5:50 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze.
6:00 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze again.
6:30 am: Backup alarm goes off. Wonder what you did wrong that the ten-minute snooze didn’t work. Make mental note to pay more attention to which way you swipe the button on your phone, maybe you’re turning it off by mistake. Make mental note to delete alarm and set it up again, maybe it glitched somehow. Mentally bet yourself that you’ll immediately forget both mental notes. Resolve to yourself to get up at the first alarm tomorrow, you have to, your hair is getting greasy and you really need a shower.
6:35 am: Jesus, your hair’s even greasier than you thought. Consider the merits of wearing a hat. Consider that it’s going to be warm today and the only hats you have are hand-knit beanies. Remind yourself that it’s possible to take showers in the evenings, too, dipshit.
6:36 am: Wash your hair in the sink.
6:40 am: Finish brushing teeth and stare emptily into the mirror for a second, trying to remember what comes next. Notice you forgot to put in your earrings. Recall for the billionth time how your friend said that gauging your ears would make the earring-holes look like cats’ buttholes. Agree for the billionth time that she was right, your earlobes do look like cats’ buttholes. Make mental note to put in earrings. Maybe match them with your shirt or something.
6:41 am: Push the actual cat off the bathroom counter for the billionth time, that’s not where you belong silly kitty and you know it.
6:42: Fucking A those claws are sharp.
6:45 am: Stand in front of an open drawer in jeans and a bra, holding a still-folded pair of socks. Debate merits of various tee shirts. Realize tee shirts don’t have merits, they’re fucking tee shirts. Grab the one off the top.
6:45 and a half am: Fuck, that’s what you wore yesterday. Grab the second one. Pull the cat out of the drawer, jesus christ cat what if you get stuck behind the drawer somehow, that’s no place for kitties, you could die or something
6:45 and three quarters: Close the drawer. Open the drawer. Grab the folded socks out of the drawer, you’d forget your damn head if it wasn’t attached.
6:49 am: Finish tying your shoes as quickly as possible. You have to leave in one minute exactly or you’re going to miss the bus for sure.
6:50 am: Realize as you’re locking the front door that one shoe is tied noticeably tighter than the other. Too late now. Fuck it. You’ll fix it when you get to work.
6:52 am: Put in headphones and start audiobook. Realize you never put in earrings. Restart the chapter because your inner monologue about cats’ buttholes distracted you from the story and it’s a good part.
6:58 am: Arrive at bus stop. Smile awkwardly at the lady you lent a cigarette to and made small talk with that one time. Feel guilty that you don’t really want to talk again. She’s got her headphones in too though, it’s probably fine. Maybe.
7:01 am: Check OneBusAway. Scheduled arrival for the express bus, 7:01 am. Expected arrival in three minutes.
7:04 am: Check OneBusAway. Expected arrival in two minutes. Ponder the possibility that people on buses do not experience linear time.
7:10: Get on bus. Try to smile politely, cheerfully at the driver while also tapping your pass on the waist-high reader. Fail at both. Now you’re holding up the line, good job.
7:10 and a half: Try not to step on anyone while walking to the back of the bus. Try not to sit on someone’s coat as you squeeze into the middle seat. Fail at both. Good job.
7:10 and three quarters: Find the one small angle where you can look out the window, without looking too close to someone else’s line of sight where they might think you’re staring at them, but also without cricking your neck for the whole ride.
7:30: Give up and stare at the floor.
7:32: Give up on that and just close your eyes.
7:40: Disembark bus. Adjust shoulder bag to account for the crick in your neck. Walk another several blocks to work. Briskly. You’re late.
7:46: Hold the elevator door for someone just a little too far down the hall.
7:46: Come on buddy, the least you could do is hustle just a little bit.
7:46 and a half: Oh, he’s not going up. Let doors close. Press button futilely a few times, mildly panicking alone in the elevator, until you remember you have to scan your access card because it’s the morning, dipshit.
7:46 and three quarters: Wonder at what time the elevator lets people ride it without having to scan an access card.
7:47: Probably 8.
7:48: Open office door. The lights are off. You’re the first one here. Again.
7:49: Almost 20 minutes late. Fuck it. Make coffee anyway.
7:55: How many different ways are there for an automatic espresso machine to avoid doing its job?
7:56: At least one more. Wonder if baking soda removes coffee stains, or was it just grease stains?
7:57: Use up the last of the creamer. Make mental note to buy more. Remember mental note to delete and re-set alarm. Make mental note to remember that mental note later.
8:00: Do the thing.
9:15: Do the other thing.
9:20: Ugh, almost forgot that thing. Do that.
10:00: Go outside for a smoke. Try not to make eye contact. Someone asks for a smoke anyway. Tell them it’s your last one. It’s always your last one. Hope they’re not still hanging around this block at lunchtime.
12:05: Oh good, they’re gone. Smoke. Buy lunch. Bring it back to your desk because you don’t want to sit somewhere and eat alone in a sea of suits talking about their business-related business.
12:05: Oh good, the suits in the office are talking business-related business. Glance significantly at the empty conference rooms as they part just enough for you to get to your desk. Try not to murder the suit who’s leaning on your cubicle wall.
12:06: Where did you get lunch? Lucky Noodle. It is neither lucky, nor is it noodle. Inwardly kick yourself for the horrible dad joke. Kick yourself because that it’s not the first time you’ve told that joke. Stay so busy kicking yourself that you don’t even care that no one laughs. They’re right not to.
12:35: Wonder, not for the last time, if bamboo chopsticks are compostable, recyclable, or none of the above.
