Stalinesque maneuver: a single death is a tragedy/a million deaths is a statistic. Oh, wait: spoiler alert.

DO

I look up the wonderfully mimetic word ‘loblolling’ after a Vietnam veteran uses it to describe bombs descending toward the earth, toward his platoon.

DO

Milo has recently been fascinated with a martyoshka-style book. There are ten cubes total, and the walls of each cube are illustrated (with a snake, a saguaro, a cactus wren).

THINK

I worry that if he gnaws the smallest one too much, he will deface it beyond recognition and I won’t remember what it says when he’s verbal and asks, “What did it use to say?”

DO

I take a picture of each side of the cube just in case. Milo crawls away, and I pull him back by his leg. He crawls away again, and I pull. He cracks up.

DO

Milo and I take the tortoise to the backyard. I fill his bath with water from the hose. I admire the bath that I’ve created. It’s an inverted RV skylight filled with landscaping rocks, positioned in a dry stream in the backyard.

THINK

I worry there is too much pine pitch in the bath. I think I read tortoises can die if they ingest sap.

DO

The tortoise excuses himself from the bath and begins wandering through the yard. I hoist Milo to the bells we’ve hung from branches in the tree. We walk from bell to bell. I call it Bell Walk (a pun after Sedona’s Bell Rock). I ask him if he remembers when we bought these bells at Byodo-In Temple in Oahu. These at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. These in—I don’t remember where we got these.

DO

My wife wakes up. I give her a kiss. She wrinkles her nose in resistance because she hasn’t brushed her teeth yet. While she feeds Milo, I go for a run. I run across the cul-de-sac, down the mulch trail to the paved trail, along the paved trail past the park and into the designated “open space,” which is a ponderosa meadow. I cross the road to the trail’s extension (1.0 mile), all the way to the airport (1.74 miles). I turn around, facing the mountain now, and do my best to negative split. My IT band begins hurting, a years-old injury that I can’t seem to overcome. I check my time at the 5K (a sluggish 26:31).

THINK

While running, I start daydreaming about when I used to run in high school. I think about our rivals, Latrobe High—alma mater of Arnold Palmer and Fred Rogers. I wonder if their coach was really as shrewd as we made him out to be. It’s the coach’s responsibility to walk the visiting team all around the 3.1-mile course before the meet. I am remembering the time he gave us the wrong directions. I turned right and had to backtrack, which cost us the match. We assumed he did it on purpose, but maybe he didn’t. I think I am finally coming to peace with this defeat now, twelve years later. It is as cathartic as it is pathetic.

DO

I finish the run. On a boulder at the end of my driveway, I sit and analyze the splits on my running app.

DO

We leave the house as a family. Go to coffee, lunch, the playground, Walgreen’s. We need to kill two hours while the cleaners do their thing.

META

(At this point, I feel the need to defend this very bourgeois sentence. But I don’t feel like it this time.)

SUMMARY

Coffee highlight: none.

Lunch highlight: the men behind us—workers on their lunch break—speak English until six police enter the building, at which point they begin speaking in mostly Spanish. I tell Andie I need to wash my hands before we leave. I look at myself in the mirror in the bathroom and can’t work myself up to smile. I cry a little bit. Because there’s no line as I cross the counter on the way back, I decide to buy a $1 sugar cone. I hand it to Andie who shares it with Milo. I congratulate myself on being a good father, good husband. 

THINK

There was a time in my life when I thought sharing an ice cream cone with other mouths was the ultimate repulsion.

SUMMARY

Playground highlights: A man locks his car with a padlock and tries to make Milo laugh by putting a cup in his mouth like a beak. Milo doesn’t laugh. We forgot the sunscreen, so Milo has to stay mostly in the shade. There are drums and xylophones and chimes on the playground. Andie picks up the mallets and begins playing. She used to be in the drum pit in high school. Milo smiles as she plays. I smile too. We’ve been together for six years, but she still finds new ways to entertain me.

SUMMARY

Walgreen’s highlight: They changed her birth control on her again. We curse at the misogyny of it. My prescription isn’t ready. I worry that I’ll be wheezing in Belize. I say it aloud: “I’ll be wheezing in Belize.” Andie replies: “I won’t let that happen to you.” She is so emphatic and protective, it makes us both laugh. Her tone was clearly accidental. She immediately calls our GP and reups my prescription.

THINK

It would have taken me at least 3 days to make that call on my own.

