The call comes too late to be early, but hardly late. It delights with surprise of talking to someone I really want to talk to when we have both been very busy. Daily busyness eats up time with bigger bites when you are both navigating big changes; having a job eats up most. It is exactly the right call at exactly the right time, after dinner and before bed when as a kid the TV would be deep in prime time but the news still far off.
We talk gratefully; I know I do. It is sustaining to hear a friend’s voice and review things both silly and weighty. I don’t remember everything, as is my unfortunate habit with conversations like this: I can remember every emotional timbre, how the light played across the wall and how the night deepened around the trees, but only snippets of the words. Perhaps this is best, as it means it was a safe conversation, one that confirmed I was real.
We talk about community and the work to both find and sustain it against the headwinds of the Seattle freeze. A little about our families and what they have given or not given us, which makes me feel a little like a whining, spoiled adolescent: my parents have provided plenty. It may be selfish, or self-absorbed, to realize that I most remember talk about writing. She says (or I hear) that I am too hard on myself, that I have a lot of self-judgement and guilt about what I am doing or not doing. Frontloading myself with too much won’t help. As she talks I remember the flash about that kind of work needing to be play: something discovered and relished instead of dreading, the daily quota looming over me.
I am outside, on that smooth interface between the driveway and garage door. Night susurrates down from the road still busy with cars, the trees storybook solid, the gaps of sky ghostlit with urban glow. Fallen maple leaves, soft to walk on, spread their big hands over the blacktop; half-spinners of seeds cover every inch like an insect snow. Carriage lights with fluorescent bulbs mark the door, shining brightly but not too much. It is a safe, well-lighted place.
Garages make good foci. Some of my warmest memories are hanging out in them: as a young kid playing with friends out of the rain and our parents’ indoor annoyance, the last part of safety touched before heading off to school, the place you could stash things or take the occasional Dad beer from the fridge to help you sleep. Garages are where you sweep and where you pursue the occasional purge of consumerist and sentimental detritus, employing church youth group kids to take the boxes unopened for twenty years, the extra Christmas tree, the dead potted plants never repotted. It all goes as it all comes in. It receives from the world, keeps, and eventually gives up. It is cloaca and womb. It is natural to be drawn to such a center.
As I talk with my friend the hand of time lifts and we enter meta-time. The trees are trees from high school or Canadian childhood or five years ago, massive and dark and capable of holding anything. Cars are bigger with V-8s and ply the road like ships, or are econoboxes with your parents–young then–coming home late from work. I don’t know what time it is, but it is a welcome time; not happy but not threatening, present and whole. It holds out its hand and says: stay a while. It is that time of high school in Matt’s garage, the brakes done or the vacuum advance repaired, standing out by the mulberry tree with the high school and the future glowing in the distance.
No one needs to say anything and we are only sad because we know that this bubble of time is temporary. But that is the only thing. No one is trying too hard because no one is trying. The bugs are singing in the summer night, or the air has become sharp with the sun setting; school is tomorrow or break has started. We are there and we are always there, in that now. It is okay.
In this most recent now I am in that place with my friend on the phone. The garage is here and the light casts warm cones and all the working out and work is held away for a moment, and we are just here, talking. To be in such a placeless place is a great gift. When the call ends I stand with this thing that cannot be touched or saved but only recognized, and don’t think about it, cars going by and seeds on the ground.