Stephanie had asked me if I wanted to go to institute with her. Feeling like I don't leave my house enough and that I should try to be a part of the larger DC singles culture--and, as happens periodically, feeling guilty about my eh-institute attitude--I said yes. Later, I asked Jeanette if she wanted to come. The plan: Leave for institute at 7:20. It starts at 7:30. It's 15-20 minutes away. I didn't say anything.
I got home from work at 6:30, with just enough time to make the cheeseless pizza I'd been talking about since the night before. (Cheeseless pizza = crust + sauce + toppings.) Erika wasn't a believer. "Prove me wrong, Sarah," she said. "I hope I'm wrong." But, of course, I didn't start the pizza until 6:55 (I found Erika on her bed, where Stephanie found the two of us; there was talking). As I sauteed up some old garlic (found on the butter shelf in the fridge), onions, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, the girls gathered. I baked the crust (pre-made) with some olive oil above it and olive oil beneath, then I added the toppings, and slipped it back in. By the time the pizza came out of the oven, all four of my roommates had gathered in the kitchen, waiting to eat, waiting to leave. "We never do this!" Stephanie said. "We're never all home at the same time."
I rolled the pizza cutter across the pizza, four times, five girls. And Erika took a bite. She shook her head. "I'm a believer," she said. "It doesn't need the cheese. I was wrong."
Then it was 8, and Stephanie's friend pulled up outside to take us to institute (a part of the plan I hadn't seen coming). We went outside, and there were two in the car already. But we piled four in the back anyway--Wendy, Steph, Jeanette, and me--and headed off into the crazy rain. We got stopped in bad traffic one exit out, made room for the police cars, pulled off the highway, and headed home. Then Jeanette and I watched a movie. It was awesome.
We went swimming. Jeanette has started swimming, and I want to be like her, so I wanted to go too. I invited Kim G., a new friend from my ward (and the daughter of my former Plainview New York Stake stake president). Steph sent me an email titled: "gah swimming!"; she wanted to come, too. So Wednesday night, we gathered in the kitchen with swimsuit and towels and $4 each. Jeanette with goggles; the rest of us with goggle envy. And we took off to the pool. It's a high school pool, turned county pool at night, and the room is steamy, the lanes are narrow, and the parents watching their kids' swim practices look as bored as I remember.
But we swam--though we're not all confident swimmers--and we came home again, through the rain, wet and cold and ready for dinner.
I made linguine with clam sauce and broccoli. Jeanette set the table. Kim did a crossword puzzle and filled the water glasses. Wendy made corn on the cob. Steph provided sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes. We had grapes. "You're eating dinner as roommates?" Kim asked. "We never do this," Wendy said. We sat around the kitchen table and ate until we couldn't. Then Wendy made milkshakes, and we watched a movie. That was Wednesday.
When Erika and I got back from the gym on Thursday night, the debate had already started. I had backseat debated for the first ten minutes as we tried to follow it at the gym, trying to read the closed captioning as we ran. "She's not answering the question!" I yelled. Erika would look over and smile. "No, don't say it!" I said. Erika would look over, smile. "I can't believe he just said that!" I said. The man on the treadmill next to me got up to leave.
We walked into the house, sweaty and cold but feeling good, and we found the girls in the livingroom. Wendy was eating ice cream. Stephanie was eating double-stuffed Oreos. Jeanette was eating dinner. "What are you eating?" I asked. "What's on the stove," she said. I got some, too. Then Erika and I sat down, and we watched Palin and Biden smile and wink. "I don't like women winkers," Erika said. "Oh really?" I said. "My sister's a winker. I do." Half of us would talk and the other half would watch the TV. Then we'd all be quiet and listen to the thing. Then two of us would talk, and the other three would watch TV.
When my plate was empty, Jeanette stood up to get me more. I sat in our fat taupe recliner, sweaty and tired, and she handed me my plate, full of noodles and tofu and something else. I looked down at the plate and up at the room, full of women I am coming to love. I was glad to have all this. I was hungry for more.