DO

Because we haven’t quite killed two hours, we decide to look for houses for Andie’s parents who are thinking about moving to Flagstaff. We discover a new neighborhood in Flagstaff and drive laps around it, three times. We find “the perfect house” for them, but then discover there are phone lines criss-crossing over the backyard. Andie’s dad will veto. It’s no longer the perfect house.

DO

Milo is sleeping in the carseat. We have a mirror attached to the back-center headrest that reflects his activities back to the rearview mirror. I wave to him, and he waves back, choppily. When he falls asleep, I peek at him. My new car tells me: “Driver Attention is Low.” Fuck that. I’m paying attention.

DO

“Do you not want your Father’s Day card?” Andie asks. I tell her I do. “Then why did you put it with the old mail?” I remind her I was just consolidating stacks of paper the day before when my friend Mia came over. I go to the bathroom.

META

(Come to think of it, I must have gone to the bathroom earlier too. I just didn’t record it. Not paying attention after all.)

THINK

Here, I am reminded of Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces. I think about this one exercise in the book, very similar to this “What Happened on June 21” series, in which a family wakes up and goes through their morning routines. The woman is running around, trying to help her husband get on his way to work with pressed clothes and a good breakfast. She does the same for the son. It’s very suburban. Just like us, I suppose. And then, the surveillance-style narrator reports that in her first moment alone, the woman goes to the WC and “performs her toilet.” No matter how objective the narration is, I think it’s supposed to be comical. You have to read it.

DO

Andie calls her parents. She yells at her mom because her dad is so picky about the housing. I FaceTime my mom, and she and Milo spend a few minutes waving at each other.

DO

Andie watches television (The Bachelor) while she plays with Milo. Halfway in, she says, “I don’t think I’m going to watch this show anymore.” She’s been saying that for the past four seasons, maybe more. I work on my book proposal. It’s the boring part of the book proposal where I’m supposed to compare my proposed book to other titles on the market. I spend a lot of time trying to find a less specific word for “doudouism,” or at least one with a less French connotation. It leads me to an essay by Frantz Fanon. I download a couple essays by Epeli Hau’ofa, read them. Wish I had the whole book. ILL it. I encounter Jane McAdam’s name on several texts.

THINK

I would like to meet Jane McAdam someday, ideally in a casual setting like, “Oh, you’re Jane McAdam? That’s cool. I really like your ideas. I just ordered a caipirinha. Would you like something as well?”

THINK AGAIN

I wonder if this sounds like I’m trying to pick her up. I’m not. I decide she’ll decide for herself.

DO

Andie pauses the television, and asks, “Is that a tear?” The man currently on a one-on-one (date) with the bachelorette is talking about his divorce. He is being unusually vulnerable. I look at his glistening cheek and confirm that he is, in fact, crying. She continues watching the show.

THINK

Because my friend Joe spoiled the show for me (“So, how about I was with Carly the other night and she told me that X wins the Bachelor?” he texted), I don’t have to pretend to care about the evolving chemistry of the bachelorette and her misbehaved contestants. At the time, I chastised Joe, but now I think I should thank him.

DO

With the show over and the book proposal nearly finished, we take turns getting ready. We are going on a date tonight—our first in months. I text the babysitter’s mom with some details. They live across the street. I put Gillian Welch on shuffle (Spotify). We are going to the Gillian Welch concert tonight. I text my uncle one of the songs: “Here is a song by the musician we’re seeing tonight. It reminds me of something you would like. Very Appalachian,” I say. Andie puts on an olive romper-style jumpsuit. I love the way it looks on her. She curls her hair. Puts glitter on her chest. Picks up Milo. He spits up on her outfit, and we take turns scrubbing and blow-drying the stain. It doesn’t come out. She threatens to change her outfit. And I say, ‘No, you still look great.” She keeps the outfit on. I get ready while Andie walks the babysitter through each room of the house. It’s her first time watching Milo. I use the following products to get ready (in this order): rosemary shampoo, oatmeal exfoliating body scrub, Neutrogena facewash, Dollar Shave Club lather and razor, Proraso aftershave, Degree deodorant, BVLGARI AQVA cologne, Aquafresh toothpaste, TheraBreath Oral Rinse. “I like her voice,” my uncle texts. “It’s soothing.”

THINK

I promise myself that I’ll go to my uncle’s funeral when he dies.

DO

I cry in the mirror.

