No small sun peeks out Tuesday. The fullbore deal is here kicking clouds and shouting their silent names. If it was possible to hear, the sun’s roar would be so loud you’d go deaf! I remember an elementary school textbook shouting this incredible, nonsensical fact. Light makes everything different.
Saturday was a great day, floating, ebullient, like a Saturday out of high school or college. Dungeons and Dragons books that belonged to my ex but which somehow wound up with me have been sitting on a shelf. I never played. My first experience was at Chris’s deep country house, so deep the county only maintained signs on half the roads. Dork high school kids with greasy hair and Matt Groening overbites sat at a beaten table underneath a Seventies smoky globe arguing about points and rolls and whatever endless arguments play of Dungeons and Dragons really is. I didn’t see how this could be fun. It wasn’t much different than my algebra homework. I said so. One guy laughed. Twenty eight or so years later I put the books on Half.com. I list an ungainly ergonomic mouse I used for a week three years ago on Amazon. The friend I went to New York with calls and we go for a rainy walk. It is cloudy and storm is coming, but I feel capable. It’s getting better. I just need to sleep.
Sunday is less so. A friend and I see another friend perform in a sketch competition. They’re funny. Afterwards, a couple hours in a pub up the street. Lonely buses pulse up and down, and the grey rain falls on half-lit unpeopled streets. I feel adrift and lost, the crushing weight of Sunday ending like those Sundays out of middle school, school looming in the dusk. At home I feel like my skin is sliding off, painlessly, unobserved.
Monday is all rain. I have been awake for hours. I cannot get out of bed. I get out of bed.
In March, I met a woman. I was turning off my profile when she wrote. I wrote back I was about to turn off my profile. She said she was glad to catch me. The other women I had connected with faded quickly. She stayed. A few weeks later she invited me to a getaway with her, a quick impulsive trip. I demurred. She emailed her fantastic pictures from the old city. I invited her to New York. She came and we took each other’s pictures.
We have come together carefully, not circling each other like wolves, but circling like other things not suspicious and mistrustful but defensive, having learned a few things. We haven’t defined our relationship, which confuses others. We call each other friends without any prefixes. I said we have a synchronicity I’ve never experienced and I really like. She apologizes for being more touchy-feely, says it’s not normally like her. But she likes it now.
Coming back from New York was all emergency, until it wasn’t. We had calls and texts. She was very busy. She cared for her child herself. She needed to decide what she wanted, she said. She called me that afternoon when the vet said it was the end. She was kind and spent time she didn’t have.
Later she sent an email. It was not an emergency at all, but felt similar.
She has stayed busy, had her own emergencies. We have kept talking, gone on a date, but I can hear and see she is exhausted. She texts she is deciding what she wants and needs.
Yesterday with the rain I realize what she has been saying–really, all at once. Looking through my email I seem to have acknowledged it, but I didn’t. The day after sending it she texted what I interpreted as an apology, but now I realize it may be something else. I don’t know what. I am not sure she does either. It took a couple weeks to realize that things have changed, one direction may be ending.
Lying in bed in the sodden half-light I realize I have adjusted to no warm furry lump in my bed at night, the inquisitive sniffs and hops up and down. I think it as a conscious thought and feel both nothing and crushed.
My oldest friend is free at lunchtime. It is sunny where he is and traffic rumbles up and down the street. I am not sure what to talk about, but he and I have talked about for so much for so long. Nothing seems real since coming back. Is it? He laughs. I know how you feel! It isn’t eighth grade in his incandescent-lit bedroom, model airplanes dangling from the ceiling. It is now, whenever that is, whatever that means.
He has a son in high school, helps out at band functions where he sees and reports the high school romantic histrionics neither of us took part in. It’s funny to be on the other side, to see why adults stayed out of their kids’ fights, rolled their eyes, counseled or ignored the participants. His description of current teenage travails make my stomach coil in a surprisingly clear echo of the same feelings I had twenty-eight years ago. Then I realize I am dealing with the same thing now, for the first time I can remember. Is that a plus or a minus? He laughs. I sure don’t know!
He talks with me now as I talked with him a month ago on the Hell’s Kitchen stoop. Then I was amazed, exhausted but excited. Now the exhaustion is different, from down below. Is this really happening? The world now is not at all what I expected that last August day, getting on the plane. I don’t mean it as understatement.
He has to go, though more I feel I’m dominating his free time. The only way is forward. That’s always been the way, the only way. Reverse only works in a car. I thank him. He thanks me.
A little later, after applying for jobs I hadn’t planned to apply for, I don’t quite cry. Strong rain is coming. I choose to go out and hike Tiger Mountain–if I get a job I won’t be able to take off for midafternoon fillips. On the access road a very nice woman recruiter calls. She’s had jobs just up my alley since summer and been having trouble finding them. I updated my resume with them three hours ago. I feel much, much better.
