“…and equitably speaking, it’s abysmal. The system is failing them. Our children are being left behind.” I had pens lined up along my college adviser’s desk, modeling the achievement gap due to summer learning loss and income inequality. My hair was falling out of my ponytail and my brow was unnecessarily sweaty.
She blinked at me through her Sally Jesse Raphael glasses, and handed me a print off of my fall class schedule. “Here is what you should take next year.” Her pink finger nail tapped the top of the page with a click.
“Will these help me become a principal?” I asked her. I already knew how to look up my classes online. I had come to her for advice.
“I really am not sure.” She fumbled with a couple pamphlets in her top desk drawer and handed me one with crumbled corners that said “Graduate School and You” on the top in forest green letters. It had been stuffed in the desk drawer so long I expected a puff of dust when I opened it.
“Is there someone I can talk to today about how to–” she was closing her filing cabinet loudly. “How to ensure I am taking the right courses to set me up to become a principal?”
“You’re an education major. I’m sure you’re fine.” She stood and rotated her hips towards the door. The universal sign for get out of here, please. We are done.
These meetings continued throughout the rest of my 4 years in college. Advisers often having very little advice but to carry forward with my outlined courses, like robots at an airport, waving me through to my next destination without checking my ticket.
In my classes I learned how to teach geometry, pre-calculus, physics, chemistry, and I spent more practicum hours in the classroom than any of my peers at nearby institutions. Thanks to their robotic system, I was completely prepared to be a teacher but I was fairly certain I was looking to be something else.
I knew, mathematically speaking, I could teach approximately 1,200 students how to add and subtract negative numbers in 40 years of teaching. But that even if I did, that it wouldn’t change the centuries of systematic inequalities that were built to hold them back professionally, and personally after they left the K-12 system. I could write the most perfect lesson about the understanding the earth’s atmosphere, but my students absolutely couldn’t eat it if they hadn’t had a meal in two days. And what good was it to try to teach a bunch of hungry 13 year-old kids on a hot September day? I could spend hours with my favorite student, curbing behaviors ingrained in them after decades of abuse and neglect, only to have them derailed the following year by a teacher unprepared for their specific learning needs.
Every day that I spent in the classroom observing, interning, student teaching, I became more and more passionate that our education system needed a complete and total overhaul. I read everything I could my hands on about community school systems, education reform, family assistance education programs, voucher programs, magnet schools, charter schools, teacher training.
After an undergraduate degree, a master’s license program, and a year at a middle school teaching math, I landed a job in a city school system working to “remove non-academic barriers” to education. It was a grassroots program that included teacher professional development, community building, parent education, and social services. Instead of a classroom of 30, I would have 500 students and I would be working alongside the principal, the city, and the district administration to reform the educational practices at our little elementary school. I would be working 60-70 hours a week and I was ecstatic. I felt like this would be the ticket to change. I knew that there would be red tape of every kind, from decades old policy to stubborn old white men, but I was optimistic and proud.
On my first day at the school, I thought back to my meeting with Sally Jesse Raphael and her pink fingernails and her useless pamphlets. I thought about how far I had come. I spent the day sorting through an old filing cabinet, searching for community partners and parent connections that might strengthen our school.
“Oh MY GOD.” I wheeled around at the squeak. His name was Gabe and he had just come running in from the playground. He was about 3 feet tall and was missing so many of his front teeth I would be truly shocked if the tooth fairy wasn’t bankrupt.
“What is it buddy?”
“This kid! This kid just spit on me! Right on my head! Right here!” He was pointing to the middle of his head, where sure enough there was a very visible spot of foamy white spit.
“Oh well, that seems…” I had never worked with elementary school kids before. Only middle school. I covered my mouth with my hand so he wouldn’t know I was smiling.
Gabe threw his hands in the air. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before!” Tears began streaming down his face as he paced my office. “What are we going to do!?”
He began to spin out, his tiny body shaking in sobs. As a single woman with no nieces or nephews, not even a friend with a dog, I truly didn’t know what to do in this scenario. I got down on my knees and looked Gabe in the eyes, “Gabe, honey, you’re just…you’re just going to need to get a grip.” He blinked. I blinked. “Okay?”
We stayed like that for the briefest of moments, Gabe and I.
