Best Worst Year: Episode 54 (Or, Nights Like These)

Kettle steam. Green tea. Toast. Almond milk. Cereal. NPR. Contacts. Razor. Toothbrush. Buckles. Clasps. Rosary necklace. Buttons. Half-Windsor. Idle engines. Cold hands. Cold. Just cold. Radio. White noise. Keys. Empty office. Lights. Coffee. Turntable. Cold.

Slightly above the white noise, riding along the street-lit ribbon of night passing through my bedroom window, there was a rippling edge of a memory. Or moment. Or reminder.

Could’ve sworn. Maybe. No. Not at all. Half awake. Nightstand. Glasses. No lights. Tired.

The ceramic mug is warm. I’m not supposed to have more than a single cup of coffee, really. When days stack deadlines, I forget decaffeinated promises. You bend not to break right? The ceramic mug is warm in my hands.

Sometimes it’s just the heat kicking on, passing like breath across my uncovered neck. Forced air–pushes an initial cold and then comes heat. I sit at the edge of my bed, watching ice melt. There were a series of crooked teeth along the window, half formed, suspended in the air by a busted screen. A thinning wisp of wet thread clings to the dripping tips–it’ll all be gone by the time I come home from work tomorrow.

By the time I came home from work tonight, it was an eleven hour work day–the second one in a row. I have been in the habit of keeping a lamp near the door lit when I leave the house. It’s heavy red fabric shade dims the light, creates a full moon fracture directly above it. Drywall lit in its circle–man in the moon. Cratered surfaces. Somehow it feels more like home. I fall asleep on the couch.

I wake up on the couch and the DVD menu screen just runs. Giant. James Dean. Half awake I started watching it when, slightly above the white noise, riding along the street-lit ribbon of night passing through my bedroom window, I could’ve sworn that I was already awake. That awake that’s actually asleep.

Dream of treadmills. No. Awake. Tired. Stationary bikes. Miles. 20 miles. The gym is cold. Veins rise to the surface. Breath then comes heat. Hair in face. A wet mop of stationary miles. 20 miles. A thinning wisp of wet thread clings to the dripping tips–split ends. Sneakers. Hoodies. Zippers. Lean into door.

By the time I came home from the tonight, it was an eleven hour work day–the second one in a row. There’s a small stack of unsent birthday cards on my coffee table. 24 months. Five states. Unsent. Stationary miles. Split ends. Lean into the door. Could’ve sworn. Maybe. No. Not at all. Half awake. Nightstand. Glasses. No lights. Tired.

Slightly above the white noise, riding along the street lit ribbon of night passing through my bedroom window, there was a rippling edge of a memory. The ceramic mug is warm. White noise. James Dean. The Man in the Moon. No lights.

I don’t dream much. Head hits pillow, alarms go off. I stretch out, sit at the edge of my bed.

Kettle steam. Green tea. Toast. Almond milk. Cereal. NPR. Contacts. Razor. Toothbrush.
Buckles. Clasps. Rosary necklace. Buttons. Half windsor. Idle engines. Cold hands. Cold.
Just cold. Radio. White noise. Keys. Empty office. Lights. Coffee. Turntable. Cold.

The ceramic mug is warm. I’m not supposed to have more than a single cup of coffee, really. When days stack deadlines, I forget decaffeinated promises. You bend not to break right? The ceramic mug is warm in my hands.

Slightly above the white noise, riding along the street lit ribbon of night passing through my bedroom window, there was a rippling edge of a memory. Or moment. Or reminder. Work.

Deadlines. Budgets. Edits. Interviews. Forms. Paperwork. More paperwork. Meetings. Coffee. The building fills, swells with life. Everyone drinks coffee. I made banana bread. I
like baking on the weekends now. Chemistry. Measure. Follow directions. Improvise when confident. Go slow. Slow learner. Student. Something else to master. Improve when doubt drives you. Go slow. Slow down. Cold hands. Just cold. White noise. Spatula scrapes. Glass bowls. Work.

None of it is work. I know what work is. This is not work. My phone reminds me. “I still think you lead a great life.” Emoticon. Scroll through screens. A picture here. Emails. The simulated typewriter clicks. Unsent. This is not work. I know what work is. Seven years. Social work. Forms. Bad coffee. Styrofoam cups. Paperwork. Clozapine. 250mg. Lithium. 500mg. Dry mouths. Restraint. Child services. ABA. APA. SSI. Disability. Dual diagnosis. Bites. Scratches. Tears. Bottles. Medication. Self-medication. I know what work is. None of it is work. You bend not to break right?

By the time I came home from work tonight, it was an eleven hour work day–the second one in a row. This is not work. I have been in the habit of keeping a lamp near the door lit when I leave the house. It’s heavy red fabric shade dims the light, creates a full moon fracture directly above it. Dry wall lit in its circle–man in the moon. Cratered surfaces. Somehow it feels more like home. I fall asleep on the couch.

_________________________
Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program 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 or is forthcoming in various journals including The North American Review, The Hawaii Pacific Review, PANK Magazine, The Oyez Review, Five Quarterly, and The Minnesota Review. He wishes he can remember that student teacher’s name. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.

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