The morning started in its usual rhythm. Ken dropped by from a bike ride to get in from the cold
as I was waking and walking out of my bedroom, the only proper sleeping place because it has a door. He itched at me a bit when I mentioned the last handful of conversations I’d had most recently, and I stopped him with firm words, saying that it all accomplished exactly what I wanted, what I needed. Through them all, I felt the knots in my shoulders loosen, a genuine miracle removing taut
from my body and restoring love to my heart. I was being allowed to love, I thought, though I didn’t speak it to Ken right then.
I left off to run my errands. It wasn’t until I arrived at the first destination that it began to rain, though it had been gray all morning and colder than it looked from inside. I took one way out to the suburbs and another to go back, passing over familiar places and, again, not seeing any real beauty among them. I remembered a place behind the main street that showed a lovely view of the lake from behind a levee, and thought I should take Ted there sometime, pack a lunch.
When I returned home, Bryan was still sleeping, as he is now, too much for one person. I know this sleep. I know that he is hanging on to what is left. I know because I’ve seen it before. I watched a movie, shifting in my chair by this desk. I washed a few dishes to make room in the sink for others, cleaned off the stove clock with lemon-scented degreaser, but stopped there. I allowed myself an idle mind, though having still to trick it from trying to make plans to fill the hours until Bryan woke up so I could be loud again, if I wanted. I thought about the library, looked over my small collection of books, and finding nothing there, grabbed a short story I’d printed from work called Paladin of the Lost Hour by Harlan Ellison. I made some coffee, snatching off from the fridge pieces of paper that were outdated: a poem by Rilke in my friend Evonne’s handwriting (a piece of paper that had traveled with me through every apartment since she’d sent it to me in the mail as encouragement) that had now become illegible with time, a receipt for birth control I kept for the prescription number, and a menu for an over-priced Chinese restaurant. I lit some Nag Champa incense in the living room, went into my own bedroom, and opened the window.
As I read the 19-page story, I could hear the soft and low roar of what must have been traffic in the distance but to me sounded like the ocean. Its monotony is similar. And then, for a moment, the clouds opened up and the sun peeked out. I could see it lighting up my clothes as I was looking down and turned to face that one moment of brightness. If I had gone to the library, I likely would have missed it. For a moment, too, I laid my cheek on the window sill and stared at the precise pattern of the shingles of the house next door, built like mine from the ground up and brand new. The house on the other side of my building is broken down and dying, covered with vines in a wind blown blanket, so close you could almost reach out and touch the gutters from the window in the living room, the window under which Bryan sleeps. As I sat there on the other side, I remembered watching a magnificent thunderstorm with Ted during one of his visits here, and how before then I had never really looked outside that window, never noticed how the green padded roofs on a handful of condemned buildings could look so magical against a purple chalk sky crowned in orange streetlights.
The whole reason I’d even had this copy of Ellison’s story was due to the hour difference in time between Ted and I, he in Atlanta and me in New Orleans. I’d mentioned that somewhere and he caught onto and pointed me to the story, and it’s a good one, fitting right into some small space in my mind on a day I was taking advantage of for being so quiet. I looked over to the bed and smiled to myself that I only own one blanket, and a thin one at that, and how someone could tell by that alone that I live in a place that never expects it to get cold enough. Time, like the air here, lingers in a vapor, never settling, never dissolving.
To get anything done, time must be taken and given, both to listen and to act. I’ve been noting for years how most of our time is eaten up preparing for the next batch of time. I remember the conversation I’d had with a co-worker on Friday about the difference between a tribal mentality and what we have going now, how in tribal cultures the people would spend about half of our work day doing what needs to be done to fulfill their needs, how many hands make light work. You can see this on such a small scale if you were to, say, invite friends over for dinner and you have this one chop up the green onions and this one mince the ginger and together you can make peanut butter pasta in minutes. I see it in the line of traffic and think to myself how we could all get out of downtown faster if we weren’t in so many cars. And then I realize I am just one person and I must do what I must in my own small way.
So I have taken this day and given it to myself, given it over to empty space to play a game of emptying with my mind. For now, I like it just fine.