Monday, May 11, 2015

When a Semester Ends

A colleague retires and I talk to a guy at the party who I haven’t seen in forever, who mentions the name of another guy who used to be married to an old friend of mine who committed suicide about twenty years ago.  She was a teacher too, and one of the last things we talked about on the phone was getting our cars fixed over the summer with new used tires before all the driving we’d have to do in the fall.  
In the morning I start spring cleaning and find a four and a half month old piece of cat poop under the cats’ bed—sorry about that—and notice I must be in better shape because I spring up from the floor, poop in hand, in about one second, as compared to the many seconds it might have taken me in January.  I do a couple pull-ups on the Iron Gym bar I’ve been hanging laundry on.  

I listen to voice messages on my home phone for the first time in weeks.  A woman named Christy tells me I’m in trouble with the IRS.  I call Christy’s number and someone picks up immediately, a man with a thick accent.  He says something about a felony; I tell him I can’t understand what he’s saying. He gets upset and warns me about the trouble I’m in; I tell him to mail me something official.  He starts telling me that this is business that can’t be conducted through the mail. I hang up on him, and turn around to open other bills in envelopes.

I drive to meet a former student for coffee and wish I could be friends with all my former students, that my existence did not mean something negative for six thousand people.  I give myself the drive to think about yesterday, the last day of school, when I finally talked to that girl.  I should have talked to her sooner.  I need to order new business cards.  I need to buy candy.  My 2001 Hyundai Sonata moans its way into the parking lot in front of Starbucks, groaning like a wounded elephant as I turn the wheel.  It’s on the list.

I go home and put my winter shoes away, keeping the sandals and heels out.  One of my sisters tried to wear my shoes when I went home last month. “Oh, that’s right,” she said as she slipped one of them on, and then quickly slipped it off, “you have big feet.”  La la la.

I make my bed and stand back, eyeing the bloodstains here and there, the one jagged rip I have folded together and stapled.  My cats and I have been living much of our lives on this bed for twelve years, a fact that I conveyed to my brother on the telephone yesterday, to which he responded with several horror stories about why mattresses weigh so much more after you’ve owned them for a few years.  I will buy a new mattress this summer, and new pillows too, but for now I will put these fresh sheets onto my five million pound teeming bed. I glance out the window and am reminded that my decorative gravel needs to be replenished.  On the phone with my brother again, he advises me against moving 20 tons of crushed granite from the street into my yard with my wheel barrow.  I’ll be on the phone with him a lot this summer.  I’ll go to see him.

I end the day with a sunburn across my shoulders, a new tetanus shot and a saw bite out of my left arm from the saw I was using to remove a mesquite limb.  Urgent Care isn’t busy on Mother’s Day, so I am in and out.  I go to the gym and walk on the treadmill, my usual workout truncated.  I punish myself by only buying sugar-free ice cream at the health food store; I feel sorry for myself and buy pistachios too.

I watch the sun set through the leaves and branches of the trees that I have planted on my own land here in my own neighborhood, noticing now that the mesquite limb is gone that one of my other trees is leaning precariously close to the neighbor’s house, and another limb is growing precariously towards my own roof.  

I have no excuse for not calling somebody to come and take a look at all this, somebody professional.


  1. Fantastic. Frustration and rage in a wrapped up box. Kudos. I could read a lot of that.

  2. Great writing, as usual, Kate.

  3. Dear Kate,

    the underlying sadness mixed here with a keen dose of pride makes for a lovely, and as usual, good read.