REPORT A PROBLEM
Sarah Rachel Egelman
Breathe. Begin. Breathe. Move hand, fingers, pen. Move thoughts, mind. Contemplate structure. No, forget structure. Forget paralysis. Forget stasis. Forget idea that All of this must flow from unhappiness. Remember where this story begins. And, it begins Here. Day One. Don’t wait to see what happens. Just close your eyes and say, “today is the day.” Today is the day that words flow from happiness, from hope and from possibility. Just think, by Day Two Day One will be a memory. Try to remember how you felt yesterday in the blue chair watching the rain. That was the beginning, too.
Think of all the stories, poems, screenplays which have died quietly in your head. You were too busy to turn on the light, get up, find a pen. You fell back asleep, kept walking, knowing and feeling the words, the images slowly and surely slipping away. Or your scrawled notes mean nothing now; any further serious attention would require commitment and action and you would prefer to forget it all, to stand very still. Think of all the stories, poems that have fought against the apathy of the ages. Those that have struggled along, brave but unsure. Fall in line.
I am beginning to see how one small act of creativity leads to another. Nothing grand, but real. Perhaps it is because this ticking off of days is leading to something tangible. Time is moving, but not fast enough; I am anxious to see the past five years move backward as I drive away. Anxious to see the color drain from the landscape finding myself in sunlight and red dust. This one small act is just that. One small act in the series of acts that then start the engine moving the tires under the truck and back across America.
At ten o’clock this morning it was as dark as midnight. We woke up without even knowing we had slept so long, so late. The dark and windy and rainy mornings only add to the mental energy (where physical energy is lacking) and we work all afternoon to box up our things and clean up our rooms. This afternoon the sky was conflicted, blackness and bleakness to the west and the north and yellow-pink and hazy light in front of us, blinding our winter weary eyes as we drove south and east to the storage unit. A rainbow there, too.
I think I should just be realistic and forget this poetic crap. Where is the poetry in a day spent in the recliner, drinking tea and blowing my stuffed up nose? Where is the poetry in too tight jeans, apples with peanut butter for lunch and so much laundry to do? Seriously, where? If only I possessed the talent to turn this waterlogged existence into a Scottish sonnet…Instead, leftovers for dinner, The Simpsons and bad jokes aimed at the TV. Instead, I get ready for a job which is worse everyday and the two hours of allotted sunlight this week.
Things that happened today: I woke up late due to cold, car trunk came down on my head as I looked for an ice scraper, left car lights on at work after driving through the fog, almost lost my voice, used half a box of tissue to blow nose, burrito Monday, actually proposed to my boss that my hours be cut as I can no longer pretend I have all that much work to do there, got email from Maria (she found great place to live in Albuq. And felt the baby move!), then the sun set at 4:34 PM.
It is so very quiet here; sound only of water boiling, computer humming, Everyone kept telling me to shut up. They said that I was making it worse, was doing permanent damage to my vocal chords. But there is something about not being able to talk that brought out the storyteller in me and after Jane plied me with slippery elm throat lozanges, I talked all through lunch. I guess I am starting to realize what a jabbering little monkey I really am. Now if I can get my voice back before seven tomorrow night I will be just fine.
I am not sure I can do much more resting. It starts out pretty relaxing and quickly becomes boring. Reruns on TV, leftovers, cups and cups of tea. My voice still sounds awful. I had planned to go hear a speaker at the school tonight before I taught my class but not even the promise of greasy pizza can get me there. Class tonight will be a struggle to keep my voice. I hope the hour goes quickly so I can resume my restful position. It is comforting to know this is the last ailment I will suffer in Seattle.
When I got home this evening the mailbox on the corner which serves all the houses on the block was changed. I had a bad feeling about it but then thought, I am sure my key still works. Well, of course, it does not. It doesn’t even look like the same type of locks at all. So, I drove the car up the hill to the house thinking, of course the post office will have left the new key on the doorstep. They did not. Maybe I tried unlocking the wrong box? Maybe Dan can figure the whole thing out…
I spent half of lunch telling her stories about car crashes, cops, bottlerockets and ghosts. I laughed, oh those were the days, but I am all over it now. Her story is about a teacher who sexually harassed her and the 2 year court battle and how high school was such hell for her. But, now she is strong and politically active and now I am mellow and I guess that is about all. There was a time that I channeled my anger and sadness into poetry. But that all really seems like so long ago now. I don’t write.
