From the collection Safe as Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino
University of Iowa Press

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Put this collection at the top of your list. The opening lines are levitating, as our narrator tells us all the things she can’t do. And why if she built a house it wouldn’t go over well because it would have no floors. The narrative is water bug consistent, and the over reaching theme here is loneliness; it’s strangling effects on your life, even if you don’t know it.

She works for Laundry Business Solutions, and her tone reminds me of Eugene Marten, at least with a massive sense of humor. The key to the communal bathroom gets lost and another employee gets locked in, no one misses her. The key being tied to a big ruler didn’t help, but that’s barley noticeable because we’re hearing about all the things this woman can’t do. The high reaching energy is reliant on Bertino’s keen eye for piling up stupid shit for this person to occupy their time with. Collecting a heads up penny and missing the train, while comparing trains to men, she thinks there will always be one coming along soon. There is humor here, but it’s shrouded in stark depression of life.

Filling your day with useless obsessions, like how would you get to know everyone on earth is possibly pathetic but humane and realistic in a infantile way. I get a sense that this character is just sliding through life seeing little things and then taking them to extreme levels of resolution. She works reception at a dead end job, aspires to nothing, has no hobbies, and just exists. You sometimes see those people in stores and malls; they wander through life with nothing on their minds. Not even what will happen the next day at work. That’s okay, the world needs gas station attendants too, and these people can do that job. Then of course there are Christmas lights to be hung, and on either side of this story, that attempt is made.