Not Another Day
Sunday, May 13, 2012
I woke up coughing. I couldn't be sure if it was a painful tickle in my throat or a deeper bit of something in my lungs, but I couldn't stop. I rolled unceremoniously from bed, nearly braining myself on my nightstand.
"You okay?" the wife mumbled.
"Mrrubmhp cough cough," I replied. I'm eloquent at two in the morning. Two stubbed toes, a nearly squished dog, and a shoulder-bump on a doorframe later, I was in the bathroom. Closing the doors, I flipped the lights on and grimaced as I waited for my eyes to adjust. Watching my pupils rapidly contract, I noticed something far more alarming. The circles under my eyes had bags and the bags had handles. I tried in vain to rub the sleep from my eyes and coughed a few times. I knew pretty quickly I wasn't getting back to sleep.
After spitting an alarming amount of material into the sink, I found my way down the stairs and plopped myself down on the couch, debating what to do next. The pitter-patter of four tiny legs was rapidly followed by the scritch-scratch of doggy nails on tile floor, and Gus came bounding around the corner to figure out what I was up to. Whenever anyone got up, it usually meant he got to go outside. I pretended not to remember this, but a few bumps from a freezing nose and scratches from dangerously sharp claws later I was forced to admit I did in fact recall that arrangement. Grunting obscenities in a language only my dog and I speak, I made my way to the back door and let him out. Only after dodging his serpent-striking lunge through the door did I follow.
For the second time since waking, a sudden visual realization struck me. I looked up into the sky and saw approximately four stars. Before they built the rest home (complete with an array of always-on streetlamps around the entire perimeter) I could see a fairly un-polluted portion of 3/4 of the night sky. I live about twenty minutes north of downtown Fort Worth, which isn't a terribly bright city. I kneeled down and looked in the grass. It was only then that I realized my eyes had adjusted and I could almost see as though it was still dusk. I sighed for an abnormally long time.
When we got the house, only a long train of un-tended grass and trees lay behind us. The realtor, loan officer, and inspector praised us on finding a house on a green belt. Green belts are bits of undeveloped land that rim residential areas in order to create a sort of sonic and organic barrier between commercial areas. It was a small forest, almost completely obscuring our view of the major road behind us. What they didn't know was that it was always zoned for development, it was just that no one had bothered to develop it yet. Now it was gone, replaced by a massive retirement home.
The sigh finally stopped, and I was greeted by a familiar sound: the slight whoosh of distant cars navigating up and down I-35. We couldn't see it, but a big building isn't as good of a sound absorber as a series of trees. For a moment, I debated going to a nearby coffee shop that was open 24 hours. Unfortunately, urban sprawl had done its part and it was replaced with a Starbucks, which as far as I remembered was not open at two in the morning.
"The suburbs are supposed to be an ideal compromise," I told Gus. He looked up at me with a pant and a slight cock of his head to one side. I shrugged. "Close to the city for work, far from the noise for home." He decided he was done trying to understand me and went back to snuffling around the grass for something. Probably looking for a bunny. We'd had scores of them in our yard when the greenbelt lay behind us, but I'd only seen about two or a three a year since.
I couldn't remember the last time my commute had been less than twenty minutes. That's still a pretty short drive, but I live 7 miles from my office. Because of construction, on a bad day the commute was closer to forty minutes. My ideal solution had found a way to become the worst solution in every way. We live in an expensive school district, a regional water district, a county hospital district, a county college district, and inside of the city limits. We don't have kids, go to community college, and we buy bottled water for most of our uses. The city imposes watering limits right now because of the drought, and even if it didn't, two of my sprinkler heads are broken because of neighborhood kids riding their bikes on my lawn. �How did this dream turn so rapidly into a nightmare?
Maybe it was never my dream.
A friend of mine once told me he was really good at figuring out how people were going to live. He got into an extended discussion of exactly where he thought my life would end up. It might help if you understand that this conversation took place while I was holding a bass and he was holding an electric guitar. He was drinking a beer he stole from his dad's fridge. He kept offering me some, but I refused to drink (it was illegal, by gosh!). He took a long pull on the beer and then looked me straight in the eye.
"You're going to live in a nice house with a picket fence. You're going to have a wife, two kids, and a dog." I was aghast. The thought of being anything but a rockstar at that point in my life was maddening. Well, to be honest, my ambitions were even nerdier: I saw myself living in a loft apartment in the downtown area of a big city and having a steady gig with an orchestra when I wasn't in the studio writing music for video games. But you get the picture: the life unusual. The spectacular dream. The American Possibility. The idea of working in a cubicle on banking software for eight hours a day (nine hours with a lunch break) sounded like a special type of corporal punishment.
This memory struck me especially hard when I was sitting in an office with three other developers working on a late-night code fix for some mortgage valuation software.
Had my life really become a parody of itself? Was I just a completely ignorant and idealistic fool? Was I having another quarter-life crisis? Rapidly approaching 30 years old, would it be more of a one-third of life crisis? Before I could decide, a freezing cold nose brushed my leg and I jumped with a gasp.
"Alright, we'll go in."
After stumbling for a few minutes onto the deck and clearing my throat a few more times, I found my way back in the house. Gus ran directly to his bed upstairs. I dug for a treat to reward him. I �resigned myself to the possibility of spending the next few hours until my alarm went off staring at the ceiling again.
When I found my way to the top of the stairs, Danielle was stirring in bed. I smiled. She always looked so incredibly peaceful in bed. I liked to imagine she was dreaming of flying or something, but she was always more of a fan of the water. �She mumbled something, that came out sounding like "yukay hrmphbr?" �I took it to be "are you okay, honey bear?"
I just smiled as I tossed Gus his treat and slid into bed.
"Yeah Danilion. I'm fine."
Every day I wake up a different person from the person I was the previous day. I never know who the hell that guy was, or who the hell this new guy is. But I always wake up next to the same person.
Maybe that's not everything. But it's enough. Maybe tomorrow will be just another day. Maybe it won't.
I grunted as I threw an arm up over my head. Danielle idly plopped an arm over my stomach and I grinned once I regained my breath. Maybe it didn't matter.