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So it is the First of January 1, and the next phase of the plan locked into my head kicks in. I actually do know what I’m doing. I’m just not telling myself. Isn’t this a bit odd? It is like a large machine…yes the machine is large, with cogs, cams, gears and stainless steel belts. It is timed. It pauses in places. Then at other places again it mysteriously starts up and engages. What is this “secret plan” unrolling in my head? Why am I so anxious about the future when I seem to know what I am doing?
I have patio furniture on my balcony. This week, the chairs have cushions of snow in them. Actually, the cushions are too large, filling the chairs up past the arms and up to the top of the back. I consider my image. Maybe a pile of laundry or of newspapers would be a better description. No, I still have this feeling that it is a soft cushion that I would sink down into if I sat in one of them, that it would form to me and warm me. I need to be more careful about some of these thoughts.
Tell me this. How did it get to be January 3 already? I feel cheated. Somewhere I lost the first two days of the year. I check under the sofa cushions and look in my pockets. Nothing. I don’t know what happened to them. Two days have slipped out of my life with no accounting, as if a crooked banker were dipping into my savings. Did I celebrate and have a bad hangover? I don’t remember doing that. Come to think of it, I don’t remember much of the entire month of December either. Did I just now come about?
The curtains are closed. I know it is dark outside. I know the snow is piled against the window and the candle is trying to burn through an automobile-tire sized donut of freeze. I don’t need to open the curtain to see these things. I know the clubhouse light is winking on and off in one-minute intervals. What I don’t know is the sky. I don’t know what color the sky is, or how much light is there. I don’t know whether the snow on the trees is purple or gray or red. I don’t know if there are stars.
I’m dull, eyes out of phase, the coffee plug not fully inserted into the side of my head. The houseplants are dripping yellow leaves melting across thick cables.
Where have you gone now? The snow is falling away from the mountain and into the valley. It is calling out to the lodges it has left behind, ghostly snow hands raised, a forearm, an elbow. The heat-seaking lodges are painted on the cliffs silent, unlit, and asleep. The fog crept away last night. We saw it slipping through the glen, rough forms pushing one another across the road like tough boys.
I get a call from a real estate agent. I have not talked to a real estate agent in two decades. I am thinking to buy a place. I have no idea what kind of place to buy, but the prices are low, which would make a house a good place to put money. I am not, however, one of those people who think houses are always a good investment. For one thing, the tax advantages don’t necessarily accrue to me the way they do to others. Still the agent mentions a couple interesting places with seemingly ridiculously low prices.
The truth is that if you had only one day to live, you would do things differently. I would not, most likely, clean the bathroom. I wouldn’t go to my guitar lesson, although I might talk to my guitar. I don’t think I would make major purchases, unless I wanted some last-gasp fantasy. I would most likely apportion more time to be with friends, if it were possible.
Left with little time, your tendency is to spend it. As you accrue the possibility of more time, your perspective changes. You are more willing to make investments in a potential future.
I hear running footsteps on the stairs and the voice of an excited young girl. A key hits the door next to mine and there are voices. It must be my new neighbors. I get up and open the door, peering out to see if there will be anyone for me to play with this time. I don’t know. I am in the Land of Women. Three generations of feminine clones smile and tip their baseball caps as they pass by. The manager, Melissa, apologizes for the noise. There was no need for an apology. I was just being nosey.
The real estate agents respond quickly to their awareness that I may be in the market for a home. They have automatic computerized sensors that send pre-fabricated greetings to me. But the real response is actually drowsy. They are not the hungry fish I had expected. But then, I am not too hungry a fish either. I’m not sure that I’m ready for a home ownership gig again. I am putting together a new life, for sure. I’m not sure what it will look like, where it will be, or what I will put into it. One hundred words, yes.
I had walked to the store despite the foot of fresh snow. Stumbling over a plow bank and looking up, I see him resting in a parking lot corner. He is a large snowplow, a dedicated professional looking rig. Maybe a two-ton truck beneath it all. Yellow paint. He is dozing in the late morning sun, flecks of sweat from the night frozen to his side. He has a few scrapes, but this may be his first season. He can feel the blade hard down on the pavement before him. His muscles are tired, but it is a good tired.
