642 Introduction : A Writing Prompt Challenge

This is a challenge that I posed to myself yesterday. I thought about it last night before bed, this morning on D-line, and this afternoon as I trudged home with groceries. I have officially accepted the challenge. And I even told someone- my fiancee- that I have begun this challenge, so in my mind, there’s no turning back. I don’t like to quit things that people know about. And I guess the fact that I’m here at all is a good sign- it’s been more than a year.

I don’t want to give excuses. If I did, they would be something like: I type and edit oral history transcripts for work and therefore don’t want to add any more words to the screen than I have to. I would also include: I help elementary school kids write, and instead of this leading to a spark, leaves me drained. Lastly, I would add that I have become less literary-minded and more information-hungry in the years since the smartphone became unnecessarily tethered to me day and night. None of these “excuses” amount to anything worth discussing further. I have no excuses.

Prolific-writing younger me would be appalled at the scarcity of words- creative fiction, poetry, essay- that I’ve put forth in the last ten years. I attended a writing class here in Seattle a couple months ago, and we were asked to explain our background with writing. It was painful to finally verbalize to a room full of strangers that I was there because I had lost my passion and was looking for an ignition switch. I was hoping the class would be that thing. Maybe it was. I’ve signed up for more. But I also bought this book recently, called 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto.

So. The challenge? Write about them. All 642. It’s an exercise in every sense of the word. What better place than The Whiteboard Sessions, a blog I started because I wasn’t writing enough- and then abandoned? I know not all of the prompts will be fun or interesting to me- too bad. I’ll turn it into something, even if it’s a list or a poem or a rant. Something to get the words out there, to flex a very underused muscle as of late. Some will be terrible, some won’t, and hoping- really- that one or more may lead to something else, like a short story or something more, something that I won’t even mention for now.

 

 

 

Scenes From A Distance

SHE.

She is reading Lolita on the train again, even though she doesn’t like the looks she gets. She gets a completely different type of look when she reads The Bell Jar. One look assumes she wants to be seduced, the other that she could be suicidal. She reads:

“Lost in an artist’s dream, I would stare at the honest brightness of the gasoline paraphernalia against the splendid green of oaks…”

The image forms perfectly in her mind and she thinks of it often, like a mantra, to keep herself from wandering down the spiral.

From above, I invite you to look down at the train she is on, seat 43C. From Milan to Nice, we pass the sparkling aqua of the Mediterranean. We catch quick glimpses of bathers on small sections of beaches- the dark and wet tops of their heads, the cherry-red of a one-piece suit. They glimmer, a soundless filmstrip in gaps between trees. She will never see these people again, but for a flash, their lives intersect. Or rather, she corrects herself, it’s a one-sided intersection. If there is such a thing. She thinks there is. They can’t see her. Sometimes they recognize that they hear the train; they look up. But mostly they don’t even acknowledge the vessel carrying her past them. In this way she is anonymous, and yet she sees them in the simple intimacy of walking from the surf to the shore. She curls her toes up in her sandals, imagining the feel of cold, thick sand as it sticks to their feet.

Then, the trees dart in front of her vision, like a theater curtain, and their sudden absence opens onto the next scene: a similar beach with different people. Watching this makes her feel melancholy in a way she doesn’t understand. She writes what looks like a non-sequitir in the margin of Lolita. If you peer over her shoulder from the vantage point of 44B, you can see it:  “Recognizing your own human insignificance makes one more fully alive. True or false?”

HE.

After work, he walks down Third Avenue. This day is not different. He has done this walk at roughly the same time of day exactly 532 times. He doesn’t know what we know- this exact number- but nevertheless, he knows the number is high. He has passed this woman, age 38, exactly 46 times in the exact same spot. He has never passed this Albanian tourist, and will never pass him again. He breathes in the Albanian’s cigarette smoke for four breaths. As he waits for traffic to pass, he finds himself standing next to another man who is wearing a black rain slicker although it’s sunny. This man is talking loudly on a cell phone. He overhears the man say this to the person on the other end:

“Your absence is like… a thread running through me. Everything I see…”

And then the light turns green and the man in the raincoat darts into the crosswalk, leaving our listener standing, wondering what the rest of that sentence was. He thinks he knows. He is unsure, though, if those were even the words this man was saying, or if those were simply the words he heard.

