I sent the email. Now there's a hole the size of I don't know, a Mack truck? A freight train? An aircraft carrier in my afternoon. I poured a shit ton of finesse into that thing – spoke the speak, quoted numbers – and my job now is to sit tight, as they say, which will take some doing. I even invoked technical terms like domain name and mission statement. Hinted ever so smartly at the possibility of a vast and varied knowledge behind that language, but not so much that I'm giving away the milk. As per, you know. My usual m.o. working for low or no income because budget cuts and didn't get the grant.
Simply put, I need to focus on making some money. And why is it so hard to say that? Mah mah mah make sum mmmoney. Maybe I shouldn’t say some. More? Enough? At all? Anyway, the email is for a consulting gig involving the redevelopment of a brown site for cultural events. We'd had a meeting and I was given the privilege of pitching them a proposal as a follow-up. If I got the work, I would be responsible for the soft cost line-item of engagement. They’d deal with the soil and other aspects of the project it's in everyone's best interest if I'm at a remove from. In my email I said it would be imperative to get community stakeholders on board. Even knowing that that action should be listed as actionable demonstrates my capabilities. My potential. I’m all coil over here, see?
Guess I'll clean out the fridge.
Why haven't they responded yet??? Can’t imagine a better fit, I said. This is the kind of work that I live for, I said. Gets me out of bed and so on.
Truth is, some days I live merely to hit send. I understand the desire to press a button and get instantaneous results. Is this how bombs get dropped? I'm not sure how to translate that thought into a cover letter, but I bet there are hacks out there who could spin that. Not me. I didn't even clean out the fridge. The leftovers aren’t mine to toss, though I could make an executive decision. More importantly, it should probably be a teaching opportunity. If my partner wants to hang on to styrofoam-boxed muck for weeks on end, then he’s going to have to deal with the consequences, isn’t he.
Couldn't sleep. Laid there wondering, so figured I might as well check email. Still nothing. I try to be as quiet as possible on the way down the stairs so partner can sleep through to the alarm. I'm up and suffering early, but that doesn't mean he has to be. This bit of generosity on my part lifts me a little. Like I'm in the running on this be-a-good-person thing. Then methinks I doth, though. Oh well. That was short lived. Better start the day over again but this time, with coffee. I count on the promise of the morning cup. I stare out the window with a mug of dark roast and think random-as-tumbleweed thoughts. Sometimes I come up with keepers. If I get the chance maybe I’ll suggest to the project managers for the redevelopment gig that we have a group brainstorming session, first thing.
Their plan is to build a theater in an old warehouse that will be razed, though a few of the original beams will be salvaged for tasteful display. In the meeting they called preliminary, everyone was excited about showing the renderings. I listened with my I'm-right-here-in-the-room-with-you face. Secretly, I was inside the building to be demolished. I could see the flaking paint and all the pigeons in the rafters who'd been busy refinishing the bare floors in feathers and sticky guano. I walked over to the broken windows that'd been boarded up. Light was coming through where the wood had been torn off by refugees of the night seeking shelter.
Back in the room, I asked if the extant paint was lead-based. Glances were exchanged. The building is to be filled with furniture and conversation, they said. I can do that, I said. I can sit on a sofa and invite others to participate. There was talk of a concession area. To conceive of salaries (like mine), I've been practicing my fluency with a word like surplus.
Sitting at the kitchen table, watching the wind in the trees, enfant terrible philosopher Slavoj Žižek comes to mind. His “split” subjects that both know and do not know and which am I in any given moment. My partner thinks I deflect responsibility when I refer in shorthand to other thinkers, but I tell him all language is shorthand. He says that's a cop-out, too. He's probably right. Is this why I haven’t been hired yet?
My coffee smells like lasagna. I think I will throw that crap out.
It takes a day, which I am reminded is actually quite reasonable. Even quick. But it turns out the words I needed to use in this phase of the project planning included business concept and property development. I did not refer to Žižek in my pitch but did happen to mention anarchist Emma Goldman. That we should enjoy ourselves while changing people's minds. Dancing, revolution. I think that’s called leading with the chin when dealing with investors. Still, everyone was polite, even me. Lots of friendly “reply all.” There could be a role for me down the road if all goes well. I call it role. They say part-time employee, possibly. They'll be in touch.
