Saturday, October 8th.
It’s 6:00pm on Saturday and I have not left my house except to bring two loads of garbage down to the trash room.
Summer is winding down and as the days get shorter a calm sets in. Fall always seems to catch me off guard. Last year I wrote “Fall fell.” and I feel that way again. Here it is.
I walked into the grocery store earlier this week and was confronted by a long row of navel oranges. Sure, there may have been oranges in the produce section all along but these were autumnal oranges. They were oranges that proclaimed their undeniable sweetness. They begged to be purchased and consumed.
I looked out across the street to the park where cherry trees bloom soft and pink in April. The wind was bending the spray of a central fountain and leaves were cart-wheeling across the walkways. The cherry trees looked desolate and arthritic, bare branches bending at angles that looked uncomfortable.
Today is bright and clear. The main room has been filled with sunlight that is more white than yellow. I left the sliding doors open and the fall breeze came in through the screens. Sitting on the top of their carpeted tree, the cats watched airplanes pass above us with indifference, squinting every so often in a manner that gave the illusion of a smug grin.
I’ve been reading and thinking.
As the weather gets cooler I will spend more and more time doing both of these things. Days like this make me want to retreat into myself. To lock and bolt the door of my life and hide. I go through this every year and I am starting to feel comfortable with the pattern. As if my life is one big study in Seasonally Based Manic Depression. Although I wouldn’t describe this as Despression the way we think of it now. But it is quiet and solemn – depressed as it compares to the mania of a summer of traveling and softball.
On Friday, for the first time ever, I abandoned a run. It was 6:30am when I set out and the chill of the morning air caught me off guard. I found myself dragging my legs like reluctant anchors. I could tell that it wasn’t going to go well. None of my usual internal pep talks did the trick. A switch flipped inside of me and I jogged a small tight half-circle that put me running in the direction that I’d just come.
I was turning around. I was quitting.
The warm air inside the gym was embarassing when it hit me. I was suddently comfortable. My legs were happy to stop turning over. They did not want to run. It was a good day to give them a rest. This decision was probably for the best.
Truth is? I was mortified.
And I took hold of myself and made my legs walk to a treadmill. And then I made them run. I made them run a mile and a half and then I knew that I would quit again. They would not loosen up. My hamstrings were tight. I was miserable.
I turned the treadmill off and in my misery I walked out the door of the gym again and picked up my rhythm where I’d left it. I headed out along the Embarcadero in the same direction that I had already tried to go once that morning.
But this time I did not turn around. I dragged myself past the pitchy wood of the piers and let salt air in through my nose. I trudged past Pier 23 and glanced in at the well-stocked bar. The front door was open and a roundish man in a long white apron was standing in the doorframe spraying down the sidewalk. He interrupted the spray as I went past.
I loped on and forced myself to make it at least to Pier 39 and, once there, tricked myself into continuing on to the Boudin Bakery so I could get a whiff of freshly baked sourdough rolls coming out of the oven. I cruised past Boudin with the smell of hot carbohydrates following me and by the time I’d reached Aquatic Park there were crews everywhere setting up tables and police barriers in anticipation of Fleet Week celebrations. The local news crew was reporting live as I touched the lampost that serves as my official turnaround marker.
I’d made it this far and now the 2.25 mile return trip was a matter of necessity and not an option.
So I kept lumbering and my legs never did wake up. It was one of the single worst runs that I can remember. It was slow and agonizing and crushing.
But when I finished the warmth of the gym was no longer embarassing. Comfort no longer mortified me.
I laid down on a mat and pulled on hamstrings that still refused to stretch.
Later in the coffeeshop I abandoned The Sound and The Fury in order to read the New Yorker. I did this with only the slightest stab of guilt.
The smokiness of my Americano reminded me of Maggie and Seattle and rain. I spent a moment wishing that this wasn’t Starbucks and that my office was not a half a block away, waiting for me to show up. I finished my article and packed up my things.
Today, at page 87, I abandoned The Sound and The Fury once and for all.
I see your brilliance, Faulkner. And your madness. But today, Count No Count, I decided that I can do without the full lesson.
I’m reading Cloud Atlas and the sun is setting. There is Cabernet and swordfish in my future.