Her absence is palpable, and he finally recognizes this. As if handed a template to finish, he imagines the rest of the words the man was going to speak into the phone.

“Everything I see is a reminder of the absence and this reminder gives the absence a form, a shape. It is no longer negative space, but something with its own gravity. This thread: it runs through my mind, my veins to my heart, my hands, my entire human body and even my soul. Absence touches me, wraps its arms around me, holds me suspended in sleep, and is a pale veil over the smiling summer sun.”

He is walking again, and has lost the man in the raincoat, whom he will never see again. As I invite you, again, to look closely at our street scene, I know you can sense there has been a change.

SHE.

The train was running late, as the slow trains in Southern France often do, and she nearly missed her connection to Paris. But now it is late evening and she is turning on the lights in her small apartment, dropping her suitcase near the door. She pours a large glass of red wine before doing anything else, and then rifles through her records, finding the one she is looking for.  Nick Drake’s alienated voice echoes and reverberates. She sits down on a cushion on the floor, staring blankly out at streetlights, the glow they cast, and the dark spaces in between. She sips, and listens.

Nick Drake is singing a song called “One of These Things First.” She has been thinking about this song since seeing the bathers on the train earlier in the day.

I could have been your pillar, could have been your door
I could have stayed beside you, could have stayed for more.
Could have been your statue, could have been your friend,
A whole long lifetime could have been the end.

She thinks about the possibility that she has been a statue before, in another life, a statue that he passed by often. Upon seeing her, he would have wished for things when he ran his hands across it. She thinks about the remote chance she was his friend, and nothing more, in another life, and they lay side by side in sleeping bags and named constellations together. “Orion.” “The Little Dipper.” “Sasquatch.” They would laugh like children.

Here in Paris, many, many things- almost an infinite number of things- seem possible every day. But there is one thing she is not sure about, and that is if she will see him again.

In the morning, she lives inside this song as she walks through the beautiful decaying streets of Paris. The city is an elegy to itself, she thinks, proud and dying and living just like we all are. There is nowhere she has been in America that fills her with the ancient poignancy of Paris. Everything and everyone she passes are essential at that moment. It’s all crafted by an invisible hand with such overwhelming urgency of now. See, the boy with the balloon in one hand and the leash attached to a terrier in the other. See, the woman riding the bike, a baguette and flowers in her basket, her thick French braid swinging behind her. These are stereotypes come to life, caricatures and Parisian clichés that are real people with real dreams and real sorrows and they wear real underwear. They talk and shift their weight and give kisses on the corner and eat soup all here in front of her. She is an observer of instant history. As if she is a time-traveler who knows she must not disrupt events, she is not a participant here in Paris, but instead, a perfectly passive intruder. Even if she wanted to, she does not know how to wedge herself into daily events. As she walks the cracking sidewalks, she knows this delicious voyeurism is too great to give up. If she suddenly got a part in the play, she would lose that feeling.

HE.

If you were a bird, you’d be above him, but then suddenly he is thrust from the natural safety of earth, the only place where you are accustomed to seeing creatures like him. Yet now he is defying gravity while seated nonchalantly in an aisle seat as if this isn’t a miracle.

As a bird, your beady eyes gape at him, as he rises and is now even with your silky wings for a split second. But then he is gone, catapulted high, high above you, the nose of the glimmering silver bird aiming for Paris.

It’s 6:19 pm and the July sun is still clear and bright blue, and he knows now that he does not want to simply file that miraculous month with her into the meaningless void of other past encounters. This is why now, he finds himself on this trans-Atlantic flight.

That first, silver-streaked afternoon spent with her, the one that started this whole thing, is growing further and further away in the rearview mirror of his mind. At first, when she left, he made plans to move on, but how to go about it? How, when one gets everything they ever wanted dropped down on them, cutting a zigzag of happiness into the monotony of an average life? If her presence was designed to be temporary, he thinks, maybe it’s better to have never gotten it. Isn’t it more painful to know it and lose it, if pain is the flipside of pure joy? But certainly, he couldn’t go on as numb as he was. The world cracked open that day, and let him know that his life was still capable of such a monumental force.

