Lewis and Clark: Day 35, still no path
The air is cool, but pleasantly so; there's no sting to it. You step outside and it's refreshing, like the burst of fragrant breeze that wafts through a half-opened classroom window in late September. You're thinking football, and newly mowed grass, and caramel apples, and buttered popcorn.
Driving around this morning, I saw a woman stopped at an intersection, her hand poised in midair elegantly holding a lit cigarette. Women who smoke when they drive put me in mind of a cat ready to pounce. They hold their jaws the same way, and narrow their eyes just so.
Waiting in line at the bank for a teller to attend to me, I got the shakes. My head got light and I felt unsteady. It seemed to me my heart was beating too fast again, but maybe it wasn't -- maybe it just felt like it was. It felt too strong, anyway, like a Cadillac engine that's been put into a go-cart. I went back to the car and sat there a few minutes, waiting out the trembly feeling. Eventually it did go away -- and I went on with my errands.
I still have the hives. I kept scratching nervously at the left side of my neck as I drove, trying not to dig too hard, but the irritated, restless feeling wouldn't leave me and I couldn't quit itching at it. I kept changing the radio station, dissatisfied with everything they played.
I got behind an old man, an old man driving a dusty blue car in a haphazard kind of way, weaving from the center line to the shoulder in uneven swathes. He'd look in the rear view mirror every now and then and I'd see a heavily furrowed brow frowning over thick black squarish glasses, as if it required all his concentration just to hold on to the wheel. Then I didn't feel so much impatient as sorry -- how it must feel to be that old, to be so uncertain that even the automatic, rote motions of a driving a car could no longer be trusted, or taken for granted.
I woke up this morning thinking of how time sculpts a person -- how wind and water erodes, but time and choices carve a face completely. Why else do some faces look harder, more brittle than others? What is it that happens to people?
How does a person learn to give, instead of breaking? There must be a secret, some message that some of us got in a folded note when no one else was looking.
Then I went to my son's Halloween party at school and I was still thinking about this and another mother drifted past me and murmured kindly: "What's wrong?"
I jumped, startled: "Nothing!" I felt defensive, unexplainably so, as if I'd been accused of something. But really it was that I'd been lost in my own, private musing (and also thinking, irrelevantly, that I need to schedule my sons for haircuts), and it seemed to me suddenly I'd been exposed -- that instead of sitting there silently I'd been broadcasting my thoughts (however sober) to the rest of the room, and everyone was frowning at me for it. Or: that everyone else in the room was having a great time (dressed in costumes, faces painted): why wasn't I?
I made myself smile and laugh lightly and say something casual, and I determinedly kept a smile on my face (however forced it felt) until my face got tired (or until I looked utterly psychotic) and we left early.
I'm not good at parties, maybe. I should be better at socializing -- and I'm really not. And it's not like I could talk about what I was thinking of; but even if I am having a cath on Thursday, there's nothing anyone can say or do to help, and I just need to deal with it -- and shut up.