Lately, like a lot of us, I’ve been sleeping too much. Drinking too much. Passing the hours in my own way, listening to music, reading, cleaning up the house, and feeling almost paralysed by the stress of uncertainty. Stuck at home. Ordering carry out dinners, or cooking things for myself and later throwing them out once they’ve outlived their appeal in my sparsely populated fridge. Writing. More writing. Sometimes about important things, and sometimes about nothing anyone will read, but that is what pays. Ironic. Not that the important things will get read either, it’s just if I ever want to be remembered for something I hope it is for my prose and not for my 300 word-vomit on cash auto title loans or off-road bumpers.
The coffee makes the brain work. The shower gets the blood flowing. The alcohol slows it all back down again late at night so you can rest and not have the ideas crawling around inside your brain, keeping you up too late. Sometimes a cigar is a reward for a day you accomplished a lot of things, or sometimes just because you miss the way things were when you could blow smoke and tell stories around a fire. The holy trinity of writing: caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Bless us, for we have sinned.
I like those moments just after I wake up. I open my eyes and the world is still. Maybe some soft music is playing in another room, or the sun is creeping along the walls of my bedroom from the curtains that don’t close all the way. The rectangles go from that golden glow to a brilliant white. In those moments, everything is fine.
I have the weekend to look forward to. The commencement of my freetime from a job I dislike and have consistently disliked for at least the last three years. The days of the week still hold some kind of meaning, and I’ll get to see my girlfriend’s great big smile and wave when I pull up to the house after a long day of watching the clock mete out the moments of my middle years.
I wake from a dream and feel relaxed. It is the springtime and I can’t wait to go someplace new. Drive up to a mountain town and soak my bones in a mineral rich pool for the better part of a day.
I look outside and see that the sun is sliding down past the mountains, igniting the world in shades of purple and orange and red and yellow only captured by a Maxfield Parrish painting. Never duplicated anywhere else except for Colorado. There’s a whole night ahead of people watching in downtown Ft. Collins, which never disappoints.
Today, when I woke up everything was fine. My life was on track. Fulfilled. Other than the music playing, it was quiet. I wasn’t even hungry, and I hadn’t thought about why I had no appetite yet. I remembered that I had a hot cup of tea on the end table next to the couch. I pick it up and its coldness has shown me that time has passed. The tea is a little bitter, with the taste of fermentation. Green tea. Anti-oxidants. Caffeine.
I’m alone and for a long moment, I feel happy, at peace.
That moment between consciousness and reality, like waking up holding your lover and watching her sleep. The gentle rise and fall of the blankets. The birds singing their stupid little heads off outside. The ticking of the clock at home measuring each moment of bliss.
You dare not move, or risk shattering such a moment.
Then the world starts to seep in through the cracks. One thought after the next begin to gather and fill up my head. The worries. The deadlines that are coming up. The frustrations. How much have I drunk this week? The solitude. What day is it? The neverevereverending march of this bullshit.
The rewards are different now. Connection is with people who may or may not be there at the other end of a radio signal, pecking away at their keyboards, tapping out messages through the autocorrect interference of their phones. It’s a late night phone call to someone giving up. Our correspondence is filled with smiley faces, or moving pictures, or using the newest punctuation of “Ha ha!” to remind the others that this is a place where you laugh, even though you aren’t really laughing.
The nights are long. The mornings are like a sludge to drag yourself through. Until you realize it’s four o’clock in the afternoon and you still haven’t showered, you can’t remember the last time you ran a brush across your teeth, and a bowl of cereal counts as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The youthful barristas smile from behind surgical masks and you drink your coffee down in the car on the drive home with an attitude. “Fuck it. I know she touched her face like thirty times, but I’m sick of worrying about it.”
But there is that moment just before you fall asleep, or just after you awaken, when everything is still okay. You haven’t lost anything. It’s a glimpse of a better time. Like dropping a fried egg on your kitchen floor and having nothing to worry about, until you realize there is no dog to come and slurp it up. Or knowing where you left that trusty pocket knife on a shelf; three moves and a few decades ago. Your kids are still there and say “I love you” every night before bed someplace in the middle of their 52nd glass of water or story about their day.
It’s all still there, just in the next room, or maybe in the warm spot next to you…
If just for that fragile moment.