Living in the Moment, Outdoors, Things I Can

97. Things I Can Redraw: The Boundary Lines

resistance

I remember to look up. The reason I remember is because I have been so busy looking down.

Down, yes, but looking as in actually seeing.

Vision is an unexpected discovery, like a forgotten scent stirring in a place of dead things. Like yesterday when I caught myself singing as I ironed my purple shirt for work. I’m gonna let it shine. . . The silvery thread of music startled me to a shiver.

My song. Still here. My sight. Always, again.

I have been looking down and so noticed for the first time the thick ropes of roots pushing up the sidewalk. This is why I’ve stopped and let my gaze slide up the gnarled skin, up and up into the turning leaves.

“What?” Bug says. He almost plows into me. Then he too peers skyward. Cars rip past us on the clogged road. His is an all-wheel-drive school. Walking is forbidden because keeping the children a safe distance from these thin-lipped, texting, whiplash drivers trumps community concerns about obesity levels and global temperatures.

It’s rare these days that this stretched-to-splitting mama has the guts or gas to rebel. Oh, but it is a tasty little thrill when she does. Because sometimes we have to step right out in front of absurdity. Sometimes we even have to let it run us down. How else do we keep the winners from winning it all?

Once in a while when the train arrives two minutes early or the traffic parts like the biblical sea two blocks from my neighborhood, a gash opens in the choking press of late hurry go more go hurry late. It is a bright gust, it is mountaintop air.

It is opportunity.

I get to flout that stupidest of stupid policies.

I get to walk.

And here we are doing exactly that. Bug is wearing his backpack and his first sweatshirt of fall. I’m wearing my Wellies. Hurricane Joaquin in bearing down on us and we are taking the slow route home.

We gaze up together.

“Have you ever noticed how big this tree is?” I ask.

He considers it. “Big how?”

“Look at these roots. The whole sidewalk is a hill. It’s growing right under us.” We nudge our toes at the knobby knees pressing through concrete. “It probably goes all the way across the road.”

Bug lifts his gaze again to the towering branches far above. “It would be hard to climb.” We circle around it and take in the grade of the sloping grass. Then he peers across the grounds of the hulking telecom sales center that abuts our neighborhood. “That one.” He points to a drooping, naked thing with one arm. “That’s a good climbing tree.”

We cut across, striding right through the chain of “No Trespassing” signs. Bug tosses his backpack on the soaked ground and gives me a sly grin. “You first.”

I consider my twinged back, the slick bark, a throbbing current of sleep deprivation. Oh, the warm couch waiting. Then I shrug. “Okay.”

I shimmy and slide, hooking my knee over a knot and swinging myself up. Bug tries but his shoes keep slipping. He peels off his sweatshirt and ties it around the trunk. “If it’s dry, maybe I can get up.” This is an imperfect plan. After his third try, he leaves the jersey limp and tethered like an abandoned prisoner. He races off towards another stand of trees. “That one!” He cries and leaves me to collect our things.

Inside a sheltering arc of boughs he ranks them, 1-2-3, from easiest to hardest. I go first again, contorting my limbs to fit. I haul my mass onto a branch and perch there under a damp canopy. He gets partway up too before we both sort of spill off. I laugh and show him my hands. Mud has worked its way deep in. Laugh line, love line, all in bold. He holds up his grimy palm and I give him a high five.

Near our heads dangles a bulbous seed cluster we notice now for the first time. From tumorous, split husks gleam half a dozen cherry-red zombie eyes. They look like they might actually blink. We step back and decide to forgo a deeper investigation.

As we circle the parking lot for the shortcut home, I glance up again. “If the hurricane does come, we may lose all these leaves before they even change.”

Bug kicks at some that have fallen. He stops at the edge of a cracked tree whose branches on one side are entirely bare. The other side is draped in rust foliage.

“The rain is coming,” he says.

“How do you know?”

“Feel that,” he says. “There’s a gust.” He lifts his face. I do the same.

“It’s darker too,” I say. “Storm dark.” We both watch the steel sky churn.

“Whenever there’s a gust, it rains,” he tells me. “The rain is probably like 30 seconds to 5 minutes away.”

“We’d better get home quick.”

“Okay,” he says. “And we can make a fire and wait for the flood.”

