Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the tag “Characters”

There is always “burn” here now.

Pretty+Flames+2-7-2007+3-36-23+PM+2816x2112There is always “burn” here now.

Door knobs burn in my hand as I turn them, so I leave the inside ones open. Even the floor burns the bottoms of my feet, so: shoes, but they burn also. These words too, all words, whether I think or say or read them, they all burn now. Sometimes./

To hear them, these ones here, spoken aloud in this room today — w/ no one aside from me listening, no music playing, nothing baking — to hear them without burning, what I would give for that! To be back there, here but back then, in my dream of life again, where it was plenty warm enough, what I would give./

There were times I’d think I must have come from there to here through someplace really cold. I’d think, could I have died that day? That day I “wakened” to the smell of all my pies burning and you knocking as loud as you could on the door. “What’s burning? Are you okay? What’s going on with your hair?”/

We threw the pies into the garden, laughing. You cut my hair in the kitchen to help fix me back up as we aired the place out. “What happened, though? Did you fall asleep? Since when do you bake pies and for what?” I opened you some wine and we spent the rest of the day together./

But I watched the pies slowly disappear alone. It took weeks and then one downpour finally carried the rest away./

Today, I know I came through someplace really cold to get here. Why else, how else, could touching these now — these plastic keys — burn me so? So that the plainest words/thoughts, uttered as plainly as I can manage, are birds barely escaping a flame and then at the very last second returning or just stopping, letting it happen, letting it wrap them and hold them in its hot hands until they turn to ash?/

There is always “burn” here, but I’ve begun to wonder if it might be okay for a time./

After all, crying now is like climbing a tree—but on another planet. Crying: Why? How? It doesn’t happen here, I don’t think, but I’m not completely sure (having learned about evaporation so long ago). I do know it’s not okay not to cry ever./

I know too that today nothing is baking, no music is playing, and no one knocks or doesn’t knock at the door. And I know I didn’t die that day. I am being still and quiet, no more words aloud for now, dreaming of when I was “just warm enough” and wishing I could cry, here or on some other planet, any planet (except Mercury, Venus)./

And yet. Even though these words, my memories, the door, the floor, the bottoms of me feet — ALL of it burns, all of it is burning me — I begin to think it could all turn out all right, that one day I will be just warm enough again.


THIS is a repost, thanks. I’ve been gone from here for SIX long months. I consider it a bit of providence that I log back in tonight, after several days (weeks? months?) of thinking about this blog AND THIS POEM especially, and find that BURN is the one-word daily prompt. Today. When I log back in … But so, I have nothing new here now, I don’t think, am exhausted, but I jump back in to this — everything — holding the hand of my 47-year-old self from two years ago. I trust no one more.






NaNoWriMo –> NoMo!

Blobs grow in beloved gardens (1975), by F. Hundertwasser

Midnight tonight is the end of NaNoWriMo, but I’m done for now. I did 22,325 of the 50,000-word goal, so YES there was a supernova-like burst of “story” near the end. It’s hard to know how much of what I’ve done is good, especially since I could only write a little bit here and there, but I don’t think any of this has been a waste of time and believe I’ll finish post-NaNoWriMo. The coolest thing of all is that my main characters are talking to me (again) after being stowed away for so long. And they have a lot to say that I never even thought of before. What a wild, weird thing the mind is!

“But as for me, I will [go]”


“But as for me, I will [go]”

Let time pass. Let all kinds of time pass. Once he was settled toward the back of the bus, alone in a two-seater (which he knew wouldn’t last), Nohl shut his eyes and let himself meditate on this gentle imperative. Earlier that morning, as he showered, it rose up and hovered in his mind like steam. On the bus, though, he imagined that the words came to him just then from somewhere outside of himself, way outside. He saw a large slick, insulated (and insured) envelope, containing this message, blasting past black holes and through mesospheres and stratospheres and whatever other ‘spheres there might be, through different kinds of cosmic dust and space clouds, and then dispatched into the earth’s atmosphere, where it continued down along the pale but fast-goldening sun rays of this mid-July morning and caught a warm upward breeze, which sent it very un-coincidentally into an open window on this very same ride. Let time pass. Let all kinds of time pass. That was all it said, but according to the envelope it was meant for him.

