“I mean, you have a whole apartment’s worth of stuff.” I thought once I’d hit my 30s, I’d never have to help a friend move in exchange for pizza and beer ever again. My husband loved to save money– he literally had us blind taste test Costco coffee and some bulk brand he found on Amazon to see if we could drink the cheapest coffee possible, or if we should splurge and stick with the second cheapest– but we’d hired people our last two moves. We weren’t sadists. (Masochists? I can never keep the two straight. I guess both apply.)
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I don’t think there’s a smell quite as refreshing as burning sage– a little like mint, but more astringent. I’ve lost count of how many smudge ceremonies I’ve performed over the years: for every new apartment, after every breakup, for each spring equinox. It’s become a part of my process for letting go of the old and moving forward.
So I was a little surprised when my mother and stepfather weren’t interested in my performing the ceremony in their apartment. Mom’s doctors had officially declared her cancer in remission. It only made sense to me that we should cleanse their home of the bad energy that had settled over it during her treatment.
“Oh, that’s very sweet of you, honey,” she’d said when I first made the offer during the dinner celebrating her health. “But it’s really not necessary. We have the cleaning lady come in once a week anyway. She does a good enough job.”
“Right. Well, she does a physical cleaning,” I explained, “but this would be more of a spiritual cleaning.”
The sound echoed through the gym. I wouldn’t have thought much of it– folks were always dropping large, heavy objects around there– but it was accompanied by a very atypical screech.
“Oh, shit!” some woman yelled out from behind where I was working with my trainer, Eric. I looked back and saw Kristy’s latest fling sprinting across the room, towards the cardio equipment.
Where Claudia had gone.
“Weight’s the exact same as last year. That’s good,” Dr. Shoemaker said, peering at my chart. “But your blood pressure is concerning. Does high blood pressure run in your family?”
I shook my head. “Not that I know of.”
She sighed and took off her reading glasses, peering at me with a look similar to the one my older sister, Janine, shot me whenever she was disappointed with my handling of, well, anything in my life. I wondered if she had gotten into general medicine because she could look so stern; everything about her was angular and sharp: the line of her bob, the set of her jaw, her frown and narrow eyes. That must help with inspiring the fear necessary to motivate healthy decisions. “I’m not thrilled with your LDL or triglycerides, either. And we’re going to need to set up a fasting glucose test for you. I suspect you might be pre-diabetic.”
“Today’s inspiration,” Misty held her arms up in the air like a televangelist as she said these two words, “I want you to write about your friends from childhood. Think about how to describe their essence.” Her hands turned to fists with the word “essence,” and I thought, once again, if I hadn’t already paid for this damn course, I could have dropped out. “Think about what they looked like, what they smelled like. Make them our friends, too.”
I grit my teeth and doodled a few curse words in the corner of my planner. Usually the writing workshops at the Stamford Public Library weren’t terrible. I’d done a six-week screenwriting class that resulted in half of a screenplay that I never planned to do anything with but really helped me punch up my plotting.
Despite it’s dubious name, Wow-Worthy Writing seemed like it could have potential: Make your stories come alive with better details! But even I, MFA-school dropout, could have taught this class better.