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The Next Day

This is what it looks like out the window this morning:

Looks like

Looks like

I’m guessing I’ve been awake since four, an artifact of travel still. It’s dark and I don’t hear traffic. I don’t look to see what time it is. I’ve learned that just makes it worse, though it’s not bad, and nothing is wrong. I’m awake in bed not thinking or doing anything and as long as I am still I register nothing but subdued bodyless wakefulness.

I spent the day with the friend who has been with me the most through all this, going to vets, going to visit in the hospital. I sleep in her guest room the night before and am both surprised and unimpressed that I slept like someone beaten into sleep. There are practical matters, the cold bland normality I remember from childhood, or from reading. I call the vet and they won’t take back unopened medicine. I call a shelter and they’ll gratefully take it. When we go there, after changing my friend’s repaired tire, the place seems low-rent, hippie-run, staffed by young and tired weary women, shelves narrow and high like New York but without the energy. The no-kill shelter keeps cats several to cages that look like aquariums. My friend directs me to them. The cats are sleeping or looking out with idle interest. I am glad they can use the meds and I want to go.

We go for a hike. I call my friend in New York, back there for another run of the show. It’s a quiet call, too noble for the freeway roaring behind me. We walk along a flat, shady railroad grade above a creek. The creek could be out of Bambi. I stand out in the trickling water and my friend takes pictures of me. I have my hands in my pockets and am yawning. I look like an old man escaped from the nursing home with just enough money for the bus.

Home is harder. The place is cleaned up. On the table is a new bag of food to be sure there was enough, and cans of Fancy Feast from Safeway bought to encourage her to eat. They are out to take back. The only other things left are her collar–blue nylon with a red aluminum rabies tag–and a pile of vet invoices. There are probably other things, and things to clean. That is the cold bland normality and it echoes.

My oldest friend calls. Between two time zones we talk about animals we have known. He tells me about the doberman I remember from middle and high school and not because it bit me once. He tells the story of being in late high school, his mother waking him early one morning, the dog having a seizure on the kitchen floor. He holds her to try to contain it, and when it stops she is dead. I try to remember this but can’t. I’m sure I would have remembered but I went to college a year early. I imagine what that must have been like, to then go to school. Hey, what’s shakin’, people would have said, and his head would turn as if looking through oil, everything distant, full of quiet reverb. That moment is somehow connected to college, graduate school, first jobs, moves, Y2K, 9/11, and on to now. Somehow this is all connected, but it seems so vast, belonging to other people.

Now it is the day after. Remember when we were worried about algebra tests? We are talking about things where there is nothing to say. I think of times twenty years ago when I talked with him, clinging to every minute of the twenty or thirty I allowed myself, the whole rising tide and then last minutes. Long over I still think about them, the stillness after hanging up. There is nothing more to talk about and while he is there I am alone.

I am exhausted and ate too much, mindlessly. I take two pink tablets and go to bed. I wake up early. For some timeless period I am awake and without memory and feel unencumbered.

View from the shade

View from the shade

The day is busy for someone with no job. A usability study pays me seventy-five bucks to offer opinions on software I’ve already used. Driving to Microsoft brings a long tunnel of something like dread, but flatter: I have been coming and going from this place, off and on, for over a decade. It looks worn and boring, like an old mall, and sitting in the lobby in the bright sun I do not want to be there. But the guy is affable without selling me Kool-Aid, and the test is absorbing and even fun. I don’t look at the time until the end, and when he walks me out he gives me his card. He and the manager seem excited by my feedback, which seems drop dead obvious.

I text someone I used to work with the next building over. She has a meeting to go to but wants a quick lunch. Another woman comes out first, sits with me in the bench in the sun, talks about her dogs and cats. They don’t seem to last as long as she remembers either, offers that her vets confirm this. It feels awkward and tight at first, but a sense of normalcy comes–not complete, but something that frees my stomach of its cold metal. They ask me about New York and I give them the little East Coast Jewish guy on the subway routine. I’m not into it but they laugh. They talk about work and I marginally listen. I don’t want to work, not like that, but could do it for a while. Seems sensible to earn money while down.

The window glass is so clean it startles. Leaves outside are held in black-edged frames. One has to run to a meeting and gives me a firm hug. Outside, the sun is warm. The other woman and I have been talking about writing. She has signed up for workshops, is laying out a plan. I have trouble committing to a plan. I was planning to take this month to commit, but now don’t know what to do. She says we should meet again soon. I think that’s great.

The freeway over the water is different now–construction has removed the last of the old while I was gone and the new grey bones rise out of the churned earth. I go over to Seattle Center, where I planned to read the magazines I’m behind on but forgot to bring. I have Keith Johnstone’s famous Impro, which I have read in fits and starts and committed to reading this month. Masks and Trance is a chapter on something beyond even character, on being possessed by another entity, and delves into voodoo, hypnotism, how people are suggestible by means of status. I wonder who we are, this I that pronounces itself, thinks, has memories. I drift off into the near distance and think about stories: undertaker robots on dead planets, unicorns working the circus taking smoke breaks. People sit around the fountain, lie on the grass. It is deserted compared to the Big City.

Reading the book is like college: I am doing something, not so much thinking as allowing ideas to flow. It is cool in the shade and warm in the sun. I text my friend in the city; he says he goes on in 90 minutes and could use a nap. It is a good day, really, even for when it is. It feels like cartoons are on somewhere and kids are getting home to watch them, bright light slanting through the windows, and tomorrow is nothing but cartoons.

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