Tuesday, May 10, 2005

David Sedaris

I have a few favorite writers I can depend on to thoroughly entertain me. Davis Sedaris is one of them. I'm not sure if this is a memoir or a short story, but it's classic Sedaris:

My mother and I were at the dry cleaner’s, standing behind a woman we had never seen. “A nice-looking woman,” my mother would later say. “Well put together. Classy.” The woman was dressed for the season in a light cotton shift patterned with oversize daisies. Her shoes matched the petals and her purse, which was black-and-yellow striped, hung over her shoulder, buzzing the flowers like a lazy bumblebee. She handed in her claim check, accepted her garments, and then expressed gratitude for what she considered to be fast and efficient service. “You know,” she said, “people talk about Raleigh but it isn’t really true, is it?”

The Korean man nodded, the way you do when you’re a foreigner and understand that someone has finished a sentence. He wasn’t the owner, just a helper who’d stepped in from the back, and it was clear he had no idea what she was saying.

“My sister and I are visiting from out of town,” the woman said, a little louder now, and again the man nodded. “I’d love to stay awhile longer and explore, but my home, well, one of my homes is on the garden tour, so I’ve got to get back to Williamsburg.”

I was eleven years old, yet still the statement seemed strange to me. If she’d hoped to impress the Korean, the woman had obviously wasted her breath, so who was this information for?

“My home, well, one of my homes”; by the end of the day my mother and I had repeated this line no less than fifty times. The garden tour was unimportant, but the first part of her sentence brought us great pleasure. There was, as indicated by the comma, a pause between the words “home” and “well,” a brief moment in which she’d decided, Oh, why not? The following word— “one”—had blown from her mouth as if propelled by a gentle breeze, and this was the difficult part. You had to get it just right or else the sentence lost its power. Falling somewhere between a self-conscious laugh and a sigh of happy confusion, the “one” afforded her statement a double meaning. To her peers it meant, “Look at me, I catch myself coming and going!” and to the less fortunate it was a way of saying, “Don’t kid yourself, it’s a lot of work having more than one house.”

Read the rest here.

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