It rained on the way home tonight – an unbelievable wetness after what seemed like endless weeks of dry, pulsating heat. I felt the first fat drop on my face as I slogged from an interminable BART ride and had a moment of stark disbelief as it slowly dribbled its way down my cheek, like an unexpected tear during an NFL commercial break. Really? Here? Now?! But, WHY?!
I left the office at a quarter to four – it was ten after six by the time I made it off the train…and by the looks of the traffic from the station platform? It was gonna be a looooooooong parking-with-frequently-changing-of-position drive home from there.
Rain danced new patterns in the dust on the car as I opened the trunk, highlighting how dirty it really is right now. Pointless to wash it until the tomato-and-corn harvest is in, though…the dust, so much dust, from the tractors in the nearby fields, or from the young man riding his motorbike on the little track right over our back fence, or from the other neighbor’s horses having an occasional go at being wild in their tightly-contained arena.
Futile, really, trying to keep the car dust-free this time of year.
Futile, like so many things are futile. A clean kitchen, matched socks put away in drawers, a year without tomatoes that were not quite ripe enough to pick, I SWEAR TO GOD THEY WEREN’T, only moments ago!, flung sodden and already molding while still on the vine into the compost, jewel-bright and defiant like sins I’m trying to forget.
Our train stopped in Lake Merritt station for going on half an hour while medical personnel were summoned to tend to a Fallen Comrade in another car…but, thankfully, not one under another car. As we sat, and sat, and continued to sit, and still not moving…as I wondered for about the third time what on earth could be taking them soooooooo long to get this poor person helped…the awful possibility slithered out from under the seat and hissed, “Hey. You know what takes a lot longer than grabbing a gurney and hauling somebody off a train? Extricating somebody’s remains from UNDER it, THAT’S what!”
My mind loves horror almost as much as my heart abhors pain. It sadistically painted the pictures for me while I squirmed and shrieked inside. Stop it, stop it, STOP IT, CHRIST-AWL-MIGHTY, ISN’T A ‘MERE’ HEART ATTACK BAD ENOUGH?!?!
I sat, and knitted, with my feet tucked neatly under the seat, a composed face with bifocals perched trimly on my nose and my hair up in that ridiculous twisty-bun-thing that looks all fancy but is actually either a case of ‘Tama is two seconds from letting out a primal scream and cutting her own hair with a box-cutter because it is pissing her off today’ or ‘Tama sort of neglected the shower part of personal hygiene yesterday [possibly due to having three daughters who can go through six thousand gallons of hot water and still be in the shower] and thinks that if she puts her hair up, nobody will notice any greasy side-effects of this.’
I must have looked like somebody’s Saintly Librarian Auntie or something, while inside I’d alternate between growing more and more annoyed with why are we not MOVING yet?! and feeling guilty for being that way. Look, Self, you think YOU’RE having a bad time of things? Somewhere very close to you, somebody is having a WAY, WAY WORSE go of it…how about a little @^*&@ing compassion, huh?!
And then I’d say a few words to $DEITY (trying very hard not to end them with and please make the medics hurry the @^*&@ up, hallelujah amen), and think I’m more evolved than that thoughts while somewhere deep inside my mind, the gremlin insisted that there could be severed limbs right under me, that very moment!
…sometimes, I hate my own mind so much I wish I could get a divorce…why will it be so determined to gross or freak me out, to be at best unkind at worst downright cruel, so cynical and uncaring, so willing to view the life going by us as if it were a movie…no reason to actually CARE, it’s just a story, after all…
Eventually, of course, the “situation” (as they like to call it over the intercom) was “controlled” and the crowded, stuffy, BO-laden train full of crabby commuters lurched back into motion.
I wondered what had happened, in that other car. Why did I want to know, anyway? Morbid curiosity? Targeted prayers?
…nah, probably the former, not the latter…and the gremlin laughed and danced and suggested all kinds of horrors that could befall a person drifting through a business-as-usual day, never suspecting that this was THE day, the day that everything changes, the day that they met with Horror in a place so mundane.
Hey, maybe this will be YOUR day, huh? MAYBE, this will be The Day that somebody falls asleep at the wheel while chewing a bagel and texting and drinking a coffee in their Chevy Subdivision and runs RIGHT over your poor little Civic, huh? Could ALWAYS be that day!
And then he laughs again, and laughs and laughs and laughs, and dredges up images from movies to help set the mood…remember that one they showed in high school, remember THAT one, with the girl and the glass from the windshield…?
Yeah. Yeah, I remember that. And that these first spasms of rain make for some of the most dangerous driving there is, as the oil and other car-ooze from summer driving combines with the water to provide a slick, traction-free surface.
Yes, I know, I know.
Odd how lacking in sensible fear I can be. Thinking these things, of high school images of broken, gouged flesh, unspeakable pain, of all the ways in which I had almost no control over whether or not this was The Day my number would come up and I would be taken out by someone I didn’t know, couldn’t avoid, possibly never even saw coming…thinking these things, I hurled my belongings into the trunk, climbed behind the wheel and began to drive.
