It never fails to amaze me how restful it is to come home. For various reasons, this week has been a little rough. Good as well, but definitely rough, and that partly because I didn’t end up going home last weekend–for fun reasons, but the point stands. And sadly, I didn’t even properly realize it until I was done with work and finally, finally, driving southwards and home. It was like I could feel the tension leaving my shoulders, my neck, my back, little bit by little bit, and by the time I pulled into the driveway almost all the frustration and borderline hoplessness that had crept up through the week had all but faded away.
As sometimes happens with the company I keep, a recent conversation made its way around to the concept of memento mori, which in turn reminded me of the Freshman year English class where I first learned about it. At the time it was one of those concepts that I got the gist of without really understanding much beyond that. This is, I suspect, a fairly standard response for an eighteen year old: we’re old enough to know that we’re mortal, but a lot of us haven’t gone much deeper than that yet. Probably because we’re all still pretty sure that we’re actually invincible. Which is likely also why I found the idea more than a little unnerving.
Which is why it’s vaguely amusing that it’s now more comforting than anything else.
I’m finite. This life will come to an end, sooner or later. There’s a limit to what I will be able to accomplish. Taken alone, that’s more than a little hopeless. But let me frame it a different way: I’m limited, which means there is a limit to the harm I can do as well. I am not responsible for the ultimate fate of the world, only my own actions. I don’t need to carry a crippling fear that I’ll screw everything up while trying to do the opposite; I’m just not that big, and the one who is takes joy in offering redemption.
I’m not sure if that’s what the medieval Christian philosophers were going for with their own meditations on the subject, but hey. This is what I’ve got.
Earlier this week, I noticed that my normal parking spot was included in a stretch of temporary no parking Wednesday through Friday, starting at 7am and going to 4pm each day: as far as inconveniences go, definitely a minor one as I’m at work for most of that period. But while Wednesdays and Thursdays normally see me leaving before seven, Fridays usually have a little more leeway and I don’t leave until closer to eight, which clearly wasn’t going to work today.
Which explains where I found the motivation to head out to a coffee shop before work this morning to get a little writing done. It’s not a lot of time, a little less than half an hour all told, but that’s half an hour more than I’ve been managing to put in the rest of this week (being sick is so much fun). I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while, just to help get back into a proper daily habit of writing, but I’ve hesitated because I’ve gone off the assumption that I’d need an hour or so to make it worth while, and I don’t have the mental fortitude to get up that early.
But now that I know that a half hour is totally enough time to get a little done, I think that might just do the trick.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
The above has been my favorite verse for longer than I can remember. Spoken by Christ as he prepared to go to the cross, it’s clear that it refers to dying so that others can live. But for many of us, literal life and death situations are not a part of our day to day lives. I’m still mulling the idea over, but I don’t think I’m too far off in suggesting that the verse could also refer to living for others. And in fact, I’d go so far as to say that a life spent caring for the needs of others because of the love you hold for them is actually more difficult than the actions of a heroic instant. At the very least, it requires more stamina.
Thoughts? Arguments? Counter-examples? Drop ’em in the comments!
For someone who majored in English Lit in college, I’ve always had a funny relationship with poetry. Specifically, and particularly in the past, I’ve loved the idea of it and certain turns of phrase or images will stick with me and lodge in my soul or my brain, but I would often feel like I didn’t “get” the entire poem, and that would drive me nuts. I wanted to completely understand each poem I read, and it bothered me when I didn’t.
Or, in other words, I rather missed the point.
But this past week, while hanging out with a couple of friends, we started reading poems out loud from various collections by poets including Mary Oliver, Seamus Heaney, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Nuala ni Dhomhnaill, I think finally began to understand. Or rather, I began to understand that it’s okay to not understand, and in fact that might be a large part of the beauty of poetry.
Maybe it was because I was with dear friends. Maybe it was because we were reading them to each other in a non-academic setting, with no grade to earn or paper to write. Maybe it was because I’m a few years older and a little more comfortable with the idea that I don’t, that I can’t know everything. I’ll likely never know for sure.
What I do know is that I have a far greater appreciation than I’ve had in the past, and I look forward to reading much more poetry in the future.
Sometimes, when the freeway is open and empty and the night is dark and late, I imagine skipping my exit. It would be so easy; to go home would require a choice, a turn. All I would need to do is nothing at all. Sometimes I glance down at my dashboard and the lights that indicate the state of my gas tank, and I calculate how far I could get before I’d have to refill. There are beaches I could reach, the ones I’ve driven past a dozen times but never visited, the ones that I’ve seen from the window of a car on a stormy day when the waves crashed tall against ragged pillars of rock. Sometimes I tell myself that this is the night I’ll do it, and my hand slides towards the turn signal to leave the right-hand lane even as the sign for my exit passes green and white above my head, reminding me I only have a mile and a little more to make my decision.
This last week was… less than productive when it came to getting writing done, which was a little disheartening. That being said, I’ve had a chance to work on the overall structure, and while it’ll probably change again ten more times (at least!) I’m fairly happy with it at the moment. I plan to have ten chapters/stories in the completed novel, of which I have a rough draft of one, a good draft of a second, various bits and pieces of a few others, and at least a summary of everything else.
So! While I don’t have a new snippet for you all, I do have a table of contents. Take a look! It goes without saying that any and all of the titles could change, but for the time being, they fit well enough and along with all the notes I have scribbled for them in Scrivener, I know more or less where I want them to go.
