I sit in Phil’s narrow kitchen at the small half-circle wooden table that is pushed up against the wall. I face the window down at the far end of the room between the sink and the refrigerator. It is afternoon. Nobody else is here. I am thirteen stories up and the wind whistles through some tiny space between the window and its frame so that sometimes I think the kettle is whistling, but it’s not the kettle. It’s the wind off the river.
I am reading the book I bought two days ago, a new hardcover memoir, my latest favorite way to spend money. New hardcover memoirs. When I finish one I place it next to the last one on a bookshelf that long ago ran out of space. I have begun pulling out books that don’t seem to belong there anymore, books that I want to keep only because they are part of my past. My yoga books, for instance. They’re going now, historical relics, valuable only for that, but not valuable enough to be in the set of bookshelves that I consider mine. There are some bookshelves that are all Fred’s and some that are starting to mix. But this one set of shelves I like to keep for myself because when I look at this collection it’s like looking at myself, a small piece of my history. I say “a small piece” because for a long time I didn’t have any books. Even though almost every book I’ve ever owned has been precious to me, I’ve turned my back on them, given them all away or even thrown them out at certain times when something else seemed more important than owning anything. I have sworn never to do that again, and so I covet my books, and I like making space for the new ones on prime real estate, the shelves at eye level.
It is so nice to be sitting in this kitchen utterly in repose, reading this book that I am just deciding I like very much. I wasn’t sure for the first few chapters. I am very aware of being at peace, at ease.
I am proud of the big jug of environmentally sound laundry detergent I managed to find this morning in Phil’s not very hip neighborhood. It sits on the small kitchen table and I think Phil will be surprised and pleased to see it when he gets back. This morning I found the laundry room in his building and managed to wash and dry the sheets we’d used even though to use the machines it turned out you had to have a special tenants card, but I negotiated my way through and now there are clean sheets back on the bed, ready for Phil’s next houseguest. I’ve stayed here with Fred many times and always only got as far as leaving a pillow case full of used sheets for Phil and Andrea to deal with. I really like that I’ve managed more this time. Usually I make sure to bring them food – a jar of jam, some cheese, apple cider -- but last time I did that I felt just like my mother when she comes to visit me, and besides, Phil and Andrea are away for four days now so food didn’t seem like the best idea, nor tulips. I liked my clean sheets and environmentally friendly laundry detergent solution. I had seen a jug of their laundry detergent at the bottom of a closet, had noticed they had a health food brand, not some crap from the supermarket that I still get because it’s cheap. I bought a big jug for them and thought it might please them too because they do all their grocery shopping on bicycles and this would be damn heavy to have to drag home on a bike.
Later, in the street, I have too much to carry and have to plan my carrying strategy carefully, what fits into one hand, what fits into the other. The day has turned springtime warm and though I’d hoped I could wear the coat with the buttons undone, within two blocks I stop, put down my bags and violin and take off the coat, and find it a place amongst my carryings.
I will take the bus across 23rd St., but first I will stop at the art store. I want to buy another notebook for my violin teacher to write down her notes and suggestions for me. The notebook I brought to her last week for our first lesson was too small and precious. She needs something with big pages and no lines. I could get something probably at the Duane Reade, but I’m crazy. I want a nicer notebook than that for my violin lessons, and I struggle the extra two blocks to the art store, find something not quite as beautiful as I want, but it will do, and then the bus and then the subway.
I arrive for my lesson ten minutes early and stand outside on the sidewalk. I don’t mind.