It’s 12:17 a.m. and this day has gone so long it’s wrapping around into the next.
I have cobwebs on my blog or at least on my comments and if your blogs were my goldfish, you’d all be belly up in algae-riddled muck. I’m the blogging equivalent of the boyfriend who texts you at 2 a.m.
It’s 12:19 now and I should be doing a million other things.
Looking for a job, for instance. Not eating this quarter pounder on a plate, stage right. Boiling water for the sleepytime tea I’ve had every night. Answering comments or brushing my teeth or, maybe even sleeping before my 2.5-hour trip to Raleigh at 7 a.m.
Instead I’m typing very fast because this is important, for me at least.
The Universe tries to reach me through friends who want to drill-sargeant me into shape or through posts who tell tales of people who’ve trusted in the wind and left it all to fate or in Instagram followers who promise me a life on my own terms if I’ll only listen.
To Walmart we go
I’ve found, however, that the Universe’s best profundity happens not amongst the chaos of direct messages, but from the subtle nudges in the silence.
It can come on days when people just give up on you or you can’t stop itching your elbow long enough to finish a slew of harsh edits to your work. It can come on days that your children ask you to pick them up and take them to Walmart to get drinks and you do it.
And while you’re there you buy a shark head to wear for only $4.95 and that’s 75% off.
You wear this ridiculous headgear right out the doors of Walmart and you hear your kids snicker but not bemoan you, and you see them walking behind you with their cameras capturing it all. What kind of dad does this kind of shit?
This kind of dad, the same kind who has taken on a facial twitch on his right cheek not because of some dreaded nerve disorder but because the weight of his world has been crammed into a knapsack filled with cactus needles and scorpion tails and set on fire.
It only feels that way. Others forge a more challenging path, for sure. I’m just a writer on the outs, who is still writing at, dare I say, the best clip I’ve ever clipped. Challenge me. I’ll write your ass under the table and make you a quesadilla afterward.
I feel this as I wait in Interstate 85 traffic heading into Bessemer City for a football game at a place that normally doesn’t save me a seat but you know, the sky is a brilliant array of blues and grays and pinks and I have a full cup of Coke Zero, stage left.
Don’t mind if I do
It feels this way when I arrive in the press box to an open seat with rosters printed for me, and boxes and boxes of chicken wings and fish sandwiches and homemade cake lined up in the back of the room. Help yourself, jackass. Why thanks. I think I will.
It feels this way when there’s a great game to cover, a storied rivalry with surprising twists and a fetching band teacher with a swoony smile and did I mention the homemade pork rinds?
Let’s not get carried away. It was just a game I got $50 to write about. But I talked to a kid who wound up the hero, even though he was third string when the season started. And I spoke with star twins who asked me to make them sound smart in the paper.
Character is not about how you handle success, it’s about how you handle failure, the quarterback was telling me, all of a sudden disingenuously sullen and smirking.
The kid asks me to put that in the paper and you know what? I did, dammit. It does sound smart. At least to me. Because I should be brimming with character. Not solely because I’m brimming with failure, but I have it in me, too.
It’s in handling the impossible possibly.
It’s in stopping to listen to messages, not through other people, but through life. It’s hearing this kid’s mantra and loving the act behind it more than the words. It’s simply turning on the radio after you’ve written your story in a Bojangles parking lot.
And filed it at McDonald’s because the Wi-Fi petered out.
The songs …
Songs have spoken to me before in times of need. In the weeks leading to my dad’s death, something utterly profound happened over the radio waves on a sullen gray day on my way to Duke Hospital. It’s extended to now and even yesterday, it happened again.
I won’t tell that story here because it’s 12:46, and let’s be honest, I’m going to need that chamomile tea more than ever.
The songs, two, came on in succession and they were giftwrapped for me. The first, Elton John’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me. (I’ve chosen George Michael’s version here, because I’ve always secretly (and now not so secretly) wished to sing like him.)
I can’t light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I’m growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life
For three minutes AT LEAST I allowed myself to wallow.
I mean, I belted this fecker out. Without wavering. I imagined singing it at karaoke at work, a fitting goodbye. A perfectly shitty, pathetic, weak-ass fitting goodbye. But I needed it. I needed this song to get out of my system and move me on.
The second song came, and rocked my ass.
Then, a latch.
I rocked this one out, too. I felt every sentiment, even stronger than the troublesome wallows of Elton and George. I could hear the latch click locked the moment it came on. Thank you, Billy Joel, for Moving Out (Anthony’s Song). (Clearly, this is Eli’s song.)
I’m so NOT New York, but the sentiment reaches the stinky plains of Northeastern Colorado and the bustling piedmont of North Carolina. Both places I’ve lived, you see.
And it seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out.
Why yearn to write where your words are clearly not wanted?
I’m not ready to let go and let God, or toss it up in the wind and watch it rain down on me in newly configured pieces. But I’m on this train now and there’s no cord to pull. There is, though, this post, this moment, this assurance I’ll be back with you here again.
And there’s a kid who kicks ass in soccer playing in a big tournament in less than 12 hours and I have to drive her awesome ass all the way to Raleigh in a while.
It’s only 12:59. And I’ve got the kettle on, feckers.