It’s drizzling, and still only half light, 6:00 a.m. I need to shower and dress, to drink the first cup of coffee. Dreams are drifting in and out: old friends, improbable scenarios, places I’ve never seen that are vaguely European. The dog is sleeping, stretched on the floor next to my bed. I hear her slow breath, and I don’t yet want to stir.
My back aches, already. And my arm, already.
Today I will need cruise control. The long drive is ahead, again. It is painting day, now twice a week. All those miles. And the pain.
* * *
The road is crowded and hard to maneuver. It opens up and we gain speed, passing through long stretches of asphalt and green, few exits, nothing of interest to see. There is only more and more of the same – the road, the trees, the quiet as he sleeps next to me. My little boy. My not so little boy.
Then there is cruise control, and I’m grateful, though these roads allow for little of that. Still, the pain in my arm will ease, the stress on my knee will lighten some. But I will wish I could lie down, knowing I must stay steady at the wheel. Knowing I will need to sit in a coffee shop, all day, and wait. I will write and wait. I will need my best resolve.
* * *
I don’t look in the mirror much these days. I know that it’s me, but somehow I don’t recognize my face.
I don’t go out much these days, in the grip of a frightening fatigue that never leaves except when I sleep.
Sleep is the lover who disappears without a word, returns again weeks or months later, taking his place in my bed as though nothing as occurred. I welcome him back. I always welcome him back. Relieved.
* * *
The dog is nearly 13 and needs attention every few hours. She’s playful and affectionate as always, but requires more patience and more care. I listen to her breathe. I watch her shudder as she sleeps and dreams.
When she came to us – rescued – we were a different sort of family. We looked perfect from the outside-in. We were four in number, and the dog. We were a Hallmark card, as long as you didn’t open it up. So I stayed on the surface and enjoyed what I could. How pretty we were then, even if you couldn’t look inside.
* * *
Summer: my only time without the boys, for a few weeks, generally. They may be in Europe with cousins, but not this year. We are a full house with around-the-clock action, and an endless stream of in-and-out and commotion. It is exhausting. It is glorious. It will end, too soon.
There is our house guest from France, my two sons, the elder’s friends and more friends often here into the night, making music, talking, and the next day, jockeying for the car. I negotiate for its use (and laugh at myself that I am willing to do so). I cook large quantities of food, try to keep the “non-schedule schedule” straight. There are more worries, greater expense, more tasks. There is life.
For my younger son, there are these long painting days.
* * *
It’s growing light and I need to hurry. I need another cup of coffee. I will pack my bag with magazines and a book, Motrin and water, my laptop and its cables, a sandwich for my son to eat during his five-hour lesson. Another, for the two-hour drive home. I will pack my heating pad and hope there is a place to sit where I may plug it in. Alternate its use on whatever may hurt.
I welcome the monotony of the road, once we’re beyond the city. The possibility of using cruise control, even if only for short stretches.
* * *
Later today the media will overflow with reports of Michael Jackson’s memorial. The celebrities, the fanfare, the circus. It will be a sideshow. I’m glad to be out of reach. Family life is circus enough.
* * *
The face in the mirror comes into focus now: a little liner on the eyes, and color on the cheeks.
I know this woman: she accelerates, she brakes, she accelerates again. She is unable to rest. She navigates an uncertain route, but wherever she lights – even for a time – she takes care of business. Then finds her way home.