Thursday, August 23, 2012

Heavy metal

The muscle guy gave me a strained, bemused look as I ducked my head past the edge of the doorway. He smiled.

"Where have you been? You decide you needed to take six months off or something?"

No, I shook my head and explained about buying a house and trying to save gas and going to the Y, which was just down the road.

"But you decided to come back here?"

I grinned and told him yes, though that really wasn't the reason. It had more to do with getting someone where they needed to be. The Rec center just happened to be along the path on the way back.

He shrugged and nothing else was really said, though he watched me go through my paces. Maybe he doubted me a little and thought I might need a hand when I picked up something. It could be that he wondered if what I'd said was a bandage to cover up another story.

A fair bit of that happens at the Rec center. On an average morning, half to three-quarters of the people lifting weights or hiking mile after miserable on the treadmills are comfortably retired. Some of them haven't worked in 20 years, which is mind-boggling to a man who cannot imagine a day where his presence is not required somewhere at sometime, but the time catches up on everyone. One day, they just stop coming. The old ladies whisper to each other about it. They give it a name: cancer, a heart attack, a stroke, a bad fall.

Maybe they come back after a while. Usually, they don't.

As I took my place on one of the machines, a couple of others stopped by, asked me how I was doing. They seemed concerned, but understood as soon as I explained. We laughed about it, though I couldn't figure out what it was that we all thought was so funny.

Through the rest of the shift, familiar faces watched me. They nodded a greeting or asked me how I'd been.

What an amazing thing: to think of yourself as nobody, as just another pair of tennis shoes, but to realize that you'd been seen all along --and more --to know that while absent, you were missed.

I think we all want to belong somewhere, but we don't always recognize these places when we first see them.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Things lost in the fire

After the split and the divorce, I was accused of not giving myself enough time to heal before I moved on.

Books and magazines (particularly women's magazines, I think) make a big deal about needing time. They said I needed time to grieve, needed time to get my shit together before I was going to be any good for anyone else. I needed to find me, forgive me, celebrate me... blah, buh-blah, bu-blah, blah, blah...

I didn't need any of that. I already knew who was I was, already had my shit together and well... life only moves forward. If you're going to get on with your life, you have to ask yourself, "If not now, then when?"

I chose now. When could have been a long time and besides I met someone who lit me up like a firecracker. So, I took chances. I bolted headlong into the pool and I'm pretty happy with how things have worked out.

But that doesn't mean I got to walk away Scot free. Nope. The collapse of the marriage cost me some things. Some of them were unexpected.

The first casualty was R.E.M. They were a band I liked that my former wife adored. We saw them together twice and I bought her a couple of their latter day albums. I even recorded a live concert available on a restricted satellite channel and gave it to her.

To me, it seemed kind of fitting that they broke up after we split.

The surprise is that I can't listen to them anymore. Nothing. I hear Michael Stipe's voice and I change the channel. I punch the button for the next song. It's not that I hate the music. It's just that it bounces off me.

I lost the ability to appreciate some things I used to have on my wall. Pictures, given as gifts, and thoughtful at the time, seem out of place. I've taken them down and put them away.

Other things, like a quilt, I gave back to her when she asked. It had been sitting untouched in a closet for almost a year.

There are certain foods I won't touch or can no longer imagine me ever eating again. It's nothing important. I didn't lose meat or (more importantly) coffee, but I lost blackberry cobbler, which was one of the special things she made.

I guess I'm lucky I did most of the cooking. Otherwise, I'd be fucked.

There will probably be more things to crop up. Things that are just burned away. Things that when I see them make me feel cold inside or hollow.

I mean no disrespect to my ex, but in a lot of ways, with the break, emotionally speaking, my foot was caught in a kind of trap. I could have stood there and waited for the trap to rust off my ankle (time heals all wounds) or I could chew it off and make a run for it (Geronimo!). I chose the latter, which left me wounded, but alive and capable of thriving again.

Maybe I would feel different if I'd waited. Maybe if I'd waited six months or a year or ten years I would feel differently about blackberry cobbler and the little rock band from Athens that could.

Maybe not.

Either way, I got off pretty light.