Reading in a State of Calamity

The thing is, in that breath-bated couple of days between Typhoons Ketsana and Parma, we longed for a return to routine. And some routines, we’ve found, were more comforting than others.

At one point, I dared rattle off an inanity in Twitter. I watched TMZ. I kept on scribbling in my Moley, not just because I feared I would shatter if I stopped writing on the damn thing.

One night, I was bent over my legs, shaving them, and I felt a gratitude so great, so bewildering at the face of such a mundane (and usually bothersome) act, that I found myself crying.

And one day, panic-buying at your friendly neighborhood Rustan’s, I told myself, “I need my normal.”

Before Ketsana, I was working on a collection of short stories, and my reading then (hello, literary memory) were mostly my shelf favorites—Shields, Munro, Beattie, Carver. But when I dropped by the bookstore during The Pause, it was romance novels foremost on my mind. Some routines are more comforting than others.

I scoured the stack of books on sale at National, and there were key phrases making a chant in my head. One was, I need some petticoats. Another, A Highlander would be very much welcome right now. And, of course, Please—I need one with lots of sex in it.

I came away with If His Kiss Is Wicked, by Jo Goodman, Tempted All Night, by Liz Carlyle, and Hot Spell, an anthology featuring Emma Holly and Lora Leigh.

Armed with my Happy Place, I went back to the apartment that still smelled of creek and frogs, with its floors that still bore silt, and a man holding a hammer in one hand and a mop in the other, who gave me the softest smile when I showed him the books.

And then we rolled out the barely-dry mattress, and watched TMZ.


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