I recently took a weekend off and did something. Now mind you, that sentence is a touch foreign. I haven’t taken a weekend off to do something since the last time I did and that was, well, that was never it seems. But it was also a stinging reminder of all the weekends where I should have, with loved ones in tow but didn’t. A bad I can never un not do. But this particular weekend I did and I gotta tell ya, I felt a rush of actual living from it and it was something that I had to do at this point in my life for just that reason. I went to visit my old, and best, roommate, Tom. He the teacher of 20 years and his life were holding a Poet Con. A coming together of poets and expression and friends. He asked if I would be interested in joining, witnessing and maybe actually do a bit of that coming together.
Sitting on a train to Norfolk from Poughkeepsie (a couple of them with a Penn Station hub) for just short of 12 hours I was slapped with a reminder of me. I enjoyed the solitude of those trains with a Neil Gaiman book this day, and a packed lunch and could have easily continued to stops beyond, or as long as my sandwich held out to the next sandwich, yet the promise of meeting new folks and sharing poetry had me get off where I should. How to mix solitude with connection, a conundrum I’ve been trying to master for a lifetime.
Ya know, I don’t remember exactly when Tom (JT) and I weren’t sharing a place together back at WVU and before then. I know when it had to be, after Tom was done with the masters and I stayed on in Morgantown, after not being done with mine, at the college radio station while trying to catch on at WDVE in Pittsburgh, I just don’t remember exactly when. I don’t really recall moving out, the whole packing and steps and lugging shit down them to say goodbye to that two bedroom place that started with pizza and fleas. Fleas hopping above that exhaustedly happy post move-in pizza suddenly profiled in the light of the TV as they sprang up and down in an almost circus of flight just minus tiny top hats from the carpet that seemingly had been home to a flead cat or dog before us. The necessary bombing of the place took a bit of the sheen of new place excitement out of the move but it settled and we lived even with the eventual ants who apparently just laugh off flea bombs.
We had been roommates for so long and so well that I think my memories just kind of skipped straight to wherever I was next, wherever the next bed and stuff was. There were quite a few.
It started with our last year of college at Waynesburg where I stayed on for a fifth as the Resident Director of a Dorm, something that was requested of me, while needing to take just a couple of classes. Tom and I had already decided to find a place together for that year and when the school asked of the RD position I told them it had to come with a roommate. They agreed and it was the length of four dorm rooms connected and a slew of mattresses ‘procured ‘ from the unused floor above us. My bed was four of them, on the floor, stacked two on two. A Jerry rigged luxury King Bed of sorts that was only missing waved palms and dropped grapes. I still live with my bed on the floor, never quite comfortable in one as it’s supposed to be… it’s nice that there’s nowhere for monsters to hide. That’s a good thing right?
After that it seems something of a blur. A succession of roomates and places and beds and girlfriends and mistakes, misfires, actual fires a lost dear cat (the first of many) and its upending, radio jobs that were good, some that were just dollars and time backwards, a wedding, an ex and a direction that never really was. Just one that always kept a roof and new cat food.
That has continued as I approach my 52ndbirthday, a roof and cat food after a new ex of eight years two years gone now and the house we shared with skin and fur and memories of good and an eventual slow creep of bad. I wonder every day how I got here, what I missed along the way and how I can possibly make my last shot at a life that won’t just be one of walking, breathing poorly and limping to the end but one that I might still be proud of amidst my many failures.
Shit, that’s something.
Today I finished a weeklong set of three triple header lacrosse state playoff lacrosse matches that led to three teams being crowned State Champs in an almost drunken haze of joy countered with the hangover of loss and tears from the seconds. I watched intently from my sideline gig for Time Warner Cable Sports and their broadcast of the games (an envious vantage for the moms, dad’s, sisters and brothers and others that were imploring their kids from the stands I’m sure) teams of High School players doing what they do with the spark flash of youth and it was mesmerizing. I watched a game I don’t know but have come to admire as I enjoyed this envious vantage while figuring out as many intricacies of the game as I possibly could. Who knew, thought the newbie, what sticks out meant after a shot on goal racing to the out? It’s something I could have played, I think, if I weren’t so baseball centric in my same days.
But there was something.
I found myself with small foot to foot rocking and tiny anxious lunges at whatever action was happening for whichever team I had silently decided were mine. Most importantly though, I breathed. While keeping my head in the game for my job of the day I couldn’t help but note that, God, yes, I was indeed breathing, taking in the day’s big heat and wanting to do nothing more than to jog, break out a ball and glove and look for mom and dad sunglassed proud on a blanket or bike ride to grab a sweat in my own spot, maybe on trail in the woods, with camera in hand, or a fast walk somewhere in the sun.
When the games were done and the day was the same I made way out to the now silent parking lot, so raucus earlier with the horn honks of victory and special meals from moms for son victors when they got home, and sat leg out in my car, windows open to a welcome breeze, spent, after letting that wavy heat drift breeze away and my stink sweat go with it. It was just me and one last survivor. A guy and his camera slowly working his day up the long parking lot to its end of the same leg out at his car or something similarly paused in the quiet of breeze.
My little square squeezy cooler holds just a few cans with a plastic block of freeze in the middle. Its long lost freeze now, after a day in the car’s sun, was still cool enough for the soda waters I kept there to get me home after the hot. He took the one I offered on his walk and found his day end spot, on a small wall further up the lot as did I with my leg out in the front seat, tilted back just a little extra. Man, what a day to breathe and, for a quick moment, I found the answer to that joining of solitude and its companion.