I slept in this morning. While I command a strong allegiance from my furniture, they do become confused and occasionally grouchy when things are left up in the air. I had started re-organizing things yesterday, and left off half-way through. This morning, they are milling about the coffee maker, bumping into one another, buzzing about possibilities for the new organization. One of them, a glass three-tiered table is complaining about the dust, but she stops when she sees me come in. All conversation ceases. Arms pause in mid-air with stained coffee mugs. They are waiting for some sign for me.
I went another day without completing the apartment re-organization. It has gotten worse as I have tried out locations for some objects and then others, piling books and plants in the floor, leaving cabinets halfway between possible positions, and lining up four tables in a row. Productivity has dropped significantly.
“How can we work under these conditions?” they complain. “We don’t know where we will wind up in the new organization.”
“Just do your job,” I suggest.
“How?” Asks a beefy stereo cabinet. “I am full of underwear.” A small bookcase bumps into my leg and skitters across the floor.
I apologize for missing the book discussion meeting about “Water for Elephants.” I DID read the book. . My friend Matthew (of 100-words fame) also read it and he thought it was poorly written. I grade it a little better, but there are so many circus books these days. I found the nursing home sequences personally disturbing, but that is probably because I am closer to that scene than you are. I am not looking forward to that. Of course, many of us draw the die-in-a-hurry straw, so I may not have to face Nurse Cratchet after all.
I would normally forgive you for not showing up because your attendance has been so faithful in the past. However, NoBODY showed up. I was there by myself eating scones and drinking coffee. True, the weather was bad, and we changed the time, but I think if you and Heidi would quit sniping at one another, the meetings would go better. I could be wrong. Amy says that you two are the most entertaining part of the meeting.
So…everyone has promised to show up next week. That means you, too. Do you have any suggestions for a read?
I don’t have any good suggestions for next month’s book. I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." It starts out ok, but she has trouble sustaining it past the first 100 pages. At least I have trouble paying attention to it past that point, and I seem to have given up on it early into the second section. I'm pretty sure I will finish it, but I have been finding old Seinfeld episodes more interesting lately. I was talking to my guitar about this the other evening, and Guitar says "What you play trumps what you say."
It’s interesting that you would mention the Gilbert Book, because a couple other members mentioned it as well, but if you are having trouble finishing it, then perhaps another book would be better. It looks to me that it IS your turn to pick the book, so I’m going to dump the problem on you. Please come up with something in a hurry, so we will have time to read it. I just KNOW you will have a wonderful title! I’m excited to see what it will be!
I see you chose to ignore my comment about Heidi.
I am not one bit taken in by your enthusiastic punctuation. But I will try to find a book worth reading.
Regarding Heidi, the woman came out of nowhere and within one meeting was chewing off my leg because I didn’t care for her book. What’s the deal? And she did know she was picking a hardback. She apologized for that when she first mentioned the damn book. Really, if she wants to be the alpha male of the group, why doesn’t she just say so? I’d be happy to let her without having the ceremonial dog fight.
My son has taken my car. This worries me. He has not taken my car in a long time. There was a reason for this. Frequently, when he took my car before, he returned it damaged. After three times, I told him he could no longer take my car. Today he has taken my car so he can detail it for me for a late Christmas present. It is not the car he used to take because it got to the point with his attention to it that I was afraid to drive it. This is a new car now.
I found the charger for my Palm last night. It was on the window sill above the desk. I couldn’t find it I suppose because I had closed the blinds when it got cold outside and haven’t opened them since. But I had been wanting to use the Palm again, for a number of things. I didn’t find it until I had given up and was doing something else and happened to notice it in a crack through the blinds. It strikes us as odd when things happen that way, but you know they must happen that way some times.
I think the condos through the woods and over the pond are newer than the apartments here. I can see them better this time of year, with the leaves gone. In the summer you can’t see them at all.
Some of the balconies here seem to sag. The ones there are all straight, broad-shouldered, and square. The wall colors are uniform. I’ll bet the floors there are level too. Here the concrete floors tilt under the carpet, this way and that. If I sit in the middle of the floor, I can feel the slab bounce when cars pass outside.
Christmas lights are still strung across my balcony. Last year, I wouldn’t have worried much about it because my balcony was actually rather drab compared to those of my neighbors, even with the lights. How things have changed. Frank and Sheila moved, for one thing. Their balcony looked like a freeway fireworks stand around July 3rd, all year around. There were several other neighbors who weren’t far behind them. Then I left the lights up in self defense. Now, I am the only balcony with any decoration at all. I am a lone survivor. I have to keep them lit.
