In the latest installment of ‘Love, Recorded,’ Matt has a busy week.
I am still at work, on a Friday, at 7:30 p.m. I am trying to be a good husband. Cathreen and I are going grocery shopping at 8, and I have rented a zipcar in Harvard Square. A day ago, there was a hurricane, and Cathreen was caught without her umbrella. I was at a poetry reading. She called me at the reading and said our cats were playing with a many-legged bug. I had just listened to poems about romantic comedy scenarios.
I understand about bugs. Our neighbors are Korean, and the only time I’ve ever been inside their house, the boyfriend was away and the girlfriend asked me to kill a flock of caterpillars on her ceiling. When the caterpillars dropped to the floor, she ran out of the room squealing.
This week has been busy. I’ve been reading my stories about epidemics of memory loss and unrequited love to audiences expecting stories about cancer. As if I’m supposed to be someone else. When I come home, Cathreen looks at me as if expecting a used car salesman. When I sell a few books, I hand over enough money to buy a bag of cat food.
I make writers drive from other parts of the state to read with me. I apologize.
But it is fun. Before I read, my stomach hurts and I look around for a bathroom, yet during, and afterward, there is the tiniest bit of a kick, as if my life has just switched gears.
On Halloween, we give out candy to two sad groups of trick-or-treaters. The first group comes while we’re eating dinner. We rush to the door. We stumble over the candy, still in CVS bags.
Cathreen has been looking forward to this. As she gets into costume, the second group appears. A little boy takes handful after handful of chocolate. Enough, I want to say. Everything in moderation? I anticipate future groups of children crying, “treat?”; future groups angry with eggs. I pull the basket a little to one side.
By the time my wife has finished her makeup, a witch to go with our black kitten, they’ve gone. We wait. We look out the window for someone else to come. Across the street, our neighbor does the same. But no one is there.
Our jack-o-lantern rots on the doorstep, its teeth curled inward like it needs dentures.
I teach a class for the Good Men Project on Saturday, a bunch of kids from Roxbury whose moms made them come. I tell them I’m used to teaching people forced to be there. I want to tell them the secret to writing nonfiction is being afraid of yourself.
Instead, I can’t stop talking about fighting and cats and feelings. I am being videotaped. I’m glad these kids aren’t paying anything.
In the middle of class, the fire alarm rings, and we file dutifully outside. The dentist, our leader says, has an extra x-ray machine, and each time she touches it, it catches fire. Or this is what I remember.
It is freezing cold. I know the kids all have better stories than the ones they are telling. I have heard them clowning around.
Our best stories are secrets we keep from ourselves. We tell ourselves we are doing such and such, being so and so, but it is our fears that lead us. If we tell the truth, we don’t tell the whole truth. Sometimes the truth is a lie.
I am waiting for Cathreen to come. Our cats are at home playing. The simple life they lead—eating and sleeping and purring. When I was a child, I wished I could be a cat. I wanted to be a cat that could fly.