Failing to focus on a writ of summons due Monday I sit at my desk and watch you sleep.
Splay of dark hair against white pillowcase.
Smooth naked skin; nape of neck, curvature of calf.
Soft sigh as you wake and open your eyes.
“Let’s go running.”
“I really need to finish this.”
“Let’s go running.”
“Let’s go running.”
On the meadow, green is turning yellow and red, crumbling into orange, falling from the scattered trees.
Flakes of decay, I notice.
Kaleidoscope carpet, you say and I fall.
Let’s walk, she said stepping underneath my umbrella.
No handshake or hug. No smile.
A twinge of regret entered my mind.
Then we started down the rain-covered cobblestones.
Subtle composition of ambergris and labdanum in the air. And silence.
As we reached City Hall Square, I thought of ways to escape.
She stepped in front of me.
Do you like theater? She said.
Very much, I said.
I have tickets for Caligula at the Royal Theater, she said.
Camus on a first date? I said.
With you? Absolutely, she said, leaned forward and kissed me lightly on the lips.
After lunch, I walk behind her on the way back to her office.
Don’t stare, I tell myself.
Then go right on staring.
Bubble butt in low-waist slacks.
Long dark hair brushing softly against white silk blouse.
Way out of your league, says my brain.
Ah, but shouldn’t a man’s reach exceed his grasp? I retort.
Laughter echoes through my skull.
We enter her office and return our attention to the legal puzzle on her desk.
Blue sky, indistinct green marshland, no straight lines.
Smudge of salad dressing on my tie.
”Haven’t heard from you in ages, how are you?”
Finished my thesis coupla weeks ago, went out with friends on a Saturday night to celebrate, returned home Monday, reeking of beer, sweat and pizza based vomit. Showered, slept, then spent a few days watching the early stages of this years installment of the Tour de France, drank more beers, took more showers, smoked a little pot, did a lot more sleeping – no vomiting.
Tried working on my novel, but every time I opened the document my mind went fucking blank.
Also, I quit my job.
“Fine, mom. I’m fine.”
Running along the beach, we look on in reverent silence as earth’s rotation gradually unfold the ever-beautiful illusion of the sun rising in the East.
Innumerable photons speed through the cool air, bounce off your body and expose the wayward strands of dark hair brushing over your forehead, the beads of sweat trickling down your temples, the wonderfully monotonous rise and fall of your chest.
Past the floating bridge, the lifeguard station, and the boarded up ice-cream stand, you grab my arm and slow your pace.
Standing still, you tell me to strip, then start toward the water.
I first see her hurrying toward the elevator. She calls out, and I hold back the doors. Thanking me, she steps inside and starts flipping through a stack of legal briefs. As the ascent begins a series of muffled ‘fucks’ escape her.
‘That idiot…,’ she sneers, then looks straight at me. ‘Are you a contract killer by any chance?’
Her short cut hair is ink black, her eyes brown, almond shaped and on fire.
‘Oh, never mind.’
This morning, as we wake up in her bedroom, a blackbird is singing on the roof ridge of her neighbor’s house.
His store is vortex of scents and flavors, a virtual explosion of citrus and cumin, coriander, and cloves, a culinary treasure chest, and as the automatic doors swoosh shut, the grey bearded Persian lowers his paper, gets up from his chair behind the counter, smiles.
“Ah! Mister Thomas,” he says, head slightly tilted. “What can I do for you today?”
“A pound of chickpeas, garlic, tahini, a small habanero and a few lemons, please.”
“Showing off to a girlfriend?”
“Just felt like cooking something,” I say.
“Sure,” he says, sotto voce, one eyebrow askew. Old and wise.
Untied running shoes in the corner by the door.
Uneven stack of mostly empty pizza boxes on the kitchen table.
Sprigs of thyme hung up to dry.
Ghostly white shirts on wire hangers in the doorway, coat flung over the back of a chair.
Dust dancing in a beam of sunlight that cuts through the clouds and flashes through my bedroom window.
On the floor by the side of my bed: Ræson, The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, Runners World, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Hunt for Red October, Crime and Punishment.
A Brief History of Time.
So, I think this is the time I'll actually make it, the arduous climb up the icy walls of The Mountain of a Hundred Words.
Been close; ninety-seven, ninety-eight, got even as far as ninety-nine, but that last fucking word wouldn’t come – just sat there in my synapses, jam locked like an ass-out-first baby stuck in the birth canal of its poor mother.
Is that too graphic?
Maybe so, but I’m trying to convey the frustration of countless hours of non-successful writing.
This time though, I’ve strapped on my crampons: so let’s go!
Wake up with legs heavy from yesterday’s long distance running and resolve to return to bed after breakfast. Plug in headphones and doze off while Dough Stanhope euthanizes his mother and maxes out the dead woman’s credit card.
A short intermezzo around noon; shower and shave while waiting for pizza to be delivered.
Return to bed after eating, browse through audiobook library, find Eco’s ‘The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana’ and dive into a mist of lucid dreams as Yambo wakes up from his first stroke.
Hours later, a text message.