The job probably doesn’t play to my strengths when all is said and done. I prefer a lively blend of misanthrope with occasional save-the-world surges. Wearing unwashed jammies under a cape while typing furiously on my computer keyboard behind a curtain. (This is the afternoon coffee talking.) My partner knows what it looks like when I haven't left the house all day. Lately he's taken to calling on his way home to find out what he's in for.
I do get out, I always tell him defensively. It happens that I'm going to an event at a local college tonight. There's nothing here to eat now that I chucked the contents of the fridge, so I plan to leave enough time to get something on the way.
At the talk we are enjoined to get close to the things we think are important – to the world's problems – in order to create solutions. The speaker’s mission is to urge municipalities to install power grids that draw energy from wind and solar. The planet's temperature is going up, he says, and the oceans are rising. We must act now before it’s too late. To illustrate the severity of the situation, he projects moving images of the largest ever witnessed glacier calving event. It is spectacularly distressing. The audience is dumb struck mesmerized, and here and there gasps escape. Though my stomach is audibly grumbling, I do not reach into my bag to pull pinches of sandwich from its crinkle wrap.
The projection ends. The lights come up. At first, silence, but then a protracted discussion ensues. During one particularly long-winded audience comment, my gaze wanders to the portraits of patrons in scholarly robes lining the walls. My mission clearly needs a better structure. I resolve to send more emails tomorrow. I consider raising my hand to tell the room how I did go for broke getting too close to too many problems, and got there, broke, but I don't. I do not mention Emma Goldman, either, even if this is the room where they might understand.
A check comes! I had a brief bout of earning last month and the resultant in the mail has arrived. It's less than I was told it would be, but I can't wait to get it corrected before cashing. I throw a long coat over my thermals and rattle off to the bank drive-thru in my skittering car that needs front struts. I always pull over afterward to look at the deposit slip to make sure it’s real. While idling, an email in response to a “friendly follow-up” I sent too soon chimes on my phone, and I flinch. I hover over the sender and wonder what it says. I don’t want to know, but I do. As passing trucks rattle the car, I am yet again thanked for my interest. I will be contacted if they have a position for me [their emphasis]. I don't catch autocorrect before replying. Looking forlorn, not forward, I write. That is what my phone thinks of me.
I’m suspicious of their metaphors like I’m dubious about smart growth, but then I’m prone to shoot my philosophy in the foot. Each according to their own and so on. Don’t let the strategic planners fool you is what I wanted to say to them, but didn't. This time the response was same day, a nip-it-in-the-bud tactic? Or maybe I really am being honored for my understanding.
“In this talk, theorists and professors will discuss the production of knowledge in the realms of science and the arts, asserting that artists, magicians, healers, writers, politicians, generals, and everyday artisans have accumulated and mobilized far more actual scientific facts through culture than modern science has discovered or come close to explaining.”
There’s no reason given, but this event has been delisted. Good thing I checked the website. The aborted lecture casts me adrift for the evening. I'm trying to track down a blog post I saw recently on best practices for making the most of down time when, wait, generals? Of course generals. The war scenarios of climate change are already being mapped. Looking at the animated projections online, my flight or fight gets triggered. My partner will be relieved if I go to the gym to expend the excess adrenaline, so I guess I'll do that. It's curious how taking care of myself can also be a gift to others. Plus, I can pick up a pizza.
Sitting on the edge of our bed, I reflect on the doings of the day while holding my feet in front of a portable space heater. I tote the electric unit all around our home until it’s well and truly warm season now that even the Farmer's Almanac can't keep up. I scrunch my toes, pointing and arching, turning at the ankles for maximum exposure in front of the humming companion. In this tender moment, surrounded by rhythmic sounds (partner gently snoring after meal), I resolve to think more positively about circumstances. To counteract what I know with what I do not know. I get a shiver. Partner snorts. Stops breathing for a moment. I hold my breath. He exhales. I exhale. All is well. Like that.
To reinforce my decision to improve my attitude, I buy cards with encouraging sayings on them. You are what you eat, but for the mind. I get the deck home and discover I bought what are called divining cards, something akin to tarot. The instructions say to make the time for reading the cards sacred. My first go at it, I sit with coffee, light a candle, then ring a little bell. Our cat comes over. I let him sniff the cards before I pick one. Then I wonder if he's got a better line to universal wisdom than I do. If the card, that is, is for him.
I’d rather quote Žižek or even fucking Stalin than talk about the signs in an email. Messaging versus messages, but maybe something good will come of this. I know such auguries aren’t ahistorical, so I will try to put what the deck tells me in context. A fish trying to swim out of her fishness. My first card is Make Better Choices. Our cat walks away when I show him.
