(this is annie)

at the park

Chay: You know, Soandso wears nice clothes. I think he's a metrosexual.

Vincent: I don't know...

Me: I don't think he's a metrosexual.

Chay: Well, I think any guy who brushes his teeth is a metrosexual.

to market

The morning is sweaty-hot, and aside from the toddlers in strollers, Carlos and I might be the youngest people at the antique market. We're surrounded by baby boomers, elderly couples, people our age whose lifestyle—dogs, babies, mortgage—propels them closer to middle age than us.

The market is enormous and better curated than what I'd expected. Dealers from all over the midwest have set up shop, and the result is overwhelming. It would take a few hours to look at everything, so we don't even try. We like a lot of the same things. Chairs, mostly. I spot a pair of white Bertoia side chairs, exactly what I've been looking for, but they've already been sold for a ridiculously low price that makes me jealous.

The strange thing is, when you see all of this stuff in one place, it makes you not want to buy anything at all. There's so much of it, and it's all old, and you realize how unnecessary it is to manufacture new nightstands (or curtains, or whatever) when there are so many existing ones. I left without buying anything, and then pedaled home to a house already full of too much.


dining / comments

Paul came over for dinner last night. I made tomato-broccoli quiche (with homegrown basil!) and an oddball salad whose ingredients—mixed greens, strawberries, pears, blueberries, and orange-shallot vinaigrette—shouldn't have worked together, but they did so nicely. I think Paul found my culinary mutterings amusing. "Ohhnonononono," I muttered to the milky middle of the quiche. "I forgot the olive oil!" I yelped after creating a reduction of orange juice and vegetable stock. And so on. Still, dinner turned out well. We ate everything except one slice of quiche, and Paul had his first-ever taste of mochi. I missed cooking for other people.

crispety crunchety

Today, my therapist said that she sometimes doesn't know how to help me, because I seem to be strong and pulled-together. There is some truth to this. Sometimes I feel like I need to constantly show progress, but the problem is that I keep most of my problems to myself. I don't like to bother people with boo-hooing, and I don't like to appear weak. I am trying to show more vulnerability, which is difficult but coming along slowly. To my therapist I said, "I'm like a Butterfinger, though: Nice and solid on the outside but a bit crumbly on the inside." Deliciously crumbly, I wanted to add.


The phone rings. I expect it to be the Blockbuster robot, reminding me of my overdue copy of This Gun For Hire, but instead it's a suburban telephone number. I pick up the phone curiously.

"HELLO!" my mother crows jubilantly. "HOW ARE YOU, HONEY?"

"Where are you?" I ask. "Are you at Mary's?" Mary is her longtime friend who lives in Lombard. Mary's mother is sick, so I wonder if perhaps my mother has come to the suburbs to comfort her friend.

"I AM USING A NOKIA!" she continues. She sounds sloppily excited, as though she's been hitting the Franzia again.

"But where are you?" I continue.


Oh Jesus. I can see where this is all headed: lots of phone calls from Target ("they have Hanes Her Way briefs on sale, honey, do you need some?"), calls while driving, and the inevitable call to complain about the inevitably high mobile bill. It's very sweet to think that my father will use the phone, but in our family there's only one big talker, and that person does not share any of his genes.


walton street

I left my bag, phone, money, everything at home. Sometimes I like to leave the house with nothing on me, because it makes me feel unencumbered. When I arrived at Paul's building, a young Ukrainian couple was cuddling conspiratorially in front of the steps. They looked like amorous criminals, the man spitting and the woman gazing lovingly at his phlegm on the sidewalk. As I locked my bike, I listened to them hiss as they moved closer. Half-expecting them to push me from behind, I tightened my body and prepared to duck, jump, or do whatever you're supposed to do when you're being attacked by Ukrainian thugs in love. But it didn't happen. They just watched me and talked with each other. I could feel their hate on my back as I rang the doorbell.

top five

Every day, in my paper journal, I write down five good things. The goal is to actively appreciate my life. It's a self-helpy, touchy-feely thing to do, but it does help put things in perspective. Sometimes the list has serious things (father's cancerous mole removed safely) and other times it's silly (did not embarrass self at party by talking about squirrel foraging habits).

