A quietness, even when the cars are whizzing by
You take a three day weekend to do things without any obligations except one family event at the very end. But being swept up is so easy – there are plans that others have made that they would love for you to join in.
On Saturday, you wake up and are invited by your roommate to eat pastries at a nearby café, where there are lots of parents and to-be parents. Your roommate’s boyfriend — not the roommate who is with you at the café, the other one, who is working currently — is with you, and you find his presence comforting, the way you feel around most men who are taken because you know how and where their affections fall. Your roommate saves half of her Stockholm bun for the roommate who isn’t here; you save half of yours too, out of guilt for not thinking of doing so yourself. Your roommate and you start to read together outside under the overcast bright grey skies. You go to feed a cat. You sing a song for the cat. But then you both remember the need to get groceries, so you do that, with separate baskets. You come back and she toasts an English muffin with avocado and cheese for you. Always, you clean as others do the cooking, do the offering. Your roommate’s friend comes over and you find comfort in his presence, too.
You run a long, hot distance and listen to music by an artist who you liked well before you found out that a man you dated knew the artist in person. You think about all the things you could have said differently to make him stay, a stream of thought that convolutedly tries to make you become a person who you could not have been when you were with him. You are given looks by a lot of people. When you come home, you decide the looks must be because of the white streaks left by the sunscreen on your brown skin, a thing which you text your roommate — the one who has been at work. She comes home with her friend from her childhood. This new girl lives in a city you will visit soon: a city where everyone says you would not fit in, but the man you dated said you’d like it. Another girl — your roommates’ friend, who is now your friend too — comes by to your house and you all sit and draw and drink and eat. Whatever you put in your mouth is rich in texture and intention, but you won’t remember it two days later. You talk about relationships and dating and music. Sometimes you feel like you don’t really have anything to contribute to conversations and other times you have a lot to say.
You do the dishes, and wash your face, and put away the drawing utensils, and take back the colored pencils your roommate took months ago, which you didn’t mind, but now you feel the compulsion to take them back, anticipating that if you don’t take care of the house now you will be angry and frustrated when the family obligation comes.
On Sunday you are slow to wake.
Hours later you dress, though it is hard to dress the way you want because you want to look really elegant in case you see someone you want to impress. You like the way your legs look in your new black mid-rise jeans, and you like the way your eyes are big and you like the way your hair curls and feels solid in your hands. You go out to the market, walking quickly sometimes and slower at others, feeling the sun hit the back of your legs. You eat three spicy chicken tacos, wishing for some fatty sour cream. You look for that man you dated in the crowd; he’s not there, but you do see your coworker with her small baby, Albert. You resign and wonder when the next love will come.
You want to buy a pastry from the Prague lady very badly, but you don’t because you don’t have cash. You sample some granola instead and ask the woman at the counter if she is enjoying the day, if she is enjoying the blueberries she is eating. She offers you some blueberries; “take a few,” she says, and you are so surprised by her grace. You take three blueberries. You walk to the library and delightedly peruse books and indulge all your desires. Here you feel that you don’t have to hold back. There is a person reading at a table who gives you a sweeping look, and you stay there a bit longer because you like their gaze on you (are you allowed this sort of enjoyment, you wonder) and also because the books are of a topic that interests you.
You leave with a satisfyingly heavier bag.
You make quick decisions at the grocery store and are glad to have gotten one of the two remaining graham cracker boxes. The dish soap you purchase will go unnoticed, and your roommate will request that your other roommate buys some when she goes to the store hours later. Your version of giving to others is as much about making their lives convenient, which has no concrete reward for you, as it is about surprising them or delighting them, which rewards you because the receivers think highly of what you’ve created. At home, you try to sit down and draw a sketch of the kitchen which you hope to give to one of your roommates as a gift, having already drawn something for the other roommate. One roommate comes home and you are happy to see her, though she is occupied with other people and thoughts. She offered to buy you tickets to a concert earlier in the day because you are leaving this city soon, and that gesture will bring tears to your eyes later. In the moment, you are overwhelmed.
You get dressed and go to the gym, which is the hard part, and then you lift a lot of heavy things when you are there, which is easier than getting there. You overexert yourself by trying to run afterward. You come home and shower — just before you do, your key plinks onto the floor, where it drops from its place between your breasts, a location of object placement that brings you a weird timeless coy joy — and there are suddenly lots of people to feed, and plans for sangria and salsa verde and pico de gallo and one more friend is coming over and handmade tortillas and sautéed sunchokes, onions, grated carrots, coined zucchini, scrambled eggs. You ask for your place in the kitchen and grate and slice and clean and clean and clean. Wiping the counters wiping the stove wiping the boiled milk off the stove picking fallen onion bits from the floor handing napkins to people washing dishes replacing dried dishes taking the compost out to the back twice taking out the garbage and hoping someone will do the same for the recycling. There are nine people all together and so much food and so much sangria soaked fruit, which is delicious and so, so satisfying. You are glad you overexerted yourself so you can enjoy the food. Your roommate’s boyfriend is here, with all the women, and you wish you had your own partner who looked at you separately from the crowd or who you could treat at a level more special than the others.
At night you all go to a hot humid bar and get a drink and mostly just watch the hyper masculine men who are not your type. Your roommate talks aggressively to some men at the bar and you are proud of her, but she doesn’t want your pride. It is just how she is.
Your friend is angry at her partner for being frugal. You think their relationship continues because of its longevity and not because they are suited for each as they were at the beginning, but you don’t believe she should leave her partner because the alternative possibility of dating for a ‘better’ match is one of the worst processes you could wish on someone.
You will be surrounded by beauty and by those who are taking advantage of it. And you think you are taking advantage too, but sometimes you wonder if other people have got it wrong.
You think, are they not dreaming larger dreams, intending things that will take time and distance?
You think, do they look at their partner and see guitar riffs or only another person who they like as much as they like any friend?
You think, a weekend without any plans, and everything happened.
It is so easy to be swept away.