So here it is, one post away from crossing the finish line of a project originally intended to help me keep my grip upon an already tenuous sanity while facing the implications of both a global pandemic barreling down hard on the City of Wayne and the resulting state mandated isolation madness. And let’s be honest here, that is what it really was, and not the less scary sounding “hunker in place” order that the state government and press were so very fond of using.
That, frankly, reminded me too much of the old “duck and cover” routines which were designed more to keep the nation calm, rather than to provide actual useful sheltering advice. There was never any chance in hell that a pressed formica school desk was ever going to do anything against a first strike Soviet nuclear attack other than to instantly vaporize right alongside its unfortunate occupant.
Or maybe melt.
But these past several 98 days, mostly spent inside of my own head, allowed me the time to better understand my history and the implications of my unique experiences. It forced an unexpected spotlight, shining out of the isolated boredom, to focus in unreservedly on the choices made and the stories of hearts, both won and lost, in the rather ignoble history of me. It was almost a lazy sitcom style clip show review of my life this far on my journey and it allowed me the opportunities to learn, not only about myself and my hesitant motivations, but also the world in which I had been living that life, both past and present.
*cue cheesy sitcom cut scene here*
I learned early on in the pandemic that one of the benefits of so many people wearing masks is that the focus of distanced interaction shifts to their eyes. And, I have always been a sucker for pretty eyes.
As a result, I found myself constantly falling for the beauty of passing random strangers. I’d catch their glance, absorb what their soul was reflecting back out towards me, and then I’d fall for them, hard. Even if it was for just a whispered mask moment in time.
I remember every single one of them and probably always will.
I learned that running out of milk and using wine leftover from the night before as a substitute in the afternoon after bowl of Fruity Pebbles later makes the daily constitutional a more rainbowtastical experience.
Almost alarmingly so.
I realize that it is a good idea going forward to have stockpiles of necessary household supplies, but not in a greedy, “screw the next person” kind of way. Admittedly part of me was already doing that, the compulsion to squirrel away food one of the most telling side effects of growing up less than wealthy, a behavior that I have never been able to fully shake.
I think I just need to be a little more adult in my choices of exactly what to squirrel away.
And also, maybe staying sober long enough to remember the hiding spots might be clutch to the scheme actually working out as intended. Otherwise, months will pass before opening that rarely used cabinet door, only to discover that hidden stash of junk food now somehow even more inedible.
I learned, in rather embarrassingly uncomfortable fashion, that a nearly 50 year old gastrointestinal tract simply isn’t designed for the rigors of processing a diet consisting entirely of Irish whiskey, beer, Slim Jims, and Irish tea, with the occasional Flintstones vitamin thrown into mix just for the sake of hopefully balancing out the nutrition. It hurts and makes for some rather uncomfortable moments, sitting isolated on cold porcelain, regretting the previously mentioned dietary indiscretions, only to end up committing them again the very next day. And the day after that. And yes, even the one after that.
Because I never once claimed to be a smart man.
I learned, beyond question, which are the dependable friends upon whom I might lean, just to help get me through another numbered day. Or another sleepless dark night of the soul.
They read my words, no matter how ugly or introspective. They commented or called and actively pushed me to keep writing when I was at my lowest point of isolated madness. They texted me back after I regrettably bombarded them with drunken nonsense late into the overnight hours because they were the only words that I could find at the time.
They dutifully stood by me through all this nonsense and all the unsolicited dick pics sent, just because I thought it was funny (and it’s okay. You can go ahead and click the link. I promise it’s not what you think). They loved me through the sad song playlists played perpetually here on an endless loop and they laughed with me, often when I needed it the most.
And, I will forever love them for making those sacrifices.
I relearned to be cautious when walking amongst the Canadian Chickens, especially when they are tending to their young, for fear of having my ass handed to me by an angry goose on a honking, wing-flapping attack trajectory.
And for what it might be worth, I personally believe that every single time a person of Canadian ancestry, normally so stereotypically calm and apologetically reasonable, almost loses their temper, but doesn’t, another Canadian goose is born. And those resulting winged bastards are then responsible for channeling all that anger and hostility back into the world in their horribly honking, poop splattering fashion.
