I quit my job last week, then was called in for jury duty on Tuesday. Between those events, I discovered that my closet had become infested with moths. I think I first noticed this on Friday, though I’d seen a moth here or there before that and just hoped/assumed it was the non-sweater-eating kind, which was not entirely naive because I know that #notallmoths are evil beings. Some moths are just tiny butterflies without makeup, and I don’t mind them at all.
On Friday, though, I was overtaken with energy — all this free time! No plan at all! Wheee! — and I decided to launder my sweaters myself, as opposed to taking them to the dry cleaners. I have not done either of those things in three years, by the way. These moths may have followed me from Silver Lake. They could be old enough to read all the old newspapers in my closet purses. I dig out my sweaters and see holes in all of them. I see ghostly things in the wool that are probably cocoons. Some of these sweaters have been with me since I was 13 years old, and so I washed them all before even considering throwing them away. I spent about 15 hours washing sweaters and hanging them on every door in my house to dry. My place smelled like a thousand puddle-jumping labradoodles were boiling macaroni in every room.
A day passed, and when the sweaters were dry (though not dry enough, in retrospect) I packed them into a giant plastic bin with cedar blocks and lavender sachets and these really astringent-smelling, inhospitable-to-all-life dryer sheets. The whole thing was so exhausting and pointless but at the same time extremely necessary (bugs everywhere, shedding hulls! A single fancy blazer to protect!) that I did not have time to think about much else. I was partially disgusted with myself for having neglected a basic and boring human responsibility — to clean my damn clothes — but the whole thing also made me feel extremely serene when I was done with it (you should see my closet now: it sparkles). I sweated and fretted and put everything away. Something had been neglected for too long, and I was embarrassed about it, but then I just took it out and looked at it all and fixed it so it didn’t bother me anymore.
I used to dread jury duty. I am a summons magnet and it seemed like such an inconvenience, but after I was called in the first time I found it to be a very pleasant experience: everyone was nice, I made some friends, and I got to read without interruption. This time, I wanted two things: to get called in for voir dire, and to eat sushi during my lunch break. Voir dire is the part of jury selection during which a portion of potential jury members get called in to a courtroom to be questioned for a particular trial, and the part of the day where many people try to wrangle their way out of serving. Oh, the gossip I heard. It was great. The woman next to me kept bitching about jury duty and whispering to everyone around her (including a toothless and fidgeting man) and I actually moved seats because she was messing with my ability to get involved in a tale about one woman’s firearms-enthusiast brother and how he was mistreated by the judicial system. I couldn’t believe these stories were free. I could sit on a bench and drink cold water and hear things that I’ll never be able to find out more about, that don’t matter in any kind of thematic way, and about which I don’t have to form opinions.
I had made, however, a miscalculation about the sushi place I planned to go to. It was kind of far away, even for a 90 minute break. So I ran. I was wearing two sweaters and a cotton shirt (because it’s freezing in the courthouse, thanks Yelp for the heads-up), it was 80 degrees, and I flew through downtown like I was wearing a jet pack. A man in a hacked-up cropped tank top stopped me and said, “Single and looking!” and I said, “Sweaty and married!” and he looked me up and down and stepped aside. Perspiration sprayed him as I hurtled away. I blew past suits and people smelling of pee and ordered my sushi, deciding to get it to go. I just went for it. I ordered all of the sushi. I also got an iced green tea, which came in a cup with a separate cup of ice, all artfully arranged in a giant white paper bag. I took this with me and then ran (in spurts, but determined) back to Grand Park, where I had six minutes to eat everything. Dripping with sweat, I ate one piece of sushi after the other until it was gone, then I stuffed the empty plastic trays back in the paper bag and squeegeed off my face as I stuffed my refuse into a trash can. I ran back to the courthouse, where I arrived right on time.
Time is not a flat circle. It undulates. I remember a trigonometry class that melted time so much that I still think I spent twenty years there every school day: watching the clock, pulling my cuticles and listening for second-hand ticks, taking bathroom breaks in the hope that I could actually manipulate minutes while I was staring into my fluorescent reflection and applying lip gloss over and over. The past three years have been one single restroom break from Mr. Kochar’s daily lesson, the crest of the big wave. I haven’t taken a vacation, except for a four-week maternity leave that may as well have been a trip to another (sleepy, exquisite) planet, and now I feel like I’m coming back to a classroom I haven’t visited for several graduating classes. There’s a lot of dust on my desk, and I don’t even know what I plan to use it for.
During voir dire, you are asked your profession. I wasn’t called up, but I heard more than a dozen: manicurist, “business man” (shady explanation when pressed), HR, sales associate, actor, call center employee, food truck operator. I remembered how, recently, I saw an old friend whose boyfriend is a novelist. When she said the word “novelist,” I choked on my cheese. Some people want to marry royalty, and some people want to paint tuxedos on nails, and some people want to drive around serving shave ice, and I want to be able to tell stories like the kind of stories you hear at jury duty: they’re about real people, but people you know by number or whose lives are imagined by you in ways you can’t Google. I don’t know if I can do this, but it’s what I’d like to do, and before my life collapses like a cheese doodle squished between tongue and palate, I should probably get to work.
This was a story about sweaters and jury duty, and to assume it was about more would be irresponsible and false. I think that’s how it’s done.