I was crouched in front of him between my new desk and his acorn of a face, spittle dripping down the side of his ear. He wiped a few tears from his eyes, measuring my sanity, I think. And then he let out one, low, hollow sob.
I stood up with a sigh, draping my arm around Gabe’s shaking shoulders as he sputtered and screeched. I was completely prepared to dismantle the educational system, but I was not prepared for this.
There is a pink post-it stuck to the side of my computer. It is the color of my 1989 Barbie convertible and it curls at the edges because I’ve had it for so long. I even brought it home with me from my office in case I needed it during quarantine.
I’m known for inaccuracy and sporadic documentation techniques but this is perhaps the second most cryptic note I have ever written.
I refuse to part with this square of paper until I can figure out what it is that I am supposed to do, and who I am supposed to email when I have finished.
I don’t usually keep notes on post-its. They are unreliable and often walk away with the wind, or on the elbows of those people that lean on your desk with their face inches from you and your computer screen like you’re actually asking them to get into the spreadsheets you are showing them even though you keep asking them if they maybe need an Altoid.
No, I mostly keep notes and lists in my phone because they are much, much safer there. That is generally where I write down which books I need to read, and what types of tomatoes I need to buy in order to make Italian chicken and risotto. It’s also where I keep ideas for stellar, knock your socks off presents for next Christmas and for my neighbors, dog’s Bar mitzvah. I have a million notes to myself. Everything from “remember to buy toothpaste” to “look up the meaning of the word pettifogging”. I’m incessant about writing things down.
Like, why do I know the date and year that one of my bffs lost her virginity? Why? Because I wrote down something else very important on that day whilst she was telling me about her new life development, and now the two are smushed together for forever like a weird peanut butter and virginity sandwich that gets served up in my memory every September 14th.
But this is a risk I am willing to take, because if I don’t write every single thing down, I will forget just as much of these things, sure as the sun will rise in the morning. Which probably also won’t happen if I didn’t write it down every day. Which is why this note is consuming.
What is it that I should be sure not to over brand? What if I’ve already over branded it and now whatever it is, is out there just super wild and over the top. Like what if I was in charge of Joe Exotic?
Why did I cross off “you” just to write it again? Was I going to assign this task to someone else originally and then decided to take on this project myself.
Such a control freak.
What if I could have delegated this to someone else? The fact that I didn’t leads me to believe that it was far too important.
I will honestly take any advice or thoughts, unless it’s that “don’t over brand” means that I should stop buying name brand canned tomatoes. My mom taught me that they are the best and it’s one of those things that I have found to be incredibly true and I absolutely don’t want to go back to mediocre chili.
For now, I’ll have to table this investigation, though, because I have a lot of scraping around to do.
“Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Can I have a pop-tart?” I was bouncing on the balls of my feet, leaning on the kitchen counter as he washed the dishes from dinner. My legs were going a mile a minute while staying rooted in one spot in anticipation. I, of course, hadn’t wanted a single thing that had been laid across my dinner plate but I certainly wanted one of those fat-free, no icing, strawberry pop-tarts my dad kept in the left-hand corner in the pantry. It was somewhere between 1995 and 1998 so fat-free meant it was basically a piece of fruit.
He didn’t look up from the dishes he was washing, but smiled at me all the same. After a pause long enough the Louisiana Purchase could have been drafted, he finally answered. “I reeeeeeeeeeeeckon.” The word was slower than a beige 1974 Buick pulling out of church on Sunday.
I stared at him through squinty eyes as he dried a coffee cup, my seven year old brain trying to decide what to do with “a reckon”. I wanted to tease him but I also wanted a pop-tart.
My dad came into our lives when I was very small and my mom met him at the university library where they both worked. He was as quiet as a church mouse, and his gentlemanly ways and soft knit cardigans blended in nicely among the medical books. His quiet self made a quiet transition into our quiet life. I think our dog, Jessica Muffin, barked a bit much for his tastes but she grew on him. Aside from her aggressive attention to squirrels, she was a very well behaved dog, and despite what her name might imply, she was not a stripper.
