gritty streets

I don’t have a daily, or even weekly, household staff. (I believe this comes as no surprise -!) Now that we pay for laundry with quarters instead of having the cost tucked into our water and electric bills, we change the sheets somewhat erratically. Underwear gets laundry-priority, and quarters are a half-hour’s expedition to be squeezed into the doing of all the other important things.

This has enabled me to find that I have something in common with the Princess of Pea fame: when there is grit between my sheets, it bugs me.

Even though we are a moderately shoeless household with inner and outer doormats, somehow grit still ends up on our floors, then on our feet, then into bed. Where it drifts down to the end, making flat piles of what feels like rocks to my toes.

As a voracious reader, I’ve known the “gritty streets” metaphor for most of my life. It made sense, it’s evocative, it offers an extra noir cachet: so urban!

Living in Boston, I now understand its basic truth. The streets have grit on them. The grit gets everywhere. The grit, black and fine and not at all like sand, comes in my cracked-open windows, carried on the wind I suppose. It certainly comes in on the soles of shoes — my shoe pockets all have a thin black layer in them.

It gets into bed.

When I find my princess self a little too fussed, I toss the covers backward off the bed and sweep the foot with my hand… onto the floor again (acknowledging the futility) or into my hand and thus the trashcan (a quixotic defiance of the same futility). I guess the grit of the streets inherently generates the feeling in the noir metaphor, even for a temporarily relocated suburbanite.

As I go further in my poetry + theology research, I’ll be reading Metaphors We Live By again and more closely. It’s fascinating in how it explores the ways our metaphors, no matter how abstract-seeming, end up directly tied to our sensory experiences.

Still, I wish I wasn’t sweeping up this particular object lesson.

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