Sunday mornings are now a full on six-mile urban march. Staid square homes from previous centuries give way to a long stair tunnel, down under the freeway and then back up. We get down to Lake Union at a little park where the houseboats line one side and a barge the other, with a view of the yachts and the Fox affiliate across the water. Health is the goal and failure seems impossible.
But today there is no walk. I don’t knock on my friend’s door, unwilling to risk waking someone. Like my sister I once ridiculed, I leave a voicemail for someone I think is a stone’s throw away. Elderly dogwalkers and mid-fifties spandex women and their teenage daughters jog past, looking at the guy standing by the car checking his phone in the urban way of size-up not looking. I wait ten minutes and then walk on my own. The neighborhood is fine but not ostentatious homes, squat churches of brick and no steeple, well- but not obsessively-kept landscaping and views of all the mountains. It’s a pleasant walking neighborhood where the jogging women and daughter teams pass me at different blocks. With both of us moving it’s hard to know if they’re looking without looking. The place has Sunday morning’s quiet, and I feel a leftover sense of college days when I got to bed at a decent time and know everyone else did not.
Half an hour on without a return call I decide the game is up. Safeway isn’t far so I can make the trip a practical success by securing the week’s bread and soymilk. Its bathroom is the purview of old men in multiple shirts and thick shoes who stare at the wall with sour faces waiting their turns. Inside it is worth the wait: a magisterial facility, all white tile and stainless steel, one wall a massive window. The sun is half-out and the light is as diffuse and soft as a liquid towel.
Nothing is wrong, pressing, askance, unsettled, waiting, broken, demanding or imperative. Nothing has gone wrong this week; nothing needs to be corrected or managed. I’ve done nothing wrong, upset no one, caused no grief. I have nothing I have to do, but a few things I’d like to. There is just a silence inside the echo.
Sundays have traditionally been an uneven day for me. Other kids were held captive by the endless needs of church and unavailable, and the TV had nothing to offer but church interiors and organ music. Blue laws kept stores closed, adding to the sense of artificial pause watched by someone unseen keeping score. With later elementary enough homework was dispensed to take up a large chunk of Sunday, if not all of it, bringing its smell of sharpened pencil fustiness and hairtrigger adults eager for control. School loomed in its iceberg dread, wanting as much as church did. I wondered what it was like to be a church kid, to have two great black holes pulling you down every week, all week.
Friday with its sense of release and great warm bubble of evening and night, lit with friends’ video games and late night TV where Letterman almost said bad words, was in another vanished universe by the time Sunday came around. All kids are empaths, and all I picked up were parents tired with chores and a vague sense of the end of the world. This sense has persisted, with varying levels of strength, to this day.
Try to hold yourself in kind gentle care. Challenge yourself on what’s wrong–what is wrong? Is there a need to judge where you are in time and space, who you are right now? Therapy, friends and the well-meaning can only talk to the conscious mind. It has no problem, understands the mechanics of irrational feelings as clearly as how a door opens. But when it doesn’t help it doesn’t help.
What do I want? I feel alone, abandoned, but that isn’t true–I’ve wanted time by myself all week, and now it’s here. Cold electricity still runs in the shadows. It makes me whine silently. When dogs whine they want something, because dogs are hopelessly needy. I want to give things but know they aren’t there.
Clouds and sun press upon one another, and when the sun has the upper hand I decide to go out and see the bridge.
The old bridge is coming down now, and accelerating its decline into space and memory. Destruction is a requirement to be remade.
A few machines tear things down more effectively than many others and many men build new ones up. Destruction is the application of focused lack of care. We’re good at it, and it’s fun. We like to twist and crush things with the same caprice as Nature shows. I think this is why boys like to smash things, burn things. When something burns you are making fire, which is magic.
All the smashed wood smells like railway tracks or the Boston subway tunnels: creosote, electricity, ash. Creation’s residual heat shines out inbetween the splinters. How old were the trees that made these great wood blocks? Older than the country, but not as old as bridges.
The bridge is paused in a moment longer than most, caught in the double-pause of Sunday. This configuration of leftover concrete and shattered wood, holes and voids, dust damp from rain is a temporary state between beginning and end. If I hadn’t brought my phone no one would see these angles and configurations; even if I had gone back later the sun would have sunk, clouds come back, rain pushed the colors darker. As I write this men and their machines are carting off the last bits of this approach. What you are seeing is already gone, the empty space readied for something else.
We are always between. There isn’t any rest or stop, just pauses, which can be uncomfortable. That’s what the blue laws were for, to keep the Sabbath holy; the Sabbath was kept holy so distractions were unavailable, leaving only the gaping maw of the present. The present is always there, its one moment alone but indistinguishable from all the ones before, all the ones to come.
It is okay to be nervous about nothing. The things that most upset us are things we cannot see or touch. There was a bridge here, and soon will not be, and soon after will be again. Nothing to see here unless you see another way.