I don’t remember the day I met my dad, but the first memory I have of him is a casserole of memories, all of which involve him carrying me on his back around our house like a horse, running wildly, as fast as I would scream for him to go. This stands out because for the rest of our lives we would tease him for being slow. What I now realize as an adult is being deliberate. My tiny little self demanded him to be reckless and my always careful dad, compiled because he loved me so very, very much.
My dad set the coffee cup down and picked up another dirty dish. He cleaned dishes with the intensity of disarming a bomb.
My stomach growled. I decided to accept “the reckon” and eat the pop-tart.
It was dry, and the fat-free additives gave it a chemical aftertaste as I sucked the strawberry filling out of the middle.
I watched as my dad wiped down the counter. First the left, then the right. Never missing the middle part that separated the two wells. He shook the water from his hands over the sink like he was baptizing it with holy water. This was the signal he had finished with the dishes.
He turned and started to walk across the kitchen, pausing for a brief moment to look at me in my Little Mermaid pajamas, curled up under the kitchen lights.
His eye caught the pink crusted plate and he frowned. A cartoon frown that said “I’m not happy but I’m not mad.”
I shrank back in my seat with a giant, strawberry-filling grin reminding him he had given me “a reckon”. He picked up my plate and patted my head. I knew it would take him at least five minutes to scrub all the strawberry jelly off the plate for me, and I just never loved anyone more.
When I was in my tens, which is an awkward way to say say I was in middle school, I met the loves of my life. Their names are Amy, Elli, and Valerie, always in that order. When I say their names, it comes out as one quick string of syllables, like a song lyric you’ve sung a thousand times but you aren’t quite sure what it is that you’re singing.
Over the years I’ve sat down to write about these women and found, as I am finding now, that it’s nearly impossible to find the words to write about people who have influenced everything from how I wear my hair, to how I talk about sexual assault. We’ve cried together, screamed together, laughed together. We’ve walked 10 miles in blazing heat to beat curfew, together. We’ve picked each other up at gas stations in the middle of nowhere, rolled down hills, flown across states, and eaten countless boxes of mac and cheese, together. We have sat in silence so many times, together, that we’ve exhausted the words that needed to be said.
I think we’re almost too good to read.
When we met I was about the size of a matchstick, and brooded constantly about the fact that my clothes still came from the kid’s section. If I had known that I wouldn’t look like a proper human until I was 18 I might have spent less time complaining and more time enjoying discount clothing. It was 1999, and while I admittedly adored “The Artist Formerly Known As”, I was far too much of a loser to have any idea how to party.
Unlike the foursomes you see in movies, we weren’t simply and easily “just together”. We went to different schools, I was in a different grade, our parents ran in different circles. There was literally zero chance that our siblings would end up romantically entwined, or that we would have crushes on the same boys in math class. We were all from different sides, different socioeconomic landscapes, of the same Midwestern valley, drawn together by a small children’s theater in an old elementary school at the bottom of a hill behind a water park. It was all very Ohio.
Amy was, and is, tall with hair that hit her chin at a curve and a laugh that broke the sound barrier. Elli was all limbs and corners, and had bangs that hit the middle of her forehead, unfinished like most of her sentences. Valerie sang from her fingers to her curls. She became my style icon the very first day I met her.
I remember asking Amy if she thought we would all four be friends for forever. I was always the sentimental buzzkill, ruining a naturally fun moment with anxiety and a constant need to be loved. My therapist would tell me that it’s because I’m a child of divorce. I would counter and say it’s just because I’m obnoxious. Amy told me she didn’t know if the group would always be friends, but she knew that we would always be.
Amy was darkly loving like that. She was soft in the heart and hard at the jawline. She was a romantic, poetic even in the notes that we folded into footballs and shoved through the school bus windows. She had more depth than the pool where we played Sharks and Minnows, which was a lot for any 12 year old brain.
But she was certain of me because I was safe. That’s the other way I can be obnoxious. I have the loyalty of a golden retriever and once I love you, I will stick to you like a Styrofoam peanut in the middle of winter.
I met Amy first and loved her like the way you know you love cheese, instantly and unconditionally. I knew immediately that I wanted to spend every snow day with her. That’s the kind of love it was.
We lived within walking distance of each other’s houses, which was important because our parents worked hard and watched the evening news on a specific schedule. Teenage heartbreak peaks during the evening news.
