Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Aside

In my last post I mentioned that I'd read Whip Smart: The True Story of a Secret Life by Melissa Febos after I heard an interview with her on NPR. It sounded intriguing and I needed to order some stuff from Amazon anyway, so I ordered it as well. Hard cover! And then as I always do, I forgot about it within three minutes.

About a week later I saw a big white SUV swerve into my driveway a little sideways and stop behind my van. I thought it might be a turn-around, but a slim, dark-haired woman in her 40's got out. She looked like three-fourths of the women in my fancy suburban neighborhood, but I didn't recognize her truck or her. Leaving the door open and the SUV running, she hurried across the yard holding a cardboard box in her hands. She was holding it out in front of herself as if it contained a bomb or a dead mouse or the head of John the Baptist. The flaps were up on the box, so I could see it had been opened. Interesting. I waited for her to ring the bell, which is only polite, and then answered the door. Here's how the conversation went.

Me: (smiling, I open the screen door) Hi.
Suburbanite: (frowning, she pushes the box to her arms' length toward me) This isn't mine. It's yours. It was delivered to me by mistake and I opened it. But I didn't look at it.
Me: (curious now, but not smiling so much) O....K?
Suburbanite: (shoving the box into my hands  and then backing up a step or two) Just take it. I promise I didn't look.
Me: (taking the box and looking inside  I see a book. On top are two packages of black nylon ukulele strings. I read the title of the book and the label on the strings and start to laugh.) So you didn't open it, but yet it's open?
Suburbanite: I opened the box. I didn't look at anything in it.
Me: (laughing harder) Oh, you opened the box but you didn't look in it?
Suburbanite: That's right. Obviously that is yours, not mine. That is not.....mine. That is yours.
Me: (still laughing) Yes, these are definitely mine. (I look straight into her eyes and smile. I probably look like a crocodile to her.)
Suburbanite: (seeming a bit flustered for some reason) I'm sorry I opened your box. I have to go.
Me: (still laughing) I'll bet you are. Thanks for dropping it by.
Suburbanite: (lowering her eyes, she mumbles something and hurries back to her shiny, white SUV. She bumps out of the driveway without looking both ways and speeds down the street.)

I was still laughing as I let the door close and pulled the book and the strings out of the box. I really had forgotten I'd ordered this memoir about the heroin-addicted dominatrix who put herself through Sarah Lawrence by working in a dungeon. I'd been eagerly waiting for the ukulele strings because Chicken Grrrl and I were playing a paying gig the next week. Paying gigs require more than just showing up with a guitar and some lead sheets. People expect extras like ukuleles and melodicas and shiny black electric guitars when they pay money for tickets. I'd bought a ukulele for just one song we were doing, and I really needed to change the crappy strings that came on it so I could keep it in tune long enough to learn to play it. The ukulele, I mean. I'd never played one before.

But every time I thought about the look on that woman's face when she handed me the box holding the BDSM book with the black nylon strings on top, I started laughing again. I wondered how often she drove by my house after that and imagined what I was doing in there--or tried to. I wondered if she told her husband and he suggested they try something kinky. I wondered if he drove by and wondered what I did in there. I wondered if she might have read just a little bit of the book, just the first few pages. Or the whole thing. I thought the story from her perspective would make a great short story if I just added in my imagination.

And I was glad living in that neighborhood hadn't turned me into such a tight-ass that I couldn't find humor in accidentally opening a box that contained a book about a dominatrix along with two packages of black nylon instrument strings. If I'd had to deliver that box to someone, I probably would have introduced myself and asked if I could read the book when she was done. And I certainly wouldn't have left until I found out what she was going to do with those nylon strings. I would have left with her story.

Oh, the suburbs. I miss my house, but I do not miss those suburbs one tiny bit.

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