I was just sitting here feeling pleased with myself – I have a load of wash going, I’m knocking out emails left and right, taking care of bills, and generally kicking ass and taking names – when I suddenly thought, “Hark! What’s that watery sound I hear?” That would be the sound of the laundry room/bathroom and half of the second bedroom flooding because some jackass (me) forgot to uncover the drain into which the washing machine empties. Blarg! Or, as Jake and I like to say when things are particularly grim: Motherf*cking blarg!
Rookie mistake! You see, the washing machine isn’t actually connected to a drainage pipe, but there is a drain conveniently located in the floor near the washing machine and a hose that comes out of the washing machine that almost reaches said drain. Our first day in this apartment, we ran a load in the washer and quickly discovered that one must physically situate the hose just so near the drain unless one would like to flood one’s bathroom. Our second day in this apartment, we learned that the drain belches up godawful stenches from the 25 floors of apartment dwellers below us and thus must be covered when not in use. It took us many trips to many stores and outdoor markets, many Googlings, and many days of a truly stinky house to find an appropriate cover for the drain. A plate will not work nor will a rubbery potholder thingy nor a bucket we use to mop the floors. All of these instruments let in the tiniest amount of air, but even the tiniest amount of air contains enough stink to wake one from one’s slumber. (True story.) The one thing that will work is a sealed plastic bag filled with water. Something about the blobbiness of such a bag covers the drain fully, blocking all stenches from entering our apartment. Success!
The catch is that one must remember to remove the blobby bag from the drain and situate the washer hose just so every time you want to run a load of laundry. Since the minor flood on the first day of living here, Jake and I have always remembered to uncover the drain before the end of the first cycle and thus have not flooded anything at all. Until today. Apparently the penalty for gloating over my productivity is one decent-sized bathroom flood. Fortunately there was nothing on the floor that didn’t need a bath anyway. Including my feet.
I’m currently re-reading Villette by Charlotte Brontë. (I’m also reading The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (A Gardener’s Supply Book) by Eliot Coleman as well as slowly wading through A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. My tastes are varied, apparently.) I first read Villette in English 316 – Women Writers: Proper and Improper Women, a class on Victorian literature. I read Jane Eyre in high school (twice because I loved it so), but other than that I had no experience with Victorian writers. Until English 316 and Villette. I loved that book. Dearly. It’s so dreamy and beautiful and self-absorbed – perfect for the 20-something undergraduate. I loved that book so much that a group of ladies from my class got together over coffee after reading it to carry on the discussion from our class. Such a beautiful memory.
So. Villette. Our protagonist and narrator, Lucy Snowe, is staying with her godmother, Mrs. Bretton, and one day she returns from a long walk to find an extra crib and trunk in her bedroom. She looks at these things and says aloud (the first words she says aloud in the narrative), “Of what are these things the signs and tokens?” Oh. I love this. Of what are these things the signs and tokens? How poetic a way to ask such a thing. How extravagant. How proper with the preposition in the front. If I were the type of person who could quote literature and poetry (which I’ve always kind of wished I was), I would bust this one out all the time. Clouds in the sky? Of what are these clouds the signs and tokens? Street closed for construction? Of what are these barricades and orange cones the signs and tokens?
When I read that phrase the other night I thought of my experience as an English major. Carefully reading every line of a novel, every word in a poem, to find out of what the language was a sign and token. I loved being an English major. I love reading the world through that lens. I feel like it changed my brain in a really wonderful way. It can be a bit cumbersome sometimes. For example, it’s a bit tedious to close read a recipe for chili. I’m pretty sure when The Pioneer Woman says to cook beef over medium heat until browned, you should just cook the damn meat. Don’t think about it too much. Or when I’m paying a good deal of money on my student loan each month and the principal balance doesn’t budge a penny. Cumbersome.
But, “Of what are these things the signs and tokens?” That’s glorious!