THINK

Because I don’t wear makeup, crying before a date doesn’t really change anything.

DO

Laugh a little.

THINK

I have been depressed for about 40 days now. Most days, I am functional. I do a good job of hiding it to the point where Andie usually forgets and Milo doesn’t notice. I congratulate myself on my covert depression.

DO

I change Milo’s diaper, get the tortoise out of the backyard. There’s a spider attached to his tail. It “balloons” through the air. We quietly leave the house, not even saying goodbye to our son for fear he’ll freak out.

DO

We go to the Annex for dinner. Our first seat doesn’t work out because one of the ladies at the table next to us is desperate for attention. She actually said, “Look at me in this picture” while pointing at her phone’s screen. Look at me. We eat at the bar instead. Andie tells me about a word she’s invented in a new poem: crud-rudder. I love it. We have fun talking about that word. We discuss the neologisms of Paul Celan. I tell her about loblolling. She likes that word too. We start talking about Vietnam, but then the mescal cocktail is too good. I tell her that when I’m in Tucson tomorrow, I’ll buy a whole case of mescal. We both knows it’s just a fantasy, that it’s unlikely I’ll even buy a single bottle. I feel myself blushing as she talks. “We used to talk about your poetry a lot,” I say to her. I’m reminded of our first dates together—back in Tucson. We’re both giddy. Our friends text. They’re already at the concert. We don’t rush. Not until Nicole texts “Two songs in.” Then we pay the bill and repark the car.

DO

The cashier at Will Call hands me the tickets so quickly, it makes me think I’m the last person to arrive. The Orpheum is packed, but silent—everyone listening to Welch’s “serene” vox.

THINK

I realize I haven’t been to a church since Ireland two summers ago. Before that, it had been a few years more. That’s two churches in five years.

DO

After the first set, I see Ted. I see Peter. I see Luke. I see another Luke. Each of them has seen Gillian Welch before. Peter and Luke are talking about the status of their chicken coops. Each has eight chickens. “But who’s counting,” Peter asks. “I am,” I say, somewhat seriously.

THINK

I want to ask: Are eight chickens the recommended number for a starter package? Instead, I just listen.

DO

I see Annette. She congratulates me on my new job, but reminds me that there are others, including herself, that are not so lucky. I say something like, “My new contract doesn’t start until August.”

THINK

I worry I sound cocky. Really, I’m just nervous and worried about professional confrontation.

DO

Andie is talking to her friends during the second set. I step away. Standing strategically between speaker and subwoofer, I enjoy a private view of Gillian. I see the new white boots she’s been complaining about (the left one hurts). I see her age, but refuse to put a number to it. In between songs, I go to the merch table and buy Andie a shirt (“the pink one”) and Milo a poster (signed). I ask the cashier where she’s from, if she plays music too. She’s from Nashville. And yes, she plays music too. She detects her own redundancy as we exchange money. Andie doesn’t like the gin and tonic I get her, so I get her Maker’s Mark instead. I get a cup of cubes in case she wants it on the rocks. And a cup with ginger beer in case she wants a mixer.

THINK

Andie’s concert etiquette is often brazen. The thrill of a good performance does it to her. I am reminded of her earlier that day, banging the xylophone with the mallets.

THINK

She still has secrets, I think. In a good way.

DO

Her talking during someone’s favorite song causes a large, angry man to approach her. He waves his hand in front of her face demonstratively and forbids her from speaking for the rest of the show. If it was anyone else asking her to stop talking, I would feel mortified. But because it’s this guy+telling her to stop talking, I feeling activated. Erik and I walk toward him until his back is literally against the wall.

THINK

I wonder if I am immature for craving a fight.

DO

“Do you know how many square feet are in this place?” I ask him. He shoves me. His girlfriend hails security. “Go find another spot,” I tell him. My lips inches from his.

THINK

It’s kind of erotic.

THINK AGAIN

Maybe that’s the point?

DO

They leave. All this adrenaline at a sedate Gillian Welch show gives me cognitive dissonance. Andie and I stand apart from our friends during the encore. She sings “Look at Miss Ohio.” Andie cries a little. For the past eleven months, we have been singing this melody at bedtime, replacing “Miss Ohio” with “Mr. Milo” as in “Oh me oh my oh, look at Mr. Milo.” I cry too.

THINK

It feels more appropriate to cry at a concert than in the mirror.

