As I recounted last week, Jenny and I arrived in Blacksburg on Saturday, August 7, and our Aunt Margaret was here to help us settle in. We were caught in a flurry of activity–buying furniture, cleaning, putting things in the correct cupboards, and trying to figure out why the hot water wouldn’t work. When Margaret left late Sunday morning, Jenny and I were too worn out to do much of anything, frankly.
Still, the “to do” list was growing. There was a leak under the sink. The check engine light came on in my car. The laundry was piling up. And we were basically out of food, subsisting on pepperoni, Oreos, grapes, and corn.
Because of this I barely had any breakfast Monday morning before heading to Walmart for groceries. And you know how miserable shopping for groceries while hungry is. I found most of the things on the list, but there were a few things, like vinegar, that I couldn’t find anywhere. We wanted vinegar, not just for cooking, but also for pre-soaking laundry. Our couch cushions smelled a little funny, so I planned to soak the covers in vinegar and wash them.
But I couldn’t find vinegar, and I was hungry and grumpy and couldn’t find anyone helpful. So I just said “whatever” and checked out.
I put all the groceries in the trunk, then returned my cart, and then…I was going to get in my car, but where were my keys?
I have a long and terrible history of locking my keys in my car. After one particularly unfortunate incident I tried making copies of my keys, but none of them worked. I found my spare key when I got home, and very intentionally brought it along to Virginia, as well as very intentionally making sure I was signed up for roadside assistance.
I also am extremely paranoid now, and triple check my keys before I lock my car.
My trunk, though, is another story. I guess I wasn’t paranoid enough yet. Because after scrutinizing my purse, my cart, and the keyhole on my trunk, I concluded that my keys were locked inside, with the groceries.
I called Jenny. “Um, I am so sorry, but I need you to get my spare key and figure out the bus system.”
Poor Jenny had never ridden the bus before. Also it would be about an hour before she’d get here, because I was actually in the next town over. Meanwhile, I was so hungry it wasn’t funny. I went inside again and bought some obscenely sweet dairy-free cherry turnovers, and scarfed down half of them.
Also bought a book for Jenny. Because I felt bad.
And then after a while I was thirsty, so I went through the line a third time to buy a case of sparkling water. Also a large jug of vinegar, because I finally found it when I was looking for sparkling water.
So my arms were quite full when Jenny showed up. She’d navigated the bus system beautifully, but was quite hungry, and maybe annoyed at me. But I gave her the rest of the cherry turnovers and the book, and she forgave me.
When I got home I wanted nothing more than a nap, but I had a mechanic appointment.
That, not gonna lie, was a bit of a bummer. My car needed a not-cheap repair. I’d had to replace the battery before I left Oregon, and was starting to feel like my car was crumbling beneath me.
That wasn’t going to be done until 5:30 or so, so I had the bright idea to walk to Starbucks while I wanted. Um. Maybe not the brightest idea when you’re in an area of town that has no sidewalks. Oh well. Walked through the yards of a bunch of random business. I hope they don’t mind.
Anyway. When I finally got home it had already been Quite. The. Day. But then I had a brilliant idea. I’d had to tell the mechanics my address, and it was printed on my bill. Could I use that to get a library card?
I walked down to the library, and guess what! It did work!
And not only did I check out a large stack of books, but I also checked out a hotspot. Yes, the Blacksburg library has hotspots that you can borrow for two weeks at a time. Which has proved fantastic, because our WiFi is still not set up.
Over the next few days Jenny and I had a few domestic issues to deal with: The last of the cleaning, the maintenance man showing up to fix the leak under the sink, learning to deal with the fact that it takes FOREVER for the hot water to show up and we might as well just wash our dishes with cold, and finally, dealing with the laundry. And our couch.
There are some coin-operated washers and dryers in the basement of the next building, as well as a clothesline out back. Of course I wanted to make use of the clothesline and save money, but that was a bit tricky, as there have been random rain showers nearly every day.
The summer rain has been kinda hard to get used to, actually, but it keeps things green in August, as well as decreasing fire danger and keeping the air smoke-free.
Wouldn’t want to get married here, though.
Anyway. Everything went well with the laundry until it came time to wash the couch cushion covers.
I may have said this before but I’ll say it again–the covers were a bit pilly, and the whole thing smelled faintly, but I thought we could just run it through the wash, maybe give the pilly parts a shave, and we’d be good to go. And we always had the option of re-covering the whole thing in the future.
To get rid of the smell, I soaked the covers in vinegar water overnight, along with the smelly rags from our apartment cleaning venture.
Now, as soon as I took the covers off the cushions, I knew where the smell had come from. The previous owners had a dog. A dog with an abundance of thick black hairs. A dog who had apparently loved this couch.
The foam beneath the covers was coated with this hair.
