Last night, Trinidad and I saw the Handsome Family at Café du Nord. The singer, Rennie, remembered the courtyard complex where they lived in Chicago, where that winter there was always some crazy person or another in the courtyard, yelling in their underpants. Now she and her husband lived in the tallest building in Albuquerque.They still have not seen their entire home, she said, adding that the house’s turrets are sharpened to razor points.
So know I know two Rennies. The one at work is a waxy skinned girl in accounting. This morning, she told me she went through two canisters of asthma inhaler the week she started. Our HR person issued an e-mail memo to the staff, reminding us that we have a scent-free workplace. But the program staff still descend upon our conference room each Tuesday morning, a veritable cartoon cloud of perfumes surrounding them in a flowery nimbus. I know for sure the memo was sent to them. Because our director said that one of the program managers called to ask her about it. The director told her to ignore the memo. “Where are we going to wear our perfume, other than here and church?” she asked.
Today when I entered the accounting office, I smelled something pleasant and familiar. A scent I associated with San Francisco. It was tea tree oil, Accounting Rennie told me. She was spraying down all the accounting office cubicles with it, using a small plastic squirter bottle. Actually, it was tea tree oil, alcohol and water. The alcohol kills dust mites. Was I allergic to dust mites, too? No?
Rennie seemed relieved I wasn’t bothered. I told her about my husband’ asthma, and about how it’s really kicked up since our daughter went to college and we have been moving around so much furniture. We should replace our pillows every six months, she said. She also told me about a lamp I should buy. If I understood her correctly, the lamp would be made of salt. And definitely squirt alcohol all over everything, she said. I said we have four cats and that our walls are lined with books, which clearly horrified her. Then she quickly said she grew up with animals, even though she is terribly allergic. Which made me laugh, because then I remembered that someone else in accounting told me last week that Rennie is allergic to ants, which I didn’t even know was a thing.
The other Rennie, the singer, said last night that if they’d known San Francisco was so close to the water, they never would have come. Right now, we’re surrounded by octopus, she said. Her husband, who is from Odessa, TX, whistled through his teeth lik emy Grandma Mildred and sang mournfully that owls in their house were stealing his pills.
Bidar means awake. Patricia Bidar is a writer and California native looking forward to life’s third act.