DO

Andie asks me to text the babysitter, but my phone is dead. We hurry home. Inside the door, we see the babysitter at the edge of the couch. The cat is on the arm of the couch. “Riding the rails,” my friend Tommy calls it. “How’s Milo?” Andie asks. “He’s so cute,” the babysitter says. She’s young. Cuteness matters. “How’d it go?” my wife wants to know. “It was good. He had a hard time falling asleep.”

THINK

I remember how difficult it was for me to answer How questions when I was younger, especially that one time at the barber. “How are you doing, Larry?” Nancy would ask me. I got tongue-tied. My parents never asked me questions like that.

DO

The babysitter has rearranged the pillows on the couch. They’re symmetrical, cool. I almost take a picture to remember the formation, but remember my phone is still dead. I ask Andie if maybe it was the cleaners who did it. “No,” she says. I go to the bathroom—

META

(oh yeah, I forgot: I went to the bathroom once at the concert too…) Have you ever seen the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where a receptionist [Chacha] in Larry David’s office building counts the frequency with which he uses the restroom?

DO 

“Come check this out,” I call for Andie from the bathroom. She enters dubiously. I point at the end of the toilet paper. It’s folded into a triangle. “Did the babysitter do this?” I ask. “Now that was cleaners,” Andie says. And then almost immediately: “Aww, that means the babysitter didn’t use the bathroom the whole time we were gone.” We both laugh at that.

DO

We talk in bed, each of us taking turns yanking the concert wristbands off. Apropos nothing, my wife falls asleep while telling me about her first orgasm. “Why are you telling me this?” I ask. Then, she says it was during her first night of babysitting. “I was very young,” she said, almost nervously. It was on a couch after the kid went to bed.

THINK

Not that I was really trying to, but I can’t picture our babysitter masturbating. I congratulate myself on a failed imagination.

DO

“Andie?” I ask. “Andie?” again. She is sleeping. I scroll through my charging phone, realizing I’ve recorded too much of my day, that I’ll inevitably have to leave a lot out.

OUTTAKES 

Descendents’ “Suburban Home”—ironic or not?

Pause Bachelor to stare at infographic on suicide rates.

Dave Rawlings (who plays with Gillian Welch). I’d like to look like him when I’m older. Great autograph.

Fifteen minutes wasted practicing time signatures on my knee—5/4 is fun

I’ve never had to fire someone per se, but I did have to kick a bass player out of my punk band in high school. (Sorry, Geoff!)

My car’s corrective driving makes me a less retaliatory driver, but gives me cognitive dissonance.
Before they’re sentences, these notes feel like a bloated Jason Bredle poem.
Lawrence Lenhart

Lawrence Lenhart holds an MFA from the University of Arizona. His essay collection, The Well-Stocked and Gilded Cage, was published in 2016 (Outpost19). His prose appears in Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Gulf Coast, Passages North, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. He is a professor of fiction, nonfiction, and climate science writing at Northern Arizona University and a reviews editor and assistant fiction editor of DIAGRAM.





ELIZABETH K. BROWN

What Happened on June 21, 2018: brain-eating amoeba, commitment, and left-over burgers

Mornings are sometimes tense between Adam, and me. Adam is my fiancé. [1] Adam thinks my morning routine takes too long. His morning routine is to wake up and immediately take a shit, then proceed from there. My morning routine follows: pee, scrape tongue, brush teeth, nasal irrigation, eye drops, splash face with water. Because we only have one bathroom, I’m often forced to complete my morning routine at the kitchen sink. I use a purple ceramic neti pot filled with water that is initially filtered through a Big Berkey water filtration system, and a quarter teaspoon of uniodized Morton’s Salt. [2] (Distilled water is recommended to avoid introducing bacteria and brain-eating amoeba to my nasal passages, where these bacteria and brain-eating amoeba can live and cause potentially fatal infections, but I don’t use distilled water. [3])
     To avoid having to use the kitchen sink, I try to get out of bed a few minutes before Adam and take care of my business before he gets out of bed and insists on the need to take care of his. If I miss this small window of opportunity, I do small chores around the house. This morning, Adam was up first and so I put away the laundry that had been hanging for days on three separate drying racks in our living room. After he was finished, he lit the lilac and hyacinths candle that sits on the back of the toilet. [4] But, even with the candle, I continued to pace around the house with my toothbrush poking out of my mouth instead of returning to the bathroom to brush my teeth in the steamy-from-the-shower, lilac-imbued stink of our small bathroom. [5]
     After the pacing, I completed my routine and we convened in the kitchen. In the kitchen, at approximately 7:30a.m., I suggested (not for the first time) that Adam see a therapist. As you can imagine, this was a fantastic way to start to the day for both of us.