Today's list:
5. Amusement Parks on Fire is either a guilty pleasure or the band that's providing this year's summer jam, "Venus in Cancer." Maybe both.

4. Therapy was, uh, therapeutic. I feel grounded and confident, ready to take on what needs fixin'. Even the stuff I am a little scared of taking on. After therapy, I had a nice lunch of inari and a cupcake. Those are two of my favorite snacks.

3. Despite the teasing disdain of Ben Calhoun, Chicago Public Radio, I will enjoy watching two hours of pretty Angelina in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As I told Ben, not everything has to be Fellini.

2. In the morning, I saw Sean at the El stop. It was nice to have a friend to talk with on the way to work. Later, I ran into my sister-in-law Karen, who is always great to see.

1. This extends backwards one day, but yesterday I had lunch with my best friend from grade school. Only a few weeks previous, I'd been talking about how I wish we hadn't lost touch over the years. She e-mailed me last week, and yesterday we saw each other for the first time in 13 years. She's beautiful and as funny and wonderful as ever. We talked and laughed as though no years had passed at all.


hell money

Somebody—I don't know who—mailed me a bracelet. It's made of colored twine and it has three brass coins with Chinese characters. There's no way for me to figure out what they say. I'm going to take it as a lucky sign.

Lately I have more energy than I can use. It's as though I've been tired for a year, and all the pent-up energy is now flooding my life. The irony, of course, is that I can't keep a normal sleep schedule. Sometimes I find myself wide awake at 3am, walking around the playground even though I know better than to do so alone. Being alone outside somehow feels better than being alone in the apartment, though.

burton / victoria

It is midnight, and we are going to the roof.

"I don't think you'll be able to move that," he says, referring to the wooden lid covering the entrance. I am on tiptoes while standing on a ladder. When I first try to move the lid, my arm muscles fold; he's right, I think, it's too heavy. But then I push my entire body upward and manage to force it aside. I scrape my right wrist against rough wood or a roof shingle, I can't tell which.

"No, I've got it," I say. "But I hurt my wrist a little." This is the second injury of the day. Hours earlier, when the sun was still glowering at the city, my right foot had broken through a rotten porch floorboard, scraping my ankles but not pulling blood. No blood on my wrist, either. It feels like there should have been blood.

I hoist myself up into the midnight air and adjust my sagging dress. He follows, carrying a bottle of Pilsner Urquell and an out-of-tune souvenir ukulele. "This is my last time up here," he says, and so it is mine too.

The city is smeared out for miles, fuzzy from the muggy heat and oversaturated glow of streetlamps. Skyscrapers stand in soft focus to the east, and the street behind us is still. Even though I know better, it feels like the city is asleep.

Without consulting each other, we walk to the south side of the roof and lie down, our heads resting on its upturned brick lip. The roof surface has been painted silver, and it's bright enough to tell that it's probably carrying dirt from a leftover rain. I worry that my dress will be soiled, leaving two smudged spots where my butt rests. But then I think that I've already sat down, so it doesn't matter.

We stare at the sky, which is a muted blue from the city lights. When I was little, I used to think that I could see the stars moving, but they were airplanes. Now I am ready to assume that we're watching jets. "I see two stars," he says without looking at me. "No, five." I see more than five. If you look long enough, you can find as many as you want to see.

After a moment, he holds up the ukulele. "Should I smash this?" he asks. That was the original plan. Now that it's silent on the roof, we worry about waking the neighbors. But we worry too much in general, and so I encourage him to smash the thing if only to feel adventurous. He walks over to a pipe sticking out of the roof and assumes the Pete Townshend pose. With one quick whack, the ukulele sends pieces of shattered wood and plastic string over the roof. Goodbye, Puerto Vallarta ukulele. That's that, and soon we are lying back on the roof floor again, watching the night sky slowly spill above us.

lovitt? oh, i do

My favorite sit-down, not-so-cheap restaurant in Chicago is probably Lovitt, which is a tiny ten-table place on Ashland just across from a gaudy tire store. Its coziness reminds me of Brooklyn restaurants, and the food is consistently tasty. The menu, which changes each week, always has at least two vegetarian entrees. The desserts are flavorful but not too rich; the one I dream about most is like a gourmet Ho-Ho. Lovitt is closing at the end of the month because the hubby-and-wife owners are moving. This is a loss, but I'm making the best of it by having a pulling-out-all-the-stops dinner, replete with appetizer and dessert, this weekend. I can't wait. If you live in Chicago, it's worth slipping in for a meal before June dries up.

