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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chapter Twentyfive: Domesticity

My car was having too many tantrums. Each time it broke down, I learned the name of the component that needed replacement or repair, battery, tires, brakes, carburetor. I did not own the car; it owned me. I couldn’t live with or without it. In Los Angeles, a car was as necessary as food, water or oxygen.

I had failed the driving test twice and was now waiting for my third and last try.

Michelle didn’t mind driving, but I minded. It was my car, and I couldn’t go out by myself without breaking the law. She was younger but acted like my big sister. I offered to sell her the car as I was leaving for good, and only my books would travel with me.

We became very careful shoppers as we moved through aisles slowly, comparing brands, adding and subtracting. It was a chore to stick to a pre-determined menu, but it was the only way to stay on budget. We became clever bargain hunters. One whole chicken became dinner on Sunday, tacos on Monday, soup on Tuesday.

We bought day old bread, and house brands. Soups, casseroles and pasta meals kept us full. We learned that leftovers made great lunches, and that eggs filled in anytime we ran out of meat. We ate eggs in omelets, frittatas, soufflés, rolled in tortillas, sandwiched in breads.

By the end of the first month we grew restless and annoyed by small things.

Our first big argument was about toilet paper. We were constantly running out of toilet paper. Well, it was about lots of things, but we only expressed our frustration about toilet paper.

We had two bathrooms, a full one with a bath and shower, and a half one, with a toilet and a sink. Vivian had already pulled out of the food budgeting, buying her own things, milk, cereal, ice cream. She stated firmly that she didn’t spend weekends at the apartment, and should pay less for paper goods. Pretty soon, the girls all began to keep tabs on who used what.

By the end of the second month Tony had moved out; I had the room to myself and had to absorb her portion of the rent. I worried about what else could go wrong. I was going to miss Tony, not just for her contribution to the finances of the place, but because she made friends easily, especially around the complex. It had been her idea to throw an open house party to meet neighbors.

She had a knack for making everyone feel welcome. Out of the blue, she’d start a conversation with someone at the pool,  and the next day new people would show up looking for her.

All the fun we were going to have when we lived on our own never materialized. We spent nights working on school projects; weekends shopping and cleaning. We took breaks by walking to the donut shop down the street, or playing ping pong on the patio.

The car was parked permanently, waiting for a windfall to get it fixed. We were back to taking the bus everywhere.  We were counting days till June,  when each of us could return to the known comforts of home life. I had learned all I could learn about the American way of life.


  1. Still today a car is a necessity like food... where I live.

    Are any of these woman in your life now?

    Wonderful years you are sharing here.

    love to you

  2. Hi Ribbon,
    Thanks for the visit! Only Jeanette, the college friend is still in my circle.

  3. p.s.
    Ribbon, you gave me an idea for an epilogue!

  4. How dependent we still are on cars. Here in Maine, there is very limited bus service, so you absolutely need an automobile.

  5. We design cities in this country for cars and not people. In Europe cars are a painful accessory and it is much easier to get around by bus, train or foot. I had forgotten the college arguments about toilet paper...!

  6. It's funny what people fight over when stressed, or odd, I should say. The car owned you. My house owned me ;).

  7. Hi everyone,
    I'm actually coming to the end of my memoir and would like your advice, if you have read the entire piece. Please respond to the following question via email which is listed in my profile.

    I'm at a crossroad, or will be in my next episode. Is this enough of a book to satisfy you the reader? Or, does it need more episodes, dilemmas, problems and conflicts?

    What parts can I espand on?

    Thank you, most deeply, for your readership and support.

    Amy, you as a writer know very well the extend one can talk about personal conflicts.

    Eva, your style is more casual than mine. You have fun with your dilemmas. Tell me where I can have some fun with my situations too. I do want to lighten up some parts.

    Ribbon, you are looking at this as a piece your grandmother might have written; you may want to find out more cultural history, more family values and rituals. Tell me what you'd want to see expanded, please!

    Tabor, you have the freshest look here, as you probably are the newest reader. What are you curious about?

    Thank you in advance. This is very, very important to me as I finish up.

  8. while i am unable to respond to all your questions, i can tell you that i love your style and the ease with which your story/stories is/are told - and that reading your inserts is something i truly enjoy! and i would love to sit and read them all from the beginning! a great gift to us all!

  9. well told...

    Aloha from Hawaii my Friend!

    Comfort Spiral