I’m flying. I’m landing. Skittering along; halting to find I’m the wrong way around.
I’m floating. Above life looking down. I’m on the edge, a precipice with one foot hanging over, saying it’s going to go. Inviting, welcoming the rest of me to come along. Fall or fly? Still, I saw at the chains that hold me there.
I’m waiting. Waiting and moving. Moving around on the set of another play. Other characters are giving me cues but these are not my lines and I fumble them and the audience is not amused.
I’m watching. The clock. An extra hour we’ve been given this week but in the middle of the night as I’m rehearsing the lines it’s a long, heavy hour mocking me there.
I’m heavy. Heavy, floating, slow across the stage. Waiting for sleep but that damn clock mocks.
It’s thunder storming now. I’m glad my windows are sheltered because I’ve got them open wide to let in the smell and sounds of the rain hitting the street.
The thunder storm seems an appropriate accompaniment to what I’m thinking: that my life is continuing to shift around, shaken out of several years of a schedule, daily habits, complacency at the office. Yeah, me and my life are still adjusting to the new job and the new schedule; but we’re happy.
I couldn’t have imagined just how much the chopping out of two hours of daily travel would change that life, but the sense of relief as I put on my walking shoes every morning and afternoon – where less than two weeks ago I was moving amongst underground crowds and squishing onto trains and streetcars and buses – is palpable. And relief is the right word. Now going to and from work, it’s head up and smiling, taking my time getting home, walking different routes each day because that extra two hours seems like all the time in the world. Then, getting home and making dinner, deliberately and with pleasure, framed around an “I feel like eating this” instead of “I’m tired and starving and need something fast.”
Me and life are shifting around the job itself, too. New people, new ways of doing things, new ‘tools’ with which to do them; if starting a new job is less daunting than it was when I was younger, it’s no less consuming. I’m learning an industry I knew nothing about; reading and trying to grasp a lay person’s understanding of it at the same time I’m getting assignments to write about it. Well I guess is still rather daunting. But it’s all good. I feel supported and welcomed in my new gig, and I look forward to making my new job my own.
And then there’s summer. She’s a shy visitor this year – sticking her nose in the door a few times only to creep back out again. Mostly the last few weeks have been lovely, as summer came in, relaxed and kicked her shoes off. Especially over the weekend.
As did I. I’m finding it really hard to stay in.
And so I continue to be preoccupied by the shifting around of me and my life. But I’m starting to get my mind wrapped around all the change and new learning; thanks, I think, to the warm days and evenings calling me outside, telling me as only warm days and evenings do, to slow down and breathe.
At night I walk; when the changing air throws the smell of the lake across the road and into my windows. That same smell welcomes me home as I walk down into my street and it gives me comfort amidst the ruckus of the streetcars sailing by. Streetcars that I don’t have to worry about catching.
The smell of water, whether falling out of the sky or wafting off a lake – beautiful thing number forty-five.
The other day I go down to the atrium for a cup of tea and a quick read. Not long after I sit down an old guy sits near me. His wife follows right after, fiddling with a bag and says, “so you’ll just wait here until I get back?”
“Yeah! I’ll wait here,” he snaps as she walks over to a medical office.
The man’s voice is as craggy as that of his demeanour. He looks to be in his late 70s, but perhaps the demeanour ages him. He flips open a cell phone and calls someone’s voicemail and complains about what he calls an unfair charge and demands, as a 35 year customer, that the charge be rescinded.
I’m annoyed. I came down here for a few alone moments with my book and it seems I’m going to have to listen to this guy’s private conversations. As I’m considering finding another place to sit, the man connects with someone else, presumably a friend.
“Listen Jimmy I don’t want to make you mad or insult you or anything, but I need to talk to you about what you said to Dotty the other day…
“Listen, when you told me, in front of her, that I need to talk to her nicer, you made my life a living hell. Now every goddamn time I open my mouth she’s on me for not talkin’ nice to her…
“No… listen, I’m not mad, but you gotta know what she’s like! You have no idea. When you see her, when she comes by, she’s all nice and sweet. When it’s me and her, my life is HELL.”
And then he starts to up the tone – and the ante.
“Ya, ya, but wait. You really don’t know her. You don’t know what she’s like at home. She LIES.
Wait, wait – here she comes.”
The offending Dotty returns and fusses in her bag again and her craggy man has magically switched his voice over to a conversational tone and is talking about the Blue Jays and the weather. She returns to the medical office and the agitation is back.
“Your words are now written in stone man. EVERYTHING I say to her makes her fucking jump all over me saying I don’t talk nice to her and she deserves fucking better and all that. She's a BITCH.
He’s like a pot coming to a boil. Sitting at the edge of his seat his voice gets louder and I get more uncomfortable, wishing I could say “Yo, buddy – I’m right here! I didn't need to know this!”
“Nobody knows how she talks to me. She’s nice when everyone else is around but with me. Well… no… listen, really… Jimmy… Jimmy! She’s a BITCH. I have to be so fucking careful and it’s impossible to please that woman. Maybe if someone gave her a hundred thousand dollars or somethin' she’d just fucking leave…”
Finally the Craggy One seems to notice he’s not alone and walks away to another area to finish convincing Jimmy of Dotty’s double personality. His voice has raised up another notch and I hear regular crescendos of the emphasising the wrath of Dotty because Jimmy said the Craggy One should speak nicer to her.
I think about the years that have passed in the life of Dotty and the Craggy One and wonder when it was that love turned to such bitterness. I wonder if they’ll, at some point, look back on their lives together and see any value in their days turning over, seasons evolving into the next, and their having grown old together, choosing each other to finish out their lives with.
I go back to my office think I’d still like to grow old with someone. Whoever you are – let’s not let it come to that, ok?
Time has mostly stood outside you and me; locked outside our little compartment. A stranger and travelling companion; chugging along in the next car, rumbling and rocking; silent, stealing glances at us isolated in our concentrations elsewhere.
The beauty in us was wrought by those stolen moments, and they linger, hanging in space like an everlasting good dream threading in and out of nights and mornings. A clandestine understanding shared in all these years; we could slip away from time, a couple of thieves vanishing into the crevices of space.
But time never gives up. Time has crept into our pauses, looming with its strictures and reverberations, more patient than even me. And time knows how to attach itself to a partner: Imagination, seduced by time’s quiet march, adores it for the opportunity to create its fictions. Our fiction.
That burdensome, bipolar imagination – one minute it dances around in celebration of my experiences; the next minute it lurks about, tripping my rational heart into the proverbial mud puddle faceplant.
Until you find your way back, imagination is my companion. Exploited by time, my imagination becomes an unruly child – always needing managing, checking up, reining in. Time, together with my imagination has become my enemy. Until you join me again the journey is pretty much exhausting.
This is a response to Willow's latest Magpie Tales visual creative writing prompt. Visit Magpie Tales to find other fine poets and writers responding to the same prompt. Give it a try – creative play is good for you!