Why the Mountains Love the Lake

Vignettes by Catherine Chen

Why the Mountains Love the Lake

Le Pain Quotidien

“For a very long time,” she said, “I thought the French were masochistic.”

“And why is that?” I asked.

“I thought ‘le pain quotidien’ meant ‘the quotidian pain’.”

Not to Blame

Orbs of white lights were floating across the outdoor garden G and I visited one Saturday night. I smiled because the orbs reminded me of many glowing moons.

A handful of nights ago, I attempted to capture the moon in a photograph. But the moon was visibly diminished in the photograph. It was less large and less luminous than it appeared to my eyes. I mentioned this frustration to G.

G laughed. “And the moon is to blame for this?”


I awaken to the glow of his phone screen.

The silence around us is thick and inky, only punctuated by the low rustle of wind passing through the grasses.

Have you brought the moon indoors for me? I whisper.

At the Laundromat

Yesterday, I did my laundry.

When I returned to retrieve my clothing from the nondescript laundromat, I discovered that my favorite wool sweater had shrunk in the wash. In determined stubbornness, I struggled to put it on anyway, only to become hopelessly entangled in its constricting static.

“Oh, what have I done to you?” I cried to the sweater. “And what have you done to me?”


I had a question for you.

“Did they like me?” I whispered.

“You want everyone to like you,” you whispered back.

Office Furniture

“Assistant to the Chair is such a funny job title.”

“I mean, what is that, an armrest?”


Ogle: an ogre playing a bugle

Panache: ganache served on a pan

Baffles: a batch of waffles

Strident: a brand of chewing gum

Ensconced: to be buried under a variable amount of scones

Indelible: unable to be sold in a deli

Crestfallen: a tube of Crest toothpaste that has fallen to the floor

Cantankerous: of or related to the sound a tank full of multiple cans makes when driving over numerous bumpy hills

Hamlet on Businesses

To B2B or not to B2B, that is the question.

Hamlet on Apartment Rentals

To 2B2Br or not to 2B2Br, that is the question.

Hamlet on Pencils

2B or not 2B, that is the question.

Mother Goose on Metric Feet

Mary had a little iamb.

Descartes on Metric Feet

I think, therefore iamb.

Like a Mirror

Many nights ago, when we were traveling in Iceland, he told me this story.

“The lake loved the mountains. And so the lake willed herself to become very, very still and very, very clear, so the mountains could rise every morning with the light of the sun and look at his own reflection.”

“But why?” I asked him, even though I already knew the answer.


We are walking. I match his pace in the way good friends or lovers begin to fall in sync, but I do so comically, deliberately, taking one exaggeratedly large step after another.

“Are you trying to see how it feels like to be me?” he asks. “How does it feel?”

I look at him, at his blonde hair catching glimpses of foggy Saturday sunlight. “Deeply unsustainable,” I say.

“Same,” he replies. A half-smile spreads to light up his face.

I continue to walk in stride as we amble down the street, up several hills, to his apartment, where we must part ways.

Paired / Despaired

So many couples walking, holding hands, and so many couples, walking dogs while holding hands, and here I am alone, walking my bike along the sidewalk.


“Funny how strayed and stayed are almost the same word.”

“Yes, almost-same, to a T.”


I was hoping to win the record player in the raffle. A boy I loved was moving away. He gave me all his records since he could not bring everything with him. I did not own a record player. I was trying to use this, the possibility of winning one, as some sort of sign.

This is what happened. I did not win the record player. A couple won it. I watched them embrace in joy and triumph, with the record player held awkwardly between them like a square shaped child.

I stood there, empty handed. How little there was to win in love. How much there was to lose.


I misread “great egret” as “great regret” today. In a dream, my regrets became winged birds. Oh, how they took flight, and filled the blue sky.

Life as a Verb Tense

Present imperfect.

“Professional Driver, Closed Course” by Carrie Laben

Catherine Chen spent a brief portion of her childhood believing a vignette was a type of salad dressing. She lives and writes in San Francisco, California. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.

About the Author

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