Me: “I know you think that we’re having a hard time because we’re both in stressful situations and that it will all get better once work quiets down for you, but the reality is that if things go as we talk about wanting them to go in our Five Year Plan—both of us starting graduate school, buying a house, having babies, getting married, all that—this is only the tip of the iceberg.” [6]

Me: “Especially the whole baby thing. Just imagine all of this going on between us if we were only ever allowed to get two or three consecutive hours of sleep for months on end? Imagine it. Imagine!!!” [7]

Me: “Don’t you think things have been better between us since I started seeing a therapist again?”

Me: “I love you and I think it would be better for us if you also had a stronger support network, or at least started to cultivate that now. I know you talk about not having that since moving to St. Louis, but from what you’ve told me, you haven’t really had the kind of support I’m talking about, and that you deserve, ever. Would you agree with that?”

Me: “Does that resonate with you? Does what I’m saying resonate with you?” [8]

Me: “When you glance at your watch when I’m in the middle of sharing something with you, I feel like you’re not listening.”

Me: “What I need from you is for you to communicate with me if you’re getting anxious about time. Okay? See, there’s another example of something I learned in therapy, or sort of. Actually, that was just yoga school.”

Me: “What do you mean what am I talking about? The When you ______ , I feel ______ , what I need is ______ formula. Oh, really? Well, we can talk about it tonight.”

Me: “I still have the names of the therapists my therapist gave me when I asked her for recommendations for you a couple of months ago. But that was when I wanted to stop having to break things down for you about what I was going through with all the sexual stuff. This is different.”

Me: “Please stop looking at your watch.”

Me: “Have you heard back from your Aunt Nancy yet about driving to Dayton this weekend? I need to know so I can see about getting someone to cover my shift on Sunday. Do you want me to go along?”

Me: “What’s different is that I don’t feel crazy. I’m not crazy!”

Me: “No, I’m not going to send the names of the therapists unless you ask me, so don’t say, “If you want to send them.” This is about what you want. I’m just trying to be clear about what I want and what my needs are.”

Me: “You know when I’m angry that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

Then, he left for work.

I had the day off. I had a lot of things on my list of things to do. I only accomplished a few of them, and not even the highest priorities. When Adam returned home for lunch, I was angry at him for the way our morning began and the way this beginning impacted me and my state of mind—and, therefore, my productivity. All morning, I had the apartment to myself. It was quiet but for the buzzing of the neighbors’ air conditioning compressors, so easily heard through the single-pane windows at all times. After Adam left for work, I made myself pancakes and slathered them with butter and grape jelly and a scoop of Greek yogurt. I ate the pancakes while reading the contributor’s notes and correspondence sections for the March or May issue of The Sun Magazine. It was a very pleasant hour.
     Then I moved slowly down the list of things to do. I made several calls to United Healthcare and the orthopedic office at the Barnes-Jewish hospital in go in order to try to figure out how much it would cost me out-of-pocket after insurance to get an MRI (a lot), a call to the dentist to confirm my appointment for a six-month cleaning (feeling on top of things), wrote an email to a friend about the “What Happened on June 21, 2018” project (with a commitment to participate), and made a few changes to and comments on my sister’s cover letter and resume (much easier to get into than working on my own resume). I put the dishes away from last night’s dinner and did dishes from breakfast. I practiced yoga with the guidance of an audio recording and did my physical therapy exercises. And finally, I wrote out my work schedule for next week in my planner. [9] I stared at the weeks and months that make up the rest of the summer. They seemed spent already.
     Around noon, Adam came home for lunch. He works only a few blocks away and so often comes home for lunch. He works for the city and his office is on the fourth floor with a view, in an old octagonal building that was originally built to house a women’s magazine in—I’ll look up the year later, but I think it was the early 1900s. When he came home and poked his head in the “office” (my bedroom) to ask if I wanted any eggs, I tried to ignore him. I carried on emailing my friend as if I were doing important work.
     “No thank you,” I said, still staring intently at the screen. He made himself some eggs and the kitchen had that fishy smell from burning olive oil in the cast iron skillet. When he was done cooking, I went to the kitchen and started to make myself lunch: a salad with strawberries, green onions, a lemon garlic dressing, chopped pecans, and shredded parmesan. As I spun greens in the salad spinner, he walked in with his plate in hand to eat at the butcher block. He was trying to spend time with me.
     “How was your day so far?” I asked. I was trying to be cool, or at least to avoid “getting into things” again. But all he said was, “Fine.” Okay, I thought, so that’s what we’re doing. Pretty soon, we were back to the question of whether or not we’re “on the same page” in our house hunting search and who’s leading the way in terms of the “authentic communication” we both talk about wanting.