Better still, he would like to think the words were delivered specifically to him from “On High,” along with instructions, “Guidance,” on what to do during this “all kinds of time” and how about after it passed, too? Yes, please. And just a bit in the way of explanation regarding the big “why?” of it all would be helpful. But no, nothing like that had ever been, would ever be, forthcoming, Nohl had come very slowly to understand. Feeling agitated, also tired and a little sick because of last night’s activities (the good, the bad, the inexplicable), he tossed about in his seat, his exoskeleton-like exterior clashing with the exoskeleton-like interior of the bus. In one particularly herky-jerky maneuver designed to discourage anyone then boarding from sitting with him (as a favor to them, he thought), he ended up spilling his coffee into his old running shoes, which he had no recollection of taking off. Huh. Could the new Nohl be the kind of guy who takes his shoes off whenever/wherever he pleased … on a bus like this, no less? Why not? He kind of liked it, smiled to himself. So how about throwing away the soggy no-good beaters, laden with roads already travelled, at the very first rest stop, cutting yet another tie with the past? He liked that too — poetic. And he’d just put on the pair packed in his carry-on.

The Nohl who packed the bag late last night was worried about grubbing up these other shoes, which were nicer and newer, on the long bus ride. Today’s Nohl got that but considered it a little strange that he decided to put them in the carry-on at all (given the size of the bag). But then, he often saw evidence of another, wiser, version of himself, who could see further past the surface of things, the present, than the regular Nohl could, knew what to do sometimes when the regular Nohl didn’t (but not every time, far from fucking every time. Last night for example. OK, just: Let time pass. Let all kinds …). Wiser Nohl was there to help pack the bag, sure, but where was he exactly when Russell told him that Francis Fahy was dead and regular Nohl felt compelled to excuse himself to use the bathroom — which he did but not before paying Fahy a little visit (“just to be sure,” was the thin explanation he offered himself), not before having to set his stop-watch bag to zero again. And here he was today (yeah, “as for me…”), wiser Nohl nowhere to be found. He tried to focus on the shoes in his bag, something hopeful, something that made him feel that there were plans for him still and maybe he wasn’t damned after all.


[Continued elsewhere.] 

“go alone — crawl, stumble, stagger — but go alone”

“You must be Independent, Independent, Independent –jm105-256— don’t talk so much but do more — go your own way and let your neighbour go his… Shake off all the props — the props tradition and authority give you and go alone — crawl, stumble, stagger — but go alone.”

~ Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Independent, YES, for sure! (Original would be nice too, but is not necessary. I mention it because I think people often confuse independence with originality, which can be a real problem for their creativity and productivity, but maybe that’s a post for another day.) Neighbors — oh, there are many I’d gladly follow home. Don’t think I have too many props to shake off, but am willing to crawl, etc., if needed. BUT I love this guy’s designs (behold one iteration of his famous rose) … just not 100% sure about his ideas.

More to the point of this post: writing can be lonely, not for the bloggiest of bloggers maybe, but for lots of the rest of us. So, just so I can connect (or in hopes of connecting … even if I don’t know it’s happened), I am giving myself permission to quote other people liberally here in my blog or provide links to whatever, anything I feel like doing this month (so pretty much like every other month!), as I work to put out 1700+ words per day for NaNoWriMo.

It’s Day 2 and I’ve done 2,345 words (not bad, the quantity I mean), but my narrative point of view is shifting all over the place and not in a clever way. Plus my tenses are sliding, willy nilly, forward and backward and off to the side (though that’s typical for me because sometimes I do feel like past, present, future, etc., are all here in the same place at the same time). Also, even though every 50 words or so come easy, these are followed by hundreds that feel like I am punching myself in the face or, no: trying to put on clothes that are a few sizes too small … and wet and itchy too. I’m haunted about how little I feel I know about the world, how my seven-year-old referred to me as “odd” today, how my main character is male again (and apparently has two interchangeable names). I’m also bothered that I can’t picture him clearly yet, but I can see what he sees, feel what he feels, etc.