Most of our friendship was defined by walking. Neither of us would own our own car until deep into our twenties. Driving hand-me downs with holes in the floor and questionable airbags was a privilege. Our geographic proximity gave us an allowance to deepen our bond and to this day, regardless of professions, or hometowns, her friendship has been the most inexpensive friendship I’ve ever subscribed to.
“What a pair.” Her dad would say, as we lay giggling on the floor. And what a pair we were.
To be continued….
“Call your senator and tell him he’s so full of shit his eyes are brown!”
I hung up the phone.
“They aren’t open.” I echoed to the room.
We had called our favorite tender at our favorite bar to see if we could throw back one more beer and throw down a couple extra twenties for the staff before the state shut everything down. From the sounds of it, we were too late.
Flash forward one hundred years, and a five pound bag of rice and here we are. Maybe it’s only been a month, but I know I’ve had my fill of rice, and I’ve read every Tiger King tweet that exists.
The bars and restaurants are still closed, but Ohio just issued an “emergency order” to allow carryout alcoholic drinks. Honestly, we already have drive through liquor stores so it was a slippery slope anyway. Governor DeWine was quoted as saying, “This was in response to requests from restaurants who have a liquor license, but also, I suspect, from some of the folks out there who do carry out with these restaurants.”
And, I have to say, he suspects correctly.
What does this say? Why is this important?
This “emergency” order, as absurd as it sounds, says that our politicians are listening. This purple Midwestern state, full of buckeyes and ranch dressing, participated in collective action. It might have been an oddly specific area of focus, but the people have spoken and they created change. The birthplace of aviation, Neil Armstrong, and small appliances, collectively convinced our governor that carryout tacos aren’t delicious enough without carryout margaritas. We put down our corn on the cob, combined our voices and said that our small businesses deserved to temporarily serve us hard liquor in to-go cups because their livelihood depended on it.
This order is proof that participating in democracy works. Voting matters. Tweeting at your mayor matters. Knowing who sits on your local school board matters.
So whether you’re calling your senator to tell him “he’s so full of shit his eyes are brown”, or you’re calling them to tell them you believe access to health care is a universal right, it’s important to tell your story. If we can get to-go cups of liquor, we can get insurance to cover pre-existing conditions, and teachers equitable pay. We can protect survivors of sexual assault, and keep their perpetrators off the bench. If we care this much about our restaurants, we should care this much about our schools.
I know that I care about both.
So Ohio, coronavirus may have thrown us a curve-ball, but it did not cancel the game. Grab yourself a to-go margarita and file for your absentee ballot today. It’s the only way that you are able to vote.
- Deadline to request absentee ballot: April 25, 2020
- Deadline to postmark mail-in ballots: April 27, 2020
- In-person voting for Ohioans with disabilities: April 28, 2020
- Deadline for mail-in ballots to be received: May 8, 2020
There are two types of people.
Those that sing the instrumental parts of a song, and those that don’t.
I am the first.
Currently, I have a song stuck in my head, but it’s just the musical part of the song, and so of course it’s completely un-Google-able.
Dun-dunnnnn dundun. Dundundundun BOOM chaaaaaaaaaaaaaa lalalalala daaaaaaaaaaaaa blaaaaaaaaaaaaalonggggggggggg dunnnnn
Weirdly, blaaaaaaaaaaaaalonggggggggggg dunnnnn gave me zero search results.
It gave me one, but it was inappropriate and I don’t want to sing about it.
I discovered that not everyone was a person who liked to sing the instrumental part of music when I was in high school. I had just memorized the entire soundtrack to Moulin Rouge instead of the capitals of South American countries. To this day, its debatable which was more important for my future. There is this particular part of the “Elephant Love Medley” where Ewan McGregor is dancing around on an elephant’s butt and he’s singing with the voice of an angel and he belts “WE COULD BE HEROES!” High school Mary was singing along and of course, added a nice loud “BOOM!” after, imitating a bass drum with crazed enthusiasm. But apparently not everyone knew that “lyric”.
And that’s when I learned.
Not everyone sings the instrumental parts of songs.
It was humiliating and I refused to sing like bass drum in public again.
That is until I found my people.
