Best Worst Year: Episode 32 (Or, Monday Commutes)

The seasick surrender branded a seashell shaped halo into my wrist. I broke a wine glass and knocked over the still whistling tea kettle, flooding the the lip of the stove and running down the sides like a steaming waterfall. I guess making tea at the end of a blurry Saturday night wasn’t the best idea I’ve had. The halo evaporated slowly and by Monday morning all that’s left is a decaying pink purple sunset, fading like a polaroid left to neglect in direct sunlight.

I join the choir of Monday commuters like a muted trumpet. I had spent the weekend out chasing the weather with an armful of books and an earful of Wilco. I went out Saturday night for some live blues and came home to the dead stillness of my apartment. It’s been a month and a half and there is no art on the walls. I don’t have a couch, just a couch space hole where one belongs, and the neighbors upstairs were making it keenly aware to everyone in our building that their kid was spending the night at the grandparents. Painfully aware. I didn’t know I was living above a pair of triathletes.

I wandered through a goodly portion of malbec when the persistent hammering finally came to an abrupt end–an argument? One passion traded for another and nobody went to bed happy, I guess.

I woke up on my recliner to the smell of cigarettes. It was ten after four and my neighbor was smoking outside of my window. The menu screen for Ed Wood in a loop for hours–I wonder what was going through my neighbor’s mind–a theremin playing schlocky 50’s b-movie theme at a volume that was drowning out their noises earlier in the night. From the size of his truck and the handful of words we’ve exchanged, I’m guessing he’s not much of “film guy” as much as I’m not a “Kid Rock fan.” He was smoking Marlboro Menthol Lights. I still know what they smell like. It’s funny what your brain chooses to remember.

I’m in a line of cars and they’re all painted black, or at least that’s what it feels like this morning on the Veterans Parkway. There are roadwork signs for uneven pavement which has slowed us all to a lurching crawl. The Lemonheads come on XM radio. Nineties nostalgia. My twenties are now its own radio station for a new generation to discover. I think about listening to Evan Dando and front porches in a city that becomes a decaying echo to me a little more every day. I roll the sound of the word “now” around in my head like it’s the only marble left up there from the weekend.

Now seems to stretch out farther for me. That seems in direct opposition to how it should be, right?

I ran into Aldi’s on North Grand on Sunday and was in line behind these two wives buying lunch snacks for their kids last week at some camp or another. They kept talking about “now” and “soon” and how the days kept vanishing. What an odd word to hear in a discount supermarket on a Sunday afternoon from soccer moms. “Vanishing.” For a moment, I imagined that they weren’t talking about summer or even their kids. I thought about how they felt things weren’t just slipping away into the ether–that life had gone missing. It’s as if they turned around and weren’t just in their late thirties but that life had wandered away out of the frame of their self-styled celluloid romantic comedy. It was only a beat in the conversation, as it always only is, and then it was back to comparing beefsteak tomatoes.

Lately out here in Springfield, “now” feels like a gauzy white curtain slowly being drawn over a gradually expanding landscape. It’s an steady series of slightly extended inevitables pulling along the floor of days as I waltz towards the horizon. There’s at once a discovery and rediscovery of what days are and what they can be–of how hours pass and what passes for spending. It is lonely but not lonely. It’s like being caught in the undertow of a life which is and is not yours. Hope is a soft blue light still shrouded in the morning fog and slowly evaporating with the coming daybreak. I am working slivers of doubt out of the palm of my hand, slowly. A broken wine glass can be replaced.

I climb the turning stairwell to my office and sit at my desk for a good five minutes without turning on my computer. I look out my window and watch the leaves on the trees outside the Brinkerhoff mansion shimmer with green-golden wave of breezy breath. For a moment, I think about a girl playing the cello, and then she vanishes. Out of that pregnant pause, a car horn fills the quiet. Fifth street has a steady blood flow of cars, all moving in the same direction.

I grab my coffee mug and head downstairs for my first cup of the day.


Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared in The North American Review, PANK Magazine, Drunken Boat, and other journals. Jim received his MFA at Wilkes University and lives in Springfield, IL. Follow him on Twitter: @whoismisterjim.

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