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Pleasant Distractions, Part One

Recently my skin has been breaking out. Which makes me anxious. When I am anxious I pick at it. Which makes it worse. It’s a vicious cycle, shameful. It’s a bad habit I am trying desperately to stop. One technique I use is, when I feel the urge to pick at my skin, I instead describe 5 pleasurable sensations, and see if it helps calm me down. So, here is the antidote to my shame:

  1. Putting on my glasses when they are freshly cleaned
  2. The clicky keys of a 90‘s keyboard, specifically the one at the school library search desk
  3. Pouring precisely the right amount of sugar for a recipe in one go
  4. Beating down freshly proofed bread dough
  5. When you walk by me and stop to kiss my shoulder

  1. Slicing into a perfectly ripe avocado half
  2. A finger traced over a scar about which no questions are asked, a kiss on my kneecap
  3. The meaningful silence after two people sigh, their gazes averted
  4. The chime of a good morning text
  5. Picking the melted wax off a candlestick

  1. The second bite of something warm on a cold winter’s evening
  2. Your thumb caressing the side of my face
  3. Stepping onto a freshly paved street, afraid I might leave a footprint
  4. The ink reaching the end of the page
  5. The first district at 4 in the morning, when only the street lamps and the horses are awake

  1. The indelicate, borderline-obscene consumption of an overly-ripe peach, its juice running down my neck
  2. Washing the dirt off my feet under lukewarm water after I have spent the day outside in a park. It reminds me of walking in Paris, how my shoes were always dusty and unfashionable but I was free
  3. When you kissed my forehead in front of everyone while I thought we were still a secret
  4. My mother brushing her fingers through my hair
  5. Picking the label off a sweating bottle of beer

  1. The rumble of a modern train on old tracks
  2. Sitting in the passenger seat, your hand on my knee
  3. Prying a loose brick from an old wall
  4. The heavy chill of my grandmother’s pearl necklace
  5. Taking off my bra the moment I walk into the front door

  1. Ordering a cappuccino after dinner not because I need the caffeine but because I want the evening to continue
  2. Pulling the dried petals off an open rose
  3. Pressing ganache into unfilled macarons
  4. A borrowed sweater in a chilly room
  5. The clear and empty water of the Alte Donau on a rainy Tuesday morning when the dirt has settled and the entire river is mine
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A Renaissance Man

We’re back at F’s apartment. Plans were made to go out for the evening, but we got rained on during the walk back from dinner. Allegedly, he is going to change clothes, and then we will go back out into the night to pretend it isn’t almost past my bedtime. It’s going on midnight, and Vienna has been gifted with a proper thunderstorm, the kind which doesn’t give up after a few minutes.

F is tuning his clavichord by candlelight. He tells me he started playing this piece for the man that broke his heart. He started learning it but had only just now completed the entire thing, and the heartbreaker was out of the picture by the time his fingers had mastered the notes. F Wanted to perform it for him, but he will have to settle for me, his friend.

I open the window in his bedroom. I sprawl on the bed watching the lightning. The room is lit by two candles, each pillared in a rounded wine bottle. Shards of wax litter F’s desk from all the candles he has burned. There isn’t much in his room, a bed, a wardrobe, a half-dead tree, his clavichord. He is particular about the instrument, he keeps a humidity monitor in the room. The clavichord is wildly out of tune, but he refuses to turn on the light to better see and instead grabs the candle, holding it over the keys. I imagine in doing so he risks dripping wax onto the keys… I hold my breath. Thunder roars. He begins tuning by ear, then with a digital tuner, and then gives a resigned sigh about a pesky note and says, “I think that’s the best I can get now”

At last, as he starts playing the rain begins to fall. The timing is eerie. The instrument reminds me of a guitar, I don’t think I have ever heard one played before. It’s quiet enough not to disturb his roommates even at this hour. The wind attempts to pull the left window closed as if to say, this is a secret only for us.

If I could bottle this moment, with the breeze and the clavichord and the rain and the open window, I would. The bottle I used would be round. I would drink the memory dry in a week, then I would put candle after candle into the bottle. I would let the shards of broken wax litter my desk.

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