I’m thinking, he could look like this:

Brosseau-Tom1868-2_cr-CareyBraswell[1](This is a young[er] Tom Brosseau and here’s a song of his: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vcWe–L7AM)

OR he might look like this:th98WXLH1R

(The is the young, late Vic Chesnutt and one of his tunes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2KyL1MlqW0)

No surprise that I’m conjuring the images of song writers I greatly admire to help embody my protagonist. No surprise, but no explanation (now) either. In the end, it doesn’t really matter who I’m picturing anyway, I just need to see his face. And I can’t yet.

On the bright side, whatever he turns out looking like, I like him a lot so far and that’s helpful because I will be meeting with Nohl/Ben every day (or as often as I can) until we get his story done.


“You fight evil with all you do”

Great song, wonderful little short story … except the meatball, in my opinion. 😉


Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Lay and Love (2007) – YouTube

I didn’t realize this video is controversial among Will Oldham admirers. One person calls it “sleazy and ironic.” I’m no Pollyanna, but I saw it as almost exactly the opposite. And “someone” (my husband) told me this morning he thought it was very disturbing (paraphrasing a bit here): “the White Man and all his money funding a frivolous and tawdry adventure for people requiring more basic forms of support” — and I get that. But I saw it more like this: here’s this sort of odd guy who’s come across some money (I don’t think rich people flash around wads of cash like that) and doesn’t know what to do with it so he sets out to do some good, if misguided, thing with it. It’s a “good” shaped out of his own experience of life, which maybe only some can (or would even try to) imagine. But I do think it’s kind of beautiful (except the meatball). And the song just IS beautiful, period. Hear for yourself.

Goodbye for now — but WAIT, WAIT, not yet!

Well, here’s a perfect ending to a perfect (in its own way) experience here on WordPress.com.


In my haste, I posted my blog’s farewell a bit prematurely last night, trying to meet my self-imposed deadline. And then today, after I thought I’d retracted it to give it the attention I saw it needed and felt it deserved, I accidentally republished (or reposted?) what I thought were “just drafts” throughout the day.

Lourdes Mint (that vaporous image below) almost seems to thiIMG_1776_1 copynk it’s funny, or at least she’s not at all embarrassed about it. Look at her! Pen names can be so disappointing, really, so much the opposite of what you thought they might be. Lesson learned.

But we, I, hope you’ll give the finished work a look when it’s done — tomorrow, I hope. What a year this has been! Thanks!

Happy Mother’s Day — a day for happy mothers? a happy day for mothers?

Whichever? BOTH!

My mother’s day present is TIME to write!!!

(followed by dinner w/ my family)

Can’t wait. See you later today.IMG_9480

Float: A Love Story (or “Scientists Prove that Atheists May Not Exist…”)

[Note: I didn’t post at all in February, but started many, many stories that I didn’t finish, and TRIED not to think about my blog’s goal, the deadline for which is fast approaching. The Lourdes Mint who is not writing is usually not reading either, and the whole writing/reading thing SEEMS to go dormant, BUT REALLY it funnels itself, tornado-like, into a poltergeist-ish presence here — one that leaves water running, burns food, compulsively engages in what I’m going to go ahead and call performance art (not a euphemism for anything too far off from that, just so you know), and enthusiastically takes on new projects/commitments even when I don’t have time enough for the ones I’ve already got.

Speaking of which, I just finished helping a friend “proofread” his new book, which I shouldn’t have done probably (no more editing, etc., for me, remember?), but the good thing was that in doing it, I got bitten so good and hard by the word bug that here I finally am again! And, on my way here, I found this article* (kind of interesting) and it reminded me of a conversation that I overheard once in a cafe, next to a hot springs in (a place resembling, on this particular morning) Iceland. Anyway, here’s my “story”…]

Float: A Love Story

“ZZ,” I’ll call him, is a pale, thin-lipped guy who looks like he spends most of his time in a dark room, illuminated only by a computer, living on nothing but coffee and Ho-Hos. He has a beard so huge it looks (and smells, I’m guessing), from where I’m sitting, as though it has its very own ecosystem (the kind that would include plenty of marsupials, mushrooms, and marshy bogs).

