A Letter to You

Dear friends,

I woke at 3:30 this morning to the sounds of my housemates trooping through with some friends.  They leaned against the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator (I imagined), and began to hold a loud conversation (I did not imagine this).  I located my phone in the dark and wrote a text on the thread we usually reserve for when someone gets locked out or for when we need paper towels or hand soap.  “Hey, remember me?”  I began in sleepy letters.

“Your roommate who doesn’t have many friends yet, and so doesn’t often have plans that involve staying out until 3:30 a.m.?  Perhaps you think I’m sheltered, or a prude, or boring because I’m in bed at 3:30 a.m. and not out on U Street with glitter on my face.  But the fact is, I was asleep until you came storming in.  I’m trying to be civil about all of this, especially because it is your apartment too, but I really think you’re being very inconsiderate.”  (This was the subtext)

“Can you please keep it down?  I was asleep.”  (This was the actual text)

I woke again at 11:30, groggy and with the telltale beginnings of a bad cold.

But it was 65 and sunny outside, and so I only watched the end of the English Patient before forcing myself up.  If you’ve never seen that movie, by the way, consider watching it soon.  It’s a period film, and terribly sad, but it’s also a beautifully-told story.  If you like that sort of thing.

I walked down Maryland toward the Capitol building.  The same route, so my docent training tells me, that the British took when they marched to burn the Capitol (and the books inside) in August 1814.  There’s a large courtyard in front of the Capitol which I had never noticed before.  It struck me that this was America’s version of Tiananmen Square or Red Square, and that this would be where everything would go to pieces if it ever were to go to pieces.  (Sad movies tend to make me brood like this)

Behind the Capitol stretched the National Mall, grown tall and pale during the winter.

It was glorious to be out with the Ultimate teams and the runners and the stroller pushers and the unabashed strollers.  I waited in a line that was too long for a cup of frozen yogurt that was just okay.  But it was still glorious to sit on a bench with it, to have the coolness in my throat and the sun on the back of my neck.  I watched people go by until 4:30, when I went to visit the Natural History Museum.

We’ve become good friends.  Today I met the  Mammals and Early Humans, and looked in fondly on the Hope Diamond.  It’s fun to hear the kids say “It’s so small!”  and to hear their parents answer patiently, “Actually, it’s 45 carats.  It’s not small.”  The parents say this because they feel obligated to speak realistically to their children.  But I think they’re really just as disappointed that the diamond isn’t the size of a cantaloupe.  I know I was.

On my way home, I took a new route and found myself pausing in front of a brownstone Catholic church.  The service was starting in five minutes, and the priest and the deacon were on the front steps still in their black suits.  The stretched their elbows back and commented on the warm day, talking slowly and comfortably, as if surveying fields instead of Union Station.  This struck me as so Midwestern that I decided to attend mass.

An older woman stood just inside the entrance to the church, a stack of programs between her arms and chest.  I reached two fingers toward the font of holy water beside her, smiling politely, and I swear to you, the woman actually hissed at me.

I became aware of my street clothes, the sunglasses on my head, the earbuds tucked against my collar.

“Don’t worry,” I said to her, “I’m allowed.  I’m Catholic.”

She clutched the programs even more tightly and turned away.

“Amo, amas, amat,” I said to her.  “See?”

She seethed, and the organ started up.


I hope you had a good Saturday as well.

Yours truly.

P.S. They’ll be blooming soon.


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