The day is closing. Night is squeezing the hours from the light. They fly from tight fingers, spraying through the sky. What have I done today? I have held on again. I have maintained stability for another day, three in a row now. The cost has been high. The new prescription lays on the vanity unfilled. I am meditating. I am holding my brain and my heart together in double handfuls, urgently rearranging as they slip through my awkward touches. I am hiding in the small crevasse of intricate beauty that sits beside me. By morning I will be whole.
It is. And this is a prayer. It is a prayer for my friend Matthew, for the Cone, for the Flower, and my children. It is. It is the lights shining in the village and sprayed up against snowy tree trunks. It is praise and witness. It is the shine of strings vibrating in cold air. It is roots knobbed high against the sky and hearts beating through brains in the dark. It is clarity and isolation. It is that knows itself. It is leather beading sweat against deep gulps of air. It is shift and flow. It is shouting.
I write tonight in continuation of all things that have gone before. I write behind that galloping ahead of me, heavy breaths snorting over the bridle. I write in search of the poetry that slipped from my hands, the newly-sharpened blades whisking perfectly parallel cuts across my fingers and palms.
The fists crowded below waving slips of paper are carrying shouts from the floor. What am I bid? “A bird!” someone cries. Someone else bids a fish and an elephant, a Korean bride. I am bid a warehouse of plastic and a labor union. I wait for the right bid.
“You have everything here you need,” said Matthew, looking slowly around the room. “All of your things, your stuff.” And so I am bid my own stuff, sneaked out the window the night before and sold to me on the morning sidewalk.
What I am selling has no price. (But everything has its price). I don’t seem to. I don’t seem to have a price. Perhaps I don’t know what it is or what I would be selling, but yes I do. It would be this page. This punctuation are for sale and going, most likely to the lowest bidder.
The floor rises in a growl. A fight has broken out, and a man is thrown across a table. “One hour!” he shrieks. “Sold!” I demand, without thinking, because I know I have made a deal.
Only in the lawyer consummated paperwork the following morning I find I have sold my page for one hour of someone else’s time, a thing of no good to me. What else? If I am not bid my own life, my own thoughts and blood, then what can anyone offer me? Either it is or I am. I am much preferred to be it.
The night slides past my window like a subway train, stops in large tinted portraits, and gasses the doors open. Ghosts and replicas of the poet slide out holding the doors while others slide back in. The train leaves again while they find their seats and their handholds. The track rolls up behind the train as it leaves.
Oh, I am sipping life slowly, feeling it wash up against my teeth and slip beneath my tongue. I am swallowing life in small portions. I no longer want to get fat on it. I want to know it. That is all.
Outside is wind and shadow-covered snow. A car door slams. You can hear it catch against the air seal, but the noise escapes, rising quickly from the car, its tail cut off as the door latches. It is free. Pulling up into itself, it looks around to see where it is. It darts to an upstairs window, part of it slipping through, the rest bouncing back off into the air. It is so cold. It wants to get warm. It slaps against another window, again bouncing. It is spreading and getting thinner, fainter. So soon, it is thinking. So soon.
I have trouble finding Joe’s apartment. When I do find it, I am surprised at how close it is to where I live. From Indonesia, Joe has been trying to get a job at the local video store. They like him, but he cannot pass the Briggs and Stratton psychological test required of new applicants. Convinced that the test has a racial/cultural bias, I have offered to help him take it. We sit in the floor of his apartment going through the 39 computer pages throwing in agrees, strongly agrees, and disagrees. I wonder if he will pass this time.
I’m going to Florida for a week. It was David’s idea. He and a friend down there purchased a 36-foot sloop off eBay a few months ago and David is going down to visit the friend and the boat. I was leery about going on the trip, but everyone seems to think it will be a good thing for me. I can write a short trip journal called “Fuzzy Old Men,” or something of the ilk, and catch up on my reading. I don’t like the idea of going places, but I usually have a good time when I do.
I get some junk mail about Obama. It says he is an extremist Muslim terrorist who turns his back whenever the pledge of allegiance is recited? I think that this behavior would be obvious enough to have made major news by now if it were true. I decide to discard the whole note as rubbish. It amazes me that they can find any candidate squeaky clean enough to run for President in this country. It amazes me that we would want anyone that squeaky clean to be our President. How could such a person possibly represent the rest of us?
The Tip Jar