conversations with strangers #135


The automatic door forgot its one job, so the man in front of me labored through the heavy door and held it for me.

“There you go,” he said.

As my hand replaced his on the frame, I pushed it a little more. “Oh. There. It caught. Of course. Now that we’re both through the door.”

“Just my luck,” he said.

For that brief moment, we were together in the same boat. Stuck in the midst of a non-working world. Which, yes, is a direct analogy for this post election USA.


two babies and a condo

Mac3 doesn’t (yet) have an extensive vocabulary, but her curiosity is endless, especially when riding in the car. She faces backwards while her older siblings (Big Mac and Bubba Mac) ride forwards. The inferiority of her positioning has led to a continual stream of “Whazthat?” after every strange noise and bump.


Since her eyes can’t see what her ears can hear, she questions everything, which last weekend led me down a path of answering her every 5-15 seconds, and of using my hearing more acutely. It was a fun exercise using my senses in a different way to figure out what she might have heard, but come on, Mac3, windshield wipers sound the same every single time!

Yes, of course, I was suckered into answering every single “Whazthat?” because having her communicate with more than just pointing and screeching was a true delight.

Later that weekend, I got to meet RJS, my college roommate’s four month old who is impressively alert and attentive to her surroundings. She and I had a staring contest for probably 7 minutes straight while I spoke quietly to her about life and the future and the present and boys and food and dates and football and our surroundings and she never broke eye contact once. It was strange and amazing. I believe she could see through my words and was judging me based on the tone behind them.


Or maybe she was just egging me on to see how long I would talk.

Either way, she let me hold her during a variety of outings, so I guess I wasn’t found lacking.

My point? Both babies eerily mirror my current mindset as I delve into the world of real estate. After my seventh offer over the course of two plus years, I finally got an acceptance, and now I find myself asking my realtor, my lawyer, my coworker, and my parents WHAZTHAT? about every huge and intricate detail I had no idea existed in home-ownership-dom.

Adulting is scary hard.

Sometimes the answers to my questions are too much and all I can do is steely stare at my surroundings, like RJS. Maybe I’m hoping I can laser beam an answer out of the walls and windows and dormered ceilings.

I haven’t yet found the answers, but they’re letting me move in, so I guess I haven’t been found lacking.


adventures of cathy and abby

It’s fortunate my mom has a grand sense of adventure because foot surgery is not for the faint of heart, especially, and including, the caregiver(s).

I learned to walk using crutches. Then a walking cast. It was a momentous day when 18 days post surgery I reached the bottom of my parents’ driveway. Checking the mail has never been so exciting. Mom learned the art of city driving and how to find and claim a parking spot on the street. She also figured out how to use a pedestrian in the crosswalk as a means of blocking traffic so she could make a turn.

I learned how to be patient, how to be dependent, and how to ask for help. Those were tough lessons. Mom learned my kitchen, my front staircase, my back staircase, the laundry machines in the basement, my neighborhood.

I learned the angles of my studio apartment and the places crutches could fit and how not to rest them against the doorway because they’ll crash onto the floor and at 3am it’ll sound like a gun shot and what my bed feels like after 23 hours in it. Mom learned the contents of my “pantry” and my fridge and could whip up a meal or snack to satisfy her pain addled daughter.

I learned how to install two different DVD players. Mom learned how to install a new toilet seat. Which she did like a boss!

Mom learned how to eat at the bar. And how to order a drink not on the menu. And how to turn down a free drink and then be told it’s on the house. I learned I can still drive because my right foot is healthy. It’s my left that (was) encased in the cast / walking cast.

I learned how important physical and mental balance are. Everyone had to walk on eggshells around my physical immobility and emotional instability. That lesson re: patience came in handy here. Mom had many of her own questions about my recovery, the prognosis, and the eye glasses my doctor was wearing when he removed the stitches. He was quite chatty during that appointment.

Mom: That was nice of him to share so much about his travels.

Me: I thought it was a bit much.

Mom: I mean it was kind of him to spend so much time with you.

Me: It’s probably because he has a crush on you.

Mom: *laughs* If you say so. I thought it was cute you instructed him to give you bad news so I’d stay longer.

It’s true. This was the one time I wished for bad news so there’d be a reason for Mom to stick around and have more adventures.


swimming adrenaline junkie style

A shipwrecked boat sat tantalizing close. We eyed it from the beach, from the water, from the street, and over the course of a few lazy days, discussed the best way to get to it. An opportunity presented itself when T took the kids in for lunch, leaving L, N, and me to our own devices.

The beach stretched and curved and offered tons of space. Shells and deep grooves in the black sand from previous tides littered our path. We dragged our feet through the water using it as a natural source of air conditioning.

Ankle deep. Knee deep. Waist deep. “How good of a swimmer are you?” L and N asked me.

I shrugged. “I mean, I can swim, but I never took official proper lessons.”

