Connecting Rooms

I was committed to staying within the current footprint and floorplan. I was okay, and, in fact always planned, taking out the pantry wall. The pantry was a rabbit hole with a bottom that we never could actually get to. Stuff piled up. I’m sure this is a problem that could have been organized out of, but opening the kitchen and gaining those fifty-four inches would add a third more space to cook in. And a better cooking experience is a major rehab goal.

The rest of the house would keep the historical layout. Center hall. Three rooms on the right. Living-dining-kitchen on the left. The bathroom at the end of the hall needed an internal reconfiguration, but there was enough space. I always loved how the rooms interconnect and how the house flows.

Over the years, the front room went from “toy room” to TV/game room and den. We still call it the toy room, to the dismay of our adult children. Old habits.

The back bedroom had been our guest room (except when I was recovering from various surgeries). We referred to it by the name of my sister-in-law, on account of her living with us for her first semester of law school until she divined that the benefit of free rent (to be fair, she insisted on paying us) and family meal was poorly balanced against a precocious four-year-old who wandered in asking a cross-ex worth of questions during reading for torts or contracts. We understood her escape. She was honored with the room name for a decade, until the former four-year-old-now-fourteen decided that he didn’t want to share a room with his brother and slowly assumed that space as his own.

That middle room was long the office of The Spouse. Computer towers, two phone lines and the screech of a 2400 baud modem electronically defined a space full of contract negotiations and a highly complex hiring hall. The Spouse had to be very efficient–more contracts meant more jobs to fill. More jobs meant more itinerant members with their schedules and last minute trips as well as the occasional times in rehab or jail. A merger and some technical changes unchained him from the desk and landline. And the room accreted into a huge closet.

I moved boxes from my last office in there. He piled up old briefcases that were never quite emptied. There were boxes of photos that I didn’t trust to the dank basement. The board games we maybe might play, boxes of computer discs, laser discs and record albums that got moved there when we got rid of the old wall unit and turntable. A collection of serving pieces and table cloths. A bunch of unidentifiables stacked haphazardly on the long buffet server that didn’t fit in the dining room. Random pieces of furniture. A ladder that didn’t get put back downstairs. A set of crutches and the recording rig that the Big Guy used to record and produce music.

When the proposed design relocated the bathroom to take a hunk out of that room, a bit of a shudder shot across my shoulders and down my spine. But I was gaining five more kitchen feet and opening light to the back of the house. We weren’t doing anything in that room, anyway. We didn’t need it as a bedroom in any future configuration. But we were losing that room. My pulse stepped up and my tongue was too dry to lick my lips.

The architect swapped the master suite idea for a narrow office configuration. We could definitely use that–I had carved out a corner in the toy room. Then she drew in two pocket doors, reestablishing a direct connection between the three rooms. The linking of space that first drew me to into the spell of this house. And my heart slowed to a regular pace, the moisture returned to my mouth. Deep breath. Okay. Let’s do it.

Room Temperatures

A very hot dog takes advantage of the box fan.

The house is unnaturally cool. Blankets get pulled up around chins. The hot coffee feels good going down. There is always a hoodie nearby for the overzealous chill. You could even imagine baking–if that was what you did. If it was a blueberry pie, that would be good.

Opening the door on a 97°F day isn’t a shock. Walking through the threshold, the wet heavy air forms a drape, a drape that is transparent to the eye but has the heft of thick velvet curtains. You need to almost push the air away, except it doesn’t resist.

The humidity is supra-tropical and the air is moving around. For skin cooled by the AC, it really isn’t as bad as expected. Stepping off of the shady porch and into the sunlight is a bigger contrast. The sun squinches eyes, even those behind sunglasses. It doesn’t caress the cool skin as much as press on it. But it doesn’t press hard.

The heat is forgotten for the first five blocks, until the the last of the chill, that last chill left on your forearms, gets dispersed into the air. The cool becomes hot, too.

The heat begins to press harder on skin. It closes up your nostrils, making it harder to breathe. It squeezes out beads of water along the hairline, at the waistband. Water begins to drip from under arms and beneath chins from throat to chest.

The heat seems to make gravity more grave. It pushes down on thighs as they work to bring the feet up to propel to the next block. It would be easy to slow down, but that would mean staying in the heat. No slowing down, but no speeding up, either. Additional exertion would be too punishing.

The last turn to the final block is a mental relief but a physical trial. Cheeks are flushed and radiate fire. The dull throbbing from your head that started two blocks earlier becomes all consuming.

The key turns in the lock. The door opens and the arctic blast starts your revival. The moisture on all skin surfaces begins to evaporate in the dark, cool house. The pounding in your head gets worse as you slump onto the couch. You stand up to switch the fan to “high” and flop back on the couch, facing the fan with your eyes closed, wiping your face with your shirt.

