I wonder if it’s possible to change so much that you awake one day, or evening, sometime, as an entirely different person.
I would say I’ve been unfaithful, but that would mean I was writing on some other blog and that isn’t it, that isn’t it at all.
I always feel strange when I return, suitcases in hand. I’ve never been so far before. Is that true, exactly, or just how I feel? I can’t tell. I can’t tell if I’m returning triumphantly or with my tail between my legs, and isn’t it all subjective, after all, and don’t all my adventures take on the flavour and texture of a dream, isolated from where they took place?
And then there are the adventures, the experiences that will always seem like dreams, no matter where one stands.
I’m back, for whatever it’s worth, for however long it lasts – and whomever I actually am, nowdays.
I was glad to be back to steady work. Steady work is steady money, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean the feeling of loathing that washed over me – here I am again, everything looks the same, everyone is the same, even if they’re not.
I know that’s not really clear, not the way I mean it to be, at least.
There’s a chance to find yourself in work, especially in work that you dislike. There’s a framework imposed upon you, and you’re forced to create yourself inside it. Now of course I’m not advocating that everyone go out and find soul-crushing employment. Nor am I saying that people who are really really happy with their jobs are missing out on something. I guess what I’m saying – what I’m trying to say, rather – is that there’s a certain unpleasantness inherent in life, like chores. Like wiping runny noses or poopy butts, like bleaching the toilet bowl or cleaning out the bits of half-chewed food at the bottom of the sink. There are those things, then there’s getting terrible news – a teacher is quitting! A parent has decided to find his/herself and has abandoned the rest of the family! The latest guinea pig has gone to heaven and the pet store is going to close in ten minutes! The inspectors are here!
And in those moments, the terrible as well as the mundane, I learn more about myself (and sometimes those around me) that I ever did meditating, as good and head-clearing as that was, or traveling, as amazing and eye-opening as that was.
So I walked in the door, hung up my car keys and old bag on the same hook, put on the same old name tag, and thought I hate working. Isn’t it great?
All the feelings I have about him are protective. From there you already know where I’m going: warm, tender, emotions that envelop like arms.
Sometimes, very late nights, I worry about him. I do not want him to disappear one day and come back, three days later, a changed man. So I put it out of my mind very quickly and think about something else.
Should I go to work tomorrow? I turn the thought over in my head, over and over, carefully, like a tangible thing.
Sometimes things end well by not seeming over. The unfinished quality can be a sort of crutch – a conversation that was left on pause, a discussion that was to be resumed, measurements still to be handed over, paint swatches to compare – a deposit, a guarantee. It’s easier, later, to roll all the intangible remaining bits up into a little ball that can sit somewhere until it dissipates.
Goodbye never does what it should, so I don’t say it. It doesn’t provide a pat ending – not even an ellipses. I’ll be there, at work, tomorrow, knowing that I’m about to be gone – temporarily, but far – and there will be no goodbye to create a false sense of urgency, of poignancy. No one will suddenly hijack what should be my experience to tell me that whatever form of transportation I take is the least safe, or how to stay alive five seconds longer if I’m set on fire. Hot Dad won’t start a hugfest that will vividly remind me of chiropractic work. Instead I will hear a long story about how a banana that was supposed to be eaten in the car has somehow made it all over the face, into the pockets, and smeared on the shirt. “Can you tell Miss Lola you’re so sticky?” Offending Parent asks, unaware that his or her child is mortified to be banana-smeared in front of teachers and peers.
The richer the parents, the more inept they are at feeding their offspring a banana. Fact.
I don’t know if I’ll go in tomorrow. My vacation has already technically started. My existing memories of bananas might prove sufficient.
Maybe the morning is a fresh start and maybe it’s the greatest purveyor of vapid untruths the world has ever known, but either way it feels fresh and hard to deny. Sure, I think, everything can be okay so long as there are mornings that look and smell like this one, and if I’m lying to myself it isn’t injurious to my emotional health, at any rate.
Occasionally I want to ask what happened between them – Isolde and RJ. I imagine he cheated but its a casual supposition. There was something unsavory about him, you know? Something maybe not entirely right about him at the core.
I’ve known crack dealers with more honest faces.
The highlight of my day was staring out my window.
Sometimes I look at them, the stubby little bodies and tops of heads, and hope that they’re okay – in the larger sense. I hope their parents are good to them. I hope they’re loved, and protected, and I guess I have to hope they’re lucky too, because so many weird accidents can happen before adulthood, and maybe it’s saddest when it happens before adulthood, because how do you know who they are? Who they would have become, rather, and the path of that sort of thinking is morbid and torturous and best avoided.
They aren’t my children, I didn’t make them with my body and I don’t get to keep them. They grow up, age out of our programs and into other schools, and the parents leave promising to write. They seldom do. If they do, it’s the kids who ask. “Can we send Miss Lola a Christmas card?” they, the parents, repeat these anecdotes to you when they bump into you next, in a grocery store aisle, completely confused by their offspring’s request. “She remembers you!” they squeak, amazed and proud. I always, always feel a little tempted to ask them where they thought their kid was all day – it wasn’t with mommy and daddy. It was in school, day in and day out, and sometimes late at night, and sometimes weekends, and then one day there is no more Misses at all, and the friends from school only appear awkwardly in the park or coming through the front door. I always just press my lips together and conclude it isn’t worth it, that whatever I said they’d write off as rude, and that after all none of us are going to change. I shift my groceries from one hip to another and remark vaguely that isn’t it funny how they always remember, isn’t it nice, I guess we were all such a part of each other’s lives . . .
Paper, plastic, or nostalgia.
Shane is leaving.
Of course I blame myself. I haven’t been there, and – well, you know how his life is. He doesn’t have many friends and I suppose there’s been no one to talk to, and he’s incredibly high-strung and any sort of conversation with him is incredibly difficult to maneuver, except for me, mostly. He blurts out nonsensical statements and one has to very quickly pick out the kernel of meaning before he has time to blurt out another nonsensical string of words. It’s a popular belief that he’s a genius, but his work doesn’t involve ‘relating to others’ so it’s always whispered in the same breath that he can’t, you know, hold a regular conversation. Or drive anywhere without getting lost.
And then anyone who feels slightly off-put by his high-level work feels a little better, because it really must be so hard to get lost on your way to the grocery store when you’ve lived in the same town for a decade.
None of this is the point, though. The point is that he’s leaving, and can’t quite express why, and his pathological wife just stares and digs her nails into her skin, or starts pulling out her hair, and there isn’t much to get from her – not in the way of truth, or explanation.
And it’s my fault.