Image from the Cheap Art collection of the Bread and Puppet theater in Glover, Vermont

Divorce, Family, Poetry

The Price is Right

It’ll cost you
the title, your hero,
your favorite villain,
and at least half the notes
you’ve added to the score.
You’ll be charged the magic carpet
of your pride and its rareified view
from a distance that has shrunk
so mercifully the proportion
of your never diminishing guilt
along the contours
of your history.

Into this dowry will go your cardinal
north and the map you drew
with measurements meticulously
if mistakenly
taken. You’ll hand over the slide rule
along with the legend
of triumphant good and forfeit
the last word,
the last laugh, the last time
you’ll ever have to deal with that shit again.

Hidden fees will take your breath
away and the fine print
sting your eyes:
You can’t throw anyone
under the bus, gather an audience,
hand-pick seeds
to sow, spin bristles into yarns,
tally fault, count beans,
spit venom, or squirrel spite
into the pocket of your cheek
and chew its cud in righteous silence.

You will pay yourself empty
of the solid weight
of your myth
just to buy a ticket
to a lottery whose odds are against you
and whose prize is nothing
more than a single fleeting frame

of sun-warmed bleachers
in an early spring thaw
where you loll with your son
and the person who shared
the bed where he was made

watching a stuttering rainbow
of children cast balls from turf to net
and another family
maybe taking shape
and maybe changing the currency
that drops in your palm
one penny at a time.
 

Home, Mindfulness

Patch Work

This should be a crisis. It would have been on any given night in any given year before now. Crouched by the HVAC closet, frozen air blowing right into my house from the snowy night, I sop up the quarter inch of filthy water pooled on the concrete floor.
 
I had not planned to be anywhere near here. My workout clothes are on, water bottle filled, iPod charged up. Almost out the door 30 minutes earlier, I’d forced myself to do a U-turn. Those presents aren’t going to wrap themselves, Chiquita.
 
In the hours after my son’s snow-day ended with his dad picking him up, I had moved with steadfast determination towards the sweet promise of three miles on the elliptical. Legos were tossed into bins, vacuum run, dishwasher emptied. I stopped myself halfway out the door to tackle a final task that I’d been skillfully avoiding for days. Just one set, Lady. Then you can go sweat. My workout, my precious reward, could wait 15 more minutes.
 
Okay, fine. But just the one.
 
After packing goodies and taping up boxes, I opened the closet door to grab a roll of wrapping paper from behind the rumbling air handler. It came up dripping. The bottom end of it was a sponge of wet mush. I took a breath, braced myself, and forced my eyes to the floor. Brown. Rippling. The boxes of tools and bags of charcoal had booked a winter cruise.
 
Now, hunched here in my yoga pants with presents only half wrapped and a workout swiftly receding into the horizon, I toss aside the floating metal door sill which has come loose. A puddle disappears under the floorboards and travels who-knows-where.
 
Out come igloo cooler, portable grill, paint supplies. The rest of the ruined wrapping paper. Stained plywood scraps. All of it lands in a grimy heap by our twinkling Christmas tree. Presents are mushed in the commotion. In the absence of a shopvac (where would a girl store such a monster?), I gather a cache of bath towels. Sop, rinse, first shift clocks out and heads to the laundry. Second shift takes up the mess under the drip pan. Once the bulk is up, I don boots and step in to diagnose the problem. Pouring in the contents of the water bottle I had filled for a purpose I can scarcely recall, I see the leak spilling right out of the new drain pipe I foolishly invited our resident maintenance dude to install.
 
I curse him. Curse myself for trusting him not once but twice, asking him to do this even after he botched a drywall job. As soon as the first mental punch cracks open the door, in slither the familiar hissing thoughts of defeat. I feel suddenly, horribly alone. There is no one help with this. I can’t afford this. I can’t do this.
 
I don’t close the door on them. I just toss the empty bottle aside, shrug, and haul a heap of dripping towels to the bathtub. Then, as quickly as they came, all those thoughts just skitter on away. They hadn’t even hung around for 90 seconds. I can almost hear the slip-rattle of their scaled bellies as they vanish down the corridor and head out in into the night. I smile — actually smile — as I notice how completely fine this whole situation is.
 
New thoughts come knocking. These, I choose. These, I invite in to keep me company as I work.
 
How cool is it that I found this problem before the downstairs neighbors did? Isn’t it neat that I decided to stay and wrap the presents so I could stumble upon this?
 