bizarro dream

Last night I dreamed this:

It was Thanksgiving, and I was at my parents' house. I was still in this limbo with Phil, who I knew was at our neighbor's house with his family. (In real life as in the dream, our neighbor is the father of my first high-school boyfriend, Ryan.) I wanted to send Phil a text message but couldn't get any service unless I did a stretchy yoga pose. I was nervous because I'd brought my girlfriend, who looked vaguely like Lindsay, to the house for Thanksgiving dinner. In the basement laundry room, I noticed that my parents had installed three black flat-panel televisions that hung upside-down from the ceilings. "We watch too much TV," I thought. Then I went upstairs to tell my family that the fake Lindsay was actually my girlfriend, and that we were at Thanksgiving dinner as a couple. My brother, who didn't look like any of my real brothers, started screaming that I was a sinner and that I was going to hell. My parents were confused. Fake Lindsay sat on my mother's lap, topless. To show his support, my father became a British drag queen; he wore a mousy brown bob and magenta rouge and sat in his recliner.

I walked outside and talked on the telephone with Marcy (who, again, in real life is Ryan's sister). "Phil is here and he keeps looking over toward your house, which is making his girlfriend upset," she said. I let out a loud and long howl, then ran through the forest to the road. I heard someone mimicking my howl from afar. I took a bus for a few miles and then hopped off near a campground where I used to swim as a child. My guitar was strapped on my back, and I walked east on a gravel road. I was hoping to run into Marcy and Phil. I found them playing soccer in the middle of the road, next to apple orchards. Marcy was on the sidelines, Rick was leaping impossibly high as the goalie, and Phil was there but wearing Ryan's face. "Everything is all right," he kept saying. "But your body isn't right," I told him. "And my father is a drag queen now." A car approached the soccer game, and then it all ended.

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fake love and ice cream

Yesterday I ran across Chuck Klosterman's essay on "fake love." I cringed to see shades of my former self in his description of women who pine for Lloyd Dobler. I used to do that. I had a mental list of ridiculous qualities that Dreamy McLoveyoulots was supposed to have. I was still young and arrogant enough to think that I'd fall madly in love with a vegetarian teetotaler with straight-leg pants and preferably a scooter. I know, it's dumb. I ditched the checklist approach a while ago (good), sadly moved on to placing rigid demands on a relationship (bad). I know, that's dumb, too. I'm not proud of it.

When Phil and I got in the stupid beach fight, I didn't display much maturity or rationality throughout. I barked ultimata and hurled accusations and acted as though I had all the answers. After some calm reflection, I realized, I did not have the answers. And weirdly, suddenly, I realized that what I really wanted was not promises for the future or two weeks in Europe together rather than one or any of that crabby nonsense. I just wanted what I had with him: someone who loved me without judgment and who made me effortlessly happy. When I realized that what I wanted was so simple, I had a jubilant epiphany followed by some serious oh-shit irony.

I don't think he believes me when I say that I no longer care about the things that used to seem so important. But it's like flipping a switch: the stuff that used to get me so worked up and upset is less than insignificant now. I just don't care about those things or even think about them anymore. It's stunning and humbling, this reversal. It's like bellying up to a picnic table full of ice cream, whining that you want pie, and then by the time you realize that you never even wanted pie, that ice cream is what you really wanted, the ice cream has melted in the summer sun.


Every morning as I wait for the elevator to the office, I say hello to the building security guard. We make small talk about politics, mostly. He is quiet and young and maybe a little sad in the way that I am often a little sad. Throughout the past few months we've become chums of sorts. Sometimes I wonder if we'd be friends outside of the building, but I like our little relationship the way it is. I don't have a crush on him, but I like seeing him every day. It's consistently pleasant, something to look forward to, a secret ally in a baggy beige suit.

say hello

    it's anniet at gmail.


© 2009 avt

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