uu 29 – hitting the road

Hitting the road.jpg

Delilah and Johnny in van on highway. A gulf between them. So much to say it’s hard to find appropriate words. Johnny gets to them first.

Grandpa says we’re going on a roadtrip.

That’s right. Up and over the mountains and out to the coast. I have a friend we can stay with. It’s a long drive. But it’ll give us a chance to, you know, catch up. You up for that?

Sure.

They go silent again. Johnny looking out his window. A sullen face. Doesn’t know what to make of this. Out of his element. Maybe worrying. Or homesick already. The world as he knows it exploding. Doesn’t know where his feet will land. What it’ll look like there. Delilah wants to tell him that everything will be okay. Wants to tell him everything. Instead she reaches over and pats his wrist.

You’re gonna be sixteen in a few weeks, right?

Yeah.

Means you’ll be getting your driving license soon?

Hoping to.

You been out driving with Grandpa?

A little.

He taught me too. In one of his old trucks. Ripping around the farm. I’ll bet he made you start with the tractor though, hey?

Yeah.

Did he tell you it learns you patience?

Johnny laughs a little.

Yeah. He’s funny with how he says stuff. We were out a couple days ago. Just on the gravels. Told me to ease the hands and not to look so hard.

Delilah laughs.

Did he say you’ll get there soon enough?

Exactly.

They laugh together. Delilah pats his wrist again.

You know, I was thinking, maybe I can let you drive a bit too. Like when we’re off the highway.

Cool.

The gulf between them has narrowed. She tells him they’ll stop for food by the next town. He asks if she has a map. She says there should be one in the glovebox. He looks. There isn’t. She says they’ll get one when they stop for gas.

You hungry?

Getting there.

Okay. We’ll hit a diner when we can.

He nods.

You like maps?

Yeah. Just looking at them makes it seem like I’m going somewhere.

That’s good, she says. Might just need you to navigate too. Been a long while since I come out thisaways. Haven’t seen the mountains in…I don’t know how long.

We went up into the mountains a couple times. When Grandma wasn’t so sick. But never got down the other side.

Ain’t no up without coming back down.

Grandpa?

You got it.

She pats his hand and asks him to find something on the radio. All around them the land is flat and the sky is blue and the sun is high and the traffic is free-flowing. On the shoulder a wide sign enumerates distances: 26, 114, 243. Where they’re headed isn’t listed.

uu 28 – resolve

grain

17 February 2016 – Two of the girls at work (call them Lyn and Eve) were playing at their phones and talking about all the decisions Lyn feels she’s having to make. What to wear to dinner (she hasn’t been shopping in weeks), whether or not to go traveling with her boyfriend in the summer (which brought up a spate of issues, not least of which was his apparent inability to choose a restaurant without her involvement), if she should get a new phone now or wait for the next round of releases, etc.

Some would call these first world problems. Eve called them heavy realities. And then reported that she’d just bought a new pair of shoes. Online. Lyn wanted to see. Eve held out her phone and watched for Lyn’s reaction. I found it fascinating that this was the only time during their exchange that either looked at the other.

Heavy realities.

Almost wish I was still working downtown. Haha. Actually, you know, speaking of, got an email from Pat the other day. Inviting me to her retirement party next week. She wanted me to know that she truly enjoyed working with me and added that, in a way, I was instrumental in her decision. While she’d been considering taking the next step for some time she hadn’t given it serious thought until the person I was filling in for returned from sick leave and work had once again become a humdrum place to toil away the hours.

Have to say I was more than a little surprised. That it happened so quickly, that she reached out to me, that I had brought some sunshine to her worklife, that her tone was so cordial and lightly rendered—as if she was smiling as she wrote and couldn’t wait to get on with her life.

Seems to be a recurring theme of late. Wanting to get on with whatever’s next. Liz’s been at it for months. Hasn’t quite figured out the whatever but since coming back from Costa Rica has focused on making smallscale photographic reproductions of her work (for greeting cards, postcards, buttons). She’s gotten them into a few boutique shops and has a friend who’ll give her space on a table at craft fairs. But the effort has kinda diminished her enthusiasm for painting. True to form though, she chooses to look at this period of creative disenchantment as a way to reacquaint herself with her finished pieces and an opportunity to reassess her approach. She’s contemplating a fresh start. Going small and working up to bigger. Model of optimism, even if she still has to work at the museum to make it happen.

‘If that’s what it takes to get my stuff out there, then that’s what I’m gonna do.’

Her determination is inspiring. I’ve started running again. Have made some headway on scenes from Delilah’s past (though I’m finding it tricky to negotiate the silence between her and Johnny as they begin their impending journey together). And this morning cobbled together something of a short story.

RESOLVE

On our first day back to work this year the boss had us all gather in the conference room. There was some anxiety about this impromptu gathering. Business had been slow in the months leading up to the break. Many of us feared the worst. Downsizing, layoffs, etc.

So it was with audible relief that we discovered the boss only wished to hear everyone’s New Year resolutions. In the spirit of things he started us off by relating that his resolution was to spend more time with his wife and kids. Then, one after another we shared our resolutions.

Greg declared he was going to lose weight. Martha ensured us she would exercise at least three times a week. Alan wanted to watch less TV. Around it went, most of us sounding as though we didn’t have a resolution but doing our best to make one up on the spot.