And
 
Well, I guess it takes me two times to learn not to trust that guy with anything inside my house.

 
And
 
Making good choices about home repair takes practice, just like mastering anything: speaking a new language, getting around in an unfamiliar city, making sourdough tortillas, managing a first-grader’s schedule.
 
And
 
It’s just a problem to solve. I’ll clean up now and cobble together the tools I need to keep it from getting worse. Then, once I’ve caught my breath, I’ll tackle the next step.
 
And
 
I’m so glad I already worked with that other handyman my realtor recommended. Now I have someone I can call!
 
(Which I pause to do). And
 
Wow, what a great opportunity to clean the crud off of some of these things piled up in the HVAC closet.
 
And
 
Dad’s right. Homeownership does suck. Hey, I’m a homeowner! And I get to figure all this stuff out!
 
Straddling a chair and prattling on, these thoughts keep me buoyed up at the surface of the evening. Where is the self-pity? The sagging sense of defeat? The inward longing for someone to come and figure this out for me? The door is still open but those worries and aches haven’t returned.
 
They slinked off down the block a while ago. Maybe it’s too bright in here for them now.
 
Over three years have passed since the separation. This month marks the second anniversary of the divorce. Getting through the day and facing both the routines and the surprises do not grind at me as they did when this all began in 2010.
 
I have experienced crisis. This is not one. Not by any stretch. The yardstick for catastrophe has changed shape entirely. This? This is just a leaky heater. It’s not even a bad thing. It’s just another event in a day. Unplanned, like so many, yet totally manageable.
 
As I toss towels in the dryer, I hear something scrape against the bottom of the washer tub. I reach in and pull out a tiny, marred gold object about the size of my pinkie-nail. It is a pendant in the shape of a clam shell. It must have washed out from a flooded corner. From the foundation. From the ocean floor. I drop it in my pocket and root around for a moment to see what else is in there. I pull up a handful of currency I don’t remember stashing there, but when I see it shining in my palm, I recognize it instantly.
 
This:
 
A small but growing community. A few neighbors whose names I know. Parents down the road. A companion who comes not to rescue me but to believe in me. A young but expanding career, a cushion in the bank, time off when I need it. A child a few blocks away in the good care of his loving dad. A half-full toolbox, two able hands, one agile mind.
 
Workout gear. NPR on the iPod. Thirty minutes to spare.
 
Now, the towels are dry and a fresh set pads the drainspout. The grill and cooler and plywood are all wiped clean and stacked neatly near the twinkling tree. I refill my water bottle and step outside.
 
Mist cradles the evening. The forecast calls for more snow. I’m ready for it.
 
I’m ready for anything.
 

Art, Home

Tack in Place

He asked, “What’s your style?”

Style. . . ?

“Decorating. Design. What do you like?”

“Um.” Catalog pages, gallery spaces, antique shops. It all fluttered and slipped around in my uncertain brain. Is Pottery Barn a style? If it is, it’s not mine. Bauhuas? Gothic? I don’t even have vocabulary for these things.

“Well, I have these friends. . .”

These friends. An couple of artist-writer-dancers, old as the hills. They live in a shambling D.C. house crammed with faded velvet chairs, books to the ceilings, creeping plants and instruments enough for a chamber orchestra. On the windowsills, dusty bottles jostle for light with the wire and stone treasures from Egypt and India. The thrum and jumble cascade out to the stone limits of the property. The back yard is a fairy garden. Tea lights and whirligigs, mismatched wrought iron chairs and labyrinthine shrubbery housing whole communities of pixies.

I tried to explain to him that this is what I envision for a home. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, though, let alone my words. It seems so cluttered and non-functional, and anyway, how does a person decorate “bohemian”? You can’t find it on Amazon.com. It takes living along a certain edge, seeking-making-stumbling upon bits and bobs among the X-marked meanderings into the neverlands where treasure like that begins.

Who has time? Space? This is a condo, for Pete’s sake. Between the spider plants and the Japanese fishing buoys, where would a gal store her financial records? And let’s face it. There will be no trips to Morocco for a samovar and silk curtains anytime soon.

My style? Dorm-room cast-off on a Goodwill budget.