12:36: Compost? We’re going with compost. That can’t be the worst thing that goes into a city compost bin today.
12:37: Pretend to work while you finish reading that article you started over lunch.
12:50: Fuck, that was a longer article than you thought. Decide to skip your last break to make up for it.
3:00: Remember you forgot to get creamer when you were out for lunch. Make a mental note to get it on the way in tomorrow. Remember your mental note about the alarm thing.
3:45: Leave 15 minutes early, because you skipped your last break.
4:15: Wonder how it is that the bus home is so much longer than the bus in. Wonder if it’s actually a longer ride, or just feels that way because it’s at the end of the day. Wonder if time maybe actually is non-linear and timekeeping is just a man-made construct.
4:16: Oh that’s right, the bus is super late in the evenings because fucking everyone in the goddamn world rides it.
4:19: No please, don’t worry about taking up space sir, your elbow between my ribs is quite refreshing and will certainly keep me awake and standing for the remainder of the trip.
4:36: Try to politely, cheerfully wave goodbye to the driver while also gauging the distance between your foot and the curb without really looking. Fail at both.
4:37: Don’t light your cigarette until you’re past the park. People will think you’re deliberately poisoning their children.
4:39: You’re definitely the trashiest person in this neighborhood. At least since the truck with the Trump bumper sticker stopped coming around. Not that you’re actually trashy, you’ve just never seen anyone else in this neighborhood with a cigarette in their mouth. Or anyone under the age of 60, for that matter. Or anyone who looks like they might not own the house with the view of the water that is every house in this neighborhood.
4:40: Oh look, the million-dollar house is up for sale.
4:41 So are two others on this block.
4:42: Maybe it’s me. Trashing up the neighborhood. Scaring the neighbors out.
4:45: Unlock the door. Immediately discourage kittens from scratching at the rug. Encourage them toward the cardboard scratcher literally six inches away. Wonder if catnip really does anything.
5:00: You have the house to yourself for the next couple of hours, you can do anything you want.
5:05: Anything at all. Just… pick a thing.
5:07: Eh, it’ll come to you.
6:45: Only realize you’ve been hate-reading Facebook for two hours when you hear the key in the lock. Greet partner. Suddenly remember that you wanted to knit and write and read that comic and listen to that audiobook some more, you’re at a really good part, and you were kinda planning to surprise him by having dinner ready when he got home. Dammit.
7:00: Watch TV while eating pizza.
10:00: Consider going to bed early.
10:05: Consider staying up late because who cares.
10:15: Fall asleep watching a movie. Apologize to partner. Get up to brush your teeth and get ready for bed.
10:25: What is so sleep-inducing about the couch that is simply not true about the bed?
10:29: Does toothpaste have caffeine in it?
12:30: Try to pretend you’re not still awake when partner comes to bed.
5:50 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze.
6:00 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze again.
6:30 am: Backup alarm goes off.
There are weird things going on with my heart lately. In the metaphysical place-where-I-feel-feelings sense, not the literal muscle. My physical heart, as far as I know, is doing just fine.
But I’ve got this weird ache. It feels a little like loneliness, but a little like freedom too. I am untethering my life; casting off the lines and floating up into the sky. It’s terrifying. Exhilarating. And lonely. But not necessarily bad lonely – just solitary. I keep trying to tell myself that I need solitude. Time to stand on my own two feet. Chart my own course.
At the end of the day, when everyone who inhabits the spaces of my life goes home to their own dreams and desires, I am left to face myself in the gathering darkness and ask: what do you want? The question is enormous. I was never taught how to make decisions for myself. There was always someone else to consider, someone to defer to.
What do I want? How do I get there? If I acted thinking only of myself, where would I be and what would my life look like? What dreams would I dream for myself?
It’s not like there’s nothing I want from this life. I’ve just lately been realizing that I’ve put my career and professional dreams on the back burner for over a decade while I searched for that fairy-tale romance the movies promised us. Like somehow finding a husband would land me a role in that movie somewhere, or get me a job correcting the spelling and grammar in novels by newly-discovered authors. Funny enough, though, the harder I searched for that perfect relationship the more I sacrificed of myself in order to find it and keep it. Being alone was worse than being mediocre and meaningless and unfulfilled. Somehow.
Don’t think that I look back on the years I spent married as wasted. I learned a lot about myself, about how I function in a serious relationship, and about my limits. I learned how to speak up for what I want and need. I learned how to even figure out what I want and need. I still have a wonderful friend in the man I married, and I am finally at a point in my life where the life I’m living seems authentic and my own.
Sometimes I think it is easier to pair up. It is so much easier to give someone else what they want than to forge your own path and follow your own bliss. Especially if you’re doing it alone. That aloneness can really get to you. It can convince you that you’ll never get what you want. It’s scary to forge your own path without a partner there to share the load. It’s hard to walk your own path, knowing there’s no one there to guide or encourage you. It can be tempting to settle into the path of least resistance instead – to find the spouse, have the kids, dedicate your life to the tedium of surviving… rather than seeking out the thrill of really living.
So there’s this weird little ache in my neurotic little heart, telling me to keep looking for that fairy tale ending. It’s telling me to get swept away. It’s telling me my own dreams aren’t worth following, because I’ll never get them anyway. I am doing my best to ignore it. I know where that leads. Instead I am doing my best to remind myself of the freedom I feel when I’m walking on my own through the city; the feeling that I can go anywhere, be anything. The feeling of being untethered. The feeling of standing on my own two feet. The feeling of floating free.
It’s time to see how far I can fly.