Your head hurts, but as you watch the swelling of your feet subside and feel the ring twirl around freely where it had been stuck on your sausage finger a few minutes ago, you lay your still pulsing head on the pillow, and reach for that hoodie.

Air Valve

A pile of sugar in a spoon. It might be a teaspoon, but it's hard to be exact.

Dear lord. It started with a misplaced sip of water. The bubble started from my throat, or maybe it’s my gut. Either way it builds to a very tight wad of air until it bursts a few inches below my chin.

Damn. Did I just get the hiccups? I wait to see.

You don’t really know if it’s the hiccups until the second one. I mean, you can feel that it might be, but, until you get the rhythmic spasms, you hold hope that it isn’t going to stick.

My chest almost tightens and the air explodes. Some of the air shoots out of my nose in a very uncomfortable fashion. It’s almost effervescent, but not nicely so. Effervescent in that citric acidy way that burns your nostrils. A subset of the air from my tight chest, almost concurrently with the nose release, reverses back down and erupts in my esophagus just above my stomach. This is also not pleasant.

There’s a burst of belchy air that escapes from my mouth. This is the part I really hate. The air doesn’t as much escape as expel through my lips at a disturbingly high speed. This happens via some unknown muscle in the back of my throat. This muscle curls onto itself. It creates a very tight spring, and when it lets go it shakes the top half of my body. I am not exaggerating. I visibly convulse a bit.

The air rushes through my voicebox on the way to my mouth to create a squeaky “hic” sound. A sound that seems so silly and gentle. But that sound belies the violence of the air jetting out.

It doesn’t hurt. Not at first.

Even though I am alone, my hand rushes to my mouth to excuse myself. It’s just polite to avoid spreading air spewing from your gut across the room.

I wait.

Yes, there. Damn. Although the hiccups are rhythmic, it’s a syncopated beat. A beat without rhyme or reason. Hiccups are erratic and random–except that they will repeat. For too long. Sometimes they’re fast and furious, but more often they tease you into thinking that they are over. Until they are not over but instead causing pain in your chest and your throat.

Mind races to the list of cures. A teaspoon of sugar. Or of vinegar. Or hot sauce or honey. Covering your mouth with a paper bag and slowly inhaling and exhaling into that bag. Drinking a glass of water through a paper towel or with a spoon hanging underneath your tongue. Then there’s fright–but you know it’s coming so it rarely works.

Or writing a post about it. Seriously. They are gone. I love this blog!

Pitchers of Water

Post storm water droplets reflected on the leaves of the tree. This is awesome. Who knew you could capture this on a phone? Really, who knew?

The sky opened up with a fury unleashed from the heavy ball and chain of oven heat and thick humidity. It was like a bunch of frat boys balancing an unlimited supply of beer tubs full of cold water and dumping them, one after another, over the deck and the wet splashing down on unsuspecting bystanders. It was that. With an EDM light show and the deafening boom of Thor’s hammer. And, tragically, without the eye candy of the God of Thunder.

A bunch of people were plastered against the wall of the building underneath a narrow overhang. They must be waiting for the bus. The bus must be delayed. Of course it was, since the “safety surge” is serially shutting down stretches of the subway all summer. The people were mostly wet, some very very wet. But they jostled for dry space as they waited for their mad dash to the H Bus. They held umbrellas and plastic CVS bags against the wet. Almost all of them had at least a small dry patch. They worked to maximize that patch.

There was a man who exuded misery, or he would if anything could come out of him. He was slick with water, his white shirt glued to his back. It wasn’t that he didn’t care. It was that it didn’t matter if he did. His abject look of surrender to the buckets that poured over him was truly miserable. His hair framed his face with a mousy brown fringe. Water drops fell from his sharp nose, from his chin, and his hands were too wet to brush the rain away. They just moved the wet around. He plodded along. He would get on the subway platform and a pool would form around his soggy shoes.

A pair of young women walked on the other side of the street. Their rubber flip flops absorbed nothing. One woman grabbed her companion’s arm to stop her from tumbling into the rushing water as she slipped off her sandal. They both said sorry at the same time. They leaned into each other as they laughed. And they poked each other with their useless umbrellas. “Why are we holding them?” they laughed, again.

The rain ran down from their waists and then splashed up from the sidewalk to soak the hems of their dresses. One wore a skirt that had been flirty before the wet made it hug her legs. The other wore one of those cotton shifts with an overlay of lace. It was heavy now and was causing her legs to chafe.

The one with the chafing pointed to the mojito bar. They shook their umbrellas, squeezed out their dresses, shook their thick manes of curls and stepped out of the rain into the ice box of a bar where they took their spots.