SHE.

She is memorizing faces on the bridges that cross the Seine. She is watching ice cream drip from the bottom of a cone held by a tiny Chloe Claire. She can’t help but smile and Chloe Claire smiles back. She is touching the spines of the oldest books she has ever touched, in a dark underground bookstore that smells like primeval earth. She buys three books in French, and two in English, scattering her Euros across the counter to count them. The man behind the counter shakes his head and laughs, gesturing for her to put half of them away. For some reason, he has given her a discount. She eats bread and cheese at the Tuilieries and exchanges glances with a young Pierre. The grass is prickly on her bare feet. She writes in her notebook: “Is this participation?”

HE.

He rang the bell of the street name and number and flat number she had given him more than two months ago. No answer. A pigeon nearly walked across his foot. It was 3:30 in the afternoon under partly cloudy skies. He waited.

SHE.

For the first time, she hasn’t thought about him in five consecutive hours, and isn’t even conscious of that fact. Her Lolita visual mantra helps. We watch her on the Metro, lightning speed. When she gets to her stop, she climbs the stairs and enters the first flower shop she sees, buying six different varieties in the brightest colors she can find for no reason at all. As we watch her, we conclude that they must be a gift to herself, a you-are-alive gift.

When she turns the curved edge of her street, she sees him on her steps and immediately knows it’s him even though she is five buildings away. She is not surprised and doesn’t know why she’s not. She knew all along, she realizes now. She had been expecting him, although not exactly waiting.

HE.

He sees the flowers first and then her. Her skirt moves in the breeze.

THEY.

They are in her apartment. It is light and then dark. There are flowers on the table and in the doorway. They are drinking her red wine and listening to her records, then not listening to anything but their breathing. They stay up all night and in the morning they go the places where she went the day before. In the evening, they see a play and their hands are touching in the dark. She recognizes the little differences between the play and her life. The curtain rises and falls and rises like their breathing. He feels the thread of her absence, like a weight, being pumped out of his body.

SHE.

We watch her continue to be a voyeur. She goes to the parks, to the river, sometimes alone, sometimes not, and all of Paris is laid out for her. She still writes notes in her margins that no one else sees.

THEY.

When they travel on trains they see flashes of people caught in the middle of the own story they are living. When birds fly over them, they see two tiny dots connected by two hands. And then, like the birds, I invite you to pass through this cloud. Now you see them, now you don’t.

Meow III: The Guidance Counselor

The scene opens in a large, sun-drenched office filled with plants (several catnip), massive bookcases stacked with youth psychology texts, art books, and feline photography albums. In the corner of the room is a litter box with a pine-scented air freshener in the shape of a cat dangling from above. A large wicker basket filled with brightly-colored and tattered balls of yarn sits next to an antique mahogany desk, where Sophie is perched in a swivel chair, the tops of her ears just visible on the opposite side. The door opens. 

SOPHIE: Jason, I’ve been expecting you. Please sit down.

[Jason sits, slumped over and looking bored.]

SOPHIE: [Clears throat.] Now. I would like you to please explain why you think you were called in to speak to me today.

JASON: You know why I’m here.

SOPHIE: Yes, but I’d like to hear your side of it.

JASON: [Sighs] Mr. Benson didn’t like the way I filled out my form. He called me a bullheaded little bitchass punk. I called him an uptight filthy trollfucker.

SOPHIE: [Looks down, attempts to jot down something on her legal pad, but has difficulty maneuvering the pen and gives up.] Hmm, I don’t have those exact words in my notes. Your insult was a bit of a tongue-twister, wasn’t it? Kudos for that. But tell me, why did you fill out your standardized test the way you did? Mr. Benson tells me you didn’t even get past the demographic information.

JASON: That’s right. Why do they need all that shit? They don’t know me. Why do they think they can put me in a box? So, I checked all the boxes. Screw them. Male, Female, Pacific Islander, Black. It’s none of their goddamn business. If we go back far enough, we’re all of those things anyway. I’m so sick of everyone trying to tell me who to be.

