Illustration: Dan Bejar

During Sex I Pretend That My Boyfriend Is A Dentist
I am, by nature, a rule follower. I drive the speed limit. I was a straight A student. And I would never schedule a teeth cleaning if I couldn't afford it.

Yet here I am at the dentist's office, unable to pay for his services. He looks at me expectantly, his expression asking, What are we going to do about this? And wouldn't you know, the only solution is to settle my debt on my back, plus a few other positions not fit for print.

This is a fantasy, of course. Yes, sometimes during sex I pretend that my long-term, live-in boyfriend is a dentist who is willing (how accommodating!) to let me into his scrubs as payment. He works long hours, hasn't had sex in months. He needs this. When I grab the waist of his pants, he's surprised, but doesn't resist. Instead of leading him to the pleather exam chair, I push him to the ground. Above our heads is the row of gleaming tools, but I'm focused on a tool of another sort. I straddle Faceless Guy, DDS, the threat of being caught by a hygienist doing nothing to slow me down.

I've never told my boyfriend that I fantasize about a dentist rooting around in my canal; I think he might—understandably—get weirded out. Plus, excluding him from the fantasy means that I can abandon it whenever I want. Because I do enjoy having the usual kind of sex—you know, the kind in which two people are fully in the moment, focused on each other, as opposed to pretending that a queen-size Tempur-Pedic with Ralph Lauren sheets is the floor of a sterile exam room. Still, however weird it may be, I treasure my fantasy because it's all mine. Maybe someday I'll decide that I've had my fill of being drilled. Until then I'll keep scheduling regular checkups.

quirks blanket

Illustration: Dan Bejar

I Have A Blankie And I'm Almost 40
At the moment, it's a blue microfiber dishcloth. For a while when I was little, it was a snippet of an old hand-knit blanket. Later, a fuzzy red sock. Then a pilled raw-silk scarf. I gave them all the same name: Scrap.

I like to think of myself as a grown-up. I have a job, two kids, a mortgage—even a 401(k) somewhere. And yet I also have a blankie. Over the course of my adult life, I've cuddled up to a long line of soft companions, each replaced when it went missing or became too grubby. I have no sentimental attachment to the cloths themselves; I just crave the tactile joy of rubbing something. I run my fingertips across it to a quick rhythm, like that of a baby's heartbeat. In the same way a glass or two of wine provides a feeling of mellow disengagement, my Scrap brings me a moment of serenity, of freedom from responsibility. Blankie time is my time.

Even when I was a kid, Scrap's presence elicited disdain. My mother would ask, "Are you going to bring that rag on your wedding night?" (She called Scrap, with no small measure of disgust, my "rubby.") At sleep-away camp, when I was 10, I'd slink under my blankets so the other girls wouldn't catch me cuddling my chosen cloth (this was the era of the red sock). In my junior year of college, my suitemates frequently kidnapped Scrap (by then another bit of old blanket); once I found it in the freezer.

I kept it a secret for about a year and a half after I met my now-husband, pulling it out only after he'd fallen asleep and then nestling it inside my pillowcase each morning. When it turned up in the sheets, I'd mumble something about static cling. But at some point during our first year of marriage, I decided to let my freak rag fly and told him the truth. ("You're a nut job" was his good-natured response.) My mother remains horrified. "Aren't you just so embarrassed?" she frequently asks. But who cares? I'm done hiding. And I have faith that my open, honest attitude about Scrap will eventually rub off.

—Liz Krieger
quirks oscar

Illustration: Dan Bejar

I Rehearse My Oscar Speech
I'm only, but I've already received a number of prestigious accolades. A MacArthur Fellowship? Check. The French Legion of Honor? Oui. The Pulitzer Prize? Got it. Sort of. Some people play fantasy football; my game is fantasy award winning.

It's not really the honors themselves I'm after; I just want to accept them. As a junior high theater nerd, I used to deliver awards speeches in my bathroom. I'd gaze into the mirror at my rapt audience, a gleaming Oscar statuette (fine, a hairbrush) clutched to my chest, thanking Mom and letting the laugh-sobs rip. The speeches felt like practice for the inevitable. Of course I'd win a Tony one day; I was a precocious tween for whom anything and everything was still to come.

What did come: utility bills, taxes, arguing with my partner about who bought coffee last. The acting thing didn't work out as planned. I quit in favor of a, ha, more practical pursuit: poetry. I've discovered that it's my creative passion, and now the speeches are more than playacting. As I accept the Nobel Prize, making an ardent case for a world full of verse—while shaving my legs in the shower—I'm also reaffirming the stuff that deeply matters to me, whether or not I ever publish another poem or make it to Stockholm.

