Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Newton's laws of motion

Je vous ai manquee aussi!* Or, ya tozhe skuchala po vam.

There's been quite a lot going on, not all of which I am at liberty to discuss in a public forum (but don't worry, if you were inclined to). What I am at liberty to discuss (e.g., making sure we have Land o' Lakes fat-free creamer in stock for when my mother comes to visit on Thursday) is so deadly dull you wouldn't want me to discuss it anyway.

I just had lunch with The Man Who Used to Be My Husband. He had on a hooded sweatshirt with a big backpack and Birkenstocks, and when I met him at the corner I immediately blurted out, "You look like you've been walking the earth!"


"And it suits you!" I added.

Actually, I thought that after we split apart he might walk the earth for a while, like David Carradine in Kung Fu, but as it turns out I'm the one who's been wandering around; he should close on his three-bedroom house next month. At this news I had to put my forehead down on the tablecloth while I summoned the will to go on. In Athens, Georgia, homeowning is easier than squatting, apparently. It was enough to make me want to get up off the table and go walk the earth.

In July he'll head for Morocco, where he hopes to eventually spend a year working on his graduate research. I bet he'll learn some French there; I bet he'll learn some Arabic. I bet he'll eat monkey brains and run around in a fedora knocking over baskets until Karen Allen falls out in a pair of red harem pants. I expect it will be a life of high adventure.

I told him that sometimes I think I'm just about done with New York, but don't know where else I'd be fit to live, having been here most of my adult life and lost whatever taste I might have had for monkey brains. He said, "You should move to Gary, Indiana." I said why, and he said, "Because then I'll know somebody in Gary, Indiana."

These meals are so strange, utterly familiar and completely alien at the same time. The person across the table looks like him and feels like him but can't be him because I barely know him anymore. I have said before that it's like dinner between two people who have come back from the dead. Now that I think about it, it's exactly like that: When I sit down to the table I always feel like I've made a long, hard trip in the service of some higher purpose, but then the details look as trivial as they would if I were seeing them from the afterlife: the moules frites (always there seem to be moules frites) and the polite conversation and, today, the plastic cigarette lighter I gave him that had been autographed by the country's No. 2 air-guitar champion, Bjorn Turoque.

He was at the heart of my whole life, and then he wasn't. When an object is no longer accelerated by a centripetal force, it keeps traveling in a straight line.** Which is how you can go from being a person's next of kin to somebody he knows in Gary, Indiana.

*Again with the diacriticals: I don't know how to make them.

**Unless it sits inert.


Blogger Recovering Baptist said...

Come to Nashville! Then we can be restless and vaguely unsatisfied together! We have russians here! Bring the comrade!

4:36 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Sorry for the lame comment, but: That post was really nice.

I loved the Anne Sexton post, too...

5:41 PM  
Anonymous ashok said...

That's one of the scariest things I've ever read. Thank you for sharing; I hope all is well with you.

4:24 PM  

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