It turns out there are hoards of people who like to sing the instrumental part of music. It’s true. You might not believe me, but I promise. You’re probably married to someone who can sing every Jimmi Hendrix guitar solo and you don’t even know it. I discovered all these people are gathering together semi regularly to sing like band instruments. These gatherings are called Ben Folds concerts.
It’s truly wild how we all found each other in this big wide world. At his concerts, Ben encourages this kind behavior by having the audience sing the parts of the songs that he can’t play on his piano. He will jump around on the stage and wave his arms while singing about throwing his phone in the pool or how bitches aren’t really that much shit and somehow, the crowd knows what noises to make to create music. I know that only a very small percent of us truly know the first thing about instrumentals and the rest us are just squawking along with a hope and a prayer, but with a little bit of beer and some professional conducting, Ben Folds fans can imitate trumpets, drums, guitars, flutes, maracas… whatever is needed to finish the song.
I promise, it’s way cooler than it sounds.
If you don’t believe me, tune in to his virtual concert on Saturday and watch the particularly amazing ability Ben Folds fans have to somehow sing the instrumental parts of music through cyberspace.
Today they announced that they would be cancelling “The Open”, the sport’s world’s ancient tradition of hitting balls into tiny holes while wearing pot holders for hats. This means little to me except that it’s one more glaringly obvious sign that we aren’t getting out of this situation any time soon. Old white men everywhere would have surely held onto the oldest, most boring, tradition in recreation if they were able.
“The Open” is just one in a string of sports cancellations, all of which serve as shocking headlines for when the rich and elite pull the plug on multi-billion dollar enterprises in the name of this virus. It was a big day when they cancelled the NBA in early March, and then that was quickly followed by cancellations of the MLB, NCAA, NHL, QRX, TUV, WX, Y&Z.
It’s mind blowing to think about all the things that have been cancelled, adjusted, shifted, rescheduled, over the past month. For example, I, and everyone else, had my hair appointment cancelled. Before everyone panics, I think I’m going to be okay because I”ve always had a kind of Janis Joplin vibe anyway.
In most states, school is cancelled and therefore so is the sanity of every parent.
It might seem trivial, but any sort of grand celebrations for National Piñata Day are cancelled. Pants are cancelled. Sleep is cancelled. Diets are cancelled.
One of my best friend’s had round two of her cancer surgery cancelled. My little sister had her entire job temporarily cancelled. It turns out that people don’t need anyone to board their dogs when they are stuck at home cuddling with their dogs. It turns out when your job is cancelled, your health insurance is also cancelled. All of this is almost as terrible as the fact that Justin Bieber’s concert tour is cancelled.
I’m just kidding. I’m honestly completely shocked that Justin Bieber, as a human, hasn’t already been cancelled.
Hugs are cancelled. Meetings that could have been an email are cancelled. Getting my favorite pulled pork sandwich with a $3.50 well during happy hour at the local dive bar on a Friday night are cancelled.
Fuck, the whole economy is cancelled.
I was thinking about all of these things, and feeling very overwhelmed, as I was lying on my yoga mat, obviously skipping the crow pose. If anything should be cancelled, it honestly should be the crow pose. I was trying to “notice my breath” but all that I was “noticing” is that I breathe like Maggie Smith in YaYa Sisterhood. It’s not very easy to relax when your brain is full of exponential lines, bell curves and death projections. I’m not a trained yogi, but I’m pretty sure math and death is the opposite of savasana.
After 15 minutes of half-assed yoga, I finally fell out of a sun salutation and Isaiah’s deep voice told me I should lie with my feet flat and my arms wide. Isaiah, of course, is my virtual yoga instructor, and now my best friend because I’m in quarantine. He told me to spend a few moments lying there, with my arms and my heart open.
I wasn’t feeling very “open” with everything around me closed, but since Isaiah was the only person that had spoken to me today, and he literally has a voice like melted cheese falling off of a slice of pizza, I was inclined to do anything he told me to do. I let his voice crumble over me like a warm cookie, and sunk into my yoga mat.
I imagined “being open”.
An open heart.
An open mind.
Whiskey wasn’t cancelled.
Sunday mornings on Google Hangouts with my people wasn’t cancelled.
My hair wasn’t cancelled, even if it is a lot of re-runs these days.
Reading wasn’t cancelled, and neither was writing.
