Tuesday, November 03, 2009

wound-up toy

In the morning, I am feeling mighty and omnipotent. As the sun moves up, I’m thinking – I can move mountains! I will improve the lot of others! I am like a wound-up toy at the moment when it’s ready to be released. I don’t just step out, I explode into the day!


Bright skies! Why not! Get out the bike! Ride to campus one more time!


It can be deceiving, that deeply blue Midwestern sky of ours.

But even as the cold hits me – in the feet, the neck (warmer scarf next time), the face, even as the tears of wind begin to push against the eyelids, I’m still bold, invincible! Warm inside! Glad I did this!

Then it gets tricky. Early afternoon, I waffle. I want that espresso down the hill. I make myself go, but I don’t like the effort. I have papers to read, but already, the concentration is teetering. A two hour late afternoon lecture and I am zapped. Tuckered out. Deflated.

When dusk comes (oh so very early now), the utter loneliness of a very busy week (month, semester) sinks in. The light is hollow, fading. I find it odd that this, in bars, is called a happy hour. Happy? At five? Maybe a long long time ago, when the kids were home. Maybe when I cooked dinner and watched them at the kitchen table doing homework, interrupting them, because I couldn’t help myself – I had so much to ask. Maybe then.

If dusk sucks, evenings are a time to recover. If I am at the shop (today, yesterday, tomorrow), I slide into an apron and become the person who’ll guide you through the essential oils from the south of France. The air in the shop is fragrant and warm. Therapeutic almost.

Late late evening. I’m home now. At this hour, chances are overwhelming that Ed will have fallen asleep, there on the wooden floor of an empty New York west village apartment. I Skype him. He’s been amply informed that I need pats today. That Ocean readers have stepped up to the plate. That he needs to step up as well. And now I hear it. Sort of. Pat... pat.... yawn.

In life, you have to know when to say "good enough."

For me, it is now getting awfully close to twenty-four hours of wakefulness. Still, I have a post to write and photos to inspect. I turn on the most perfect Italian music and get to it. With a smile.


You should take a walk where they once docked the big ocean liners... I hear they’ve made the old ports into a cool promenade.... You should go down on 3rd to the seafood place... You might want to have oysters or mussels. What bakery will you try tomorrow?

Ed is in New York. Ed is under pressure. I am in Madison. I am under pressure. I wish I were, at the very least, under pressure in a place where I could dash out for a fresh pastry with my latte, or, in the alternative, a plate of fresh oysters with a glass of chilled Chablis on the side. Ed's task is to survive life in the city and to endure day after day of sitting through a court proceeding in a suit and tie. Mine is much simpler: make it to the next day.

Last month, I was still a partner to an occasional traveling companion, worrying that his stress was going to take its toll. But now I’m asking – how come your stories have become more interesting than mine? Do I even have stories? Wont you ask anyway? How come you're laughing more? Where is the pat on my back for my making it from one day to the next?

Ed’s not the pat on the back type. (In fairness, neither does he seek pats on his own broad shoulders.) But really, pats on the back – that’s all that we can expect from out friends and lovers and traveling companions, no? My shoulders ache for the want of a pat.

I set a record today. At least I think I did. In past years, I stopped biking to work by the end of October. Here we are in the second day of November and I’m still pedaling. To work, back from work. Even as this week, the sun is nearly gone on the return trip.


Did I mention how windy it was on this November 2nd? The feather boas off of State Street were flying with abandon.


Gusty times.

A friend tells me – your blog has been so much less fun since Ed’s out of town. I relay this to Ed during our numerous Skype calls. I imagine he’s grinning. (He himself doesn’t have to imagine: I have a camera on my computer. His cheap Toshiba can pick up my images, but offers none in return.)

Tonight I pout on line (it’s not hard!). Ask me about my day! Surely something in it warrants a question!

But honestly, it does not. I work incessantly. I see no one and I do nothing else. My meals are inconsequential. My days are as interesting as a never ending sitcom on TV, with the sound muted.

I tell myself that this is transitional, that I alternate between tougher times and easier times, but right now, I’m thinking the easier times have retired. Disappeared. Perhaps died?

The sun has set by the time I walk to the shop tonight. A customer comes in. It’s one of those rare moments where I admit to a shopper that this is my second job. That teaching occupies my primary waking hours. I’m not surprised to see you moonlight, she says. I was once a college teacher. Yes, I want to say, but where you like me? Did you work too hard and travel too much? Did you miss sitting back with your eyes closed? Did you never write your book?

She left before I could ask her. She wasn't in a hurry. I wanted for a moment to be her. Just for a wee second -- that moment of exiting the store without worrying about being late for the next place she had to go to.