A Week of Waiting for Purpose
I wake up too soon. It’s still dark, and hours before the sun comes out. The air is dense and warm already, like a hot steel blanket on my barely rising chest. Moving into the kitchen, I make six cups of coffee. I’ll drink it black because cream and sugar take too much effort.
On the patio, I read Jack Kornfield, wondering if anyone really lives like that. Full of wisdom, compassion, and grace. I think he must not have gone through much.
Around 8, I venture into my office. It’s a living room, but there’s no one here but me, so I think of it as an office. In it is a green chair with tan printing that looks like a lattice fence, sitting on a cheap rug that looks the same. There’s a wood grain entertainment center with a TV that has never been turned on and an ottoman that used to be beige but has now been obscured by time or some kind of stain. The colour scheme is nice, homey. The furniture goes well with the faux wood flooring. My ancient laptop sits on the ottoman instead of a desk. I forget to eat.
I check my email, and it’s all junk from Amazon and Walmart, and some prayer chain I don’t remember signing up for and don’t know why I would. I’m a poet but, between submissions, I write copy for anyone that pays. Last week’s job was for a home improvement blog. I know nothing about home improvement, nor do I wish to. They say anyone can paint, but they’ve never seen me try. I somehow end up wearing it all over, getting more on myself than the walls. I decide to write prose this morning.
In the afternoon, I wish I could nap. The happiest people do it every chance they get. I sometimes try, but it rarely works out. There’s always something I could be doing, I think. A mentality left over from my days in a real job. Instead, I scroll for two hours through internet articles, not reading them really, but jumping from subject to subject as I see links of interest. I make a sandwich with peanut butter and banana on wheat, and eat it without thinking.
It’s early evening, a little cooler now than it has been. I jog a mile, shower, then get into bed. I’ll lay here a couple of hours until my eyes are tired of looking at the ceiling or themselves, and I’ll fall asleep.
The first thing I do is call a hotline. It’s been days since I’ve spoken to another person, so the conversation is welcome in its strange way. They’ve heard from me four times this year. Each time, I get closer to telling them how near I am to doing it, but I never tell them. I think they’ll call the police and have an intervention by force. In my imagination, the cops would find me
lying lifeless next to a tank of helium with a plastic bag pulled over my head, taped around the edges so that no gas escapes. I’d have died in the first minute, bowels vacated, but I would have taken precautions for that and worn something to keep myself clean.
I was supposed to talk to the kids last night, but my call wasn’t returned. My therapist says it’s okay to say fuck her, but it doesn’t feel natural. I do three sun salutations, have a cup of green tea with honey and lemon, and put Vivaldi on.
The rest of the day, I read the first pages of classic novels, put them down again, and play a little on Tinder. I don’t message anyone, and pass out exhausted.
This morning, I’m refreshed! It happens this way every three or four days for reasons I can’t pin down. On my patio again, this time I notice the sunrise, god of the morning, filling the sky with orange and pink. I feel its rays on the exposed skin of my arms and it makes me wonder what I missed yesterday. Or those days as a teenager pining over lost love, or no love at all, or loves that didn’t know they were loves. The day feels almost musical, and I want someone to sing it to.
I go to the grocery store around 11. This particular store has more produce than any other in town, and I’m a vegan when I feel good like this. Aisle seven, I see a bottle of Pinot noir and imagine it warming my throat, accentuating the lightness of my heart today. But I recall the somber places it took me last time. From my living room chair to an abandoned frame house, once all white, now with patches of rotting brown and gray lumber almost glistening under a fading street light. The smell of unwashed bodies and cocaine burning as incense offered to the god of desperation in the sadness of a July Texas night.
The wine pairs well with portobellos, so I buy it.
Afternoon passes with wine, writing, and more Vivaldi. The violin leaves me with a feeling that can be described, I guess, as a joyful loneliness, but it doesn’t last long. I text the girl whose name I don’t know and doesn’t matter anyway, and she comes over. I light sixteen tea candles, placing them in neat rows along the nightstand and dresser, as though this were something other than what it is, and we forget about ourselves and one another for the rest of the night.
I was having a quality dream. My Dad and I were fishing for striper at Toledo Bend. We only did that once, so it’s funny that I would dream about it, but I did. In it, we were fishing with our hands, wrestling these seventy-pound fish into a boat that I guess we borrowed. I was wet and dirty and cold in the October morning, and Dad was wearing his overalls telling me, You got that sumbitch, boy! You got him!, as he spit Copenhagen into the water. I woke to wonder if he ever thought I’d end up this way.
Some days feel like a ghost that’s hiding in your great-aunt’s stairwell and comes out when you’re not looking. My coffee gets cold as I hope I didn’t get my friend pregnant and think about the weekend. It’s visitation with my kids.
In the evening, I call again and send a picture of me smiling, with a text that says I love you guys. There’s no answer, and nothing returned.
Today’s the day. It’s been fourteen since I last saw them. They’re beautiful. Little angels in a world of devils, if there were such things as angels. When my eyes open, a mist has pooled on their lids. I cried in my sleep again. Whether from sadness or joy isn’t important. My coffee tastes sweeter this morning, and I chase it with water. I do five sun salutations and remember to eat something. Dates rolled in crushed almonds, apple cinnamon flavoured.
The spirit of life is coursing through me. I’m vibrant and mindful of everything. Every chirping sound of the birds that frequent my patio, the way a squirrel looks when its little jaws move up and down and kind of sideways to open an acorn, and the feeling of my top lip twitching as it sometimes does.
My daughter is too young to dislike much, so she goes along, but my son loves soccer. He’s got a ball that’s black, crisscrossed with purple, or the other way around, and you’d think he’s in the World Cup the way he kicks it across the front yard. No matter how often I tell him, he always kicks it toward the street, and I always get it. I pretend to be angry, but I think he knows I’m not. I wonder if he’ll one day dream of me like boys do of their dads.
I’m like a drowning man pulled from the wreckage of a ship, from overwhelming, frozen seas to a warm beach somewhere in the sun. Tonight I see them, and for two days we’ll live like we belong together. We’ll love one another and pretend there’s nothing wrong. My little girl will lay in my lap, my son on the arm of my chair, and they’ll both say, I love you, Daddy. And I’ll say, I love you, too. To the moon and back.