If you asked me, pants were in fact cancelled, but that should be celebrated.
And technically, my friend’s surgery wasn’t cancelled but rescheduled.
I breathed in with my arms and my heart open, feeling grateful she was healthy enough to have her surgery rescheduled.
And, quite honestly, grateful that Justin Bieber was cancelled.
When the world started shutting down because of coronavirus, I received a panicked text from my husband saying “they are cancelling MLB”.
“Great.” I thought, “Maybe we can spend some real quality time together.”
I regret everything.
Two weeks in and I’m singing Adele songs while dreaming of ESPN SportsCenter in the shower.
It turns out our relationship was really thriving with a healthy dose of sportsball, beer, and chicken wings. There was something about yelling at strangers on TV and heartburn that brought us together. To keep the magic alive, we’ve tried the following as replacements for sports:
- Ordering multiple orders of hand soap on Amazon and placing bets on which order is going to be cancelled due to “lack of availability”. (Pairs well with buffalo chicken dip)
- Balancing ping pong balls on top of solo cups in the front yard and waiting for squirrels to knock them off. Bonus points if your ball gets knocked off by the rogue albino squirrel. He’s a sneaky bastard but he has a delicate touch. (Pairs well with a craft beer)
- Watching the news on mute and getting into heated arguments over which newscaster is dressed the best. It turns out I have very strong opinions about tweed. (Pairs well with whiskey)
- Monitoring each other’s water intake by tallying the number of glasses we have had each day on a giant whiteboard in the living room and getting weirdly competitive about peeing. (Pairs well with water)
- Placing enormously large bets of toilet paper rations on which political figure is going to test positive for COVID-19 next and then going double or nothing on if their public address will include the phrase “mild symptoms” or “thoughts and prayers”. (Pairs well with a plate of nachos)
- Timing my dog’s speed from one end of the hallway to the other as she runs for a biscuit. She’s 13 years old and really out of shape so this one kinda sucks. (Pairs well with margaritas)
- Going for a walk when thunderstorms are pending, then trying to make it home in time to close the windows. We call this one storm pacing. (Pairs well with Red Bull)
- Creating a sticker chart for days that we made it past 3 pm without a “desk beer”.(Pairs well with a “desk beer”)
- Placing over/under wagers and timing the minutes of silence between our neighbor’s dog losing its shit over the squirrels and the ping pong balls. (Pair well with french fries and whatever is left in your freezer at this point)
- Shotgunning White Claws. (Pairs well with Tylenol)
When I met my husband online in 2015, his OkCupid name was “Outdoor Kyle”. I’m not going to say that is specifically why I returned his message, but after 3 glasses of wine, I definitely found it hilarious, endearing, and ridiculous all at once. Plus he had a picture of himself with the biggest fucking tree I had ever seen in my whole entire life. Isn’t that what everyone is looking for in their future soulmate?
The name “Outdoor Kyle” has stayed strong for five years running. It’s still his name in my phone. “Kyle, Outdoor.”
He simply is Outdoor Kyle. He likes trees the way some people like wine, or golf, or 16th century British literature; with a dedicated passion, and a practiced delicacy. He is also the kind of guy that fawns over animals of every kind. Big, small, terrifying, sweating, drooling, smelly, hairy, covered in shit. Doesn’t matter. If it bites, licks, jumps, and has fur, he wants to pet it and bring it home and love it for forever.
Of course, my raging allergies, plus my inability to keep even a cactus alive quickly became a running joke between our friends. Much to my chagrin I acquired the nickname “Indoor Mary”.
It’s not that I don’t like to hike or get dirty. I love my kayak, I can grow almost any kind of lettuce, and I have a dog (though she has to wash her paws before she’s allowed on my bed). So you see I, too, am outdoorsy. One of my favorite activities is drinking gin and tonic on porches and criticizing my neighbors’ lawns. That’s almost exactly the same as my husband, but of course a little different.
Outdoor Kyle and I were married in November of 2019. I, personally, had spent 27 of my 32 years saying I would never marry another living human (indoors or outdoors). Outdoor Kyle really hadn’t given it much thought. But then we met each other and decided it was best if we kept each other for as long as we both should live.
