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with Kristen Arnett

The last thing that made you smile

I just got back from a 2 hour lunch break at the Olive Garden. Did you know if you ask to sample wines, a lot of them, you don’t have to pay for wine. This made me smile, but so did the breadsticks. They’re unlimited, at the Olive Garden. You could eat your weight in breadsticks and you don’t stop until you’re ready to stop, which could be never. The thing that really makes me smile about this is that it was the middle of a workday and I was drinking at an Olive Garden. Also, it makes me smile to know you can get free samples at a place like Olive Garden and the people are happy to give them to you, no sweat, no problem at all. The waiter was funny, he had a couple samples, too, and that made me smile more. If I could make a list of places where it’s fun to drink, I’d probably put Olive Garden on the list.

A secret

I’m trying to think of a secret that I haven’t already told five people. I am good at keeping other people’s secrets, but not great at keeping my own. Here’s one, maybe. Once I was moving out of an apartment on my own. I had this large round table I needed to get downstairs, but I didn’t have anyone to help me. It was the middle of the night. I decided I could probably get it downstairs by myself, so I set it upright and rolled it like a big wheel right out the door. As soon as I got to the stairs and it went down a step, I knew I’d made a very bad mistake. It rolled halfway down as I struggled to catch up to it, and I wound up trapped beneath it halfway down the stairs. I was there for at least twenty minutes, trying to claw my way free. Finally I got out the top and then it slid the rest of the way down. I couldn’t even get it into my car. I wound up leaving it there for anyone to take who wanted it. I didn’t own a dining room table for three years after that.

The last thing you wrote

I wrote a grocery list on my phone. I did this in the middle of the night. I woke up at 3am, super thirsty, and wanted a cherry coke. I stumbled out to the kitchen but the only thing I had in my fridge was beer and milk so old I could slice it with a knife. So I sat in bed with my eyes half squinted in the blue light of my screen and tried to write a grocery list. Then I fell asleep halfway through, so I only wound up writing beer and milk. I didn’t even add cherry coke to this list. I should probably do that now, but I’m not going to.

Your favourite city

I love Orlando. It’s a very strange place and I like living there. My favorite part about where I live is you can drive 20 minutes in any direction and feel like you’re someplace totally different. Theme parks. A beach. There are swampy areas and preserves, lakes full of creeping wildlife. There are strip malls and convenience stores smashed right up beside them. Giant new houses next door to tiny rental homes. Recently I’ve started going out in the middle of the night and driving round to places where I lived when I was young, those places and spaces I frequented with my family. My grandparent’s house. The lake I was baptized in. To try and get a feeling of why it still lives inside of me. Mostly it just makes me feel very tired. I don’t know why I keep doing it, but there’s something about home that makes me wanna dig into it until I scrape the bottom.

What you’d place in a time capsule

I talked about this idea very recently with my very good friend, Vivian. She thinks about this question a lot! I told her I didn’t know what I’d like to put in a time capsule. I change my mind every day about almost everything in my life. Maybe I’d stick a picture of my dog in a time capsule. People in the future would like to see such a cute and friendly face. My dog is probably the greatest thing I could contribute. An actual angel smushed into a roly poly body.

Kristen Arnett is a queer fiction and essay writer who has held fellowships at Kenyon Review, Tin House, and Lambda Literary Foundation. She was awarded Ninth Letter’s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction, was runner-up for the 2016 Robert Watson Literary Prize at The Greensboro Review, and was a finalist for Indiana Review’s 2016 Fiction Prize. Her debut story collection, Felt in the Jaw, was published by Split Lip Press in September 2017.