But then, I would honestly probably miss them if they one year decided against nesting here along the creek running peacefully by this little blue house.
And there are other things that I catch myself missing, too, as the world opens itself up on the front side of the second wave possibly crashing the party.
I miss the freedom to touch, indiscriminately and without fear.
I miss my friend J.T. and his incredible art. I miss hearing his long-distance smoker’s voice, gravelly and rough, calling me from New York. I miss his hilariously drunken texts that, had it not been for the foundation of our mutual histories, would have been nearly impossible to decipher otherwise.
And I miss my girl, whom I still find time to visit regularly up on her quiet little hill that has inadvertently become a cathartic mental oasis of sorts as I find myself navigating the vociferous seas of my solitary existence. I miss the sensation of her tiny fingers on my skin and her adorably crooked smile looking up at me in those tender moments shared down at the square before her dance practices. I miss the youthfully indestructible love binding us indelibly together, even all these years later, as I flounder inelegantly into my own final curtain call rapidly approaching.
She will forever be my tiny dancer and I live trapped in the shadowed steps she left behind, the final choreographed designs of a life so uniquely captivating that I just cannot seem to shake myself free of her final performance.
And I am not sure that I would ever want to, even if I did somehow manage to find the way. Because I will always be in love with her and nothing will ever break that connection.
I will simply continue on with our dance, alone, in the light she left behind.
But, I know that I cannot let that love define me in my entirety. Not when the world is opening itself back up, still so full of potential choices and possible opportunities yet to be discovered.
I have to throw my soul to the sweeping currents of time and experience,
going boldly into that unavoidable dark night, unashamed and unafraid, and in total acceptance of who I am as a person, even when no one is looking.
I have to keep hunting that redefining next love, because I know that she has to be out there, even if I can’t quite see her yet. I have to keep chasing down the genuine smiles and the contagious laughter, more infectious than the lingering pandemic’s coughing threat. I have to hunt new and undiscovered words to feed my anxious typewriter, starving for the first taste of that next new story, so seductively addictive in its novelty.
I have to keep pushing myself forever forward, even when things seem like they are starting to fade to black. I have to keep trying, even when I am left exhausted and drained from the chase. I must still keep massaging words and art out of the unpredictable storylines of this temporary experience wherever I can because at this point, it is all that I know how to do.
And I am too old to start over.
I realize, too, that I have to start being a better friend and a better human being. Because fuck hate, in all its many incarnations. And fuck the many underlying divisive pitfalls designed to frighten us away from celebrating and reveling in the many beautiful gifts of our mutual existence here on this weird blue rock.
We are all in this together. And we always have been, from the very start, even long before the first diagnosed case of the newest virulent player took its place undeservedly at center stage.
We all want to be noticed. We all want to be loved. We all want some small part of the spotlight, if even for a fleeting moment. But most all, we just want to be happy. A real, genuine, life redefining happy that will help propel us into that next great new adventure waiting on the horizons of an unquarantined day finally dawning.
It has been a grind, both suffering through these days and having to face those many blank pages. It has been three months of literary bleeding out, night after night, to the quarantined rhythms of a pandemic’s calamitous cough.
But, I can see the first finish line of a new life just ahead, straddling the uncertain boundaries of an old life transforming into the new.
One more post. Maybe another thousand words added on to the thousands already written. Most likely a cheesy song or two thrown in, just because I like sharing the mixed-up mixtapes of my existence.
Because music is just so fucking important. Now, more than ever.
One last night in front of my typewriter. For this particular project, anyway. One final siren song of this City of Wayne played for me, a graduation anthem as I walk ahead into my next tomorrow. One concluding glimpse into the experience of this quarantined existence and then I will finally be free, unfettered and unaccountable to anything other than the chance to chase down that next dance in the embrace of this unlocked little flyover town, where the words often come hard and the foxes never really stopped playing.
They have been there, all along- you just need to know where to look for them.