Monsoon India. Winter Seattle. Driven inside by the deluge. Four days of sun have ended abruptly and 67 cable channels are not enough when you have run out of books to read and re-read. Cobras circle but Dan goes out to get BBQ. Now meat-free I have cornbread and beans. Monsoon India and the rain beats for weeks and months against the tin roof. Winter Seattle; I love falling asleep to the sound of the rain drumming on the roof. I do love falling asleep knowing that I am headed for a drought. Cobras circle but Dan is going outside.
The paperwork is signed and it is official! To celebrate (or perhaps in lieu of celebrating) we watched football then drove to North Bend for cherry pie and coffee. Next to the outlet mall. I looked at the sneakers thinking I would treat myself to a pair but I honestly didn’t understand these shoes, and besides that they were truly ugly; all plastic and space age. They looked like what sci-fi geeks of the early 70’s would’ve thought sneakers would look like in 2003. The men’s shoes were worse because it’s harder to stomach a man who wears silly shoes.
Today it finally happened; the other shoe has dropped. The day I have longed for and dreaded. My hours at work were finally cut. Good timing, eh, that we put the house on the market yesterday! Not sure how this transition will work, it will just have to. I don’t think I will ever have a job like this again. I must admit that despite it all the big office was pretty damn nice. Just wish I’d been a little busier. Well, my successes were subtle but successes nonetheless and now the path back home is truly open before me
At what point does a diary become a journal? When you are 14? 15? When you have your first kiss? Your first relationship? When you have your first doubt? And what is the difference, really? A diary neatly holds all your thoughts shut and hides them away with a tiny little lock and a tiny little key. A diary is only a spiral notebook, well worn and stashed in your drawer, holding all your angst and frustration. Bad things in a diary are scary and warrant attention. Bad things in a journal are therapy and art. Dear diary. Dear diary.
It is 10:17 PM and I have spent the last two hours waiting for the tow truck to come get me off the side of the interstate. Of course, just when I can least afford not only these bills but the headache, the car breaks down. Over $100 for the tow and who knows how much for the repair; I may be riding the bus for a while. Sitting on the side of the freeway, feeling the wake of the traffic rock the car, I am not sure I want to drive for a while anyway. It goes too fast.
I am not really a car person. I mean, I am not really interested in cars as machines or status symbols or anything. But it sure sucks when they break down. Six hundred bucks and a few bus rides later and I am ready to once again congest the roads and pollute the air. Yea Cars! My mind and body are so tired after this crazy week (and it is only Thursday) that I don’t even have the energy to think about how almost an entire paycheck is gone and instead I will find something awful to watch on TV.
We both had the afternoon off and so off we headed to the mall. Our bellies were full of Thai food which made the experience much easier to bear. I stood in line for what seemed like hours at victoria’s secret after learning I have been wearing the wrong bra size for who know how long (that would explain the breast pains I hoped wasn’t a lump). Then to nordstroms where I learned I am too old and fat and poor to wear anything really cute anymore. Nothing like the frickin mall for an unwanted reality check. Such is life.
Dan spun me so fast on the chair and I have felt sick ever since. It reminds me I have never had a strong stomach for playground equipment. No mummy drops or cherry drops from the bars (how Emily got a concussion and I knew even before that that I would never even try it). What is the name of the thing that just goes around? You hold onto the bars to keep the force from pulling you off. It always felt like chaos to me, like insanity. I did like the swings though. Solitary and with such a view.
An hour before our first open house our real estate agent called to say she was headed to Boise for a family emergency. We decided to host the open house ourselves and that, of course, gave me a fantastic tension headache. Despite the fact that some people pulled up to peek but didn’t get out of their cars (a jetta with a ski rack and a lexus, well duh), some people did come in and didn’t even seem to hate the place. So, we are not discouraged. Still, the process may be slow and we will have to be patient.
After all these years I still vividly remember the way she walked. But, I cannot really describe it; jangley and still fluid. She walked with hips and shoulders; bigger than her tiny frame and completely sexual. And her laugh was much the same. No matter what, I was always proud of her. No matter what, she always understood me. And, I am able to say I will take some of her secrets to my grave, just as she took some of mine to hers. There was a time that was completely ours. There was a time that we were born…
It is impossible to try to describe her, just as it is really impossible to try to describe anyone so real; fiction is so much easier. The mundane, the profane, so much easier than the holy, the sacred. Not that she was. Holy that is. But, sometimes…oh, none of these words work. I should just stick to TV and other things that fill you up and rot you out. She was a slut, she was vain. She was different in 6th grade than she was at 25- more so than the rest of us maybe. We were so very different.