“‘Scientists prove that atheists may not exist…’? I don’t understand how one could possibly prove this,” ZZ huffs. “No, actually, what I don’t understand is why one would care to take on such a silly endeavor. Am I really that scary? What, are they bored w/ cancer and AIDS? Pathetic. It makes no sense. I mean, why/how can one … um…?”

He takes an angry sip of his hot frothy whatever and looks at the woman across from him, whom I can only see from the back and who is huddled over her plate, appearing as though she’s just taken a huge bite of something delicious. I crane my neck to try to see what she’s ordered … I’m sill trying to decide.

ZZ continues: “Well, what else do you remember about it, the article?”

Chewing, chewing, chewing, the woman—whom I’ll call “Chortles”—holds up a “hold-on-a-second” finger. ZZ glares at the top of her head, tilted down toward the plate. He begins to yawn (too deeply, too loudly, I think), and blink (too fast, I think), and stroke his beard (once is way more than enough, I think — and then … oh, I cannot hold off much longer on eating … getting to the springs).

I see he is feeling alone, though, and almost jealous of the food on Chortles’ plate, of how happy it makes her (I am too).

“Okay then, what did you say the article was called, again?” ZZ picks up his iPhone, peering into its glassy face through thick, black 1970s “smart person/atheist” glasses. “Hello? [to her] Can I get a web address, or URL, maybe?”

Chortles chortles and, with what sounds like a full mouth, says something about, “key words” and how “no one really needs web addresses” anymore. (And what’s a URL, again?)

ZZ seems pretending not to hear, keeps poking away at his phone. “No access, still? Here? Oh, you!” he hisses at the slick black thing in his hand. “Bastard whelp! Pathetic.”

He sets it down, gently, and begins to examine his hand as though it has just now, at this very moment, appeared. He then looks incredulously at Chortles, who is still chewing, from what I can see—no wonder given that she’s taken another bite or five while ZZ was laying-in to his phone.

Watching her gobbling away, he almost smiles, but also sighs loudly and turns his attention to the panoramic window that runs the length of the entire east wall of the place—furrowing his brow and slowly shaking his head at the sight of the hot-springers. Some are blissing out, others are frolicking, in the pre-dawn, orange-ish glow.

It’s as though they are, in their very being—through either their in-your-face contentedness or their “glad animal movements”—speaking directly to ZZ in some strange language he’s unable understand. And it’s as though he desperately wishes to communicate this disconnect to them, to everyone! The furrowing and shaking continue, becoming more and more pronounced.

“No sense at all … the article, I mean!” he says suddenly, sharply, and abruptly returns his gaze to Chortles, who looks up at him finally and vaguely nods before returning her attention to her plate. She’s slowing down.

“None!” ZZ goes on. “And sense is pretty much my number one criterion—no, my only requirement—when it comes to choosing to give something another moment more of my attention. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” He strokes his beard again, gifting it a little tug this time. “Life really is too short, as they say.”

“Too short for what?” asks Chortles, taking a sip of her steamy beverage as she looks out at the springs. “Oh!” She points toward toward the mountain. “See this? The sun is just about to rise… .”

ZZ gives the view a cursory glance. “Hmmmm, yes, I see.” He turns to her again, pauses. “What did you think of it, the article?” he asks, his thin lips sporting a bit of foam.

Chortles chortles again and sort of shrugs.

“Huh! She laughs,” is all ZZ says as he watches her finish up. He’s hungry, starving, I’m guessing by the looks of him, but he does not seem aware of it … or at least not ready or willing to do anything about it.

Then, suddenly, the first rays of sun appear at the ridge of the deep purple mountain beyond the body of water, long fingers of pure light reaching up, over, and into the ambient glow already there. But I’m so hungry…

“See! I knew…,” says Chortles, beaming, I imagine. ZZ smiles a little, picks at the last bit of her food—says, “Indeed!”

Indeed?! Puh! Of course that’s what he’d say, I think. My food cannot come soon enough… .” But suddenly it’s there, my food—same thing as Chortles’, whose non-communicativeness all this time suddenly makes perfect sense. I’m digging in, watching too as the glow is overcome.