SOPHIE: It says here you even checked “Zulu Warrior.” [Pause.] Okay Jason, let me tell you something. This world is going to wear you down. It’s going to reduce you to a few checked boxes for the rest of your life, so you had better get used to it. It’s not pretty, and it’s not right, but it’s the way the system works.

JASON: Fuck the system.

SOPHIE: I understand your frustration, but watch your language, please. [Pause.] Jason, look. I’ve been around longer than you. And rumor has it, I age five years for every one of yours. I could be wrong, but I believe that makes my wisdom grow exponentially each year. So you might want to listen: I don’t like to check boxes either. It makes me feel like I’m less than I am. It tells people virtually nothing about me. But when the right people get to know me, they see me for what I am. Let me ask you a question. What color am I?

JASON: White.

SOPHIE: Look harder, Jason. You can do better than that.

JASON: Brown. And black. And… your nose is pink.

SOPHIE: Exactly! Thank you! You know which box I have to check when I go to the vet? Domestic shorthair. It kills me every time. You know what I am, Jason? I am a Calico. A proud, noble Calico. These looks you see here, this color palette? It was caused many centuries ago by a very special genetic mutation. But you know what? It’s not recognized as a breed! Most people think it is, but it’s not! Can you believe it? So, when I check “domestic shorthair,” people might think I’m a common tabby, Jason. A tabby. It makes me feel terrible to know that people might make this assumption about me based on a box I have to check. But when people see me, and get to know me, they are pleasantly surprised to meet an intelligent, well-read, and dare I say, attractive Calico. So Jason, don’t worry about those boxes. Once people see the real you, it doesn’t matter that the powers-that-be deem you a teenaged Caucasian male. You are more than that, so much more. But you can’t check all the boxes. And you can’t insult Mr. Benson, as much as he might deserve it. Use your frustration to make art, or be an athlete. You can be anything you want. Okay?

JASON: Okay. You’re right. That helps.

SOPHIE: Wonderful. Oh, and one more thing. This always makes me feel great when I’m down. [Sophie rifles in her desk drawer, and with her teeth, removes a Ziploc bag filled with a green herb. She pushes it across the desk towards Jason.]

JASON: Uhh… are you seriously giving me a bag of weed?

SOPHIE: If by “weed,” you mean the highest quality, straight-from-Hawaii, medical-use-only, grade-A, primo catnip, then yes, I am giving you a bag of weed.

JASON: Oh. Okay. Thanks… I guess.

SOPHIE: Now if you could please go back to class? I just ate a can of Cod, Sole and Shrimp Feast, and I do believe it’s time for me to use the litter box.

The Triplets

“Winter is over,” said Cecile.

“Today is the last day of winter,” said Leo.

“It won’t snow anymore,” said Evie.

They are not exactly prophets, but they’ve been correct enough times that the world will listen. They are my children. Cecile takes off the scarf I had carefully tied around her small neck. Leo carefully removes his boots and begins to look for his sneakers. Evie is staring blankly at the white wall near the door. She is not taking off her jacket. She begins to run her hands slowly over the wall, an inspector looking for cracks. “This won’t hold,” she says solemnly. Then she takes off her jacket and follows her siblings out the door to catch the school bus.

Meow II

Sophie made her way out of the churning surf and staggered onto the beach, exhausted. She adjusted her revealing two-piece suit to make sure everything was still in place. She was horrified to realize her top was wedged around her waist, and she hiked it back in place. Embarrassed and shaky, Sophie guessed she had overestimated her ability to swim through to pounding waves, and was happy to have made it safely out of the water. She waved her gratitude at the little girl who had rescued her and who was now watching her anxiously. Sophie tried to give her the thumbs-up sign to assure her she was okay, but had considerable difficulty with this maneuver, so she waved again instead and collapsed onto her beach towel. She peered into her tote bag, looking for a snack, and pulled out a pouch of Albacore tuna she had packed earlier in the day. She usually tried to be aware of looking dainty while eating in public, but today she was too hungry to care, and devoured the contents in a matter of seconds. She looked around, licking her lips, hoping no one saw her behave so indelicately. She noticed one attractive male looking at her and smiling. As Sophie met his gaze, he turned away shyly.

