18 August, 2007


[This post originally appeared on my MySpace blog, which no longer exists. The date of the original posting has been lost.]

I was basking today. Not in the sunlight of an unseasonably warm day, though it has been one, but in the shade of the maintenance building where I work. (The sun and I don't get along; we have an understanding.) There was nearby chatter and the occasional clanking of metal and, every so often, a whiff of smoke on the otherwise healthy breeze. The golf cart in which I sat alone was parked in a row with others outside the garage where, ordinarily, there would be none — everyone normally bustling about with parts for this or that, fetching equipment, answering work orders. The weather had left us impotent, torpid. We had done our work, made our rounds. By shortly after noon we had resigned ourselves to outright laziness.

The smell in the air was that of spring: light and moist with the imminence of rain. It was bright; my eyes, unwilling to cooperate, were strained and began closing involuntarily against the midday light, so I permitted them the briefest of rests between glimpses of the sky's perfect, white cumuli. I thought of nothing, my mind completely at rest for what had to be the first time in a week. It was momentarily glorious.

And then, the scent of memory: an unplaceable, evanescent aroma carried on the wind. As quickly as it registered, it was gone, and I was swept up and borne backwards to that final spring. 2001 had been unquestionably a waste of time — all those hours piled on top of hours, whiled away at the coffeshop, smoking myself bloody, or driving nowhere in that monstrosity of an automobile. At least it had been time wasted on my own terms, unlike now. Associated forever with that smell, there it was once more, after nearly six years, to remind me of the inescapability of the past.

Six years ago, as I sat at a small aluminum table with friends — Brahm, Kristina, Mike, Shira, F.C., and the rest — nursing a mug of Sumatran and laughing at how absurdly depressing the year had begun, I could never have foreseen the anxiety, terror, and abject loneliness that were only a few months away. It would have never occurred to me that there would come a time when, sitting on a golf cart behind a lethal electric fence, staring at clouds over the heap of razor wire that is the back gate of a prison, I could romanticize those seemingly meaningless months with such passion as to put a lump in my throat.

The moment passed, of course, as moments are wont to do, but the mood remained. I cannot shake the emptiness, the queasy feeling that whispers up my spine, "This is not where you're supposed to be." I left work feeling very heavy, almost winded. Now it is evening; I am exhausted. Tomorrow promises to be cooler, with the rain showers that will ensure everyone at work remains indoors and active. Overcast, damp, and chilly, it will not be a day for basking. It will be better.