1- The First Job
2- The Delivery Job
3- The Easy Job
4- The Track-down Job
5- The Ethan Lindsay Job
6- The Snatch-back Job
7- The Pro-bono Job
8- The Personal Job
9- The Rescue Job
10- The Dalton Job
PS: It finally happened. I missed a Friday update, and this is going up on Saturday morning. I’m backdating it so that it shows up where I want it to in the archives, but I definitely missed it. Alas.
Since I can remember, I’ve loved being in cars in the rain. The steady sound of a downpour. The rhythm of the wipers. The sense that there’s only inches between you and the wild weather outside. I think I enjoy the challenge of it, too: the knowledge that no matter how familiar the road is, you have to be on your guard. But maybe part of it is also how peaceful it can seem. It demands focus, and even a small storm can dwarf the worries of the day-to-day.
The only good writing is rewriting. Or so they say. Astute observers will realize that this means that all good writing is rewriting, which does not mean that all rewriting is good writing. But at least it has a chance.
As you may have gathered, I finished that story I’ve been chipping away with for way too many weeks. As you may have also gathered, it still needs work. I find myself wanting to poke it with a long stick, which is my general reaction to many things I’m unsure about. But however I may feel about it, it’s definitely something to work with, so all in all I’d say it’s a win.
My little boy’s ragged wail split the walls, clawing its way above the howling blizzard and ripping me from my bed. He coughed and spluttered, choking on his own wet phlegm and mucus as I stumbled to his room. He didn’t stop crying when I pulled him into my arms, didn’t stop coughing when I tried to soothe him. His tiny chest heaved and fluttered with every breath.
Smells of sick and sweat swam in the air, stifling his room. The dim glow of his nightlight showed red on his flushed face. I put my hand to his forehead beneath his sticky hair and smoothed it away. He burned. His cheeks were dry and chapped, his eyes glazed and vacant as he whimpered and stared straight past me.
I managed to get him to sleep again with water and medicine and luck; he curled up his fitful little body and trembled beneath sweat-damp blankets, and I left the room. His father lay in bed where I left him, still snoring, still drooling, unmoved and oblivious. I had to shake him before he finally woke up enough for me to tell him his son was sick.
He mumbled half-witted excuses and rolled over. “He’ll feel better in the morning. Go to sleep.” He followed his own advice before I could argue and left me alone. I waited. The dark room tugged at my eyelids. I drowned in a silence broken only by the angry, thrashing wind.
A few moments passed before I let myself believe that maybe he was right. Maybe his fever would fade with the night and the storm. Maybe his pain would recede and creep away. Maybe he would stop hurting and wailing and shaking. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. I slunk beneath the covers.
I closed my eyes, but I did not sleep. Ice and snow snarled just outside. The house creaked and whined. I heard my child’s howl every time the branches shrieked against the window.
The storm had blown in this afternoon, all low sky and whirling, bitter flurries. I should have noticed it sooner. I should have seen the clouds, the wind, the drenched thickness and the clinging mist. I should have heard and stopped and acted–
I told him. I told him not to take his son outside. I told him it was too cold, too wet. I told him the frozen air would be too much too soon. I told him, and he didn’t listen.
He smiled instead. He patronized. He kissed me to ignore every word I said. His son wanted to go outside; the rest didn’t matter. Just a little while. An hour, maybe two. Let him play. Let him smile. Let him live.
I let him go because I had no choice. Never mind the wind that tugged and twisted in the tops of the pines. Never mind the iron hues that colored the clouds. His little boy laughed when they pulled their coats and hats and mittens from the closet and threw them to the floor in a pile of hissing nylon.
When they finally finished, finally tromped back inside, they came in giggling, giddy at the edge of the storm. My little boy stopped to cough while he tried to tell me everything he’d just done with Daddy, but Daddy didn’t care. Daddy just encouraged him. Daddy laughed with him and told Mommy to make them both hot chocolate.
They drank it and they chattered. They wiped their runny noses on their sleeves or ignored it altogether. His cough grew wetter every moment. Wet, rough, messy, until his laughter broke and the smile fell off his rosy, flushing cheeks and his father finally noticed that his little buddy was in pain.
I said we should put him to bed. Let him sleep before his cough got worse and the sickness sank down to his lungs. Protect him so that–
He brushed off every word. He painted me villain, tyrant, panic-ridden fool. He pushed and cajoled. He chose just what he wanted and demanded that he get it and denied any kind of consequence. Bully. Selfish. Coward.
And now he’s lying next to me. Sleeping. Snoring. He’s got his body curled beneath the covers. His chest rises, falls with easy breaths. He’s not wheezing. Not coughing. Not hurting. His face is lineless, careless. He’s sleeping like a baby.
I’m still lying wide awake. I’m still listening to the howling, rushing ice and snow. I’m still waiting for my baby’s voice to pierce the night again because he would never hear it. There’s too much wind and howling. Too much shrieking, scratching crying. The panes and casings tremble in the gusts. How could he hear a child above the roar?
As sudden roar hurls the storm against the house. Everything creaks. The branches shriek and scream. A chill finds a crack and breaks inside. A shred of moonlight cuts the clouds and pierces the room. I stare–and while I stare the bed beside me moves. I roll over–the man is gone. The wind goes quiet. I hear a baby-wail for just a moment, and then that quiets too.
I originally wrote this story back in 2012, but I recently rediscovered it and was actually pretty happy with it– so here it is! Enjoy and let me know what you think!