Day 3 in the Heartland: I am pacing my enclosure, mad to go outside. I am hampered in my adjustment by having been ruined by living like a wolf for six weeks, showering, sleeping, and working in the lively peace of my garden, a place bustling with excitement, sparking with overlays of thrills past and future.
Technically, there is nothing stopping me from going outside, except that there’s actually nothing out there. The light is thin, the air is grey, cold, dampish. There is yellow grass, more plastic fences. No street life, nobody walking anywhere unless they have a dog. There is no gardening yet; the ground is cold and hard.
I fix things that are not working; replace light bulbs, bed sheets, clean the refrigerator that will be sticky again soon. I fold the towels in the bath closet, stuffed in randomly by boys. I bead, and read, and answer my correspondence, I watch Endeavor Morse and I drink the red wine that Bill left for me, with love. He loves me so much I can feel it wherever I am. I watch the cardinals outside the windows.
I take pictures of the cats, I show the cats pictures of other cats. Here is Simon. Those are his long white whiskers in the hair of the doll in the garden; I save them as he finishes with them.
I could zombie around the cold, empty streets and look at the beige and silver minivans and the gigantic SUVs with their impossible numbers of stick-figure children in their stick-figure families, or marvel at the often wheedling or threatening church marquees (about one per block here, with a particularly nasty one on the corner of Essex and Kirkwood that is always saying things about certain people, you know, naming names: “Jack, God sees what you are doing”, or “John, no one is fooled by your behavior.”
I ask Evan if he remembers some more, for me to write down, and he says, “If you need fresh material, just walk down and look at it, whatever it says, it’s sure to be obnoxious.” and he’s right. I could.
Or I could go count the plastic geese dressed in rotating seasonal and holiday outfits on porches (wtf?) or the so-wrong black lawn jockey statues on the lawns of the white people (wtff?) or visit the empty park, the empty pool. I could stop and talk to the teenagers hanging around Magic Market, bored, smoking, who would look at me and see only a grown-up, behaving oddly.
I could go to the grocery store, and see what kind of crazed signs they have, check for misplaced apostrophes. Plum’s!
I could drive to a different building, and go inside it instead. I could drive across the city on blank grey highways with blank grey walls rising along them, walls so high you can’t see over them, just greyness, nothingness, ribbons to somewhere from somewhere. I hate those tall grey walls, blocking not only noise but our sense of connection to place and to people.
I bend my head and my hands to my work, the broken-up one now in a neat little black removable cast, mentally focusing on the boys, grown so tall now. I make them food, loving them laughing downstairs; they are happy enough inside the house, happy enough in the blandness, playing games, being silly. I am soaking them in. Liam leaves for college at the end of summer, maybe to Chicago, the room that has been his since he was a little baby will become a quiet place, probably slowly filling up with Bill’s papers and magazines and journals.
Happily, Evan will play chess with me (he beat me fiercely tonight, I was very impressed) and Bill comes home tomorrow night, full of science, and Monday, I’m off to Boston, one of the least bland places I’ve ever been; I will fall headlong into a whirl, missing my sons, the math on all of this of course never once even coming close to meeting in the middle, but somehow, at a more vaporous level, all is maybe as it must be.
Look at this mysterious and excellent sign on the seat in the theater where I saw Mr. Turner (the Loft, in Tucson).
What can it mean?
It was very Jenny Holzer, next to my bag stuffed with Things.