“I’m here now,” the sun says to its pale understudy. “You can lay back, now, relax.”

These words, this thought … strange … come into my mind as I behold the sight along with everyone out in the water and all of us inside too, even the people who work there, even Chortles, even ZZ. And all is almost perfectly quiet until a metal utensil falls to the ground.

“Actually, you know, it is funny,” ZZ says, evidently still thinking of Chortles’ latest non-response (and second chortle) to his desperate plea. “Actually, yours is the perfect response.” ZZ laughs too now, but to me it has plastic, accidental-sounding quality to it, like another utensil, a spork—I’m picturing—falling to the ground.

“Yes, I really did see it as kind of funny,” replies Chortles absently, after she’s tossed her napkin on the plate. “That’s all, really. Now let’s go float, my lamb. That’s what we’re here for, right?”

ZZ smiles at her, even though she’s not looking at him—now standing up, now sweeping crumbs from her front, now grabbing their large woven bag.

“Float, right… Have we paid?” ZZ asks Chortles, beginning to clear the table.

Chortles confirms (“Yup!”), as she pats him on the part of his pants where a butt should have been. He moves slowly, seemingly unsure of where he’s going. “I miss the kids,” he says.

Chortles grabs his shoulder, gently redirecting him. “Me too,” she says and points to the bin near the trash can. “Over there.”

And/but as they walk out, I can hear ZZ winding up again.

“Who wrote it, though? Can you give me anything there? Man, woman? Young, old? American? Anything? … Credentials?”

The door shuts behind them and I can no longer hear what they’re saying, but watch them as lay out their blanket together and then begin, also together, to braid ZZ’s beard or do some equally weird thing to the beast with swift, perfectly coordinated movements. And … I’m done, I decide, thank you—clearing my own table now.

Out on the bank, I move close enough to smell the springs and begin feeling their effect, something, as I lay out my blanket … and as ZZ and Chortles approach the water’s edge.

I am close enough, too, to see how full of doubt ZZ is, it seems, but also how free from fear — as Chortles takes him by the hand and leads him into the shimmering water, which looks almost pinkish-blue in this light.

A little later, I’m surprised, but then not, to see which of the two of them blisses out and which frolicks …

** THE END **

 *Here’s the article: http://www.science20.com/writer_on_the_edge/blog/scientists_discover_that_atheists_might_not_exist_and_thats_not_a_joke-139982

And here, also, are the lyrics from “May It Always Be,” by Bonnie Prince Billy, one of my favorite singer/songwriters—that’s him in the pic, standing in for ZZ. Hate to overload this entry, but I never know when another month might fly by with no post … and because this story/memory reminds of this song.

I’ve been with you for a fairly long time,
May I call you, may I call you, may I call you mine?

And you are near, an’ been with me,
May it always, may it always, may it always be,

Please don’t leave my side, remember I love you,
None of what I have done wrong was really done against you,

If you love me and I’m weak, then weaker you must love me more,
To reinforce what’s also strong, and all the love we have in store,

By example you showed me, living’s alright,
Stay here with me, stay here with me, stay with me tonight,

And come with me when I go to the bedroom,
And we’ll play bride, and we’ll play bride, and we’ll play bride and groom,

If you had not been born you know,
What would I? What would I be then?

I would not have strength to grow,
And be counted, and be counted among men.

Please don’t leave my side, remember I love you,
None of what I have done wrong was really done against you,

If you love me and I’m weak, then weaker you must love me more,
To reinforce what’s also strong, and all the love we have in store,

And in the morning we’ll wrestle and ruin our stomachs with coffee,
Won’t we be, won’t we be, won’t be happy?

We will rise in anger, love and ardor,
Shining, shining, shimmering in loves armor.

[You can hear a good version on YouTube: “Bonnie Prince Billy – May It Always Be (Live in London)”]

[**Photo: Bonnie Prince Billy at Sydney Opera House (2006); read more at http://www.fasterlouder.com.au%5D

Love letter, from a kind of bad guy to his beloved daughter

letterfrombadguy[Written in the spring of 1920, outside, in some hilly Tennessee woods]

To my dear daughter, Lucie,

I could not believe it when I got your letter! My hands shook so bad I put them and your letter into my pockets. I was careful not to bend the envelope. Then I went right out, into the yard and straight to my shed. I started rattling my things around like maybe I had something needing fixing. I would say I was in a state! But then I sat down and opened the letter.