Adam: “I’m sorry about the house. I just wasn’t ready to make a decision so quickly.”

Adam: “Is there never a time that you feel like I also contribute to honest communication?”

Adam: “I’m trying really hard. I feel overwhelmed.”

Adam: “Yes, I am. Every day that I go to work I’m working toward our future family together!”

You can probably imagine my side of things. We stood in the kitchen hugging for a while. I tried to kiss him, but he went for my forehead instead.
     This morning, when he went to leave on his bicycle, he didn’t say, “I love you.” He just said, “See you later.” I followed him to the door and said, “I love you,” sort of angrily. I didn’t want to deal with feeling guilty for leaving on a bad note if he were to get hit by a car and become brain damaged or paralyzed on the way to work. [10] He relented and said, “I love you, too.” I think it’s okay to say it even when you aren’t necessarily feeling it. I do this all the time with my family. I think maybe we were trying to connect in the kitchen after lunch so that “I love you” would come more naturally when he left again.
     After our brief embrace, he told me about some work stuff and I complained about the cost of health care in the U.S. I reported back to him some of the horrors I’d heard on NPR that morning. And then he put his helmet on and left for work and I got back to my important emails to friends.

I got to my therapist’s office at 3:30 even though my normal slot is 2:30. We scheduled this one for 3:30 because I asked if I could get a later slot now that I’m working Thursday mornings. Today (Thursday) was the only day she could do 3:30, so we scheduled it. But then I didn’t get scheduled for work today. When I arrived at 3:30, she said she’d been expecting me at 2:30. However, instead of apologizing profusely and insisting I must have been the one who got mixed up, I said what I knew to be true, which was that we’d scheduled it for 3:30 weeks ago. As it turned out, she had 45 minutes until her next client, so I stepped over her dog, Herbie, and sat down in the recliner.
I was sort of hoping, when she said she had been expecting me at 2:30, that she wouldn’t have time and I wouldn’t have to stay. I’d been taking a nap before driving over and wasn’t really feeling like talking. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to talk about. I’ve actually been feeling sort of hopeful about things for a couple of days, maybe more like 36 hours. And it’s been really nice. I thought going to therapy might ruin the nice, hopeful feeling. [11]
     For the entire session, I talked about Adam. I told my therapist all the details about the house we had looked at last Friday and about the way he’d resisted my intuition and put up a wall. I told her how these things had really pissed me off. I said I was still attached to the idea of the house, which someone else put an offer on immediately upon viewing, which is what I would have liked to do, and the seller accepted it before we even had a chance to put one together. Adam wanted to sleep on it. I told him, “We can’t sleep on it with the market the way it is!” I said this as if I were a realtor or had any real understanding of “the market.” All I knew was that I had written to the realtor the week before that what I (we) really wanted was something grandma had lived in for 50 years and then the universe gave us exactly that. The woman selling the house had lived in it for 52 years and had just moved out of state to be closer to family. And here’s the real kicker, the sign from the divine that we were meant to put in an offer immediately and not “sleep on it”: the grandma’s last name was Brown.
     My last name is Brown.
     And Adam’s last name is Brown.
     And we’re not even married yet. It’s just coincidence that we have the same last name. [12]
So, obviously, this was a sign. I was sold on the place—big, dry basement (for him to play music) with a finished bathroom (bonus); big yard with enough sun for a big garden; on a cul-de-sac (with children playing in the street = instant friends for my niece and nephew when they visit); and the price was right. But Adam didn’t want to hear it. All he could see was the carpet and wallpaper and huge ornate dining room set. He was anxious about being late to dinner with friends and didn’t want to go over the details of the contract even though I had my notebook and pen out and was taking notes as we re-capped things with our realtor. He wanted to sleep on it and talk about it the next day, even though I had to work at 7:00 the next morning and had already explained to him that I wouldn’t be available to discuss anything until the evening, which would probably be too late. And so, we went to dinner. And we didn’t get the house.
