Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Pancho & Lefty Diaries: Rainy Days

June 13, 2014 

9:35 AM
On rainy days, our apartment could be a spaceship. The windows in the main living space - dining room/living room/kitchen - open on to the blank walls of neighboring buildings, so even on the sunniest days, there’s no life through them. When it’s cloudy, there’s no light either, and the room takes on a podlike feel - sealed, dislocated, entirely apart. It seems possible that we have become unmoored and are hurtling through space at unimaginable speeds, never to return again.

The dog lifts his head, growls, resettles. The children play with yesterday’s birthday truck. After awhile, they turn to a video game on the iPad, and the sound effects are thin and tinny in the gloom. I sit at the table and read a Murakami piece in the love stories edition of The New Yorker. I generally avoid Murakami because I know enough about the Japanese language to be keenly aware that it is impossible that the English translations bear any particular similarity to the original texts. It’s hopeless, though, to attempt to read Murakami in Japanese. It would require long, horrible, brainbending hours immersed in my Shin Kan-Ei Jiten (New Japanese-English Character Dictionary). The jiten has been with me for many, many years now. A Japanese family friend gave it to me when I was in high school, a shockingly generous gift, as it was quite expensive at the time, especially in Japan. Its system of organizing the characters is ingenious and fiendishly complicated, and back when I was an active student of the Japanese language, I used it every single day, covering piles of scrap paper with the jottings necessary to determine each character’s “skip number” in order to locate it in the jiten’s 2,000-plus pages. Those days are behind me now, unlikely to ever return. My Shin Kan-Ei Jiten, still theoretically one of my most prized possessions, gathers dust on a shelf. I surprise myself by finishing the Murakami story in The New Yorker, and by finding it not half bad. I close the magazine and look up to see that the children are still on the sofa, heads still bent over the video game.

Often, on days like this, it feels not only as though we may never leave the apartment, but also as though we may never even move at all - that nighttime, in hours, will find us sitting exactly as we are right now. But I’ve had enough experience now to be relatively sure that this will not be the case. In a little while, we will all fidget and rouse. We will gather some toys and snacks, put on shoes and raincoats, argue briefly about umbrellas, and head out into the city, the poor dog barking at the door behind us.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Bad Days

On the bad days - which usually arrive not singularly, but rather strung together in intolerable chains - I feel conquered by the logistics of motherhood.  In the morning, I must get the children fed, clothed, brushed, out of the house.  In the evening, I must get them fed more/again, brushed more/again, into pajamas, into the bedroom, quiet, asleep.

I must keep groceries in the house.  They must be healthy groceries, but also the precise ones that everyone wants to eat.  I must cook or prepare them up to three times a day.   I must serve them and do my best to see that the children eat them. Someone always dislikes something I have prepared.  Someone is always begging for something else, sometimes screaming or yelling or crying or sulking for it.  I must clean after cooking, serving, eating.  I must ensure that there are adequate implements for cooking, eating, and cleaning at all times.  I must organize the trash and its disposal.

I must ensure that everyone has adequate amounts of the appropriate types of clothing in the appropriate sizes.  I must clean the clothing.  I must put the clothing away comprehensibly.  I must see to it that there are adequate implements for cleaning the clothing, and adequately organized spaces for putting them away.  I must discard or store clothing that is no longer appropriate.  I must see to it that there are adequately organized spaces for storing usable old clothing; I must organize the disposal of unusable old clothing.

I must wheedle and convince my children.  I must get them calm.  I must get them excited.  I must get them on board.  I must discover and invent things for them to do, and then I must do my best to see that they do them.  All day, I move them into and out of clothes, into and out of the bathroom, into and out of the subway, into and out of the car, into and out of the house, into and out of classes, into and out of friends’ houses, into and out of the park, into and out of the museum.  Someone always does or doesn’t want to go or stay or leave or see something or hear something or do something.  Someone always wants to buy something.  Someone is always so fatally hungry or tired that they can no longer be relied upon to act like any kind of human at all.  Sometimes that someone is me.

I yell and scream.  I threaten.  I curse.  I stomp.  I slam doors.  I make faces and gestures.  I am impatient and angry.  I frighten my children.  I am no better than my children.  I am a child myself, but I'm not because I'll be 36 come spring.  I want to hide, I want to cry, I want to undo my entire life up to this point.  

On the bad days, these things are all true, and I don’t really know what else to say.