Hear Me Out


January 19, 1999


I look out my window and all I see is rain-pregnant gray clouds, embarrassingly naked trees with their dead brown leaves spread over the light beige and pale green grass.

I look in my mailbox and I see three pounds of catalogs begging me to buy crap no one needs and only insane people want. I made the mistake of ordering a few things from catalogs this year. I got a bowl made out of wood that collapses into a trivet shaped like a fish. I got a cookbook and a T-shirt from a PBS catalog and a scarf with matching gloves from an unnamed New England catalog company.

Now I am doomed.

So, because I am basically a masochistic person and I think that maybe I'll find something usable and desirable in those glossy pages, I look through them. All of them.

Yesterday, I was looking through a catalog that has fat-chick clothing that didn't look like it was designed by blind Soviet clowns. I flipped through once and then went back to check prices and colors of the things I liked.

I really liked one of the blazers which came in my size and wasn't equal in price to the house - things were looking good - and then I read the colors that were available:

Pebble, Zinc and Lipstick.

These are not colors. When I think of these words no color comes to mind. OK, I thought to myself, maybe someone was a little tipsy and the catalog was way past deadline and they just didn't catch it. Let's move on.

I found a pair of pants with pockets and pleats and a zipper in the front. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get a pair of pants that fits the girth involved in my body that has an honest-to-God zipper. Usually they have a mock zipper and a huge piece of elastic. So, I was happy with these catalog pants until I checked out the colors.

Sand, Patina, Mole and Acorn.

I have nothing, absolutely nothing to hang onto here. I did what I always do when I start getting panicky and paranoid about the world we are living in. I looked at Leslie who was reading the newspaper and drinking a comforting cup of hot apple cider. She was completely grounded and at peace with the world. I showed her the catalog.

"Oh, nice pants. Get them."

"I want to but I don't understand the colors." My head hurt. I wanted her to make the world stop spinning.

"Well, that's a nice tan color or black is always good. You could use another pair of black pants for work." She made sense. I looked back at the page and didn't see black or "nice tan". A small whimper escaped while I headed for the bookcase and grabbed a dictionary. I was not going to let them deny me, damn-it!

Sand - I figured that was a beige color. Could be brown or light beige. I'll wait on that one.

Patina - Usually a green film formed over copper or bronze after long exposure to the elements. Latin based on PATEN, meaning shallow plate. So, we are looking at light green.

Mole - 1. Pigmented spot. 2. Any of a large number of insectivores [family Talpidae]. 3. A spy. 4. A spicy sauce made with chilies and usually chocolate. I'm just not ready to make the fashion statement - here are my pants, I dare you to guess - rat or sauce or maybe rat-sauce!

I gave up and went back to Leslie. I pointed to the list of colors and simply hung my head in shame. Here was a grown woman completely incapable of figuring out what color pants to order. She took a look and got mad.

"These are nouns, not adjectives!"

I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn't learn to read until I was about nine or ten and when I finally did get around to it, I sort of skipped the particulars and got right to the story. As a result, I am permanently impaired. If someone held a gun to my head and ordered me to diagram a sentence, I'd be in huge trouble.

"What the hell does that mean? I have to figure out what color pebble is and you're talking sentence structure? What is wrong with you?" When in doubt - attack!

"Look, you need adjectives to describe." She was looked up at a blank face. She's a high school teacher and so she's pretty comfortable with complete bafflement. She bravely trudged on, "You'd say she's funny. You wouldn't say she's hat."

It all became clear. I was looking for description words like light beige or red and they were giving me nouns like mole and lipstick. Where is School House Rock when you need it?

Remember the adverb song? "Libby-Libby-Libby, get your adverbs here." It turns out that most adverbs end in -ly. That's an easy way to keep track of them. For a while I thought of Leslie was an adverb until I saw the way her name is spelled.

Or my personal favorite, "Conjunction junction, what's your function?" That explained but, or, and, & a host of other useful little words and even got into when to use a comma and when to separate ideas.

I kissed my red-headed girlfriend on her light pink lips, petted my gray dog and headed upstairs to watch my color TV while sipping my brown tea on my green and white stripped couch and all was right with the world.

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Copyright 1998 by Laura Jiménez.


Updated 01/31/99
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