An Excused Absence Out of the Blue

I woke up angry today.

It doesn’t happen often.

I put the gentle lead on Leonard and we headed out into the dark. After I crossed the street, I realised I hadn’t really looked both ways. Talk about self-destructive spite. I have no idea what’s going on. I figure some frustrating dream took hold and seeped into the day.

I sip coffee and hum through my morning meditation. “Let it be.” But it doesn’t change the deep background of six a.m.. I tell myself to let go of the feeling. To open and relax.

My fingernails dig into my palms.

Third cup of coffee. Back from the morning meeting at school. And back online again with the entire third year class in quarantine, 13 of 22 student names pop up in the sidebar of the teams program. All 13 have their microphones and cameras turned off. I turn on my camera – only to realise I dumped my weekend travel bag on the table behind me. There’s a shiny, beige bra visible just above my right ear. I turn the camera off. I should have prepared better. Paid more attention.

I switch to tea. I mindlessly eat a second lunch. Then I come down hard on myself. Idiot. I check the train table, and count backward to see what I can cram into the day before I need to meet up for the car pool drive – under the fjord and over the moorlands to the conference hotel. I make a mental note to switch to wine as soon as possible. I make a mental note of the fact that that is not a very good idea.

I want a hot bath and a good book and a lot of quiet. I want a time-out. An excused absence.

Today I’ve been thinking about that scene from Saving Private Ryan. The hand-to-hand combat. The too-late realisation: this is not a rehearsal. I have no idea why this scene is in my head. I have read it described as harrowing.

It’s as though this harrowing scene is somehow part of what has seeped from my sleep and is what feels sticky as I walk through the day.

This is all there is. All this time, you’ve been playing, preening, posing – but when it comes down to it, this is the now of your soft belly and your brittle bones. The now of your last breath. Your ultimate inadequacy in the face of whatever undefined plans you had for your life. The inadequate planning. Because this is it. This is all you’ve got. This life that just keeps coming at you one laboured breath at a time.

I’m not dying. I mean, not at the moment. And I remind myself that I may be sensing an ending. And that maybe this is a good thing. Maybe I’ll find a better perspective on this ending.

The conference is in Haugesund. Where I spent five months alone in hospital, with no grasp of the language. Where I spent another five months of sleepless nights in an attic rocking chair, with a colicky infant and a dog that looked like Toto. Where I learned that you can never go Home.

Even if you wanted to.

Even if you don’t.

Dead witches, rusting men, snake oil salesmen, shoes or no shoes.

My fingers dig into my palms.

And I just want to call in sticky today, and stay home.

photo: Ren Powell

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