Hoping some intelligent reading material might cause this potential suitor to find Sophie irresistible, she rifled back through her tote bag. The latest copy of Cat Fancy. No. Fifty Shades of Grey. Too overt. There at the bottom was Essential Chomsky. Perfect. If he was the modern, literate, politically aware man she hoped he was, this should bring him over to say hello… and more.

In her tote, Sophie also noticed an unused tube of sunscreen, SPF 30. She hesitated, then realized applying the lotion might be more trouble than it was worth, mostly because she was a cat, and thus covered in fur. She might appear seductive as she liberally slathered herself in the white, slippery cream, but the thought of her tongue having to clean it all up during her next bath was rather stomach-churning. So, she simply adjusted her Dior sunglasses and began to read her book.

Men were so predictable. In less than two minutes, the handsome stranger who had been watching her now cast a shadow over her feline frame. “Excuse me? Miss?” Sophie slid her sunglasses down her nose and looked up. “I just wanted to say Noam Chomsky is one of my favorite thinkers of the modern age. Perhaps you’d like to enjoy a wine spritzer or a shandy with me on my towel? When you’ve finished your current chapter, of course.” Sophie glanced down at her book, then back up at her new friend, and discarded her book on her beach towel. There was always time for more reading, but love was fleeting and unpredictable. He held out his hand to help her up, and she placed her tiny paw in his palm. “I’m Sam,” he said. “You are…?” And Sophie said, “Meow.”

Meow.

Sophie arrived at the busy Parisian sidewalk cafe, adjusting her sunglasses and pretending not to notice the men, old and young, staring at her figure. “What will it be?” asked the young waiter. Sophie pointed on the menu to her favorite croissant and then to glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Actually, better make it a bottle.

As soon as the waiter disappeared, Sophie became a little anxious. She had no thumbs, and no money, because she was a cat. She hoped she would be able to pay for her order on her looks alone. She was right. When the waiter re-appeared, holding the wine and croissant (extra buttery), there was no check. “Madam, I don’t usually do this, but your order is on me. You are a very attractive Calico. Truly, you have the most fascinating markings, ample character in the face, and your coat is luxurious.” He paused. “If you are unattached, would you do me the honor of writing down your phone number?” He slid a pen and paper across the table. Sophie gestured to her paws, looked down demurely, and blushed. “Meow,” she said.

Note: This story was co-written with my boyfriend Peter, and was fully inspired by our actual cat Sophie, whose name was not changed at her request.

The Waiting

These days, Jonathan and I are living in an in-between space. The life of Before is nestled on one side, and the After is up ahead, looming and out of focus. This current life is the kind of life I have never had, because even when the trajectory wasn’t straight (is it ever?), I was moving forward, and things were getting done. These days we wait and we aren’t really living. We don’t know when we can start again. These are the days when I don’t know if the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty, and I probably guess wrong sometimes, and drink water out of his white wine glass, or else I run the cycle again when they were washed yesterday.

Little things, but I used to not get so mixed up.

These are the kinds of days when I wake up from dreams that are not my dreams; they must belong to someone else, because they are too vivid and they are not representative of anything in my life. “They’re about your emotions,” Jonathan says. “They don’t have to resemble life.” But I want them to, because nothing should be so foreign and disorienting, especially when all I want to do is sleep. Each night, after these days, I settle in for fitful anxious sleep, knowing my dreams will be populated with people in scenarios that are utterly foreign and always disturbing. Just two nights ago, as I slumbered, I was walking through an old white farmhouse with many adjoining rooms, and I thought I was at a party, but I slowly began to realize there was not one single person I knew, and this was no party. The people- the strangers- started dying in front of me, from what I knew must be murders, and others were choking on vomit. This vomit, suddenly, it was everywhere, even in me. I needed a bathroom and suddenly found myself in one, the way it happens in dreams. I am expelling all of me into the toilet from my mouth. It won’t stop. It’s not really vomit, but it’s clumps of sadness and dark matter and it just will not stop. When I wake up, I am surprised that I am not nauseated.