Many people are on the mountain: young, old, with dogs, oldtimers with walking sticks out of one of those Dungeons and Dragons books. It gets easier at the top, a pepperpot woman says. I am more than halfway up and haven’t stopped. I sit among the Talus Rocks when I realize how shaky I am. I eat protein bars and look at the moss and feel better as it rains, rains. Out in the fields I walk along the high voltage lines and have a sudden, clear image of being a young child, no school today, an afterschool special waiting on TV. The service roads cut through trees and weeds like the roads around my grandmother’s Pennsylvania farm, smothered with trees. The rain drives, fades to mist, drives again. In the car I need the air conditioning to keep the windows clear as my hair and jacket dries.
At home everything is too solid, as if built by ancient ghosts. The radio beams out from inside a daguerreotype. I have a long talk with a friend about crazy parents, how not to worry about work, don’t worry about not being able to talk through things. We talk through them, a little, in general–I want to be careful to not share things that shouldn’t be. My friend understands. People come and go. I always land on my feet.
I don’t know what I do: lie in bed, waste time looking at things online, fret in the sitting still way. I think I should write something but don’t know what. A friend from high school calls and keeps me up. How could things have been different? I’d drive you crazy.
Tuesday opens so bright I don’t realize: peeling back the window towels shows a flat steel plane where the sky is. I get up far too late because something is wrong with the light behind the towels, and peel them back to sun. I am immediately better–a shaky thin shell of it, but a substrate to build on. Are we such shallow, physiological creatures? Probably. I walk around stretching and dressing and getting breakfast without feeling like I’ll fall through the floor. The recruiter calls, emails are answered, I start writing this. The light fills on all sides without the heat of summer but some of its warmth.
I meet a friend for lunch, a woman I dated briefly. She gave me feathers, a smudge pot, bark and roots: woo-woo stuff. It has been sitting in a red gift bag on my table for many months. I decided it wasn’t for me, but wasn’t something I could throw out: it was given to me and has spiritual power, if maybe not for me. We are meeting for me to return it. She seems more surprised than I’d guess but accepted.
We eat lunch on a deck on the water, the world overwhelmed with light. Explain to me: why are you returning these things? I wanted to show respect; I don’t think it’s for me but it can be for her, somebody else. She’ll use them, she says. She demands to know how I’m doing, in her manner of asking. I attempt to explain, but the light has made the universe so different, the city floating on it behind us. Relationships ebb and flow. Remain open to this. You will be fine. In the time left we walk through the aquarium where an octopus floats in languid jets through its tank, changing colors, looking at us. See? I sent him a message to perform for us and he has. Outside the otters shoot through their tank, spinning to look at us with their gleaming pit eyes.
I am late to the agency, which is an absorbing, brilliant task of driving up the hills, being aware, not going too fast, not making anything irrecoverably worse. The office is in a hip downtown building and populated by hip, creative people, meaning they have spent perhaps a thousand dollars to look like a heroin addict. The woman who meets with me has tattoos and black chipped nail polish. I wonder if she came from a factory. She wants to understand my work better so we talk through screenshots of my last projects, and I decide she cannot be completely jaded and therefore I am not either. It’s nice to be at least half-valued. She took far longer than I’d guess to ‘just fill out some paperwork’, and my car has a ticket. I feel fine about it. I really do. I go home on the freeway and take an hour to go four miles, blocked by an accident. Someone doesn’t feel fine. I pay attention and never look at my phone, because that is one thing I can do for them: not make it worse.
Yesterday, Wednesday, I wake up from no sleep. I look at this writing but it seems distant, yet unsettled; I pick at a few sentences but can’t go farther. I answer job emails; someone from an Indian boiler room calls to follow up an email he just sent. You don’t need to call me about an email you just sent to repeat what was in your email. Uhhh, ahh, yes, okay, for to fill out, and, ahhh…. My friend calls, furious at work, unable to do anything about it. I listen. She appreciates it. I’m doing laundry and I share that being in the washer’s working presence is always a strangely deep comfort. She thinks that’s funny. We don’t talk about the woman I am close to. I am trying to think about somebody who is not me.
I see my therapist. (Of course I have a therapist. How could it be otherwise?) It is a packed hour: cat, job, woman. I shouldn’t expect to have the same clarity and spidey-sense in relationships as I do with finding and keeping jobs. I need to stay grounded, to look out for me. I am independent and that is where I should be, now. She is the sort of fire-breathing feminist you would never finger as such in Safeway, at least not in Seattle. Her warnings about what I am ready for, the headshrinker mantra of what’s best for Derek?, thus seem much more genuine. Getting a cat is a no-brainer. You like cats. You shape your life with cats. You’ve always had a cat companion. Get a fucking cat. This last she does not literally say but it is entirely in character.
Her office is on the fourth floor and looks out on a California scene: mountains with houses up the sides, today washed with autumn’s clean sun. I apologize for my freakout. She wouldn’t characterize it as a freakout. Something about the view, the clean, understated furnishings, makes me feel like I am someplace I should be. I feel grown up.
After, I walk the Alki shoreline. There is something clean and open about this walk, so close to the city. The sun, which had been so permanent in this driest-ever summer, cannot be wasted now, but can’t be clung to either. I think about the woman I have grown close to. What’s best for me implies what’s best for her. She is figuring that out. I know she can. I trust she will get the answer she needs. The sun is out now. It will come out later, too.