A GREAT DAY
1 Free day
1 New Favorite Can’t-Get-It-Out-Of-My-Head Song
1-2 Best Friends (Depending on your taste)
1 Pool Hall or local watering hole containing spirits
1/2 Cup of mocha frappucino at a Barnes and Noble Starbucks
Begin by waking up and looking outside at the perfect day. You may be greeted by the snuffles or barks of your Shih Tzu but delight in the sound.
Take a hot shower and put on Pandora radio. Come across a song that sinks into your depths and consumes you, yet it is too embarassing to sing aloud in public.
Wear the summer clothes you have been longing to put on for a day such as this where the sun shines and standing in its’ rays places gentle warmth on your shoulders. Enjoy as it sets in and you forget the long, cold months of winter passed.
Send a text of yourself making a goofy face to your friend(s) and tell them to wake up. Even if you get up early, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be up to enjoy the day as well. (Note: Too early and this may ruin the recipe as they may say expletives and hang up.)
Set a meeting time to pick up your friend(s) and take a drive.
Go to Barnes and Noble and get a mocha frappucino. Sit with your company and talk. Begin making too much noise from laughing and leave the cafe.
Wander the bookstore. At first you look at psuedointellectual books and flip through Kant and contemplate reading Shakespeare. Lose interest and look in the sex and relationships books.
Flip through two (2) books and realize you may have something wrong with you.
You leave with company and feel sick from the sugary mix in your plastic cup and throw it away.
Drive. Listen to the song that has been stuck in your head all day. You try to explain why the song is good but then digress. Your company makes fun of you but after the third listen you all break out into song and laugh at how ridiculous it is.
Go to a park. Walk.
Decide to play a sport outside. Get sweaty and dirty. Possibly hurt yourself (This part of the recipe is kind of up to you!)
Take your company home. You go home and shower. You take an unexpected nap.
Wake up 2-3 hours later and call a friend to go to the Pool Hall or Watering Hole of choice.
Play Pool. Enjoy 3-20 beverages. Feel sick.
Dry heave in the bathroom.
Gather your life.
Call a cab and go downtown.
Dance with your company.
Think about hitting on an attractive person.
Realize it’s a bad idea.
Go back to your company’s dwelling, eat pizza and fall asleep in the front room just as your company places a just-too-small blanket on you.
Stir all ingredients together in 1 free day and enjoy!
(Note: Some may find the day after the recipe is made a bit dissatisfying compared to the day before.)
I sit at my computer and the little bar blinks in front of me. It taunts me because it knows that this is a hard one to write. It’s one of those stories that I hold close to me and have for years because it was when I realized how important it is to know people. Sit down and let them speak.
When I was about fifteen my grandmother was in the hospital. She was always the patient that wanted her own room and wanted everything in its place. She was sick and the nurses and doctors were the help so to speak. It is just the truth. Well, on this occasion she was not given that privilege, as she had a roommate, and was mad about it. One day I went up to visit her.
Hospitals. I hate hospitals. That sterile smell and those hard tile floors. The cream colored walls. The sounds of machines all around you as you walk through the halls. Then there is the idea that everyone is there because they are at their worst. At least on most floors. Granted, I am sure there is nothing but happiness up on the natal units. Although, there is always that one dad….I kid, I kid.
So, I walk with my mother and aunt to visit my grandmother in the hospital. We pass door after door as high pitched beeps and dings ring throughout. We enter my grandmother’s room and she is laying in a bed next to the window. Just inside the door on the left I see a small African American woman laying in bed. She looks at the wall ahead of her aimlessly. She is sitting in an inclined position; she has a white handkerchief on her head and is in white linens. I see her turn her head as we walk past her bed.
I sit at the foot of my grandmother’s bed as she, my mother and my aunt talk about family business for a moment. My grandmother begins to complain about the nurses and I tune her out as I look out the window at the summer’s evening sun.
