Why I want to hang around

by Eric Ginsburg

When it was still early on, she told me that she usually pees in the bathtub. I don’t remember why it came up, but I’m pretty sure I laughed for a while. It’s not uncommon for her to make an unexpected remark like this, for me to look at her incredulously, laugh for a while and then continue to smile, amused by her wit, off-handedness and wry honesty (and occasional crassness).

Sometimes it’s completely unintentional. I sat next to her one night, reading while she napped. Out of nowhere she sat up and said, “So how do I help?” After asking what she meant a few times, she mumbled something about bones in the walls and fell back asleep.

She’s incredibly perceptive, and she can call me out for something I’m unconsciously doing so accurately that we both crack up.

When I ask people if they have any ideas for what I should write about, they always say I should write about them. She doesn’t understand why I would want to write a column about her, and it’s partially because of her lack of narcissism that I want to hang around.

She takes the whole “day of rest” thing literally.

Her workdays are longer than mine and I don’t blame her, but her Sunday relaxation habits seem to have developed into a routine of naps and quality time with her cats. She’ll tilt a basket on its side, the simple object becoming a reimagined play place for the two felines, but I’m pretty sure she gets a bigger kick out of watching them than they do out of the basket.

I really can’t overstate how much she loves cats. Hers, internet memes, cats on clothing, “My Cat from Hell.” We decided it’s more than an interest — it’s hard-wired into her personality. I gave her two things for her birthday: a children’s book with cat characters that she wanted and a black-tie collar for one of her fur-beasts. I threw in a cat card to boot.

You should’ve seen her feeding four stray kittens on the street in Philadelphia, or the bliss across her face as she pet that cat on the Outer Banks.

In many ways, she is catlike. Independent, sharp, capable of being fierce and affectionate on her own terms. I like that. Plus, she’s got a thing for tuna and she’s a homebody — less laziness and more introversion.

Laziness, for me, takes a different form than her Sunday tradition. Sometimes I’ll take shortcuts, or put in a passing amount of effort. I used to drive my parents crazy in high school because my teachers were confident I could be an A student if I put in the time.

Now I can be a lazy storyteller (though this may be preferable to my incredibly long-winded alternative). I’ll often say we met through mutual friends, though the whole story is pretty entertaining. The first time we talked, I gave her a hard time about a “Hanukkah tree” she helped put together at a Christmas party, and then made an impression on her ignoring (and, let’s be honest, ridiculing) Christmas caroling in the next room.

A month later when we hung out alone for the first time, we sat over Smith Street biscuits on my roof and talked for five hours about everything from Stravinsky to Gothic cathedrals. The next weekend we planned to drink mimosas and and have what she coined a “reading rodeo” together, but I think I read about five pages over the course of seven hours as we emptied glasses and grew more acquainted.

Later on while driving back into town, I texted her and joked that my roommate was dropping me off at her place, unannounced. She couldn’t read my tone in the message, and the joke turned into a serious question: Should I come over? She stalled briefly on her response, but I had already slipped my boots on and was trudging towards her house when she texted me back and said yes.

Sometimes that’s how things are. A bit of guesswork, teetering decisions. I draw energy from being around other people and she needs time to herself to regenerate, but we understand each other well enough that there’s space for both and nobody is hurt.

She isn’t the only one with amusing and mildly embarrassing behavior. The bathroom in her apartment is wedged between the living room and her bedroom, and the first few times I used it I sat down to pee so she wouldn’t hear me. It developed into a weird habit that never quite stopped.

We’re past the opening stages now. We’ve tried and failed to change a car tire, helped each other through sicknesses and finished a few television shows. We’ve created some patterns of our own now — I text her in the morning, we call each other all sorts of endearing and insulting nicknames and we’ve developed a restaurant circuit.

People like to talk about someone else making them a better person, but I can point to specifics. Now I take more time to read books, I’m more patient, I’m more deliberate and I allow more time to just be with myself. I’d like to think I make her a little better, too.