SATURDAY: My mother-in-law, in town for the weekend, holds my arm as we stand at the L-shaped buffet at her friend’s new Thai noodle shop. She wears jeans, a floppy tee-shirt and tinted glasses with white rims studded with Swarovski crystals. Her friend, on the other side of the sneeze-guarded trays of food, has on a floor length skirt, and lots of purple.
The food in trays are aren’t the familiar dishes listed on the English menu of the restaurant my husband and I usually go to next door. She suggested for me lumpy squares of pumpkin sauteed in spices and I agree. I point to a curry with basil, chicken and bamboo shoots, and when she looks hesitant, assure her I will like it.
We travel to the short side of the L, where in one tray balls and cubes of unidentified meats float in a brown broth, next to another tray of potato-sized slices of a starchy root that isn’t a potato soak in a bright orange bath. What’s that? I ask, intrigued, but she doesn’t answer, either because she hasn’t heard me, or, more likely, because she can’t figure out a way to translate it.
“Or that?” I point to cut green stems drifting in what could be a familiar combination of coconut milk and red curry powder. Her friend on the other side of the counter comes over to check on us. “Is it morning glory? “Is it bok choy?”
“Not bok-choy,” says the friend.
My mother-in-law, looks seriously at the whole section of offerings and says, “Not for you, I think. These not for you,” and steers us toward the register.
SUNDAY: On Sunday mornings I try to counterbalance a week’s worth of muscle-stiffening sitting at desks by going to a yoga class that meets at 9:45. I leave the house at 9:43 and arrive at my class at 9:55–a serious breach of etiquette at some yoga studios, but this is a gym, so nobody cares. When the class lets out at 10:45, if I see my friend Gina, we go the the little snack stand inside the gym and order two fresh juices made of mixed veggies, and drink them at one of the little cafe tables along the wall with a partial view of child care area where toddlers play with colored balls, push wheeled objects, and occasionally shove into each other so that one falls and cries.
When my friend has not come to class, I go straight to my car, usually run some errand, like buying gas for the car or stopping at the grocery store. At 11:AM the radio announcer introduces the Moth Radio Hour, a collection of real people tell five-to-ten minute stories from their own lives. This morning I emerge from the Vons in time to hear a woman with a Sarah Silverman voice tell about the birth of her youngest sibling when she was twelve, and being told they did not share a father. “My father always took us to get ice cream to tell us bad news. If you don’t want to find out that your grandpa’s been diagnosed with cancer, or that your dog has been put to sleep, don’t go to Cold Stone Creamery with my dad.”
Arriving home with my groceries I park, but turn the key in the ignition only enough to kill the engine but not the power, so I can hear the rest of someone’s story before I go upstairs to fold laundry and write stories of my own.