At first I didn’t think it was a big deal. We’d just buy some lint rollers. Maybe run the vacuum cleaner over it. It would be fine.
So I washed the covers, and it made a terrible mess. Dog hair coated the washer. Dog hair coated the rags I’d washed with the covers. Lint from the rags, meanwhile, now coated the emerald green couch cushion covers. And the pilling was twice as bad as before.
I dealt with this issue the best I could, wiping out the washer with a paper towel and giving everything a good shake before and after I hung it on the line. Then I went upstairs and tried to tackle the cushions themselves. But when I ran the vacuum cleaner over them, it barely made a dent.
We went to dollar tree that evening to buy lint rollers, but they were all sold out. The whole town is alive with College Students Moving In right now, and sometimes it’s hard to get what you need. So we went home and used masking tape and one lint roller that Jenny happened to have.
But honestly, it didn’t help much. Because the hairs weren’t on the foam, they were in the foam. Sprouting out like it was skin. So we grabbed our tweezers, and we plucked.
I mean, it was a process: Pick a section of cushion to work on. Stick masking tape on it to get the loosest hairs. Wrap some tape around your finger and pick out the more firmly-lodged hairs. Then grab your tweezers for the most egregiously embedded.
Our lives were rather lonely that first week, but Sunday we were going to see actual people. First we were off to church where we met some of our cousin Keith’s friends, from when he used to live in Blacksburg. In the late afternoon I was going to go meet a friend in Roanoke, and then some of Mom’s friends texted us, wanting to swing by early Sunday evening. Well, I wasn’t going to be here, at least for a bit. But Jenny thought she was up for some hosting.
Hosting, however, meant that we need a usable couch.
So as soon as we got home from church we went into overdrive. Pick the hairs. Shave the pills off the cushion covers. Pick more hairs. Shave more cushion covers. Shove the cushions back into the covers. Sniff them.
Well, the dog smell disappeared at least, though we both knew good and well there were more hairs lurking deep within. It felt impossible to get everything. We’d settled for a decent 80%.
This week felt a bit like settling into a new normal. With most of the disasters taken care of, I’ve been able to focus more on my writing. For a while I just went to Starbucks as usual, because hello free refills. Also the familiarity of the space is comforting to me. But on Monday I discovered a random coffee shop with truly excellent and remarkably inexpensive tea. Today I discovered that they also give a free refill if you order your tea in a house mug. So win-win-win.
I mean, it does have its quirks. Today I sat down at a table, and there was a bit of water on it but oh well, I just grabbed a napkin and wiped it up.
Then, “plop!” a large raindrop plunked down in front of me, splattering across the table. Only I was indoors. Huh?
I looked up, squinting at the pipes in the exposed ceiling above me. “Is the pipe leaking again?” asked the tired-sounding barista.
That seemed the only explanation, so I moved to a different table.
It’s an odd place, but full of interesting people. The first day I came to this coffee shop a man walked up and gave the barista a plant. Not flowers, a whole plant. Which I know sounds like a flirtatious gesture, and perhaps he intended it to be, but his voice was so matter-of-fact you’d have thought he was passing on an informational brochure.
It’s also near campus, so one day I decided to go to the campus bookstore and shop for notebooks. The Oregon State University bookstore seriously has the best notebook selection I’ve ever found, so I figured the Virginia Tech bookstore would be the same way.
As I was crossing a parking lot I thought, “wait, is that a camel-colored skirt I see?” I came closer. There was Jenny, wearing the skirt she made out of Austin’s pants, walking toward me with a friend.
“Oh, hey!” “Wow!” “Didn’t expect to see you here!” “Where are you headed?” “The bookstore.” “Oh, you don’t want to go there. We just came from there. It’s a madhouse.”
The friend was Tatiane who I’d heard about, as she’s another first-year math grad student who lives near us. Jenny and Tatiane have been doing orientation meetings all this week and often walk to campus together.
So we all headed home together. On main street, as we waited for the red hand to turn into a white little man, a blonde woman behind me said “excuse me, have we met?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, because I feel like I haven’t met anyone. Then I remembered her. “Oh, yes! I showed you where the laundry room was!”
It was Mave. She lives below us. And she’s apparently a first-year grad student too, studying philosophy.
So we all walked home together, chattering about our lives and where we were from. It was nice. Probably the first time I felt like I sort-of fit in here. It’s really weird, though, being in the midst of this back-to-university flurry but not going back to university.
In other news, we found the farmer’s market and Aldi, so we probably won’t be going back to Walmart for groceries. Also, there’s a Kroger just down the street. “This one is called the Gucci Kroger, and there’s another Kroger in town called the Ghetto Kroger,” Jenny informed me.
Jenny has a math cohort that tells her how things are in Blacksburg.
Anyway, that’s our settling-in life so far.
And after the ordeal we just went through, I don’t think we’ll be getting a dog any time soon, maybe ever.
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