At their questioning looks, I nodded and away we went.

N, who spends his work days on the water and who runs more often than not, quickly separated from us. L and I swam slow and steady. I alternated between a piss poor formed freestyle stroke, breast stroke, and elementary back stroke.

I kept my eyes trained on N, L, and the boat, but soon focused solely on L and N because the current wasn’t taking no for an answer and I didn’t want to see how far off course I was. Doubling down, I began the side stroke, repeating the movements in my head as I imagined what my camp counselors used to say.

I tumbled between the different swimming strokes, as varied and hurried as my breath.

A sharp lash stung my cheek. A jellyfish I thought and swam faster and a little away from where I was. Ugly but effective strokes. I began to make progress. Somewhat. It depended on your definition of progress.

L: I’m not going to be able to make it.

Me: You okay?

L: Yeah, but yeah, not making it to the ship.

Me: Okay, no problem. I’m happy to stop. Let’s go back.

We signaled to N who was nearly to the beached boat. The current was more ferocious now, but it was coming in, which we used that to our advantage. L and I checked in with each other using “okay?” “okay” and hand signals as we tried to conserve our breath. She was dragged behind some anchored boats while I and my camp memories sliced through the water aiming for a point higher up the beach.

It was an arbitrary point, but I held on tight to it. Side stroke all the way now. It was less strenuous and seemingly more effective. Summer campfire songs and the Wabansi lake and all those years I attend Camp Nyoda filtered through my mind. Just another day at summer camp, I thought.

A helicopter appeared above the beach where N was and circled in the general vicinity of L and me. The water flattened and pulsed around L, as I chanted to myself “don’t make any signs of distress. You’re not in distress. You’re fine.” I side stroked on.

The helicopter made one more pass and disappeared as suddenly as it appeared.

I licked my teeth. They tasted of salt.

A man walked out of a little cabin as L and I dragged ourselves onto the beach. We each formed a point of a strange triangle.

L and I met up and she confessed her terror and her plan to hang onto one of the anchored boats for rest. I apologized for not realizing her mental state, as I certainly would have angled closer to her for comfort, support, familiarity if I’d known how badly she needed it. I laughed at how weirdly calm I felt. I confessed I’d been channeling my childhood summer days spent at camp.

By then, N had searched the boat and began his way back to us. He walked up and out as far as the sand allowed and slipped into the water. L choked back more fear as we studied her husband’s strong, but fruitless movements, and I softly talked to her about square breathing.

In for four counts. Out for four counts. In for four counts. Out for four counts. Break. Repeat.

The sound of a motor boat starting up pulled our attention away from N. The boat reached N in 15 seconds and he deftly clamored in. Once on the beach, N briefly conferred with the man who had reached the beach when L and I had, and then he ran over to us.

L: You okay?

N: Oh yeah. I’m fine. I could have made it, but I’m not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Miguel, the boat driver, said something about the current. And tiburóns.

L and me: What’s a tiburón?

N, our best Spanish speaker of the bunch, said: I think, sharks.

The calm facade I’d been cradling cracked and trickled down my body along with the salt water dripping off my bathing suit. I’d thought I’d come into contact with the only danger in that part of the sea – a jellyfish – but the realization we’d been swimming with sharks sent my adrenaline surging faster than the tide coming in.

We numbly began the trek back to the house. L and N had a quiet, sharp conversation while tiburóns swam in my head larger and louder and more real than they’d been while I was in the water.

L turned her ministrations to me as she took in my ashen face and mute voice. She repeated my earlier words about square breathing. In for four counts. Out for four counts. In for four counts. Out for four counts. Break. Repeat.

We were on dry land. Nothing here but the echo of our bad decision.

convos with strangers

conversations with strangers #125


Her: So, this isn’t the Ritz.

Me: I wasn’t expecting it to be.

Her: I mean, some places have really nice sleep labs.

Me: They do? Oh wow, I didn’t know that. This is sort of what I was anticipating.

Her: So when you’re ready, I’ll have you sit in this chair and we’ll get you hooked up with all the wires so you’ll look like Frankenstein.

Me: *thinks to self: looking like Dr. Frankenstein wouldn’t be much different than I look now. Looking like Frankenstein’s monster however…* *remains silent due to nerves*

I changed into my PJs, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got as comfy as one can be when she’s in a hospital’s sleep lab. The tech was waiting for me when I re-opened the door.

Her: *chats about what the electrodes are for, the red wax pencil, measures my head, my neck, discusses brand of tape used to secure electrodes onto my face*

Me: *sits mostly quietly*

Her: I saw this thing on Facebook. This man was using Drano, you know as you do, to clean a clogged drain and two tiny splashes got on him and now he has flesh eating bacteria. He had to get his hand amputated. They thought they got it all, but now it’s back. I mean, crazy story right.

Me: *gulps* Yikes.

I have zero idea how she expects me to sleep after a story like that?!