30 September 2016


When I said that I clean when I am down, it was a sort of half-truth I’m afraid, which is nothing more than a lie, in the end, as my mother taught me.

I should not have lied.

I apologize.

The truth is that I clean every chance I get, regardless of mood. Despite or because of mood, even.

Truly, cleaning is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Sweeping, mostly. The kitchen tiles but also, to a lesser extent, those of the bathrooms, the latter being lesser pleasures only for their having fewer tiles to sweep.

My Shark Rocket ultra-light upright vacuum with swivel steering comes in a close second, for with it, any number of astonishing household chores can be achieved. The attachments allow for everything from cleaning out the fan on my laptop to reaching that frustrating spot where the ceilings meet the walls and dust accrues.

I like rubbing away the smudges from around light switches and organizing the contents of my lipstick case, my hanging shoe rack, and my underwear drawer by color. I declare to you with confidence that the transparency of my windows rivals that of any windows in this city, and perhaps in the whole state of Texas.

Cleaning is perfect. I can see – I can know precisely! – that moment in time in which a task is complete.



A friend calls me on the telephone and asks if I want to go out and have fun tonight. I say to her, “I can’t. I have to stay in so I can clean my house.”

But inside, secretly, I am thinking, “I get to stay home and clean my house tonight!” 

22 September 2016

Muslim is the new Catholic

Way back in the days when I was in school, I spent a semester once taking classes at a Catholic seminary.

This sounds somewhat weirder than it was. I don’t mean the classes, for those were weirder than they sound: Synoptics. The Desert Fathers. Theological Anthropology.

What I mean, rather, is that it might sound weird that I’d be there, in a Catholic seminary, at all. It wasn’t.

One course I remember was called The History of Catholicism in America. We learned about how, back in the 19th century, Catholic immigrants to America were often seen as swarthy, bearded, bomb-toting unionists who refused to learn English or to try and fit into American society. They were “papists” whose divided loyalties meant they would never be real Americans.

This all sounded a bit familiar to me, somehow.

We read a book called Catholicism and American Freedom: A History in which John T. McGreevy wrote:
 “The idea that American Catholics… threatened the foundations of the nation-state became a truism in some religious and intellectual circles. Either American Catholics must renounce the Vatican, one minister explained, or they must ‘renounce their allegiance as citizens.’ A writer for The Independent was more blunt: ‘The comprehensive lesson is that Romanism is incompatible with republican institutions. Like slavery, it is a hostile element lodged within the nation, gnawing and burning it like a caustic’.”
I think about this sometimes. I think about it when I’m told by people (mostly online and probably even Catholic, to boot) that I cannot be a good Muslim and a good American.

17 September 2016

The rise and fall of Mr. Shah

His tenure at the company was brief. His tenure at the company was spectacular.

Possibly he is not remembered by the others at all, by now. I remember him.

This is the story of Mr. Shah.

I never knew Mr. Shah. He officed behind the heavy wooden door at the end of the hallway. It was the same heavy wooden door our previous supervisor had officed behind before our previous supervisor was moved to the new Dallas location.

We arrived Monday morning to find the heavy wooden door already shut.

We heard the bangings and the hammerings that come with moving into a new office. Slightly more noise than we’d expected, to be honest. Yes, more noise, yes, but still, we knew Mr. Shah had arrived.

The emails began immediately.

Each of the emails was signed “Mr Shah”. There were many of these, with instructions. The instructions bore little in common with the jobs we had, up until then, been performing.

I worked late that Monday. I remember. Mr. Shah was still arranging his office when I left.

Tuesday, the arguments on the phone began.

They were probably arguments. From behind the heavy wooden door at the end of the hallway came a voice, hoarse and pained, like a man lost in some remote place wailing for rescue. It might have been in the Finnish language, for I do not know Finnish.

At the conclusion of each argument, we’d hear the sound of the phone slamming down, then more banging and more hammering from the ongoing move-in.

On Wednesday, our IT guy contacted a friend from the next tower over, and using a telescope, attempted to peer into the office window of Mr. Shah.

The results were disappointing.

On Thursday, we received an email in which our job duties, our work hours, and even our individual offices were completely rearranged. Curiously perhaps, this email was bereft of punctuation and signed “shaw”.

I began to fear that panic would ensue within the office. Thursday, however, was payday that week, and upon seeing our direct deposits had occurred as usual, we continued to do as we were told to do. Told to do by Mr. Shah, I mean. Or maybe Mr Shah. Or maybe just shaw.

By Friday, he was gone, his office cleared of everything but a desk, an orthopedic chair, and a single scrap of paper upon which someone had scribbled the word “VANQUISH”.

I sent everyone home.

Later, I received an email from our new Dallas office. It announced the impending arrival of a Mr. Khan as our new supervisor.

11 September 2016

Put it on

The times when I am down and at my darkest, those are the times I am at my most predictable.

I clean the house. I shop for clothes.

A person could chart my mood through the years using nothing more than my credit card statements.

I’m out today – shopping, obviously – and if I don’t start feeling better soon, then I fear it won’t be long until I run out of closet space.  

07 September 2016


In my naiveté, I failed to plan ahead suitably for my trip through the revolving door. I see that now.

I thought it would be but a simple thing. I assumed I was leaving nothing to chance, whereas in reality, nothing could have been further from the truth.

I pressed against the push bar with my forearm, the way I always did in revolving doors when my hands were full. My hands were full. In my left, I held some papers and my eyeglasses and the strap to my purse. A hot cup of coffee occupied my right.

But hardly had I begun pushing, completing two full steps forward, when I noticed something was wrong. A great assemblage of people filled the bank lobby within, just sort of standing about. Loafing, perhaps. Blinking white lights on the interior walls indicated something.

Fire drill or fire or robbery.

It was too late for me. The door leaf against which I pushed was by now even with the interior opening of the door, while the door leaf behind me was already well past the front opening.

People inside the bank waved for me to stop. To not enter.

I could not stop. I could not stay where I was, trapped within the door. That was entirely unsatisfactory to me.  But neither could I go backwards.

To my way of thinking, backing up was not an option for two reasons: First, I was not entirely certain that revolving doors were capable of revolving both ways, clockwise as well as counter-clockwise. Second, with my hands being so full, I was not capable of now pulling the push bar that I – up until just that moment – had been pushing.

The only way for me, therefore, was forward, much to the visible chagrin of the people inside the bank lobby, many of whom by this time were noticing the difficulty I was having in the door.

I pushed my way in and I kept pushing. I smiled and I pushed. I waved hello to them with my coffee cup and I pushed. Circling back around towards the front sidewalk now, I could hear a great laughter behind me.

Laughter at me or laughter with me.

I’ll go to my grave never knowing for sure which. 

03 September 2016

New things

When I was a child, someone somewhere told me once that if I played tennis, I would wind up with one arm freakishly larger than the other. Being the great lover of symmetry that I am, I’ve therefore refused to go anywhere near a tennis racket ever since.

Today, I am fully grown and wonder: How many other things do I fear doing because of something someone somewhere told me they’d heard about it once?''