A stray piece of quiet

Today I hung my wet laundry out on the line. It was the first time in nearly twenty years I have done this. It was a different line then, just some old cotton clothesline between the slats in a corner of fence at a house we were renting as poor newlyweds. When the wind blew, it would thrash the clothes against the fence, taking splinters and seasons of dirt with it, depositing them back on our wet towels and sheets. We bought a dryer shortly after that, sending us further into debt. Just for the luxury of fluffy towels without needles of wood in them.

Today was a clear and calm day in the mountains. The sky is that shade of blue that you could almost cut yourself on. Just a few whisps of icy clouds drifting through to join thunderheads massing over the mountains to the east. I hung out my towels and sheets, comforters, and quilts on the twisted steel wire line. My grandmother’s old clothesline. Not some amateurish rig, this was a highly functioning, and unless it was raining or snowing, extremely reliable way to get the job done back in the day. Not long ago, every back yard had one. Long before we were being scolded by this generation about the kind of world we were leaving for them. We hung our clothes on the line and let the wind do the rest.

This evening, I felt a sadness, like eyes watching me from across a crowded room. Like someone watching me over the rim of their drink as they sipped at it through a tiny cocktail straw. And every time I tried to look in its direction, it shyly looked away. The house was quiet, the laundry brought in and folded and put away. The last light of the day fading as the sun slipped behind the mountains. The sadness became more pronounced. I recognized it as loneliness, regret, longing. It wasn’t mine, I knew that much. It was more like hearing a conversation through the walls of a house. That warm sound that used to fill the quiet of morning when you wake up in a new place and people are busy making coffee and speaking in that low tone to keep from waking anyone else.

What was this loneliness and why had it found me? Was someone missing me? An old lover who had been flooded with nostalgia and thoughts of what could have been? I wonder sometimes if they still think of me and what might have been. Though I am at peace with it now. I have my own path to walk, and wish them the best on theirs. May they never cross again.

Could it have been a close friend feeling overwhelmed but thinking their problems were a burden and rather than asking for help to carry the load, they just watched it boil over like a pot of noodles. Or was it my kids in some far off place, feeling shut off, but powerless in their world right now to do anything about it? After all, missing their dad would be a betrayal. The weight of growing up is hard and frightening and more than anyone should have to face alone.

Or maybe it was some stray feeling on the wind, caught by the hanging clothes like a net, which I unwittingly dragged in with the rest.

I invited this loneliness in and listened to it and started putting words down on paper. That sadness. That longing. Like the scent of tobacco clinging to old walls. Or the sound of peeper frogs singing in a creek, but are seldom seen. That desire for connection manifested itself into words and ink and expression. And when I was done, it was laid to rest.

The challenges of small humans

My son isn’t as small as he used to be, but he’s still little. Things that are important to him are TV shows, Among Us, video games, snacks, his friends, and informing me of every minute detail in his life as it happens. Usually abruptly and without warning. Hugs. He is a big fan of hugs.

So when I try to work on something in my home office throughout the day, on the weeks he is with me, I usually get most of the work done after he has gone to bed. This is why I have such a weird schedule that is alien to most of the rest of the population. At night, without constant interruption, either from my son or anybody else, I can get something done.

Today, he is playing Among Us, which is basically the party game, Mafia, which is a little bit like clue only you already know who the murderer is and it’s cute little animated astronauts who also have to do other tasks. The drawback to the game is it allows a bunch of homebound ten year olds to play together online, and they spend most of the time picking on each other and ganging up on each other. The stuff that comes out of these kids’ mouths too. It’s like every jerk from a YouTube comments section decided to play a video game together.

Every five or ten minutes he expresses his outrage in his outside voice so I am sure to know exactly how unfair everyone in the game is being. Sometimes he gets so worked up he starts crying, at which point, I tell him to sort himself out. Either turn off the device, or don’t cry about it. It’s a process.

The whole thing is very distracting.

I still miss the hell out of him when he isn’t here though.

Hello, Brain. (You bastard).

Last night I was up until 5am. I turned in for bed at around midnight. I thought I was tired. I was tired. I just lay there and turned over and over and over, unable to sleep. I read for a while. I’ve nearly read A Moveable Feast after just about a week, which is saying something for me. I’m a slow, careful reader. At about 3am, I sat up and using the Notes app on my iPhone, I wrote a short chapter, or at least a long scene. About 1700 words. Then I wrote notes for several other scenes. At 4:30, I said to hell with it, took another swig of Jamesons and went back to bed. It had no effect other than a fear that my teeth are going to rot out of my head at this rate.

I think I finally fell asleep at around 5am. I woke up to my 7:45am alarm, telling me to get my son out of bed and ready for online schooling which runs like IngSoc in 1984 with its 8am mandatory meeting and a whole slough of annoying Zoom chats and monitored time on reading an math apps scattered throughout the day. Because, you know, why be flexible with time in an online learning environment?

Dear school, I have some notes…

I went back to sleep and actually had some dreams, but I get woken up by the sound of cereal being poured, or my son talking to his teacher over the Zoom interface, or some asshole mowing his grass at an ungodly hour.

The problem is weird to explain to people and one I haven’t experienced in my life. It used to be that I could write any length of writing and feel satisfied. I would go to bed, feeling accomplished, and sleep like normal people. Only now I write, and then my brain says “Wait, remember this? If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget.” So I write it down. That and the 1,000 other things I need to get down. I feel this almost spiritual connection with the writing now. I am not the creator, but the facilitator, pulling these ideas from whatever source, and putting them into the story. The story needs me to tell it. The story won’t let me sleep until it feels like it has been written.

Sometimes I think when the story is done with me and I have outlived my usefulness, I will just drop over dead. At least I can rest if that is the case.

Dropping off social media has freed up a lot of time. But I can’t help but wonder if my sleeplessness has something to do with interrupting a familiar pattern. My Fear of Missing Out might be affected since I have the urge to open Facebook or Instagram, but really am apathetic as far as what I will see there. Right now I have email, Messenger, and WordPress.

Writing at night is what my brain wants to do. When my son is home, I’m not being interrupted by racket that he makes, having to stop and make meals, or pick up the messes he excels at leaving all over the house. There are not the endless questions and interruptions of a kid who is bored and starved of other human interraction because he is learning online.

When he is gone back to his mom’s, the house is too empty for a few days and I miss the sounds of someone else. There is no middle ground. But late at night, after the assholes in their hotrods stop racing up and down the highway, and there are no garbage trucks, or shitheads bouncing basketballs in the park behind my house, and only the sound of crickets or barking dogs is there to cradle my smoking mind, I can write. In the cool darkness. No landlady poking around with the lawnmowerman looking at trees, no door to door salesmen selling new shingles or extermination services.

Just me and the writing.

Too bad I also enjoy sleeping too.