Five weeks in the place and clueless as to how to proceed, I attend to the basics. The scarred molding is out. With the help of a borrowed miter saw and a day off work, I’ve just about finished hammering in the new strips. Hooks are hung near every door. Kitchen is sorted. Bookcases and desk are all up in Bug’s room. Bathroom shelves hold the guest towels.

Progress is measurable but the yardstick is chilly to the touch. Form exists for function alone. It’s as if this home and I are on an extended first date. The interaction is all halted conversation and nervous tics.

Moving through the house like it’s a museum rather than canvas, I place each item an inch from the wall. I anchor nothing. The single photograph displayed — a shot of the Colorado sand dunes taken by a friend and hand-framed in rough wood — sits balanced on the mantle in a sort of half-squat. The bedroom walls beg for splash but every color seems wrong. The thought of choosing curtains paralyzes me so the hideous black ones left by the previous owner still scar my bedroom. Everywhere I look, bare space blinks back at me.

So? What’s your style?

Today, Bug and I made the trek over to Maryland to visit an old friend who has just landed here. Divorce and custody battles forced him into an 11th hour move over 500 miles to a place where he had no connections, no work, no place to live. All of this so he could be near his kids. He found the only decent apartment he could afford in their school district, signed the lease and unloaded his U-Haul. He’s been here a week.

I stepped into his place and fell open.

It was home.

Floor-to-ceiling kids’ paintings. Lush and spindly greenery spilling from every corner. Books and jumbled art and gorgeously scarred furniture. Wood and toys and color. Mason jars for water glasses. Everywhere, texture.

What’s your style?

Everywhere, life.

The boys played at perfect pitch. In between refereeing lego skirmishes, my friend and I talked easily. I nestled into overstuffed couch and felt rocked from all sides as if by the sea. Orientation, at last. Breath cracked open the closed place in my chest and light caught a corner of the treasure down in there.

When my kiddo and I landed back at home, I plopped him in the tub and started poking around. All of our art supplies and Bug’s drawings are still back at my folks’ house, but we had to have something. Where to begin? I pulled a wobbly shelf back into the living room. Playing around with angles, I gave it a home and unpacked books of poetry. I raised lights. I tucked away cable cords. After stories and songs, Bug conked out and I found my second wind. Perhaps my first? An old calendar of bright family photographs was crammed into the bottom of a drawer. I dug it out and started cutting.

I have no frames or picture hooks. I have no gallery pieces. But I have scissors. Colored paper. Thumb tacks. Inspiration.

I have a style. It’s pushing back out from its deep, sunless sleep. Taking my hands. Tacking the boat. Placing the brand. Claiming the place.
 

Fitness, Happy Days, Home

Happy 100 Days: 22

Inside the gray morning, a storm churns. No one looking down from a weather balloon would ever know. Calm skies lay a low blanket of mist over this patch of concrete. Upstairs, my boy dreams on. He will wake on his own and climb into my arms so I can carry him down to our waking day. For this singular pleasure, I continue to press my weight against the porch step. I jump skyward straight up from a squat 20 times over, roaring past my own screaming heart then begin again once the stars dim.
 
Inside the neighbors’ homes, small thunderclaps fall on deaf ears. Who would know? Secrets, stillness, fury, love. White lights twine around poplars and oaks dotting the unfenced green. In the low dawn, other women walk their dogs at a racer’s clip or jog in nylon sheaths. I wonder who these people are. Even the ones whose names I have learned over wine and block-party gossip are exotic, sleek-billed things. They married the ones who became captains and commanders. Very few of wives themselves hold such sway. They feather their nests and pine for more yet seem to possess a knowledge that eludes me. Gloss and curl, breast and fawn. Perhaps just dumb luck? Whatever the code, I have not cracked it yet. I rely on pulse and sweat. I bend and crunch my belly, powering the core which sustains me. It is, after all, the only one I’ve got.
 
Next door, the couple stands bickering over the placement of a red bow on the new porch light. She wears the teal track suit, he the familiar scowl. The stout pillars of their new portico twinkles with lights. Their long-legged girls soar past on in-line skates, hair swaying. The silent distance of proximity has me hungering and recoiling. What quiet thunder brews there? Any? None? They have lived here since the girls were toddlers. I have never seen the inside of their home, yet I long to inhabit it, whether it be the shelter or the storm.
 
