I’ve been living like I’m already off my morning commute even though I still have one more week to go, and that had me exhausted this morning. Considering that tonight requires my total rapt attentions, I decided to stay home and run some errands and take care of some things around the house and get some rest and rehydration so that I can settle as deeply as possible into the pleasures that await in East Rutherford. Having less than no food in the refrigerator and about zero desire to cook in this heat, I tossed a can of beans with some onion, chipotle peppers, and some corn and ladled it out over some rice in what E. used to call my hobo lunch. I listened to relevant music turned way way way way up while I cooked and then plopped down on the couch with the cats and checked into an episode of Law and Order. I am concerned that something dreadful might happen if I remain this excited for much longer.

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MBWF’s husband C. was on campus shooting the summer dance program and his gig ended when I got off the information desk, so the three of us went out to lunch. MBWF had a Big Meeting this morning, but we were under C.’s strongly worded request to not spend all of lunch talking about it. (He’s only a freelance photographer, after all, not body-and-soul tied to the place like you get when you spend your blood at your desk.) So we spent most of lunch talking about the meeting. We also discussed family and friends and sickness and wellness and the shame of my desk shift: Mindlessly removing the page marker slips from a book that a woman asked me to hold for her so she could look at it again later this afternoon. It’s a reflex like breathing for me, pulling paper and sticky notes out of returned books. Still, I’m sorry for the extra work I have caused Margaret. As we were leaving, we were happy to discover that the restaurant had re-stocked the candy-covered mint chocolate balls that were missing last time we came here. I ate two, and grabbed a toothpick.

I am thinking the Valley has fallen on hard times. Every place we passed on our initial meander through the Holyoke Mall food court had somebody employed to lean out over the counter and hawk little paper cups of chicken samples prepared in varied faux-ethnic ways–bourbon chicken, south of the border chicken, cashew chicken, etc. After considering the too-sweet chicken at the the Cajun place, I opted for what I thought was the safe route and had a chicken fajita rice bowl at the Mexican place. I didn’t realize it would come doused in an inexplicable white cream sauce. Oh well, when in the food court… M. had a salad from the Greek place. I envied it. We ate at a table in the middle of the room along with the rest of the customers plus one man in a suit who looked quite out of place–he was eating lunch from one of those insulated lunch cubes, almost like he brought it from home–and talked about makeup and how I should really start wearing some.

MBWF invited me along to the Mexican place with her mom and E., aforementioned cute nephew. Who could say no to lunch with a two year old? I had the guacamole taco with rice and beans and did like I learned from watching my dad as a kid: mixed everything on my plate together, doused it with salsa, and ate in big loud fast forkfuls. E. helpfully narrated the present, calling out chip chip!, eat it eat it! , and ketchup! ketchup! as we ate. The kid has a thing for repetition. He had an order of chicken strips and fries, but was pretty committed to chips dipped in ketchup. MBWF tried it to see if E. was onto something, but a chip dipped in ketchup reportedly tastes like a chip dipped in ketchup. Near the end of the meal, E. proclaimed his need to urinate (pee pee! pee pee!), and his grandmother indulged his current desire to complete his toilet on the grass “like Fritz,” MBWF’s dog. I don’t even want to know where you took him, said MBWF when they returned to the table. And that’s exactly why I’m not telling you, her mother replied.

I shoveled a couple more of S.’s cookies in my relentless maw while waiting for my beans and corn (no fixins) to heat up in the microwave. Then MBWF (pb&j and a yogurt) and I took our lunches out behind the library and ate in the shade of the building and looked for chippies and wondered aloud how it is we go about learning ‘office comprehension,’ i.e. how to work with other people in enclosed spaces toward goals that aren’t always shared in common. Her nephew is visiting right now and I’m off to see mine this weekend, so we compared cuteness stories and each agreed that our own is the absolute cutest in the world. (Though M. really is authentically the cutest. Really. He asked J. to “please can we read Karl Marx please?” and he’s not even five yet.) Then we returned to the staff lounge so I could rinse out my dish and make it to my desk shift on time and MBWF could have a cookie, which she ate while inventing a little ‘cookie dance.’ It involves high kicks in a tight little circle, roughly the shape of, well, a cookie.

Trying to calm down from an excessively aggravating morning and an anticipated equally aggravating afternoon, I took my final helping of rice and beans with fixins out to the alcove with my copy of this week’s New Yorker. I did some breathing in and breathing out and focused on a tiny ant crawling around on a tiny leaf–I always feel better when I go really, really small. D. (happy birthday!) and B. popped in unexpectedly, scoping out locations for Monday’s MLA meeting, and D. said, “If you play your cards right, you might get a free boxed lunch!” He really knows how to get me excited! Later I heard tapping on the glass–B. was on the other side, wanting to know if the chairs were movable (they are). I also had a mini Cadbury dairy milk chocolate bar, one of the many perks that accompany S.’s return from Hong Kong.

I’m behind in my reading for tonight’s book club, so I took my dish of beans and rice with cheese, avocado, olive, salsa, and jalapeno out to the smoking alcove behind the library to try to catch up. My plan was complicated not only by my total lack of concentration but by the appearance of someone named Claudia and her incessant cell phone calls–apparently she is having a very bad day; her conversation included the question, “If he kissed my cheek and then I washed my face, is there any chance it could have gotten in my eye?” I made it through a page and a half, which isn’t bad really, and then gave up and walked over to human resources to pick up this month’s Transit Chek allotment. As L. shuffled through her files looking for my spot in the alphabet, I complained that it’s just too soon for this Faulkner weather; she replied that she gets a little tired of the air conditioning. It’s like the dead of summer already.