The conversation goes on and my grandmother asks me a question, I crack a joke and I hear a little, gravely laugh from behind me. The little woman began talking to me specifically. I had been talking about school and she was saying how important education was from the other side of the cloth partition.
My mother pointed towards the woman and mouthed, “Go talk to her.”
I think back to then and how I acted initially. I remember I shook my head “no”. I thought at the time that it would be weird and that I didn’t know this woman. I thought my mom was insane.
“Be nice,” my mother mouths and I ask if I can sit with her. She says, “I’d like that,” and I walk over and sit next to her. We introduce ourselves. I feel such remorse because her name escapes me now and I just remember at the end of the day thinking to myself, “This is important big guy, remember her name”.
So, I sit next to this woman as she continues to talk about how important education is. I look at her but she stares just past me. We talk about what she was doing there, to which she just said she hadn’t been feeling well. I talk about my grandmother and her being there and I tell her about being excited to start driving soon.
She was so small and I could tell that she was not well by the encroaching gauntness on her face but she had such a warm smile and huge eyes. She was a beautiful person altogether. I ask her about her family and she tells me that she has a son and a daughter but she had not seen them in a while.
I asked if they knew she was there. She said yes but they were busy and lived out of state and that they would be there some time next week. I remember how she spoke about them. There was this deep affection for them but she told me of how long it had been since she had seen them.
I begin talking about my little brother and how much of a pain in the butt he was and made her laugh. She had a deep, warm laugh this time and it made me smile. We continued to talk about everything from hospital food to the weather. Then, I can’t remember what I was talking about but she began to nod off.
I trailed off and looked over at my mom as she waved me to come back over. She mouthed, “Let her sleep.”
I was sad that she fell asleep as we had had a great conversation. I stood up and noticed a sign just above her.
No Family Contact, Visually Impaired
and then one on pink paper to the right of that that read:
I went back over and sat down. My mother smiled and patted me on the shoulder as they began talking about something else. I wondered about those signs. I realized she was blind and that’s why she looked past me. I wondered if she knew about the no family contact and what did that mean. Finally, I wondered what “on watch” meant. I thought of all the possibilities but couldn’t figure it out. I realize now it’s more so that I didn’t want to.
An hour or so passes and I am sitting in the chair as my mother, grandmother and aunt talk loudly about another family member that was being a butt-head at the time but I stared out into the darkening blue sky. I get it now that it was perspective that that conversation gave me.
I hear from behind me in her whimsical southern drawl, “Is that young man still there?”
I smile and look up at my mother, who is smiling as well.
“Yep, he’s right here,” she says.
I get up and walk back over to where I was sitting before. We talk a bit and I tell her that I love world war II information. I tell her about documentaries and movies and books and video games that I have played. She smiles at me and tells me this:
I apologize that it isn’t verbatim but this is paraphrased of what she said:
“My husband was in world war II. We met when I was 14 and we had our children a few years later. We got married just before he left. He was a good man and a good father. I miss him very much.”
I ask if he was at Normandy.
“No, you see black folks wasn’t quite like that back then. So, he was on the Arizona down in Pearl Harbor and was a cook. He wrote to me all the time. We wrote back and forth. Then the Japanese bombed it but he survived, thank God. He made it out and came home but he was only home a week and he was hit by a city bus. I do miss him.”
I asked her if she ever remarried but she shook her head “no”. I asked her a couple more questions about it but I could see on her face she didn’t want to talk about it. So, I spoke about how incredible it was that she lived through so much and had been through so much and how I admired her. She smiled and told me that I sounded like a smart young man.
A few minutes later my mother came by and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Ready to go,” my mother asked, “Grandma fell asleep and visiting hours are almost over.”
I stood up and turned to my friend.
“I gotta go but it was great meeting you. I’ll be back in a couple of days though and I’ll visit you again,” I said as I shook her small fragile hand. I still remember her smile. It was ear-to-ear and mine reflected hers.
