How is it possible that this was just two weeks and two days ago?
The bad day really started in the health food store. Jacob was off at the bagel shop getting us bagels because it was noon and we hadn’t eaten anything all day, just jumped up and fed the cats and ran out the door like we do on days when errands and work need to be done and the car needs to be juggled between us. Jacob had just called to tell me that there was no peanut butter for the bagels, and I wasn’t looking forward to my one sit-down meal (the relaxing sound of that being somewhat mitigated by the fact that the sit was going to take place in the car) consisting of an undertoasted (always!) undereverythinged everything bagel with nothing but a giant glob of overly sugary jam in the middle. Jacob would be happy with tofutti cream cheese, but I am made of finer stuff (or, at least, will pretend I am for purposes of this blog post), and cannot abide that concoction.
So I was in the health food store: sneaking a pistachio from the bulk bin, wondering exactly who was buying those wrinkly summer squashes in upstate New York in January, and, as ever, forgetting to write the code on my bulk purchases.
I caught a glimpse of one of those college girls you sometimes see in college towns—glimmering with beauty and absolutely no truth whatsoever. I am thirty years old and have quite a lot of truthiness to me, but at age nineteen I was pretending to be Rimbaud and Kathleen Hanna and anyone who would teach me something about poetry or how to dress, feminism or French. I was obsessive about my outfits, which were weird concoctions of overly matchy, punky, preppy, deeply meaningful and (I thought) witty ensembles that often needed explaining. I ate horrible food and often had rivulets of pink or red or purple dye running down my neck because I had an idea that my dye would stick better to my badly bleached dark brown hair if I never rinsed it out, and yes, I now fully realize the ridiculous and unsanitary nature of this idea.
This girl in the health food store was not me.
In fact, she had a whiff of a sorority girl about her. I must confess that she was wearing the dreaded and horrid college-town combination of leggings and dangerously Ugg-like furry boots (I can’t exactly put my finger on why this combination irks me so, maybe someone else can–I know I’m not the only one. All I know is that it does, deeply.).
I recognized a college-age vibrancy about her, though, and it made me feel eminently schlubby and exhausted. She was beauty and no truth, and I was world-weary wintery truth, sorely lacking in beauty on a late-January rushed work day. She was wearing a perfect long sweaterdress H&M-type thing, and her hair just looked so clean and tousled and effortless, in contrast to my workaday ponytail and jeans, and I fell in love with her for the briefest moment. I confess to being a terrible stare-er when I see a woman whose style I like, and I tiredly stared at her. She flashed me a—yes—beautiful smile with absolutely nothing, truth-wise, underneath it.
I paid and left the store and ate the bagel blob in the car, while we drove to my kitchen and worried about whether the car was making a weird noise. I told Jacob that we had been home for two weeks, and I might as well admit that winter was already getting me down.
The problem, was, of course, that I hate winter clothes specifically and mine in particular. I then gave a ridiculously long disquisition that could have been summed up in the tagline for a chain of NYC beauty-supply shops: Lookin’ Good, Feelin’ Good. Jacob—as always, ever patient, helpful, and thoughtful (very irritating traits when one is working oneself into a day-long bad mood and doesn’t want to be talked out of it)—tried to make the point that if I don’t see anyone (except, now and then, Veronica, or the odd passers-by needing directions which I can rarely give), does it matter if I look good? Wasn’t it like the if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest thing?
I sighed at what a ridiculously gendered discussion we were having and tried to avoid saying that all of my girlfriends would have understood my point of view instantly, and merely said that it was not a tree-in-the-forest thing, as me, being the tree, would know if I had fallen, obviously.
Then work, and nice chats with Veronica while making truffles, until a long, complicated and completely frustrating 10-hour-long argument with my chocolate tempering machine began and snagged and jammed up the entire day, and I won’t get into it, but it was mind-bogglingly irritating.
My mind was boggled by the time Jacob came to pick me up. I should have worked another hour or two, but I just got in the car, leaving the machine and I to go another round tomorrow, everything unsettlingly undone and untidy.
But the minute I got home, with the house all warm and fireplacey-smelling, with the sweet cats and soft sheets and all that home stuff that makes life worth living, I decided to take a late-night shower and bid a conscious farewell to the day.
I took off my giant winter coat, ugly winter shoes, gloves, scarf, and hat. I went to the bathroom and took off the heavy sweater and the light sweater, the heavy undershirt, the light undershirt, and the instead-of-a-bra-undershirt. I took off my jeans, long underwear, short underwear, socks pair #1 and socks pair #2. I even took off my Whispertown 2000 harmonica necklace, after playing a mournful note to mark the end of the bad day.
I looked at my wintery naked self in the mirror, and felt OK. I have a little secret: I’ve always liked my body. We became friends a long time ago, when I was growing up in a scary house and felt so profoundly alone that I would sit with my knees up to my chin and pretend that my knees were a comforting friend. When scary things are happening all around you, it’s easy to be friends with your insides. Being alone with my body always reminds me that things are OK. Is that weird?
So I got into the shower, and literally just, you know, washed it all away. Chocolate fights and cold toes and the whole thing. Midnight shower, powering down for the night, just my head and my tired limbs. It’s all good.