On TV, people's faces look dramatic in the rain.
In real life, the rain doesn't impart that magic quality of passion. The air between cars is painted with a gray, oily brush. The black dots of gum on the sidewalk turn blacker, and everyone's shoulders soak in the dark water.
Fat water drops run off the awning and down my collar as I step into the bright white light of the liquor store. My footsteps slow and I wander, looking up and down the rows of candy bars, bags of charcoal, and magazines. I pick up a jug of sangria, a big one with the little glass finger-loop of a handle. I carry it back and set it in front of the fire exit.
Taped to the drab green metal door is a standard lined piece of paper with "nO use" scrawled on it in blue ballpoint-pen ink. The "O" of the warning sign had been built up to bold by the author's scribbling the circle of the "O" over and over again.
Back in the aisles, I scan the bottom shelf for the stout bottle of laundry detergent in the blue-and-yellow bottle that looks like superhero tights. I take the detergent and place it on the floor with the jug of wine.
My collection grows. On the floor is a circle of products, all bottles with handles. I take my seat in the center of the ring. Rain seeps under the fire door and wets my jeans. With the sangria jug in my lap I hold each bottle by its handle and test each for weight. I make mental notes of how each feels in my hand and how I feel about the color. Party-sized peanut container, tan and yellow, heavy but not thick. Fancy cat food, pink and white, light with a thin handle. Freeze-dried coffee, brown and red, short, fat, and light. The sangria never leaves my lap. I sit with my bottles because I have to. I can't think of anything else.
"You! Get out of here!" It's the owner, and he's pointing at me. "I tell you don't come back! But still you come back!" Each syllable is pronounced separately, individually wrapped by English classes and practice in a busy store. The sangria bottle rolls onto the tile as I jump up and bolt for the door behind me, one hand on the chrome push bar, one hand on the "nO use" sign, and the shop owner's calling after me, "You stay away now!"
I'm outside. In the rain that's not dramatic, it's just wet.
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, June 16
UCSD-TV, 9:00 p.m.
The book Eating to Cure by Dr. Robert Turturro has inspired me to cure my own struggle with what the conventional doctors call a "syndrome." Dr. Turturro writes, "The medical industry is in the business to sell pharmaceuticals." Eating to Cure explains that proper diet and exercise, tailored to each individual malady, can dispel the demons of a "mental illness" without the use of poisonous medication.
Friday, June 17
HGTV, 2:00 p.m.
My roommates, Kip and Renee, have twins who live above our laundry room. Last Monday I heard conversation coming from the cabinet above our washer. When I opened the cupboard, of course, there was no one there, but I could hear the talking from the other side of the wall behind the dryer sheets and floor cleaners.
DISCOVERY HEALTH, 2:00 a.m.
When I asked Kip if there were a room behind our cabinet he said there was not. Which means he knows there's a room but doesn't want to let on that I figured it out. BUT! This was not Kip. This "Kip" had eyes that were slightly farther up on his forehead than the original Kip. Everything else about "Kip" is identical.
Saturday, June 18
Double Identical Twins
DISCOVERY HEALTH, 12:00 P.M.
This explains that there is a twin Kip who knows about the room behind our laundry cabinet but wants to keep it a secret from me. Now, Kip is married to Renee. You'd think she would notice if there were two Kips. But the other day I saw Renee's cheekbones and jawline were a little wider than the day before, and her hair was a lighter shade of red.
Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sandra Lee
FOOD CHANNEL, 11:00 a.m.
That means there are two identical Kips and Renees. Last Wednesday the real Kip and Renee -- or maybe the twins, I'm not sure -- were cooking. From the front room, I could hear them talking over the sound of a skillet frying, and I could smell an onion and copper odor coming from the kitchen. I'm not sure why they were not at work, as this was the middle of the day, but I'm sure they were there.
Sunday, June 19
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
CARTOON NETWORK, 10:00 a.m.
When I went to the kitchen to prepare a sweet potato -- as part of my new miracle diet "to cure" -- no one was in there, and there were no frying onions, and the door to the adjacent laundry room slammed shut. When I opened the door I could hear a faint knocking and hushed whispers from the cabinet. There must be a ladder from behind the water heater to the room behind the cabinet, but I haven't found it yet.
Monday, June 20
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
COMEDY CENTRAL, 8:00 p.m.
The Daily Show is still great. If you haven't tuned in for a while you'll be surprised at how fresh the comedy is. The Daily Show looks as if it won't fall victim to the Saturday Night Live rut of taking the path of least resistance to parody the nation's political climate.
Tuesday, June 21
KBNTCA, 11:00 a.m.
Preceding the appearance of my new twin roommates by a day has been this noise coming from beside the TV. It's a light ticking, almost a tapping from the woodwork. If I remove the television set from the entertainment center, the tapping follows, always about six inches from the right side of the console, so it's not in the shelving unit itself.
Wednesday, June 22
The Price Is Right
KFMB, 10:00 a.m.
The tapping started during this show. For a week it only occurred during this hour, and only if the TV was on, so I reasoned it had something to do with The Price Is Right. Soon the noise could be heard during other shows, but it started with this one. So, I think that's a clue as to what it is.
Dust Be My Destiny (1939)
TCM, 3:30 p.m.
Another clue as to the ticking -- or tapping, or knocking, or whatever -- is that it is in a definite mathematical pattern. The pattern doesn't necessarily mean that it's manmade, but it is intelligently designed, not just random frequency glitches from the set itself. I'm writing all this down because if my roommates or this tapping thing are a menace to me, there'll be a written record.