I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Johnny’s new neighborhood has an old problem.

Drinking and driving is a huge sport here. You’re not considered racist if you mention that there are terrible alcoholism problems in the pueblos, because the white people are just as bad. Last couple of weeks we’ve been in the midst of the state’s SUPER BLITZ!!! U-DRINK, U-DRIVE, U-LOSE!!! I-25 on my way home is dotted with flashing blue and red lights, and the sheriff of Cochiti Lake is out every night rousting people on the Cochiti Highway. I call it Police Navidad.

You can get used to almost anything. I’m used to the snoring of Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. Sometimes, he sounds congested but I think chasing him around with the Vick’s VapoRub might be a dealbreaker in the relationship. Maybe I’ll ask him later.

On Thursday, I did not leave my little apartment except to take out trash and recycling. Joy! I was in my house! I had In My House Joy! Tom called. He and Mom were making the rounds of their kids in Highland Park. Was I going to be at home? I thanked him for the warning, because even though my kitchen was clean, my fridge was not. If I died and my female relatives opened the refrigerator door, I’d have to resurrect myself so I could drop dead of shame.

I clean and tidy, though I’ve warned I’m cleaning and tidying and I’m therefore neither. Tom says they’ll be at my place at 3. At 3 on the button, they knock on my door. The hallway is small and a squeeze. Tom takes off his coat and looks for a clean spot. I surprise them.

Tata: I’ve got a coat closet.
Mom: You’ve got a -
Tom: Coat closet?
Tata: I do. Give me your coats.

Let’s be honest: they’re shocked. I hang up their coats. They don’t even pretend this has happened before.

There are still boxes in the living room and along a bedroom wall but Mom reminds me I promised her the Tour de Whirlpool. After I bought the washer and dryer, I called her up.

Tata: Hey! I bought a washer and dryer!
Mom: You did? That’s great!

So you wouldn’t think we’d have this conversation.

Mom: A little bird told me you bought a washer and dryer.
Tata: I’m pretty sure that was me, and I didn’t quit squawking for weeks.
Mom: Really?
Tata: Does this gloating sound familiar? “I’M DOING LAUNDRY! I’M DOING LAUNDRY! I’M NOT SHARING A WASHER! I’M DRYING CLOTHES UNTIL I PUT THEM ON HANGERS! I’M DOING LAUNDRY!”
Mom: That does sound familiar…

The last time Mom saw the kitchen I hadn’t applied paint to the walls. For that matter, I hadn’t applied it to the cabinets, ceilings or the street outside, either, so the orange wall, the mottled yellow surfaces, the pot rack, the baker’s rack, the washing machine, the glass balls dangling from the ceiling are a long series of surprises. Mom pronounces it “homey.” Tom ooohs and ahhhs. They’d both thought the washer would be miniscule and strain to scour a pair of jeans.

They stand in the hallway and ask what’s holding up my bookshelves.

Tata: The back has these two keyhole things, so I put two screws into the wall.
Mom: That sounds easy.
Tata: And it would be if the walls were flat. Like walls.
Mom: I recognize those bottles. And what is this rock? Are those cigarette holders?
Tata: Yep. Welcome to Ta’s House of Shiny Objects. I’ve told Anya she can come visit her merchandise and we can design a spring line – for me. You are too big for my hallway. Come look at my room.

Tom helped me tape and paint but he hasn’t seen the results. Mom asks the same question over and over.

Mom: Did you put that up?

Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Dad put that up. Before they came over I emptied a giant Rubbermaid tomb for my rollerblades, helmet and pads into a cabinet in the kitchen I can’t really use. It’s up too high, narrow and inaccessible. When my grandchildren empty my apartment after my death, they’re going to open that cabinet and wonder what their little old Granny needed those for. Wait till they find the pipe wrench.

The dryer sits in my bedroom, essentially in a shrine to clean clothes. I put up black grids overhead and laid out shelves on which I can dry sweaters flat. This idea was a big victory for my tiny mind. Daria and I both reached for the phone the first time we saw a commercial for the dryer with flat drying racks and room to hang dry. Well, I created my own humble version. My sweaters are so happy.

In the living room, Mom rhapsodizes about the area rug Paulie Gonzalez brought over the day before.

Mom: Does he need another ex-girlfriend?
Tata: …Mom…
Mom: Strictly for gift-giving purposes. Paulie has excellent taste in gifts.
Tom: Speaking of gifts, why don’t you open yours?
Tata: It’s a retro red kitchen chair! In this flattened state, I didn’t suspect! Thank you!
Mom: As you can see, some assembly is required.
Tata: That’s my favorite part! I love puzzles! I mean, I’m still working out why we’re really in Iraq, but see the IKEA desk? It sat on the floor in pieces for a month, then I stared at it, stared at it, stared at it, and half an hour later, it was furniture with a TV sitting on it.
Tom: What’s that?
Tata: That? That’s the Sharper Image stepper I told you about.
Tom: It takes up very little space. How does it work?
Tata: You stand on it with both feet evenly.
Tom: Then you press down?
Tata: It’s the opposite. You lift your foot.
Mom: Can I try it?
Tata: Okay, stand evenly…now lift up your foot. Now the other. Feel that bump at the bottom? You don’t want that. The idea is to keep your feet moving upward. Where do you feel that?
Mom: My rump. Right where I want to exercise. I want a firmer rump!
Tata: This thing’s not even expensive and it’d fit in your already tight-fitting living room.
Mom: Ah!
Tom: Aha!

I’d be shocked if they didn’t leave my house and go shopping.

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