     I told all of this to my therapist, who doesn’t usually hear too much about my current life but instead hears a lot about my childhood and the many questions I have about my childhood. She said my energy was different and that she thought it was because I was talking about issues that were grounded in the present and not in the past. I guess that’s a good thing. Present. Not past.
     People keep telling us that purchasing a home is one of the most stressful things for a couple. I keep telling Adam that he should trust me more because I’m naturally a more practical person. He keeps telling me that he just needs more time because it’s a big decision. All this desire for more time makes my therapist wonder if the two of us aren’t quite ready for commitment. People keep asking us if we have a date set and I give the same line about how I didn’t want to be looking at venues for a reception and tent rental companies when I was supposed to be finishing my thesis for graduate school in the spring. Or I say that Adam’s starting grad school in the fall and I’m planning to start (another program) in the spring, so the earliest we’re thinking is next summer or fall. Sometime. Maybe a year from now. Who knows! Or else I say that we don’t have any money, which isn’t not true. Or that we’re trying to buy a house, which maybe isn’t true after all.
     My therapist asked some questions that resonated: Are you sure you’re ready to buy a house together? Are you sure you’re both ready for that type of commitment? 
Me: “Well…we might just put it in Adam’s name because we haven’t combined finances. I can’t imagine doing that! Super scary. I’ll just sort of pay him rent. And if I help out with household projects and renovations, we’ll figure out a way to make that fair for me. I’ll get a stake in the property, or he’ll take some agreed upon amount off the top of my rent that month. So really, it’s not that big of a commitment. We just want to stop paying our slum-lord-y landlord rent. And I really want a yard so I can have a garden.”
     Of course, then the therapist asks if I’m sure I want to get married, with all this talk of paying him rent and making things fair. I have a ring on my finger, but the truth is, I’m not sure. And neither is he. Is anyone ever totally sure? [13]
     From the beginning, I told Adam I wouldn’t marry him until he was out of debt. And that I wouldn’t have kids with him until at least one of us had a stable income. [14] And that health insurance would be good. Just a few months ago, for my 31st birthday, he tucked a printout of his credit card statement into a birthday card. It had a $0.00 balance. Happy Birthday, honey. I paid off my credit card! I guess now my “yes” is now more official than it was when he pulled the ring out of his sweatpants pocket in front of City Hall on our walk home from the library last September. 
     Anyway, it’s been three and a half years since we met, and we’ve been living together for about three of those and engaged for, I guess, about nine months. I’m on his insurance plan through work, but I pay him for it. We share a car (really, it’s mine) and a phone plan, split according to use. We split bills and groceries. [15] Here’s what my therapist wanted to know: Did Adam’s hesitation to purchase the $75,000 starter home of our dreams have a deeper meaning? And her questions led me to my own line of questioning: Is my dharma to bake lemon bars for my fiancé’s office co-workers and create a detailed filing system for all of our shared accounts and household projects (user manuals, car insurance statements, notes on construction loan products we might look into)? Or should I be focusing on my writing and the evening writing classes I keep talking about putting together to teach and job applications so that I can stop waitressing? In other words, should I be focusing on my own life? On “me” instead of “we”?

After therapy, I went to Starbucks to write down what happened, something I do most weeks. [16] I ordered an iced chai latte and texted back and forth with my sister for a while, then located the graduate course I plan to take in the fall in the course catalog and noted the time. I started another “to-do” list for tonight, which had “What Happened on June 21, 2018?” at the top. [17] Then I went across the street and purchased the pair of running shoes I’d placed on hold last week because I’d wanted time to think about the decision before committing to the $93.75 investment. It started to rain.