When it came to Alex he waved his hand and said nothing. The room went silent. Alex was always the exception to the rule in the office. It was no secret that the boss didn’t like Alex much. They were constantly at odds. But Alex was by far the best salesperson on the team. Had a knack for charming the socks off anyone he set mind to winning over. While most of the salespeople were losing clients, Alex kept his roster and was the only one still bringing in new business.

So there wasn’t much the boss could do about Alex not participating. He grumbled something under his breath and asked that the next resolution be shared.

After everyone had had their say, the boss said that we should look at the resolutions as a team-building exercise and do our best to support one another in reaching our goals. With that he wished us all a happy new year and sent us back to work.

Over a month later. Our resolutions are long behind us. Business is terrible. We are hemorrhaging clients. The boss doesn’t seem to ever leave the office. Greg has gained weight. Martha isn’t exercising. Alan did ditch his cable but has subscribed to three separate streaming services and now spends more time watching shows than ever before. The rest of us probably couldn’t remember what we’d resolved to achieve.

And then there’s Alex. Who hasn’t spoken a word to anyone this whole time. Nor has he written notes or responded to emails or answered his phone.

Today was his last day.

When he was leaving he passed my desk on his way to the elevator. Carrying a tote of personal affects. I watched him press the down arrow. He appeared taller than I remember. The elevator doors opened. He stepped in and selected a floor and stood at the centre of the elevator. Facing me. A wide grin on his face. As the doors were starting to close he propped up his box with a leg and gave me a relaxed but fully articulated salute.

uu 27 – another way of telling

up and down

Okay sure yes excellent good. Your dad said this to me. As written, without pauses between the words. About 10 minutes ago. Before we had our last shot and called it a night. I wanted to remember. Such an exquisite build up of like terms.

We were discussing the possible discovery of a ninth planet. Were well into it—past the technological wizardry and well beyond astronomers making up for the Pluto blues. Who knows how far we might’ve gone had money not entered the fray. Whereupon I suggested that maybe our priorities are a little out of whack, what with all that’s going on down here on ground zero. Which is when your dad came out with his little gem.

‘Okay sure yes excellent good.’

And followed it up beautifully—without, I might add, slurring.

‘But we have to look, don’t we? Just to see? I mean, it’s about figuring out where we came from, right? Even if the answer is literally right under our noses we still don’t know with absolute certainty the how of it. And by that I mean how it was we happened to come along. We as in us. Human beings. Homo sapiens. That’s the big ticket item, isn’t it? The thing that matters most? Us and our infernal desire to know?’

That about settled it. I wasn’t about to voice objections. Instead I poured us the last of the bottle and raised my glass to him. He obliged. We clinked glasses and after shaking off the shot he brought our evening to a brilliant close.

‘Next time remind me to stick with beer.’

OK. Sure. Yes. Excellent. Good. It’s hard to write drunk. I’m going to pass out now. On the couch. Can’t barely move, let alone get up the stairs. Thought you should know why.

Oh, and you know what else? His girlfriend was your L.A. teacher. That’s the big secret. Or maybe it was Home Ec.

Hope you don’t mind but I invited myself in again. Getting antsy for your bones. Besides, I like it here. Could get to feeling right at home. Still, behooves me to be mindful that it’s your space and I shouldn’t take up too much more of it.

Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? (FYI, that’s a week’s worth of inquiring salutations.) 

Thanks for the McCann. But what I really want to know is: Are you coming back? Anytime soon?

Your continued absence can’t be about your dad’s girlfriend, can it? 

Maybe it’s that Liz is home and the two of you are busily concocting, conniving, conspiring? BTW, the McCann is a delight. Read the opening novella in one sitting. Could as well be titled ‘Other Ways of Telling’. Which, as you know, rings true to the ears of my being. Thanks again.

Perhaps you are scheming a suitable scenario in which to place the current male fads of slick combovers and thick-frame spectacles?

Is it that ‘creative writing’ student you met? Tickling unseen rafters with her lofty insights? Just because she’s decided that one can’t be considered a writer unless there are letters behind one’s name doesn’t mean that it’s so. How old was she again?

Are you after mastering The Slow Reveal? Or are you pondering the wisdom of my quip earlier? That the most stressed among us should be grateful they don’t have to take on the heavy burdens of remembering to breathe and blink?

Were it not that I see you every day I’d be getting worried. What’s the deal? You haven’t given up have you? I know the whole work thing’s up in the air and we’re in need of a new countertop in the kitchen and us heading down the coast is probably not in the cards and you’d rather be outside anyway, with the crocuses and snowdrops and witchhazels, but sheeee-it, I’m on my knees here. 

I expect now that you are having a good chuckle at my expense. Fine.

 

09 February 2016 – No, I haven’t given up. At first I didn’t have anything to say. Then it became a game. Wondering where you’d put the n-book next. What ground you’d cover. How long you’d keep it up (haha) at it. And yes, I did find your efforts amusing and colorful and comforting etc. Not to mention the change in perspective. Thank YOU very much. Don’t you worry, I’ll be back again soon—the repairman’s here and I have my nose in ’13 Ways of Looking’.