So thank you, mirror. Thank you, Mr. Baker, for letting my high school English journal become a poetry notebook. Thanks, Elizabeth Bishop, for helping me see the world with clearer eyes. And Seamus Heaney, for showing me that there's room in poetry for all that is hard and true and good in life. Thank you, Professor Farnsworth, for telling me I was a poet before I knew it. To my girlfriend for her keen ability to spot a cliché from a mile away (and tell me all about it). And thanks, Mom. This one's for you.

—Zoe Donaldson
quirks whistle

Illustration: Dan Bejar

I Whistle Constantly
I've always traveled through life with a song in my head—wherever I am, whatever I'm doing. (Right now it's "Guava Jelly," an obscure Bob Marley track I just happened to hear on the radio.) As a kid I'd belt out jingles from commercials: Help yourself, help yourself, help yourself to Stouffer's pizza! In high school I started playing the drums and couldn't stop, tapping out an endless rhythm on any available surface. It drove my friends crazy. It drove me crazy.

By my 30s I'd quit tapping, but the tunes were still going—as I realized one day when my daughter, just old enough to chide, said, "Daddy, you've whistled that song 20 times."

She was right. Changing diapers, washing sippy cups, folding and unfolding strollers: Whatever I was doing, I did it, I now realized, with pursed lips. At least I'd managed to cultivate a versatile little repertoire: Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik"; Miles Davis's "All Blues"; Phil Collins's 1985 duet with Marilyn Martin, "Separate Lives."

Why the switch from drumming to whistling? My unscientific theory is that, as a new parent, my hands were always busy with something else. But I think it may also stem from a deeper desire: I want my children to feel as saturated with music as I am. I want them to love all of it—Thelonious Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle," Barber's "Adagio for Strings," the melody of "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang." I guess I'm trying to whistle that love right into their DNA.

Some would argue that no one should be subjected to whistled Monk. (I imagine him glowering at me in his beanie: "Just play the damn record.") My daughter, now 7, still complains about my habit. But my son, who's 4, makes requests—all from Star Wars. "Play me the Darth Vader song," he says. "Play me the Luke Skywalker song." And when I do, he says, "I'm going to be a good whistler one day, too." —Jess Row
quirks otter

Illustration: Dan Bejar

I Make Video Game Noises. And Sob At The Sight of Otters.
My Confession: I'm a 34-year-old woman who is addicted to a Nintendo race car game called Mario Kart 8. In the game there are 32 tracks you can choose from, each with a distinct landscape and cast of characters. My favorite is Shy Guy Falls. It's a crystal mine where the Shy Guys—they look like sea mammals in wizard robes—pickax away at the glittering rocks, chanting a sound I can only describe as brip-brap, brip-brap, brip-brap. This sound mesmerizes me.

"Hear them brip-brapping?" I once asked my husband.

"What?" he asked, confused.


Brip-brap, brip-brap.

"Huh," he said. "I didn't notice."

Me, I hear the brip-brap everywhere—in flip-flops on pavement, in the barking of a dog, in restaurant noise. And out of my own mouth. For months I've been emitting brip-braps—at normal speaking volume—as I cook, clean, shop for groceries, eat dinner, hike, work. It's possible that people hear me, but I'm not embarrassed. Brip-brapping is, for me, a centering mantra. Yogis have it all wrong: Brip-brap, not om, is the rhythm of the universe.

I love brip-braps in part because I love those little Shy Guys. But then, I would: They look like otters. God, do I love otters. I'm so in love with them that I bawl whenever I see them in person. I don't fawn and coo, I break into wracking sobs. I'm not self-conscious about the tears any more than I am about the brip-brap, despite the gawking of bystanders at zoos, aquariums, and beaches. The unleashing of emotion at the sight of my aquatic soul mates is cathartic, a kind of release.

You may be asking, how often is this woman seeing otters? Well, a lot ever since I moved from New York City to Santa Cruz, California. Here, otters live unconfined. I encounter them nearly as often as I did subway rats back on the East Coast. The first time my then-fiancé took me to see the wild otters in the bay, I wept. When he didn't call off the engagement, I knew I'd found The One. (When he gave me Mario Kart 8 as a surprise gift, I was even more certain.)

The other day, as he and I dragged our kayak down to the ocean, I brip-brapped to the rhythm of our steps, shaking with the excitement of seeing otters. And that was when I had an out-of-body experience, seeing myself as though from above. The person I saw was strange. Like, really strange.

"You sure you won't stop loving me because I'm so weird?" I said.

"That's why I love you," he said.

The space that real love makes for weirdness—mine and everyone's—is everything.

That day my husband and I paddled into the kelp beds, the otters' domain, and he joined in the brip-brap with me, both of us scanning the ocean's surface for their furry little Shy Guy heads.

—Liza Monroy