VERB. When you think you’re watching a show, but you’re actually asleep.
Updated: Nov 14
for the information age
These bite-sized stories chronicle my efforts, both pitiful and successful,
to navigate the rapidly-changing world.
My hope is that they help you do the same.
One summer, we rented a house by the bay. The house was full of spiders and the kitchen smelled of food gone bad. While my husband took the kids to the beach, I cleaned the refrigerator and vacuumed cobwebs from beneath the beds. I did laundry, folded tiny shirts and big threadbare towels. I swept sand out of the living room and cut watermelon into wet, red cubes. I wiped the cutting board clean. But no matter what I did, the place still smelled iffy.
The house did have an outdoor shower -- a crude spigot over a slatted cedar floor. Every evening, I stood under the warm spray, looked out at the bay and the peninsula of green scrub that jutted into the blue. A whole vacation can happen in a few delicate moments.
It was summer the first time I read James Joyce's novella, The Dead. I read it in that tiny bed by the sea with my husband snoring quietly beside me. At the time, our children were little and we were young. I am not sure what I thought of the story, except that I could only read it in the deep of night when everyone – husband, children, everyone – was bathed, fed, fast asleep, and there was nothing left of the day but the sound of bay waves lapping the pebbled shore. On some nights, an offshore breeze made the old wooden windows rattle in their frames. I turned the pages quietly, tilted the slim book towards the dim light of the lamp.
I don't know why I pulled the tiny volume off of the bookshelf today and hungrily reread it in one sitting; this time, this reading, I am struck. Later, when my husband comes into the kitchen, lifts the pot lid to see what’s for dinner, I tell him, you know, I’ve just read probably the most beautiful thing ever written, and he says, oh, then asks after our son, who had some difficulty today. So that I do not try to explain to him what Joyce has done -- how he has made in one small story the universe of human misunderstanding.