Lucie, I haven’t let myself hope that such a thing as this could ever happen still for me. I’d expect better that a tropical bird might fly into my window here, sit on my knee, and start talking to me. “Hello Ned, silly old fool,” in a friendly like manner. But here your letter is in my hand! And your handwriting especially for the address is like mine as you might see for yourself. That was another surprise.

Thank you for writing Lucie. You may never know how much it means to me. Over the years I must have thought about writing to you at least one hundred times, but I could never think of what to say. You are much braver than me.

This morning, I went into the woods to write my letter to you. I believe I am sitting in a spot I might never been before, even though I come up here more and more these days. I don’t know why this feels like the right place to talk to you. I could find some place quiet enough and where I won’t be interrupted almost anywhere. You probably have some thoughts why this could be the right place for me to write this letter. You always were so good with your thinking and questions too. But I couldn’t ever think of the right answers for you, even when you were not much more than a baby. I make the point because it’s true and also because of what happened with your college school. I am so sorry what happened because I understand you are sad about it. But I know whatever made you leave that place, it cannot be that you are not smart enough. I would bet anything on that! You are the smartest person in that town. I would never doubt you had a good reason to leave.

Well there really is nothing to see in these woods but more woods. I tried many different ways through them and never came across anything worth telling to another person or to put in a letter to be carried for 700 miles to you. I wish I could describe a beautiful view for you, but there are too many trees in the way, every which way I look. Even if I could see through these trees, I doubt I could describe what I saw in a way you would enjoy. I see how good you are with words. But there was one time I saw a shovel that had become part of a tree. Someone must have left it there years ago and forgot about it, so that the tree just kept growing around it. What I mean is it was split at the blade and then came together again up around the handle. The first time I saw it, I was amazed. Now I pass right by it without even looking at.  Another day I found the stone foundation of what must have been a home for some of the very first people to settle here. This could sound very strange but I imagined you there! I imagined you and your sister and some of the others sitting around a table there, next to a warm fire. I could see in my mind what you might look like then, a beautiful girl at 12 years old or so. In my mind I also heard the sound of your voice, you telling a story just right, so that everyone was listening and laughing.

I never pass by the place without looking and imagining something of that scene. I stop there often and often I sit and eat my lunch on a good level stone. Sitting there I am just an arm’s reach from your table.

Weeks ago I saw a string of little blooms hanging from a branch. Someone made it for someone, by way of threading the stem of each into a tiny hole in the stem of the next. You know how to do this I remember, but a young lady probably doesn’t bother with that kind of thing much anymore. I don’t know why Lucie, but the sight of it out here startled me! The flowers were already wilting and nothing too special about them to begin with, but still  I stood there looking at them for a long time. They swayed a bit in a breeze and there was just enough daylight that the little petals had a glow about them. What is strange is how I can remember it so well but more like I heard it in a story, not so much like I actually saw it. The very next day I could not seem to recall even the colors of the flowers which were all of a kind. Another strange thing is as I was standing there suddenly my cheeks got hot and my hands started to shake just a little. The dog I had with me took off back down the hill without me! And I had this thought very clear in my head, that this beautiful thing was not for me to see or enjoy, so I turned and headed back down the hill too. I don’t know why. Maybe you’ll understand a reason Lucie.

This is all I can think of to tell you now, but thank you again dear daughter for writing to me. I cannot say I feel deserving of your kindness. I never thought something like this could happen for me still. And I could not believe it but for this envelope in my hand. If you want to write to me again I hope you will. I will write back to you every time unless you ask me not to. If you do write again please tell me more about all the animals, the little cousins, and especially your reading and writing. And please anything else you want to tell me.

Have you seen the ocean yet? Have you tried swimming?

Also, if there is a photograph you could send with your letter without too much trouble I would be very happy for that. I think I can imagine you pretty well at 16, all except the eyes. I don’t know why that is, but I am sure they are beautiful.