Our first few months of marriage we lived the freedom of a normal honeymoon period. It was the first time we had lived together, so we spent a lot of time figuring each other out. We argued the difference between late and early (five minutes early is late, and if you disagree, I’m leaving your ass behind). We walked to our favorite bars, and complained about things that hindsight has taught me are completely insignificant, over nachos and margaritas. We followed the University of Dayton basketball team through an extraordinary season, and planned a trip to Cleveland for opening day. We meal prepped dinners at home, and then lazily went out to eat after 13 hour work days. We pointed out each other’s flaws in semi-constructive ways and spent little time trying to change.
As the most happy go lucky person I have met, Kyle slid into his new role as a husband with ease. He laughed when I was crabby, and complimented my early rising and CBS Sunday Morning routine with hot toddys and bacon. As an aggressive introvert, I struggled with my lack of privacy and space. I wanted time to lie around and watch When Harry Met Sally, eating pizza out of the box. I wanted to talk out loud to my dog as though she were a real human without judgement or hysterical cartoon voice answers from my husband. I wanted to wander the house in complete silence, or blast music so loud I couldn’t hear the ice in my whiskey glass.
I spent countless Tuesdays trying to explain to Kyle what introversion looks like, feels like, needs. I read him passages from Michelle Obama’s book, described to him how my mom and dad set up a special “quiet room” with a chair for my dad’s solitude, modeled for him what a person looks like when they are reading.
Because people don’t like to be talked to when they are reading, Kyle.
I attempted in every way to paint him a portrait of his “Indoor Mary”, hoping beyond hope that he would find it quirky and beautiful and that he hadn’t married the wrong human.
And then one Tuesday, I found myself watching my husband sort through the kitchen cabinets. I didn’t immediately ask what he was doing, because at this stage of seclusion, day two of the corona virus lock down in Ohio, it really could be anything. We had officially been mandated to work from home for one full day, and I had already vacuumed the house, tried (73% successfully) to do a headstand, and filed my taxes. Kyle spent most of his day on the phone pacing, talking loudly into his work phone, and saying phrases like “full host removal” and “they are just going to flop it, buck it, and drag it out to the chipper”.
Overnight, my need to be alone had changed. I still, of course, craved quiet, but the whole world was now being asked to spend 14 days, bare minimum, in isolation and I felt overwhelmingly grateful to have my husband there with me. I was laughably aware of how lucky I was to be stuck with this specific person for an undetermined amount of time. A gratefulness, I recognize, I should have felt for my husband before a pandemic. I was comforted that he was checking my water intake, making groceries runs so I wouldn’t have to be exposed, reading the news aloud and skipping the bits of the article that quoted Donald Trump.
Suddenly on this Tuesday in the middle of March, just four months after getting married, I wasn’t begging my husband to understand my need to be alone but begging myself to be patient in this time of togetherness. I knew how incredibly, insanely, horrifically, privileged I was on every level and I willed myself to feel, to practice, that gratitude.
I sat at my desk and watched Outdoor Kyle fidget in the kitchen for awhile, empathizing how caged he must feel having to work indoors at a desk, on a phone. I finally asked what was up when I realized he had lined up the entire spice cabinet across the kitchen counter in alphabetical order. Turns out he was looking for green food coloring to make green beers. I had forgotten it was St. Patrick’s Day.
I helped him put the spices back, and poured him a Miller Highlife, leftover stock from our wedding and settled onto the couch. I thought back to our wedding, not rushed but hurried. We were so excited for proximity after having lived two states away for two and half years. I don’t think in that excitement we ever imagined that we would be thrust into spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together. But here we were, beers in hand, working on hour 36 of full face time.
Kyle fussed a bit in his chair, moving his beer from hand to hand. He wasn’t looking at me, or really anything, but I was looking at him. Indoor people are more observant in that way, I suppose. He scratched his beard. “Why is chartreuse a color?” He asked the room, “Why… is it even a word?”
I thought about the question. I thought about my bed, and the economy, and disappearing into the sheets with a good book. I thought about how easy this is for me right now, and how hard it was going to be in the next few months. How hard it already is for so many people. Indoor Mary could really use a closed door right now.
“Get your shoes.” I laughed. And though the couch was comfy, and the quiet of the house was a refuge against the backdrop of endless toilet paper tweets and press conferences and people hoarding fish medication, I decided I could, I should, be Outdoor Mary for the afternoon.
