On the road again

Late yesterday afternoon I lay in a hot bath after yet another tumultuous day. I had felt fierce anger and creeping bitterness. My brain had clocked up miles searching for a way out before a sense of numb, seeping deflation set in. It was sunny and I had wandered up the road as if looking for a place to be, or something to do. I sat in a chair in the middle of Malvern central contemplating the ruin of my days. I stopped for coffee at one place, then walked some more, before stopping at another for a rare sit-down lunch.

I was due to clock-in at the shop to begin work, but did not have the stomach for it. For once I wanted to bury my head in the sand. I got in the car and drove away. I ended up in a far suburb where for once I had myself a massage. I lay there feeling groggy, time stilled, soft hands pushing at my inert body. An iPad played K-Pop in the background. This was now, and that’s all I wanted it to be.

You see, using the Jailbreak metaphor I had made it to the fence, I had scrambled to the top of it and was about to make it to the far side when bang, a shot hit me square between the shoulder-blades. And that was that.

I had an agreement. After all the to-ing and fro-ing we were there. Then the landlord insisted on $25K bond and that was that. The purchasers couldn’t pay that, and in any case didn’t want to. They felt aggrieved, rightly so, straining now to get the deal done but unable to because of a maliciously prohibitive condition of the landlord. They wouldn’t budge, that was that, the deal stillborn, and to top it off a S52 delivered to me by registered mail.

I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, for once conceding perhaps I had nothing left to fight with. I was bitter too, wondering if this was not the intent of the landlord all along. Did he have an ulterior motive? My neighbour, who has the same landlord, complained also at how unreasonable he is.

The bath was sanctuary. Close the door and wallow in hot water. Hope for a miracle, or not, but here, now, it didn’t matter because I didn’t want it to matter.

I picked up a book and began to read. It was James Salter’s latest, and there was something in the scenes he described and the language he used that recalled to me the shifting fortunes of life. We live a span of time. We enter into things and depart them. Things overlap, they crowd upon each other and they spread out. We live a life of multiple strands that by the time you get to my stage of it are entwined into a rope as thick as your arm.

This is a sense I get sometimes listening to particular music. The awesome sweep of some classical music will do it for me, particularly Beethoven. Sinatra is another though. I can’t help but listen to It Was A Very Good Year and compare the story told in that song to the story of my life. When you’re in the middle of it that’s all there is. It’s only when you step back, and with the benefit of time, that you understand the intricacies of what you have experienced. You see life like a long road behind you, from which at frequent intervals you have detoured from; ahead, hopefully, is a long road stretching into the distance. And for now you’re in a cul-de-sac you’ll get clear of no matter how much you doubt.

I may be fierce and combative sometimes, but my default position really is unflustered calm. I dried myself off and dressed and I had returned to that state. I had no answers. The odds were that this time I was beaten. I would not accept it, but nor would I let myself go down with it. Let’s see what we can do. And if it’s not to be we find a way to keep going down the road.


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