Your loving father

“An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality…” — Daily Prompt

Doppelgänger Alert


You step into an acquaintance’s house for the first time, and discover that everything — from the furniture, to the books, to the art on the wall — is identical to your home. What happens next?

(Thanks for an intriguing prompt idea, Lourdes Mint!)

YOU’RE WELCOME. But really PERHAPS I should refrain from suggesting prompts that I don’t already have a ready, clever response to. 🙂 I never responded to the last one they used. (Shame on me!) This will be quick and dirty, so that I don’t twist myself into a pretzel over it… Here it goes!

*     *    *    *     * AS IT HAPPENED, I accepted her invitation, even though we were never particularly friendly. It was almost like we fit the same slot in the community, so similar in so many ways, she felt redundant to me. Maybe I did to her as well. But it seemed that circumstances brought us together: both our husbands, supposed novelists, gone for months on an Alaska fishing boat, while we had several small children and pets in each our care. And we both worked as second grade teachers, though at different schools. She was also right across the street, in a house just like ours, so it was hard — seemed pointless — to say no. We had the teenage girl nextdoor to me, whom we both knew, watch the kids. The idea was dinner and a bit of light conversation, I suppose. I brought dessert. That’s where it started.

“Oh!” she said opening the door, glancing down at the pie in my hands. “I should have made it clear this was an all-included event! I actually made pie, too. Tell me yours isn’t cherry.”

“Okay, but it is,” I said passing it to her. “So now you have two.”

“Weird again. And funny too, but I have this same coat,” she said hanging it on the rack.

“And weird yet again,” I said. “I have that coat rack.”

As I turned away from the entrance, the first thing I noticed were two small flames, candles at the table. “Nice,” I thought — I’ve always considered it a mistake to not have candles for dinner guests, any dinner guests. Then I began to look around — that polite, non-appraising look you give to others’ homes, no matter what you are seeing, what you are thinking.


But then my eyes fixed on a print of a photograph taken of Kandinsky in Odessa, something you don’t see every day and which most people, seeing my framed copy on my wall, assume is a photo of my grandfather. And then, noticing that David Bowie’s Warszawa was playing, a bit quirky as dinner music goes, but a definite favorite of mine, I felt a sort of vertigo coming on.

And then the other striking, no — impossible — similarities between her belongings on mine, flew at me like a flock of big black greasy birds, angry at being surprised. The leather couch that cats had used as a scratching post, the bamboo blinds, the cactus garden at the center of the see-through acrylic coffee table that I was always banging my shins on, book titles too, lamps, the tea pot, her vacuum cleaner (left out in the open, like mine), the little hand weights next to her television, the indoor-outdoor rug in her kitchen, the cats coming down the steps, just about everything I laid my eyes on — SAME AS MINE.

At that point, I think actually waved my hands in front of my face, let out a sort of yelp and maybe an obscenity, and collapsed backward into a chair.

“Oh my, oh my gosh, what … ?” My host looked genuinely stunned, frightened. “Are you OK?”

I started to laugh. “Wow, yes. I’m just exhausted.”

“We can do this another time,” she said. “I mean it, really.” She looked scared. And I suddenly felt mad.

“No, let’s just do this, whatever this is.” One of the cats jumped on my lap.

“Blanca!” she said. “Down.” And then to me, “Sorry. The worse your day is, the more all-over-you they are.”

The tea pot began whistling — a perfect D sharp, like mine. “Excuse me,” she said, rushing toward the kitchen.

“Blanca,” I called out.  “That’s ‘white’ in Spanish, right?” (My white cat was Mr. White, but still.)

She nodded and appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking as though she were about to explain, but I interrupted” “And I’ll bet you’re brewing ginger tea, my favorite. OUR favorite.”

“It is ginger, as a matter of fact, but I’m not really sure… . I don’t understand what’s going on here, really.” She looked me right in the eye and I saw nothing creepy there, nothing that might begin to help explain this inexplicable thing that was happening nonetheless. I she were a creep, then OK. I could deal with that. But if not, then what?

She was not a creep. I just felt it, sure as Blanca on my lap.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Please pardon me. Please.”