Making the rounds on the internet is an article urging the taking of daily walks or at the very least stepping away from the computer for ten minutes each hour. I get up and count twelve steps into the bedroom. Our cat sometimes lifts his head when I enter, but sometimes not. I go downstairs and look out the window. I open the fridge. I'm not hungry. I don't eat. I walk into the living room and think about what I think about most often. A recent talk I didn't attend focused on examining one's thought patterns. The description for the talk said that our beliefs take the form of/are formed by the stories we tell ourselves and that these narratives have real world implications. I don't doubt that, I don't think.
I remember watching guppies burp out the soggy flakes I fed them when I was maybe seven or eight years old. Then they'd swim forward to suck the mess back in. I don’t know if this is accurate or how it managed to stay in my memory bank all these years, but true enough we had a tank I likely wrecked as a kid. Didn’t clean regularly enough or overfed or forgot about. Bad kid. This is how what we’ve been told surfaces. We burp it out, then swallow it again.
I'm also not sure if this is true, but I have an idea that guppies sometimes eat their babies while shitting. Now that I've called this image up it’s bound to come out in conversation. I scroll my experiences for references in social situations. Social as in me plus anyone else. I don’t rule out that tidbit from escaping my mouth around an oversized table in a conference room during high-stakes negotiations. Of course I don’t take part in that many (any), so the pressure’s on when I do. Hence, the nervous mind scan.
I don't send any more emails today, but I do practice in front of the mirror – like that public television preschool program where two mouths in dark profile each form half a word then join it. In. Come. Income. Da da da da da.
A bill is unexpectedly automatically deducted through an electronic funds transfer from my account. I mean I know it's coming, but it's always a bit of a crapshoot which day it will “hit” each month. I think about being a moving target. Then about how zip code and last four of my social are like transponders under my skin.
In addition to the divining cards, I've taken to scattering inspirational quotes where they can intervene in my day-to-day sight lines. Sometimes I make them up myself, but mostly the words are sourced. My partner is fairly consistent when it comes to injecting bulwarks against entropy. He tosses them in then drives off to work. You can do it honey see you tonight love you. It’s my job to keep at it. Ha! It.
I do have an extraordinary amount of enthusiastic missives launched across a multitude of industries. Not sure if this counts as having coals in the fire. More like floating spores looking to land in a host. Though dandelions don’t produce spores, their fluffy seeds can travel long distances and are found all over the North American continent. A medicinal brew can be boiled from their roots. Internet says it causes the drinker to pee a lot, that this is part of the cure. I enjoy the happy yellow heads and poofy lollipops in the lawn. I think that’s a productive thought. Or could be. Time will tell, I guess. If nothing else, I’m moved to make a cup of tea instead of more coffee. After all, it’s up to me, isn’t it?
I never napped as a baby and rarely do as an adult, but now seems like a reasonable time to start. I walk away from the computer, fold over at the waist, and faceplant myself on the bed. This definitely startles our cat. Midday doldrums, I say out loud to him. After a moment of scrutiny into which I'm projecting his care for me, he puts his head back down on his front paws. Doldrums, I continue, are the namesake of equatorial regions that are prone to have wind currents disappear for days or weeks on end. Due to the way the air heats, expands, and recirculates back to these zones, sudden bursts of severe weather are to be expected, if not counted on. Or, you can count on not counting on them. More like being subject to them or not at all.
I stand up too quickly and get light headed. I am seeing in the negative. I reach my hand out to steady myself and grab a handful of fur. I get scratched, but forge on. I will send more emails after all [my emphasis]. I return to the computer to whip up multiple drafts. I have three open. I bounce between them, copying and pasting from one to the other. All spelling bets are off. Maybe this calls for boots on the ground. I think about tacking up homemade fliers on bulletin boards with language culled from community events. I remember how much I enjoyed the swell of energy that must accompany rumbling around town with feisty manifestos in hand when I thought we were on the verge of killing the profit motive, before the tanks came and sent everyone scrambling.
Late day card says Adapt. I think words like I’m trying. Also fuck you. I write a new email. This one to my partner. Do you think it’s too late? He texts me back. for what? I switch to texting with him. to save us. save the planet. He sends, i hope not. Then, what do you want for dinner? Me: dunno but let’s keep it light.