“That sounds good. It was great talking to you as well. Study hard,” she said and I left.
As we walked to the van in the parking lot, I asked my aunt what that pink sign meant. What did “On Watch” mean.
I will never forget this.
“It means death watch. She must be close to passing away. It’s good that you talked with her though. Some of those patients don’t get to do that,” my aunt said nonchalantly, her years of being a nurse making her words matter-of-fact.
I talked up my new friend and the story of her life the whole way home. I even talked about it to my friends the next day.
It was two days later that my grandma was released, so we went up to get her. I walked in the room and my heart sank. I saw that the curtain had been drawn back against the wall now. The bed was made perfectly and tucked in. The signs were taken down and the monitors didn’t blink or beep and I missed that sound. I asked my aunt if maybe she was just somewhere else. Maybe an x-ray. Just somewhere but my aunt shook her head ‘no’.
“Honey, she passed away yesterday evening. She was gone when I came up to visit during my shift,” my aunt said in a lamenting voice.
Man, I wish I could tell you how hard my heart sank but it’s hard to put into words. i didn’t know her very long but we talked and I connected with her.
I write this story even though this is one of those memories that I like to hold on to. Keep it for myself in a selfish way, i guess. I tell it to you because I hope that other people can see how good and interesting she was, even if she didn’t have anyone there with her. I hope she knew that I was going to keep my promise. I hope I did her an ounce of justice here.
That was just over a decade ago that I met an extraordinary person by chance and I have not had a conversation as deep and meaningful as that since.
I miss my friend and the words we shared.
I dedicate this post to her.
It feels like I am hardly ever able to write but I can actually get back to doing the one thing I enjoy most more than once every two weeks! I have a graduation coming up fairly soon where I will be celebrating the culmination of far too many years in school. It makes me think, what’s new right?
I guess there is this sense of what comes next in a way. I applied for my Master’s for spring but was denied due to one of my letters not being turned in by and individual. So, I am applying again, this time all of the letters are there. Hopefully that works out. I guess this all started a bit ago. This feeling of being accomplished and yet unaccomplished at the same time.
It started with a video.
I found this old “horror movie” me and one of my best friends, Ben, did when were probably 17 . I had it converted to DVD. I re-watched the video and it was a little crazy but pretty cool all the same. Then the screen goes to white static and when it comes back, it is me dressed up in a shirt and tie. My mother had just bought this camcorder and could not grasp the fact that it was not a camera and we couldn’t just rotate the picture, so I am sideways on screen. Then my mother asks me what day it is and I say that I am about to graduate high school and she asks me my plans. I say that I am enrolled in college for journalism and I hope to one day be a comic book writer. It then cuts to me graduating.
It hit me soon after that I am not the person in that video any more. It isn’t a bad thing but I have to wonder if I had pursued what I wanted then, where would I be now? This really bothered me because….well, I don’t know. It just did. For days I was haunted by the ghost of myself. Saying things that never rang true. I felt like I had failed.
So, my friend Ben called me a week or two later as I am about to go into a restaurant. He is in the Army and we hardly ever get to hang out but it’s always a blast when we do. I have very few close friends, by choice albeit, and he is probably one of the closest. On the phone, he tells me he has gotten some bittersweet news. He is going to be moving to Japan for 2 years. I remember hearing that and it sounding far off. Like an abstract idea explained in the distance. My best friend would be gone for 2 years. I am here and he is on the other side of the world. The End.
I felt badly for him and felt like I was losing a friend but there was something else under my surface. Even now it is hard to put into words. I thought about how exciting and scary it will be for him and then I think about myself, selfish I know. I start thinking about the future. Friends moving away, dwindling connections. It isn’t a sad or bad thing. It is just a thing.
We talk a little more and I don’t know what to say. I mean, it’s easy to sympathize but I can’t empathize because I haven’t come close to that kind of distance from my family. So, he knows I will be there for him and I made a promise to visit him for a while which I intend on keeping. We hang up and I remember the young me. I was so full of ideals that I have since lost. I thought about how much I need to live. I keep working for the future and not living in the now (he says, finally making his point).