A: Sorry, no – date with Umberto.
Went running today, naked (i.e. gadget free, not undressed), relying solely on feedback from my body and my preexisting knowledge about my route to determine distance and pace.
I’m not competitive by nature and I don’t really care about staying in shape; leanness is incidental; it's not a goal.
So why run?
Because it suits my mind.
It allows me to not think and thus to capture ideas and thoughts that would otherwise elude me.
As the sun set, a passage by Auster entered my mind:
To live here is to become a connoisseur of clouds, a meteorologist of whims.
It’s an unopened bottle of still water on my work desk, in case you wonder what I’m looking at.
The bottle constitutes a dilemma.
On the one side, there is the fact that cold, tasty and perfectly clean groundwater is available from every faucet in the building.
On the other side, politicians and financial experts insist that I buy more stuff in order for the economy to regain its former strength and stability.
I want to do my part, really!
But, how to balance the comfort and wellbeing of present generations against that of the unborn?
Went to the kitchen, picked up an apple, sat on the kitchen counter, and looked out the window.
At the nursing home across the street, lights were on in the gym. A hunchbacked old man stood between the parallel bars. At first, he seemed frozen in space, un object immobile, a pillar paralyzed by infinite inertia.
Then a tightening of his hands and a tremble traveling up his arms and shoulders morphed into a slight bending of an unsure leg, the lifting of a slipper clad foot and finally: a completed step.
The old man tilted up his head, grinning.
Went out for beers last night – many beers.
Consequently, my early morning writing session didn’t yield a single useful sentence, and my afternoon 10K was brutally interrupted by the sudden resurfacing of the tuna sandwich I ate for lunch.
I finished the run and on the ‘back five’ kept thinking of Haruki Murakami, who once said, that most of what he knew about writing, he’d learned from running every day.
Although I think Murakami is overrated as a writer, I do share his thoughts about the running/writing connection.
Finishing a 10K with hangovers is possible – so is writing!
A tickling in the back of my head ends hours of unbroken concentration.
Running my fingers through my hair stops the feeling momentarily, but as I pick up my writing the sensation returns.
I turn in my seat, but all I see are the names on the volumes in the racks behind me: Kant, Rousseau, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein and countless other mental giants, people who shaped my thinking long before I was even born.
I stand and browse the faded titles: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Du Contract Social.
I look back at the text on my laptop.
”You got glasses!”
”Yea, just for reading though.”
”Make you look smart.”
“And before I looked…?”
“No, no…, you always looked…, I mean…”
“Just messing with you.”
“Oh, you’re evil.”
“And smart …”
“Smart looking, is what I said – any progress on your thesis?”
“It’s going ok.”
“That well, huh?”
“Well, when doing dishes becomes your displacement activity of choice…”
“What’s your subject?”
“Never heard of it.”
“It’s employment with high levels of uncertainty, fixed term contracts, poor social protection, stuff like that. Precarious work is just a term to confuse non-jurists.”
Onboard the train, I adjust my headphones, browse the meditation playlist and pick an album.
As a sensual female alto flows into my mind, I close my eyes, focus on my breathing and feel my body sinking into the seat.
Every repetition carries me further away from the dimmed voices across the aisle, everyday life, dirty laundry, empty cupboards, legal arguments, terrorist attacks.
I first explore intricate Sardinian limestone caves, soar above snow-covered mountain peaks, and stroll down Parisian avenues.
Then I kiss Jacqueline.
Hold her for a while.
Where’s the harm in that?
The chilling metallic shrieks from the train’s breaks cut through the diesel heavy air and dissolve into the ocean of sound created by people passing in and out of automatic doors, crying snot nosed toddlers harnessed in neon colored strollers and the occasional bark of leashed dogs eager to get the hell out of this acoustic inferno, their wet round eyes screaming for any measure of mercy that might be bestowed upon their canine souls, while their equally tormented owners fumble their way through itineraries and cell phone apps, some apparently successful, most shrugging the shrugs of the technology defeated.
“Is this seat taken?”
Male turns, sees short blonde female. Faded jeans, scuffed up sneakers, long cardigan. Pleasant smile.
“No,” male answers. “It isn’t.”
“Can I buy you a beer?” female asks.
Male nods and watches in silence as female orders.
Pointing to the paperback on the counter top in front of him female asks male what he’s reading.
“Ah…, and whom do you side with? Him or Nietzsche?” female says.
“I don’t analyze; I just read.”
“Maybe,” male says lifting his beer.
“Well, I’m with Kundera,” female says with a smile. “Let’s go to my place.”
The stylist runs her fingers through my crew cut hair and adjusts my tie.
“It’s nice,” she says.
“It’s dark blue and boring.”
“No, it’s a perfect contrast to your grey suit and white shirt.”
“You’re a lawyer?” she asks.
“But you’ll become a lawyer?”
“I don’t like ties.”
She slaps my arm, tilts her head back and laughs. “You’re funny.”
It’s a nice laugh and her questions aren’t fueled by ignorance; they are true wonderings of someone who’s found her place, who gets up in the morning and loves life.
I envy her.