The next night, last night, I had a dream that doesn’t sound nearly as frightening, but somehow it was worse because it had a friendly exterior but all I felt was dread. In this dream, I was in my uncle’s house, but of course it wasn’t really his house. I had been asked to babysit his children, who are both grown in real life, and in fact one is older than I am. But I obliged, and we settled in to watch a movie. I kept looking at the clock and noticed that it was after 11:00 pm. But there was bright, glorious, sunlight outside, the trees were so green, the sidewalks were a bright grey, if there is such a thing, and the sky looked like the blue of Cezanne. Light streamed through windows, illuminating dust streams in the air and everyone’s faces so that they glowed. “It is so light out for 11:00!” I exclaimed, but no one else found this fact remarkable. We began the movie, and it was about me. It was a movie based on a book that a friend of my family wrote about me. I didn’t know he wrote this book, and I felt shocked and confused, not only that it was about me, but that this man could be a novel-length writer. In his book, he made the claim that we grew up together, which wasn’t true at all. He said as a child I spoke slowly, but then in sudden bursts of excitement, especially about animals. This did not ring true either, and I resented that this book had been published and apparently turned into a movie. I turned to the couch, and a young, dark-haired girl was now sitting next to me. I had not seen her before. She spoke to me in Spanish about the movie, excitedly. I could understand everything she said. Well, almost everything. I asked her to repeat something, and it was definitely something about her wanting to record the movie for her personal use so that she can watch it over and over. And I think, “But this isn’t even my life.” And also, “I don’t speak Spanish.”

It didn’t used to be like this. My dreams didn’t always make me dread waking up. Jonathan and I, we used to be two beams of light, and they crossed one day in the rain, and we got it right, time and place and us, just like that. Things were never easy for me, so why should this be, this fragile thing that people kill and die for? I know that many people never really find love; the intangibles just don’t add up for them. And yet, for us, it did. That is the proof that I used to live my life the way I was supposed to. Back then, I wasn’t waiting. Things were happening and unfolding as they should, and the universe was kind to me. It recognized me as one of its own.

Now, though, we’re living in chaotic times, and I guess, now that I think about it, these days do sort of resemble my dreams in that they are ruled by no rules. Expectations are meaningless.

The waiting, it’s not even the kind that looks like it might be sort of fun if I were another kind of person entirely. The kind of person for whom waiting involves underground food rations, and collecting guns and very sharp knives meant for throwing. Those people are maybe crazy, but they are preparing. We cannot really prepare, not in the way we’d like.

These are the days that suck up all of the wasted hours and minutes, and also all of the other units of time that have no name, the units that are only sensed by those who have are waiting. These days are greedy, hoarding all the time that exists within them, and then there is no time left for us to use in ways that we want. These days might appear to be languid, filled with cat-like time, but they are not really, because these days are not ours. Instead, we are putting our hopes into the future, when the days will be filled with people and places and situations meant for us, and we will not question whether this is really our life, because we will know. It will be obvious.

Jonathan says, during this time, I should try to think of things that make me happy. So, one thing that I spend my energy on is a very large, very blue and green map of the world that we adhered to the wall. There are two different colored pins on the map, black for places we have been, and silver for places that we would like to visit. Sometimes I move the silver pins around to see if Jonathan notices. He does not. I am not sure if I really want to visit Botswana. I might. But I took the silver pin from Tokyo, a place that I thought I always did want to visit, and pinned it instead to that African country. Maybe I will pin it back, but for now, I like thinking about possibilities. He sees that having this map makes me happy, and I tell him it’s not just having these possibilities, but instead, having a plan to make them Reality, that would actually make me happy.

Sometimes I try things from Before, just to test them out. I fold and stretch my body into unusual positions. This is similar to what some call “yoga,” but I can’t call it that, because I make up the positions. I call them “cactus flower” and “lily pad” and “radial saw.” I hold them for a long time, a time that seems impossibly long, but yet all that time does pass. I take this as a good sign, that I can will my body to do strange things. I still have control.