“It’s OK, but really, if you don’t feel up for this … .”

“I’m fine.” And dinner was fine, even as we dined on a Wolfgang Puck dish (a Vietnamese salad) that was one of my go-to recipes for guests, even as every outdated song that came on — I suppose it was on shuffle, as mine always is — was another from my own, rather singular (I’d always thought) collection. We talked about the regular things: our jobs, parenting, being married to aspiring novelists/actual fishermen. I was relieved to find that the doppelganger effect did not seem to extend to every aspect of our lives.

After cherry pie, she walked me back to my house to retrieve her children. I knew she would see what I saw, something I neither dreaded nor looked forward to. I simply had no idea what could be done.

In any case, her face registered nothing as she entered the house. She just gave me a quick hug and they were out of there before her kids had even buttoned up.

For months she and I only waved to each other as we happened to pass each other coming and going. Then one day, I found her sitting along in our neighborhood park. Assuming this was as rare a treat for her as it was for me, I was prepared to just keep walking after our usual cordial but distant greeting.

“Would you sit w/ me?” she asked. We sat for a long time without saying anything. Then finally, she cleared her throat and began to speak.

One time, on her way home from an evening class in grad school, she explained, she had passed herself driving in the other direction. “It didn’t just look like me: IT WAS ME! Same car, same hair and face, same everything. And as I stared at her, I finally caught her eye. And we both just kept staring until I almost hit the car in front of me. Shaken, I pulled over, rolled down the window, and watched the car for as long as I could — as she, the other me, just kept on going to wherever it was she was going. And at one point, she too rolled down her window to give me … a thumbs up!”

I sat there, not knowing what to say.

“A f_cking thumbs up!? I mean, what is that supposed to do for me? What can it mean? What does it even begin to explain?”

I almost said, “at least it wasn’t ‘the finger,'”  but I knew it would’ve been worse than off. “Well, what did you do?” I finally managed.

“What did I do? What could I do? I did nothing. I’ve told no one, until now. And you know why.”

“Because of our weird doppelganger experience … .”

She laughed, not looking at me. “Well, yes, but no. It’s bigger than that. I just decided that unless I accepted that there could be an occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality, then I would go crazy. So that’s what I did. And recently, as you might imagine, I’ve had to do it again. And so there you go. How about you? Have you managed to square the whole thing with yourself?”

“I think so,” I said. But I was trying not to forget her words, didn’t want to think of anything else until I could write them down. They could help. They would help. They were already helping.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

We both sat for a while saying nothing.

“Someone’s burning leaves,” she said. “I thought that was against the law. Anyway, I better go. Nice to see you.”

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. “You too, I said,” smiling. “I’ll spare you the thumbs-up,” I added uncertainly. She laughed a little and said “thanks,” rather absently, turned and walked away.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

When I was very young, everyone in our apartment building died in a fire except me. They said it was as though my bed was encased in a protective bubble — they didn’t find me until the next day, after the rescue mission was called off. I had apparently slept through the entire thing. I remember almost nothing of this, except these words: “No Godly explanation for it,” which my grandmother, who took care of me from then on, said almost every day until she finally passed away. By then, I was in college — as far away as I could get — and had been able to cut my ties with the story. But the story had never cut its ties with me. I always felt odd (possibly evil), ashamed, frightened: the reluctant citizen of a world where things happen that have no fathomable explanation.

Art has helped, music too, humor, all opportunities for “laughter and forgetting,” LOVE, but there will never be anything like words — for me — when it comes to finally getting a grip.

So, when I was very young, everyone in our apartment building died in a fire except me. There was indeed “no Godly explanation for it” — EXCEPT THAT SOMETIMES, OLD LADY, there HAPPENS TO BE an occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? So you can just stop giving me those sideways glances, like I’m the devil’s spawn. There was and is no Godly explanation for it, so you can stop looking for one. And RIP.

An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality. An occasional little rip, mis-stich, an error in the fabric of reality.

Yeah, I think this will work for me. Thank you doppelganger. Thank you Words for once again coming to the rescue.


Wassily Kandinsky, “Composition IV,” 1911



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