I lunge 50 times on my patch of damp concrete. I get to 51 and keep going. Past 75, past 100. These thighs will never fail me. I will climb the stairs. I will scale these walls. I will leap over rooftops, up past the front that taunts us with its constant pressure and threats of deluge. Up into clear skies this surging heart will carry my boy and me, winging us into the place we are meant to be.
 

Children, Mindfulness, Parenting

Happy 100 Days: 52

“Mommy, what is res-ill-ih. . .?”
 
We are taking turns sipping sparkly water from a red mug. I lean in to see the words on its side. “Oh, that’s ‘resilience.'” The mug is a forgotten souvenir from the Learning and Leading with Resilience conference earlier this year. Because the three grownups sharing this address take their careers a bit too seriously, the house is littered with such schwag.
 
Bug traces the word with his finger, sounding it out. “Res-ili-ence. What it mean?”
 
“Resilience is. . . ” I fumble. Apparently, the mug was not the only forgotten item from the conference. “It’s sort of when something gets messed up but comes back again, either into the old shape or into something new and better. Resilience is bouncing back.”
 
“Like a magnet?”
 
“Hmm.” I think about this. “Not exactly. More like a nerf ball. You know how if you mush it, twist it, anything, it still spring back into the shape it was before?”
 
“Yeah.” He is making a squeezing motion with his hand, mimicking me.
 
“It’s not just things. People can have the quality, too,” I go on. “It’s a way of living life. Just imagine some big unexpected change happens. Like. . . maybe a big glacier comes and busts up some guy’s house.”
 
“What’s a glacier?”
 
“An iceberg. You ever see any icebergs around here?”
 
He laughs. “No, they’re in the north pole!”
 
“Right. So this would never happen here, right?”
 
“I know, Mommy.” He rolls his eyes. “Just say the thing!”
 
“Okay. So, say some guy down the street is just strolling home after work, and he sees this big glacier roll through his neighborhood and right through the middle of his house. Everything he has is destroyed. He might cry and stomp like anyone would, even like you and I would, if all our stuff was gone. But then the guy spends the next 30 years still being sad and mad, and saying, ‘Bad things happen and it’s just no use trying, I’ll never have anything good ever again.’ And guess what? He ends up not living a very happy life, just because one bad thing happened one time. You know what that guy doesn’t have?”
 
“What?”
 
Resilience. He couldn’t ever get himself to see a way past the glacier and the stuff he lost, even a long time after it happened. He was stuck back in the bad thing.”
 
“Okay, okay, okay.” Bug takes another sip of seltzer and lays back on the couch.
 
“Maybe instead,” I go on, “the guy stomps and cries at first, but then decides to gather his neighbors and work together to re-build. Maybe he decides to stop being miserable after a little while, and he finds the energy to design a whole new house, and maybe he likes it as much as or even better than the old one. Maybe it takes him a few years to save up his money and do the work, but he still keeps plugging away. He and his friends and family and neighbors all end up with a community that’s not quite like the old one, but it still really nice even if it’s different. You know what that guy is?”
 
“Yes, duh. Resilient,” he says.
 
“Yeah, duh, you got it.”
 
“Legos are resilient,” he tells me.
 
“They are? I’m not sure.” I’m still thinking nerf ball, and legos seem too hard.
 
“Yeah. Even if you break them all apart, you can put them back together like they were before or even build something else.”
 
“Yes! They are resilient! You’re right.” I reach over and give him a squeeze.
 
“Mom! Get off!” He is grinning but trying not to.
 
“You know what else is resilient?” I ask.
 
“What?”
 
“We are. We had the grumpiest, growliest, no-good-very-bad-day on Saturday. And even though we were both in yucky moods, we decided to make it better. We visited friends, and played, and spoke nicely. It could have stayed an I-Hate-You day, but it didn’t. We worked together to turn the day around. It was so much fun after that.”
 
“Can we be done talking about this now?” He sets the cup on the side table and ooches down under his blanket.
 
“Only if I can have a kiss first.”
 
“No!” He squeals and throws the blanket up over his head. I smooch against his protests and then offer to carry him up the stairs to his bed.
 
“Okay,” he says. “Like a baby.” And so I slip my arms under his knees and shoulders, heft all 50 pounds of him off the sofa, and cradle him to my chest as I maneuver him up the stairs. It is getting harder to do this without banging his noggin on a door frame, but it’s okay. Sometimes feeling like a small thing is worth the risk of minor injury. I am finally coming to understand that my boy will be fine. He is resilient, after all.
 

