There’s a certain kind of smell that only surfaces in early evening. It’s got to be light out, but not so light that you’re comfortable putting one foot in front of the other. It’s got to be warm, not hot, and cool, not cold. There should be leaves on the trees but not so many leaves that you can’t see the shapes scurrying through the branches. Somewhere within walking distance – but out of sight – must be a moderately busy road.
The back of your lover’s neck coaxed out from under the covers, eight hours of untouched time still sticking to it. That’s the smell.
I’m off one drug and onto another. The past week has been exhausting, a bad reaction, a panic attack without the panic. I’ll start the new drug, an SSRI, on Monday, and who knows whether it will help me, or change me, or do anything at all to me, but I’m interested (and a little apprehensive) about the ride.
There’s no one answer to life. But there are evenings where the air smells like old memories, and that’s usually enough.
Back at work. The week on pause, now it’s off. Commercials. Soaps. A sale. Two sales. Calling on a landline, waiting for an answer, so I can stick my fingers through the tiny holes and watch them travel between the telephone poles, nudging nesting birds or misplaced squirrels, kinetic, practiced, my voice running katas, until two tiny prongs protrude through the other end and I’m licking you with my fingernails, showing you the shape your face could be, the best look, your brightest, if only you would…
Too damn tired to take account of the day. I sit in two chairs, one for the morning and one for night; they both swivel; the only difference is whether I have to sit upright.
A sick day. Went to work, came home, tried to screw my head on right. It’s mostly right now, but it’s late and I’m tired. So here’s what I saw today:
Walking across the bridge outside our apartment, I caught something in the corner of my eye that looked like five fingers outstretched, a hand, a gesture of wanting, your step mother offering you one more slice of the pumpkin pie before you leave.
Turns out, on closer inspection, the hand was just some thick grey roots poking up from a river bank.
Like an illness, things can have two colors two them – one full and feverish, the other like a spent canister.
Coffee: Large Americano, Caribou Coffee; there was a time in my life when espresso drinks were a daily thing; a cafe on campus at Duke, a cappuccino between classes; or the days I worked for a bookstore, buying Americano’s on break; now, I drink espresso rarely; it’s never close by, like the city on the other side of the hills; today, it tasted like listening to old records bought at a yardsale, or giving your ex a call on a long drive
The older I get, the less I understand violence. Maybe it’s the youth drained out of me, a testosterone spigot, drip drip the golden years of fighting for a chance at fertility. Or maybe I’ve just clued into something I should have seen all along.
I heard a radio program about Baltimore cops who were running a crime ring. They’d stop people in their plainclothes and pat them down, taking cash from their wallets, roughing them up, pressing no charges. They targeted drug dealers and the poor, people no-one would listen to, and they got away with it for a long time.
I saw a video a few weeks ago filmed from inside a Cleveland prison. There’s an old man in a face mask strapped to a chair. Three officers enter the room, check his vitals, then two of them walk out. The last officer punches the man over and over, and when this causes a commotion, another cop walks in and starts punching the man too. He suffered a concussion, so goes the article. He was mentally handicapped, black, and beaten by two white guards.
I woke up this morning to reports of a juvenile detention center in Texas where kids are sleeping on the floor. They’re migrants, seeking asylum, separated from parents, and held in hundred-degree weather without air-conditioning, no diapers for the babies, 300 per cell, little food and water, insufficient blankets, no toothbrushes or toothpaste because that’s ‘not necessary.’ It was a concentration camp, of course, ongoing. To their credit, the Border Patrol agents (at least the ones that were interviewed) seemed just as horrified at what they were doing as me.
I sat outside today and found a small red and black bug. It was attached to the chair and not moving. I tried blowing on it, nudging it off, but it stuck there. It was alive, because its legs moved, and it was committed to sharing a space with me. I sat in the chair with the red and black bug for a long time. I was worried it might bite me. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to hurt it, because one pin prick of my skin isn’t worth the price of a life snuffed away.
Coffee: Light Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; I woke up feeling stiff and sore from the night before; I could barely brew the coffee, so it was good Z left the pre-ground bag, no telling what my hands would have done with the grinder; I spent the morning sipping this stuff on our brown couch and staring wide-eyed at morning clouds; when you’re tired, you’re dissolving; the coffee tasted like burnt sugar
How can you make an impact on people? I’ve been thinking it over a lot, lately. I’ve got a handful of opportunities staring me down. Like all opportunities, they’re incompatible with one another. There’s goods and bads, pros and cons, so the only spectrum I’ve found to judge them on equally is: what will allow me to make the most impact? I’m still not sure.
I talked with an old woman who’s thinking about buying a beach house. She has a bad knee and no plans to see the ocean. Instead, she’s buying the house to be closer to her sister, who is even older, and having health issues.
I talked to a kid in college who’s reading The Wealth of Nations. Not for classes, but for personal interest. He’s young enough to think the world will open up for him like an oyster, and maybe it will. He’s passionate enough to think he’ll have an answer for all the constant questions, and maybe he will.
I talked with a man who smells like mildew. He has one bright yellow shirt that he wears while he’s working. Landscaping, a hard job for the hot summer. He speaks mostly Spanish and I speak mostly English but we manage. He’s taken to waving at me whenever he comes around and I’ve taken to shaking his hand.
All the people you come in contact with put an imprint in you. There’s no such thing as not having an impact. My heart’s a thousand pieces, a box of marbles, eager eyes in a murder of crows. But in the end, no matter which eye eats up all the others, I’ll look back and see the trail my body’s dragged through mud and grass. Hopefully, it’ll be a path made easier for whoever’s traveling behind.
Daily dawns another day;
I must up, to make my way.
Though I dress and drink and eat,
Move my fingers and my feet,
Learn a little, here and there,
Weep and laugh and sweat and swear,
Hear a song, or watch a stage,
Leave some words upon a page,
Claim a foe, or hail a friend-
Bed awaits me at the end.
A thin blue beetle was the first bright thing. Then there was that phone call with the old woman who wanted to help her daughter with a new car. And, coming home, the spritz rain, five miles too far north for the thunderstorms, bouncing like rubber band balls on the windshield, tht-tht-tht-tht-tht-tht. I was listening to Nirvana but the rain got through between songs.
I’m still weightless. A long week of little sleep and too many dreams to pack into the hours. Bleary and in-cognizant, I see myself three feet ahead of me, manipulating common objects, out-of-body but in the most mundane way, where your hands only know how to wash dishes, cut green onions, do daily chores. It’s nice, in a way – the rest of me is left to walk around with ghosts.
I like to imagine… (that’s all). But imagining’s so much harder when you’ve got important things on your mind. I heard a story about hail that hit Sanford the size of nickels, about a scared dog with health issues, about a stoplight that was tipped over, webbing powerlines down to the roofs of cars, and about what it feels like to touch something, whether that something is a statue, a paper hat, a pink slip licked up and down with black letters inking your job away, or a human hand.