I mean, it is like your car running out of gas in the middle of the highway. Cars just fly past you while you are sitting still, trying to get signal on your cell phone. I feel like Odysseus sometimes. The man who was at the mercy of fate itself. I feel like that is me. Waiting for fate to turn its wheels and move me in the direction it intends. I mean, I wanted to go backpack around Europe and do those types of things. There is a lot I want to do and a lot of change going around me. I feel like I need to play catch-up.
We go in and I tell my friends I have to use the restroom. I’m distracted. Where am I on the continuum of life? Existential stuff. I go into the restroom at the pub and see they have no urinals. I get mad. Who doesn’t have urinals? What is this, the stone age?
I go into the stall and begin peeing. I am thinking deeply, as I always do when I pee (kidding), and then I notice a tiny trash can next to the toilet. I see a little green wrapper in the trash can and have a mini-panic attack. I know that package. Growing up with a single mother, I basically broke into cabinets and threw things about as a kid. This wrapper in the trash can resembled that of, you guessed it!, a tampon wrapper. Having no urinals made sense with a vengeance then, my friends.
I had been so dazed by thought that I didn’t realize I had stumbled into the Women’s Restroom. I was freaking out.
All I could think of was that I was going to be put in prison for some sort of sex offender charge because I failed to read signs. I have dimples. Guys don’t last long in the joint if they have dimples.
So, I did my business and for some reason decided I had enough time to wash my hands. I walked out just as a woman was coming in and she gave me the most disturbing, what-the-hell-were-you-doing-in-there look I have ever seen.
I ran to the table and my friend said, “You Okay?”
I said, “Peed in the women’s bathroom.”
He looked at me with contempt and said, “I swear if we get thrown out of here because you took a left instead of a right…”
The waitress came and that stifled the situation. So, weeks later I am writing this blog because I have figured two things out:
1. Life is going to pass me by unless I stick one of my sweet gams out and hitch a ride. This I plan to do. I have got to realize that things will change and that I can’t say that things are going to be this way or that. I have to live life for today. Live with the understanding that tomorrow will come and that will turn into today and then slip away into yesterday. It will turn out how it is supposed to be because as Voltaire once quoted a philosopher but I will do so without sarcasm or indignity, “This is the best of all possible worlds”.
2. I am really bad at using bathrooms.
Hello again! Happy belated fourth of July friends!
So, I am months away from graduating from my nominally esteemed college and I must admit that there is a bit of something in me that is stirred by this. Not fear but not elation. Something else. I talk a lot about my roommate and he has actually been my best friend for over a decade (I just felt weird saying that! Friends for a decade! That’s two fifths of my age that I have called him my best friend. Wild.). Where was I?…Oh yeah, so we have been friends and roommates and his girlfriend is a friend of mine as well. We hang out a lot, third-wheel is implied there, and it’s always fun.
They were going to go see fireworks but I was just going to sit around and study for the GRE. I said this only to sound productive for, in reality, I was going to workout and re-watch Arrested Development. I wanted to go though! Just not as a third-wheel…again. I love fireworks but more on that later.
I guess it’s funny how things work out though. The day before the fourth I tore my calf muscle (medial gastrowidfuwuefh strain i believe. Sorry but medical terms aren’t my forte. It hurts that’s about it.*). This tear kind of limited my mobility so I was stuck in the house for pretty much the entire day Tuesday and then all of Wednesday morning and afternoon. I am by no means an “inside” person. I love being outdoors, so this little set-back was not appealing to me. I became severely bored. The kind of bored where you are too bored to do anything so it makes you lazy. I couldn’t watch AD because my attention span was gone, I could only listen to about a minute of a song before changing it, which annoyed me. I was non complaisant. Then, later in the evening, my roommate and his girlfriend asked if I wanted to get ice cream. They had decided not to see fireworks because of the heat and crowds. I didn’t miss a beat. After his girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go, I hobbled to a stand and said, “where to?!” probably a bit too eagerly but I was just happy to get out of the house.
