I love October. I decided just the other day that October is my favorite month. Not only can I finally wear scarves with abandon and my leather jacket, there’s a creepy vibe in the air.
There was a light fog last night when I took the dog out for our regular night time walk. I had my hood pulled up and was listening to an episode of Crime Junkie about the murder of college student YingYing Zhang in Urbana-Champaign. The neighbors around my new apartment have embraced Halloween with macabre zeal that makes me smile -- there’s skeleton hands emerging from the ground, clinging to railings. Ghosts floating over doorways. Graves with RIP in front yards, bones poking out of the earth, loads of big spiders and spider webs in the corners. I stumbled across an empty lot that had been converted into a grave site, complete with a floating skeleton. One building has a hunched over, hooded, full-sized figure draped in a shapeless gray coat, bony finger protruding from one massive sleeve, just standing on the front porch. Can you imagine seeing this dark shape through the window every time you left the building?
Hector and I did our usual jaunt, but I found myself looking over my shoulder whenever he stopped to sniff a patch of grass. The darkness and fog and air that was cool but still kinda warm prickled the skin at the back of my neck. I startled myself with the sound of my own keys jangling in my pocket.
A short while later, my partner left (at 10 p.m.!) to go feed our friends’ cats while they were out of town. Their apartment is only a ten-minute walk away, but I had to stop myself from yelling, “Be safe! Call me when you get there! Don’t get in a stranger’s car!”
I reminded myself that many of these crime stories I’m listening to are about murdered and missing women. By virtue of his gender he would probably be safe.
He returns quickly and safely, and I feel like a ninny. But I’m not going to stop listening to murder stories.
In the mornings, it’s still solidly dark out when I plunk myself at my desk with my coffee. But I enjoy this quiet cocoon before everyone else wakes up. The darkness now is peaceful and full of possibility. I like watching the midnight blue sky lighten. It’s beautiful when orangey yellow rays emerge. It’s been cloudy lately so the sky becomes only a brighter gray, the clouds more dramatic. I know the exact moment of sunrise because my computer automatically turns off Night Mode.
There’s a group of trees outside my window, five stories tall, still round with green, unshed leaves that rustle and sway in the wind. Other trees in the neighborhood are on the verge of becoming skeletons. When I walk by them on my way to work, as their dead and brittle leaves skitter past my feet, as I walk by homes with bones poking out of front yards, as those big puffy clouds drift overhead, and still some life clings to trees, I’ll think to myself with childish glee oh how creepy.
Share any recommendations you have for books, articles, podcasts, TV, movies - whatever you find fun or fascinating or moving! They’ll be shared in upcoming letters. All you gotta do is respond to this email.
I’ve nearly finished Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. It’s taken me weeks because it’s one of those books I was both engrossed by and needed to set down for a few days. Taddeo researched and extensively interviewed three different women (background, age, location, etc) to paint a picture of the nuanced role desire played in their lives. A young woman who had an affair with her high school teacher, a housewife whose husband wouldn’t kiss her, a woman whose husband liked to watch her have sex with other men. The book is about sex, yes, but more than that it’s about love, how these women felt (or didn’t feel) wanted and cared for by their partners, lovers, family, their community.
Three Women reads more like three stories spliced together than a piece of in-depth journalism. It’s heartbreaking and thought-provoking and feels as close as you can ever get to the complicated inner workings of someone else’s mind and heart.
And speaking of books… Flea has a book club!
I’ve not attended a Story Jam Show before, but I’m excited for it since it combines two of my favorite things: sharing true stories in front of strangers and live music! Plus, their proceeds benefit The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Show is November 17 at City Winery in Chicago.
About this newsletter
Humdrum is written by Christina Brandon. She’s been spacing out, watching the wind rustle the trees outside her window. Purchase her memoir Failing Better anywhere you want, including Amazon. Connect with her by replying to this email or jumping on Twitter or Instagram. And tell friends to subscribe!