Uncategorized

Happy 100 Days: 87

We swipe the last of the paratha across the bottom of the silver dish. This was something new, Chicken Kadai. (“How was it?” “Oh,it was kadai for!”) He pours the final splash of house white from the half carafe into my glass and then his. We are re-visiting a story that he knows but we rarely discuss. As happens when we are liking each other again, he finds a way to phrase the questions no one else would dare ask and I find ways to open doors with my answers. We are not the last to occupy a table in the restaurant. The other couple has only just started their entree, but still, the servers have long since ceased re-filling our water, so we tumble out into the brisk night.
 
“Your call,” he says. “Someplace for another drink?”
 
I consider this. It is enticing, 9:30 on a Saturday night. Cars whoosh along the boulevard. Colored lights and warm chatter invite from somewhere just around the bend. I decide to reel in the vision of what comes after this in-between. “No,” I say. “We’ll save a few bucks, like we promised. If we want a drink, we’ll buy a six-pack. Stay in. Finish this conversation under a blanket on the couch.”
 
“Wegmans?”
 
“Let’s go.”
 
In the store, we wheel the cart past the produce, past the bakery. He stops to squeeze a loaf of something dotted with pumpkin seeds. Then, he strokes another with a golden crust. “Like this,” he says, gazing at the gleam under the plastic sheath. “I want to get it like this. With that chewiness, you know?” We adopted a sourdough starter months ago. He is a much better father than I had expected.
 
I consider the cookies. He asks me if I want a treat, knowing I do.
 
“Let’s make some,” I say. “You have baking soda, right? Vanilla?” He nods. It has been too long since I have been in his kitchen. I used to know, but then there was the distance. He is out of butter now. He pauses at the beer and I leave him to it, heading on down to the dairy fridge. He is trying to watch his cholesterol, and the array of options is dizzying.
 
He approaches. “Country Crock?”
 
“I don’t think you can use it. See?” I point to the side of the margarine. “Not suitable for baking.”
 
“But that’s the generic. It says it is 48% oil. This one is 39%.”
 
I hold them up next to each other and try to puzzle through the fine print. “I don’t think a lower oil content is better for baking. I think it’s worse because it is more water. Maybe?”
 
Then he is holding up butter to compare. I find a butter blend, then two kinds of Smart Balance, one with canola oil and one with olive. We are trying to measure unknown quantities, the saturated fat in this one against the moisture content of that one. We juggle six different tubs. The poor butter sits alone to the side, denied entry but still on display just to advertise its failings. Its truth, its singular purity, is irrelevant in this contest.
 
“Fuck it,” he says. He dumps all but one of the tubs aside. The survivor lands with a thunk it in the basket.
 
We wheel out through the deserted produce section, grabbing a bunch of bananas on the way. He stops by the broccoli. “What is this?” He picks up a conical, fractal-studded oddity in sea-foam green. It is clearly brassica, but beyond that, it is a mystery. I believe I knew the name once but can’t call it up. “Romanesco,” he tells me. I realize I was imagining pieces never placed.
 
“What would someone do with it?”
 
“I don’t have any idea,” I say.
 
“Should we buy one and find out?” He digs around, finding the perfect one while I create a bouquet from a leggy artichoke, a rhubarb stalk, a yellow zucchini, and a single loose carrot. I tell him if we ever get married, this is what I want to carry down the aisle.
 
“You’re beautiful,” he says, laughing. He folds the romanesco into a plastic bag and places it in the cart.
 
Back at his place, I lose momentum for making cookies. I eat an unsatisfying square of Hershey’s chocolate instead. It is the only sweet in his kitchen, and it is waxy enough to keep me from coming back for seconds. He is made of stronger stuff than I am. Or maybe just different stuff. He opens a beer. We jabber on about important topics soon forgotten while he prepares the proof for tomorrow’s loaf. He realizes he is out of whole wheat flour. I remember that I am supposed to write something happy. I touch his back as he stirs white flour in. He never pours the discolored hootch off. He keeps it all in, everything unknown and alive, claiming “this is what gives it that flavor, you know?”
 
The sour whang lingers in the kitchen. In a nearby unit, neighbors bark at each other, their teary distress echoing at odd intervals against the balcony. That was us just last week. That was some other us a million years ago.