I never noticed just how much I used my calf muscles until everything I did mobility wise was affected by searing pain when I did the wrong movement. I had to walk with my right foot cocked almost completely sideways, my roommate saying, “I didn’t know you were half pirate” or “Look at Chris with his pimp walk”. Love you too, bro…
We have our ice cream and talk about relationships. They talk about how they’ve been dating a year and people keep hinting they should get married which sends palpitations through my heart. Not that I don’t want them to get married it’s just, the idea is too foreign for me, especially considering our age but that’s a whole other blog post. Then I remark on how that’s better than people questioning your sexuality because you don’t have a girlfriend. I think that’s funny. Most people are serial monogamists, jumping from one relationship to another. I’m a romantic at heart. I like to date but I won’t be in a relationship with someone just to BE with someone. I want it to mean something. So, I walk the dusty trail alone, sometimes. I’m okay with it but some just think it’s because I like boys. Go figure.
So, after ice cream we went to a video store and rented Chronicle (see it), and as we were leaving we heard a BOOM! The first firework went off. Then another BOOM! I poked my head out of the car window and into the humid night air. Those beautiful neon green lights that faded to orange and finally dissipated. The smell of gun powder hung in the air and I took it all in. I could hear her saying she couldn’t see them. My roommate doesn’t love nor hate fireworks. He just doesn’t see the point of them but he would have gone for her. She said she didn’t want to go but in this moment with all of those lights hanging over head as we drove through the shadow shrouded streets, she wanted to and he knew it. So they squabbled a bit about why she didn’t say she really wanted to go but I took no notice.
We ended up in the parking lot of Schnuck’s and as we pulled up, we saw that there were fireworks going off in the distance. She got out first and stood in front of the car. It was funny seeing her face light up at the spectacle in front of us. It was like she was a kid again. My roommate and I sat in the car for a moment and then I convinced him to get out of the car. The three of us stood in the empty parking lot and saw fireworks going off on our left. The lights lit up the clear night sky.
Then more in the distance to our right. They were on either side of us. Then a single BOOM! and a POP just in front of us. We had come to a point where we could see three shows going off at once.
I reveled in this. It took me back to being a kid and wanting to get as close as I could to the fireworks. I loved it when they went off almost above your head and later little bits of ash fell on you. The smell of the gunpowder will always stick with me. After those long shows as a child, I would run through the open, grass field, barefoot of course, and it would be covered in smoke. It was almost like fog hanging in the air.
The three of us stand at the foot of the car in silence. The three fireworks shows going off one after another. I look over at them embracing and I find I am troubled. In this moment there is lament. He is graduating in May and has plans to move to Florida and she may possibly go with him. So, I am looking at these two people whom I genuinely love and I think about how in one years time the likelihood that we will do this again is not there. This singular event is all that we have. Time runs out. I look back at the fireworks and I am content because now I enjoy the fireworks for a different reason. I enjoy them for what they stand for in that moment and I am happy again.
So, even though I may not see them for years after May or possibly never see them again, I get to know that they are friends that I never took for granted. We may have all wanted something different that day but somehow, in the end, we got our fireworks.
*FOOT NOTE: So, if you read this far, kudos! it was a long one! This is a small story about the calf pull. My roommate “Mike” is really into fitness and stuff. So he wanted me to do agility training with him out in a park. It was fine at first but then we did this hill running drill. You have to sprint up the hill then walk down. Do that 10 times each. ten up, ten down. It is really hard. So I am on my tenth one going up when I hear a pop and a feeling of pain that made me want to pee myself. Glad I didn’t because there were a lot of people around. I get home and look up my injury. It says it happens commonly to tennis athletes. It listed the causes of the injury. Guess what the first one was….Hill Running.