There is something else I do while I’m waiting. I take walks. There is a lake nearby, sort of a famous lake. It connects to a river that is even more famous, and then this river supposedly empties into an ocean that is quite far from here. The ocean, of course, is the most famous of all. The maps I’ve seen tell me that this lake, that is within walking distance to our home, really is connected to the ocean, but I have not experienced this firsthand. Someday I would like to take a trip in a boat that would confirm this once and for all. I can imagine how amazing it will be to arrive at the mouth of the ocean after having gotten in the boat earlier at the nearby lake. I imagine this trip would take several days, maybe even more than a week. I can then assure myself that I have witnessed fact, having experienced the passage myself. It’s not that I doubt the cartographers and satellite pictures. I’m sure the map-makers are good at their jobs, and I am also quite sure that the images from space represent reality. But still, I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to be a witness.

For now, though, since I’m only waiting, what I do is walk around the lake. There are always other people out at the lake, but I don’t usually talk to them or even make eye contact, because this isn’t really my life right now. I don’t need these people. But still, I watch them. They are people who are not waiting. They are going to work, or on their way home from some important place, or they are playing with their kids, or their dog, or they are eating picnic lunches, or flying kites. There are a lot of establishments near this lake that serve food and drinks. Sometimes people drink a lot of alcohol and then they come to the lake. People always seem to want to be near bodies of water when they are drinking.

I don’t know if the lake is dirty or just naturally murky, but you can’t see to the bottom. The thing about this lake that a lot of people don’t know is that it’s very shallow. There are little curbs next around the edges; you can’t just walk right in, like at a beach. Since you can’t see the bottom, it looks like it is very deep, even right at the curb. Sometimes when people drink too much, they fall off the protective curbs and into the lake, and think they are drowning. They flap their arms and legs wildly, they don’t know which end is up, and they scream, “Help me, I’m drowning!” And their friend will say, “Stand up!” And then they pause. And they stand up. They weren’t really drowning at all because the lake is only four feet deep.

Today, I make my usual lap of the lake and sit down after I feel like I have walked about a mile. My head is hazy and I wonder if I might be dreaming. The weather is very, very nice, a little too nice. It reminds me of being under the perfect number of blankets so that your body temperature is ideal and there is not a thing you would change. And the air, it is so unbelievably fresh today. It tastes clean in my mouth, like cold filtered water. But instead of being comforted by the temperature and air quality, the perfection of it all makes me question reality. So, I need to sit down. As I do, I peer into the water. Something is different today. The lake is clear. I can see down, all the way down, and at the bottom of the lake is a pair of crutches. I cannot imagine a scenario that would involve a pair of crutches being at the bottom of the lake. I can’t tell if it seems sinister or happy. Finally, I decide on happy. I imagine someone who has been crippled for a very long time, suddenly throwing the crutches into the water and realizing they were never crippled. And they walk home, they run home, they ride a bike home, and then they make love for hours.

So, I go home, too, mostly because I have nowhere else to go. Shortly after I arrive, the weather changes, and it rains for a long time. I fall asleep entwined with Jonathan on the couch, a dreamless sleep. When it is twilight the rain stops and I wake up. I open the back door, and I look up, and I see a purple-tinted night sky, but beneath it all is oh-so lusciously green! The green! It is astonishing. I never thought I could see the world so green. The grass is almost as tall as the sky and trees dripping with moisture; branches dark and drenched with green leaves, so lush against gray buildings and brick. And the flowers! It is early summer now, I guess, and the spring flowers are gone and the flowering trees are gone, but what we have now is primeval, it creeps and crawls across rocks and up buildings. There are pale gray-blues and the most delicate purples intertwined with the endless green. These flowers, or their ancestors, have been here for centuries, for millennia, they care not about progress and gentrification and academia and government and people in love or out of love or scarred by whatever they thought love was. They just grow around it, into it all, pushing forth, creating an atmosphere to which they remain indifferent, and I love them for their indifference. How I would love to be indifferent sometimes. It might make all this waiting more bearable.

I don’t know how long I have been standing here, but I note the time, and it is 11:00 pm, just like in my dream last night. But it is dark the way it is supposed to be. I pinch myself and register the feeling; I think I am awake.