At 5:07 this evening I looked out my office window and noticed the sun had yet to set. The sky was purplish but there was still light even in the west. I am thankful for these small things; lingering and lasting daylight. But by the time I got out to Mercer Island the rain was coming down hard. The parking lot was practically flooded. An hour later it had slowed to a steady not quite so heavy downpour. But still, Bella can’t decide if she wants to be in or out. She cries either way. She just cries and cries.
I have heard she knows things. That she knows people are pregnant before they do, that she knows if you are lying. I would like to think she can see into me and sees some goodness there and that is why she is nice to me. I do sometimes try to catch her attention: what am I thinking, what am I thinking. But, I don’t think that is the way it works. Maybe she just pays more attention than most people do. She probably actually listens when people talk and looks them in the eye, that’s all. But, maybe not.
Blood vs. belief: I have thought about it so much and it only makes me frustrated and claustrophobic. I just want to be back where no one cares; or, I never meet those that do. At night I fall asleep thinking of a warm backyard on a July night with cicadas humming, and a cold tecate with lime. I want to take a break from issues of identity and I when I talk about community I want it to me more than it does now. Just for a little while, just for a little while. Maybe there it matters less.
Today I walked around Seward Park with Dan in the rain with a spliting headache. That, in many ways sums up my life in Seattle. But, despite the rain that walk is always nice; full of squirrels and ducks and blackbirds and muddy dogs. We walk and we talk under separate black umbrellas and I have to admit I do feel much better after the walk, just like he said I would. The opposite end of the lake disappeared into the mist, soft and gray. I couldn’t see the bridge but knew it was there. Then we turned the corner.
Do hypochondriacs actually feel the pain they are creating for themselves? I mean, do they really believe they are in pain, that they are experiencing something physical? Or, are they consciously saying, I am going to lie about this, today I have an earache, or whatever. I really do want to know—because I have this eye pain and am not sure what the deal is…but I do know these headaches are real. And, honestly I complain less about real/serious/extreme pain (like bad headaches, migraines, my knees) than I do about things like hangnails, papercuts or eyelashes in my eye.
It is late January. Little by little, the days are growing longer, daylight is lengthening, little by little. Too much coffee today and now my stomach is in a coffee knot. Contacts too long in my eyes and they are tired. It rained much of the day but we were fairly content with that; so much sun lately. Thoughts not crowding my mind tonight, no inspiration. No new stories to tell or adventures to share. Only the desire to take off these shoes and slip into my chair with chamomile tea and a good book. Actually any book will do.
Thought I would try this in the morning before I go to work. That way, since I have to stay late tonight, I won’t have to sit in front of the computer when I get home. That is really the only thing I dislike about this whole process- the computer, and having to sit in front of it at least a couple of minutes everyday. I wish I could turn these in handwritten, or through telepathy. Used to be (besides work) I could go for days and days without turning my computer on. Not anymore, I guess; here I am.
So much to do and so little time to do it. Where do we begin so we end where we want to? The wait, the anticipation is nerve wracking. And, really, it has only just begun. But the time will be filled with me telling the same story, giving the same explanation again and again. That has already begun. At the end, time will speed up and there will be no chance for thinking it all through, taking it all in. In the end we will return to our beginning like nothing ever happened. Like none of this ever happened.
The rain hit the windshield and each drop was a tiny explosion of light and appeared to be little cracks in the glass only to be quickly wiped away. It was a distracting vision while I was driving. I probably wouldn’t have noticed except that I have 23rd practically memorized; philly’s subs, ezells, the former home of helen’s soul food, the corner where the cops killed that guy which turned into the corner of protestors. And, I was thinking about how many songs there are about rain. There are also a lot about sunshine. But none about dry heat. Alas.
The month started out by going by very quickly, but slowed to a crawl somewhere in week 3. So many details that will be forgotten. So many thoughts, ideas, feelings, that will exist now only in the deepest recess, the darkest fold of gray matter. And so the winter is melting into the past. In one months time we will be able to say “spring” with confidence. And, before the cottonwoods begin to shed their puffy plugs, we will have moved on. But for today it is business as usual. We still are waiting to sign on the dotted line.
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