By the time I went for a run it was after 8:00p.m. and significantly cooler than it had been here for days. It was a chilly 75 degrees, or thereabouts. While running, I thought about my grandpa’s daily diaries. My maternal grandfather kept a daily diary for years. The first one began as a joint effort. He and my grandma commemorated the day of their wedding, June 2, 1956, with an inaugural diary entry. I wonder now, was the daily diary a wedding gift from someone? Perhaps my great Uncle Claire, who was a writer. [18] After a while, my grandma’s handwriting fades away, but my grandfather continued to record each day’s events for years on his own. Of course, finding an entry for 1958 or 1968 would be ideal (for a nice, round number), but I don’t have those diaries on hand. As far as I know, they’re located in my Aunt Laura’s basement. But what I do have is the actual diary from 1956.
     The details of their day on June 21, 1956 are in my grandfather’s squat handwriting, easy to tell apart from my grandmother’s neat, right-leaning script. The entry reads,
We drove to New Providence last night to my folks, and got there near ten. We went into Eldora this morning, where I saw Dr. Nyquist. He said I was OK, and time would make me more peppy. Later, we went to Marshalltown and ordered another Hide Away bed from Mr. Cox, plus two chrome steel yellow cushioned kitchen chairs. We looked at washing machines on our way home. In the evening, we saw the Deep River Softball girls beaten by one run at Wellston.
     Added later are the prices of the items. $169 for the Hide Away bed. $6.66 for the chairs, though it’s unclear if that was per chair or altogether. These are the notes of two newlyweds preparing for their conjugal home.
     Twenty-nine years and 364 days later, on June 20, 1986, after a six-month battle with leukemia, my grandma died. My grandpa’s entry for that day reads,
Elizabeth died at 9 p.m. today. She had been breathing heavily and had been on oxygen all day. She passed peacefully. I was holding one hand and Julie and Sheilah were holding the other hand. Connie and Colleen had been up earlier—also Laura, Mark and Alisa. [19]
     One year later, on June 21, 1987, I was exactly two months old my grandfather recorded his visit to the Quaker meeting house he regularly attended, and the genealogy work he accomplished that day. It’s disappointing to find that the entry for this day, 31 years ago, isn’t one of the many in which he comments on how proud he was to show me off at the courthouse, where he was the County Supervisor, or makes note of my overall health. Those are the types of entries I enjoy. [20]
     I didn’t remember to call my mom and ask how she was doing yesterday, on the anniversary of her mother’s death. I don’t always remember to do this, but, in recent years, I’ve been making an effort. I don’t know what it would have felt like to lose my mother at age twenty-one, and I don’t know what it would have meant to have a baby at twenty-two. I’m thirty-one now and I’m not sure I’ll know what it’s like to have a baby at all.
     On my run, I took a route I hadn’t taken for a while. It was a beautiful summer evening and for once not too hot, and I saw a total of one person in their yard. The only other people out of doors were the orange-vested energy company workers for Spire.

For dinner, Adam and I had leftover hamburgers from a grill out earlier this week. Adam made basil-mayonaisse with basil from our porch box, but he over-blended it so that it was watery. It looked pretty disgusting, but I put it on my burger anyway. I had a brownie and ice-cream for dessert. The small white bowl I ate out of is still sitting next to me on the coffee table. It’s one of a set of three I scored a few months ago from Goodwill. Handcrafted Cabana porcelain. It’s the exact size of half a grapefruit. Adam has fallen asleep on the other couch with a book laid open on his chest. It looks like he’s about a quarter of the way through the latest Naomi Klein book; something about “NO” is all I can see in the title from here. I’ve stayed up two hours past my goal bedtime of ten p.m. to record all of this. Perhaps one day my descendants—if I have any, if I am not first infected by a brain-eating amoeba—will be as interested in what I had to say about today as I am in what my grandfather had to say about every day for the years he kept a daily record. Or perhaps not. As of five minutes ago, Central Standard Time, June 21, 2018, is over.

*

  1. I wish the word fiancé didn’t sound so pretentious. It’s not that I think all French words are pretentious, just that saying “fiancé,” which is what he is, instead of “boyfriend,” which is what he was before, seems to be making a big announcement. “Everyone! We’re going to get married!” But, this isn’t an announcement I want to make. We don’t have a date set and I’m not sure we ever will. I sort of pressured him into getting me a ring, I think, and now I don’t really like wearing it. I really don’t like the added hassle of having to clean it either, but it looks a lot nicer when I do.
  2. The Big Berkey system was a big (read: expensive) purchase that felt necessary when my fiancé, Adam, and I moved into the rental where we live two years ago. The tap water had—and still has—a dusty flavor and scent that was amplified when we boiled water for tea or carbonated it using the Soda Stream. Also, fancier salt is often marketed as being crucial to proper nasal irrigation, but I’ve relied on the Morton’s girl and her umbrella in the rain for years with no problems.
  3. I only learned about the brain-eating amoeba because, a couple of years ago, my mom sent me an alarming message th
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