Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tempus Fugit, Part IV

And then, sometimes, you walk — not run — around the city.

You leave your iPod at home and tune in to the sound of the wind beating across the water and banging American flags against metal poles; the whirl of cars sweeping by, one after the other all along Lake Shore Drive. The blare of horns from angry taxi cabs and the anxiety of small children hungry for dinner.

But the sun is low by this point, and by the time it's gone the people are, too. So it's just you, and the sounds, the waves and the no swimming sign. There's the pier, and small dunes, and electric light reflected from tall buildings.

And it hits you, standing there, absorbing and perceiving, that you haven't been fair —

Haven't been fair at all.

That it is not — despite your protests — the city that you so despise.

But rather your life in it.

***

Yesterday a co-worker and I went to REI, one of few stores at which I actually enjoy shopping. She and her husband have decided to take up snowshoeing and hiking and maybe even camping, and though I am by no means "seasoned" in any of these things, they are most certainly among my favorite past-times.

As we wandered around the store I realized I'm not quite the novice I once was. I gave her advice on supplies for all of the above. Looked at packs and explained which ones were for day hikes, which ones were for back country, etc. I explained hydration packs, and showed her which poles she'd need with her snowshoes. Told her the secret to zipping two sleeping bags together, and said (forgive me, REI) that for their purposes they could find cheaper tents elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong: I'm no expert on camping or hiking or snowshoeing or anything for that matter. But it felt strange, later, when I realized just how natural it was for me to talk about these things, how easy it was for me to offer tips to someone with less experience.

Like driving six miles from home in a busy part of the city last night, a feat that would've terrified me even just a year ago. But I did it all the same, arriving at my destination without a compass or a road map or even breaking a sweat.

Me: the same girl who once drove for hours trying to go to a friend's party just ten miles away. Me: the same girl who nearly won a Darwin Award for her hiking travails in the Blue Hills. Me: the same girl who nearly drove over a frozen Walden Pond in an attempt to find it.

That's not to say I don't still get lost — I do.

But in very different ways.

***

Today is Halloween. People are in costume, offices are decorated, and at 10 a.m. a group of kids will start circling around, opening their bags with silent pleas for candy (most kids these days can't be bothered to forge those three magic words).

TANGENT: Whenever I type the word "forge," I instinctively add a "t" to the end. Thank goodness for backspace.

I didn't decorate, though I thought about it. I didn't come in costume, though I have one at home. Everyone's excited, and the whole office is abuzz with chatter. There will be a party at lunch time, and contests, and photos and at one point the day will be over. Tomorrow will arrive, and with it the task of undoing the day before.

The ritual tearing down of the celebration. My least favorite part of every holiday, of every gathering.

The long wheeze of a balloon slowly deprived of its helium.

***

And then, yes, there will be lunch.

But you will sneak away minutes before with your shopping list of shaving cream, lotion and No Doz.

You will fill your tank with gasoline for the possibility of road trips, and empty your wallet for an uncertain gift.

And you will sneak back, quieting away to your desk in hopes that you can avoid the questions:

"Aren't you hungry?" they'll ask.

"Yes," you imagine your response. "Very much so."

And they will point you in the direction of food line, never understanding that that is not what you meant.

Not what you meant.

At all.

37 comments:

Unacademic Advisor said...

I'll second that emotion, more or less all of it.

disgruntled world citizen said...

wow! an almost picture of the thirdworst! lol

Supafly Turbo Cyborg said...

I'm sorry, but I have to ask this. After you took this picture, did you shout, "DY-NO-MITE!"?

ds said...

you're really at your best at your saddest.

ds

M@ said...

As a member, I'd have to say that REI gave me a hell of a deal on two kayaks and a mountain bicycle. I'm a jackass for buying the REI baseball hat, however.

Pamela said...

so why do you want to type forget? What do you want to forget?

curious... but respectful.

michele said...

I totally understand your pride at travelling through the city without getting lost. In the first couple of years in Boston, there were a couple of parties that I intended to go to but never did because I gave up after a few hours of driving around looking for them.

And I was incredibly proud the first time I drove somewhere without a map (I think it was year 3 by that time!) I'm glad you're now getting lost in different (and hopefully better) ways!

Winter said...

Well done. At life that is.

Franki said...

I have that lost problem too. I've been lost in a local park with my two children for 5 hours, with no food or water or diapers. I've taken the long way around the beltway more than once because I'm afraid to get off and I know it goes in a circle. I'm challenging myself and driving to NYC by myself.

That first part was beautiful.

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