We took a long walk, past the pizza dive (Kramer’s) with their sign on the door advertising carry-out, past the closed up college and the empty student housing. We didn’t talk about chartreuse, though I’m still wildly curious, but instead Outdoor Kyle told me about all the invasive species, and the water systems, and the weeds, and pointed out the ducks and the squirrels, and the dog shit someone left on bike trail. And he did it all with the dedicated passion, and the practiced delicacy of a poet laureate.
Would you like to take a walk?
Do you think it’s gonna rain?
Ain’t you sick of television
I’d much rather go fishin’
Something good will come from there
I sure like that kind of talk
Better take a walk
Can you play another song?
This record’s gettin’ long
So cut out the talk
Honey, we better take a walk
And something good will come from there.
-Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
I pulled my sweatshirt over my arms and leaned back in his uncomfortable desk chair. It was dorm issued and scratchy and was stained with something yellow. He was lounging on his XL twin staring at the ceiling and humming to Slipknot. I guess that’s what we did when we didn’t have smartphones.
“Do you want to watch a movie?”
He hopped off the raised mattress, its plastic coating crinkling as he moved, and started ticking off choices. “Trainspotting? Brave Heart? Oh my God! Have you ever see Momento?” He looked up at me, certain he was the first person in the world to have ever seen Momento. I knew he felt masculine with a hint of Indie. I knew he was dying for me to say that I had never heard of it, let alone seen it, so that I could curl up next to him while he man-splained how the movie was in reverse chronological order.
I blinked at him, considering his face. “Yea. I’ve seen that one.”
He frowned and then started rifling through his DVD’s again. I sighed and looked out the window. The sun was just beginning to set and the sky was the perfect shade of Hooter’s orange.
Why was this the script? When did drive-ins and soda shops go out, and get replaced with a bag of Doritos and a rotation of the same 15 “amazing” movies. Each set the exact same, regardless of the cut of the man. Seriously, Gaston had better game and he was specifically proud of expectorating.
Step 1: Do you want to hang out?
Step 2: Let me offer you a seat on my questionable furniture. Don’t mind the empty cup of Ramen Noodles.
Step 3: Both stare at my poster of Scarface (that weirdly I don’t own a copy of)
Step 4: Suggest we listen to music so I can impress you with what I think is a romantic song but is actually about a school shooting
Step 4.5: Want to listen to me play guitar? (This automatically eliminates step 5)
Step 5: Suggest (with the enthusiasm of a QVC host) one of 15 movies that every guy from now until the end of time is required to own
He popped back up from his bin of DVD’s, certainty on his face. A face that looked far too old for a college student, and far too young for someone that is supposed to pay taxes. “How about Donnie Darko? That one’s fucked up. If we had more time I’d suggest The Godfather…” His verbal ellipses was an offer for me to stay the night. I’d been offered The Godfather package before, but I was a lady.
I smiled. “Sure. Donnie Darko is fine.”
He shook his head. “I’ve got it. How about The Last of the Mohicans!” He seemed determined to impress. I wish we had gone bowling instead, or to the dentist for a root canal.
“Have you seen The Last of the Mohicans?” he asked me. He was tall with messy hair and a tshirt that had been stretched from too much wear. He was half searching for his drum sticks, half looking for a movie for us to watch. Of course he was in a band. They were all in a band, or trying to be in a band, or talking about being in a band. Don’t they know about Spotify?
“Yea in college, but it’s been 10 years.” What was it about colonialism and genocide that said “date night” to these men? I pulled my sweatshirt off and tried not to look bored as I played with the paper on my beer.
“That’s a great one. One of my favorites.” He had disappeared back into the hall closet, looking for another movie.
I knew what was next. It would be Fight Club. Snatch. Boondock Saints or Reservoir Dogs. Really anything with Colin Ferrell doing drugs and shooting at shit. Although, it was Christmas time. I suppose I could just suggest Die Hard and close the curtain on this whole song and dance. How did I get here? It was predictable. It was maddening. It was like Groundhog’s Day which inevitably he was going to suggest in 3…2…
“How about The Big Lebowski? That movie is fucking hilarious. Or Ground Hogs Day?”