Friday’s release has been the fulcrum for pop movies and beer commercials since consumerism’s birth. We are trained to relish it, maybe even make the week subconsciously a little worse to make Friday Miller Time a bigger catharsis. Friday is the best, biggest entrance to our free time, the candy bar first unwrapped, the beer first poured. Our pleasure is full.
Friday morning I saw the last can of the world’s best soda. Alone on the fridge’s top shelf, it looked as out of place as every other Christmas leftover left desolate and alone on discount tables. I remembered seeing it the previous Friday and making it a prize for working the full 40 hours the next week. That was this week. I did it. Friday evening I forgot it was in there, dazed by relief and exhaustion. I fought halfheartedly with myself, wanting to go somewhere, do something, but knowing I was far too tired. I played it safe, cooked a real dinner on the stove, ate too much, went to bed and half-slept.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend has expanded since my childhood. No longer the long, bleak trudge to Memorial Day–the first day off for the private sector: we at least know someone with a three-day weekend owing to Dr. King. It’s a space to breathe after The Holidays have wrapped up, a waypoint within psychological reach from the sadness of that time ending. Or, seeing it listed as the last holiday on the bus posters that went up before Thanksgiving, that’s what it’s seemed like to me.
All of this is in my head, of course. Why do I need a soda prize at the end of a week? Because I have made the job a crucible in my own mind, something to be gotten through. Why are The Holidays tinged with a sense of loss? Because my inner child still wants them to dazzle and amaze, but the adult understands that’s not the way it is now. We make our own magic now, and it’s a lot of work. Doubly so when we make it too hard.
I walk with my friend and a zillion other people around Greenlake. You’ve been Peter Panning it for a while. Just go do what they tell you and save the money. I grouse that Peter Pan had a lot more fun during his time off, with no gutpunches. Fortunately, I think I observe this to myself, mostly. Another friend on another walk observes the good place I’m in. Considering the world, we both are in the top one-half of the one percent. Not starving, a place to sleep. All true. Another writes: What sense does it make to constantly think you’re going to fail when you haven’t failed at anything in a long time?
The problem is the part of us in charge of our strongest impulses is not accessible through reason or conversation. I’m not sure how talk therapy works, but it’s not the talking. The work happens when something–an impression, a twinge–breaks through and down to the depths. The light goes off. Wordlessly.
I know nothing is wrong, but I don’t know how to force that feeling.
Saturday the city closes the road in front of my house. Cars shift back and forth past each other, waved on by an orange-suited man with a sign as another man in a cherry picker works on wiring. Walking under the freeway has felt post-apocalyptic since before Thanksgiving, the concrete dark dripping with rain and hissing with traffic. That night, something is different out the window. The lights are back. People walk a little taller on their way to Georgetown’s bars and music, the world less heavy with dark and fog.
Did anything really change? The bridge is as solid, and winter is always gloomy. But the whole character is changed. The new streetsigns glow in the pink sodium light.