Slightly horrified, mostly just tired, wishing I were already home, feeling oddly sad over somebody I didn’t know going through…something…that just could not have been fun, wishing that ugly part of my mind would find something else to talk about for a while.
Startled windshield wipers rattling inexpertly across the glass. Crap, you mean we hafta DO something? Already? I think we forgot HOW to get moisture off this thing…! Smearing dust-now-mud so that at first, my vision is infinitely worse than it was before they began.
Why am I not afraid right now, as I fumble for the lever that adds a splash of windshield wiper fluid to the glass, to clear away the dust-mud, to make it easier to see the other cars rocketing around me as fast as they can possibly go, all trying to get where they’re going just as soon as they can? How can I simultaneously be so aware of the fragility, the futility, the terrible delicacy of the web we call life, and how swiftly it can be blundered to pieces by the whim of fate…and yet be terrifically unconcerned about it, hurling myself directly into harm’s way without the slightest quiver, or even a moment’s hesitation?
I don’t believe I’m somehow exempt from the casual tragedies of life; and yet, I just can’t seem to work up a decent worry over them.
They are what they are. Like dry hot spells and unlooked-for rain.
And sure enough, I make it home safe and sound. My bedroom is hot, and dry, and stuffy. Huh. Funny, that…I was cold all day at work today, and rained upon on the way home, and now? I’m too hot and flicking on the fan to move the cooler air from anywhere-but-this-room into it.
The Denizens are bouncing, thundering up and down the stairs, yelling their news through the house, laughing, chattering like squirrels, young and immortal in their thoughts, unburdened by nameless, faceless sorrows that point at their wrinkles and laugh at them. You’re not getting any younger, either, by the way…aches and pains and the threat of medications with Certain Side Effects, screening for cancer and strange-but-common diseases you never heard of before the words ‘as we age’ began to be uttered during routine exams…
Rain drops and dry spells, mortality and continuity. Things beginning, things ending, things changing, things staying the same.
I suppose that’s why I can’t work up to worry. Whatever is can, and will, change…it may seem bad, it may seem good, it probably is actually neither. IT just is, and IT is not the enemy.
Only I can be the enemy, really…and I don’t want to be.
I’m too tired for that tonight, tired of thoughts that think they are being clever when actually they’re just being, well, tiresome. Like people who chastise others (at great length) for holding a wine glass “wrong,” or for not knowing the fundamental differences between avant-garde and art nouveau. Or who think they are being something special when they correct people on the proper use of some archaic word, or issue forth a lecture on the history of sushi. Oh, DO be quiet, there’s a dear…nobody cares, you daft creature, NOBODY. CARES…!
I log into the servers, check a few files that have been loading and counting and aggregating and sorting since about noon today. Ugh, no, not good enough…I create new partitions for the tables and realign the indexes to them, OK!, that’s pretty slick, test query going from 280 seconds to less-than-one, let’s see what that does for me…tradeoffs, storage, indexes, please, just, frickin’ FINISH this tonight, I’m sick half to death of LOOKING at it, of answering the same questions the same way, over and over…I can’t just make the answer BE what you want, it IS what it IS, the only thing that changes it is some NEW input, some NEW variable, something like THIS, done by somebody like ME who knows what the h-e-double-toothpicks I’m even TALKING about right now…
Finally, counts are climbing. Triumph, if only temporary…so I hit buttons that set the main job running, incrementing through the partitions one at a time, climbing inexorably upward toward finished, current day, DONE.
And then I sit and watch it for a ridiculous period of time, refreshing the watcher-query every so often. Ten thousand. Ten million. A hundred million. Twenty-seven minutes to a hundred million rows.
Yeah. That’ll do for now. That’s the first hundred million of the three billion I need to take from here and move to there, to aggregate, sum, sort, order by, NTILE, parse, package and send to military school with instructions to help them find discipline and be all they can be.
Yeah. I’m pink-elephant-seeing tired. Bed now.
I didn’t wash my hair again, I got all caught up in the…
…eh…I’ll do it in the morning…
Enter the ubiquitous arguing with myself: You KNOW you won’t, you’ll stay in bed until The Last Second, what is WRONG with you, WHY won’t you do those sorts of things RIGHT AWAY instead of always…?
…eh, who cares, it’s not like I’m still looking for a mate…I can look more hag-like than usual, it’s hardly going to hurt my chances at scoring a trophy husband or anything…
Heh. So many things change in this world, but other things never do. I’ll never be glamorous, or able to hold onto a view that perhaps, a little extra effort in the appearance department is worth trading a little sleep for, now and then.
Scruffy + Sarcasm = me in a nutshell.
Check one more time…still running fine, counts still climbing, and climbing fast. Triumph, fleeting…by this time tomorrow, some NEW disaster will have struck, some NEW problem will have arisen, something ELSE won’t be making sense, won’t be running as it should, won’t BE what we WANT it to be…
Life is good, is it not, to give me the challenges I need to feel as though I’m living each day?
Don’t bother with me tonight, $DEITY, I’m fine, thanks…but do look in on our Fallen Comrade, will You? I suspect that’s a house that could use a kindly visit, while mine spins madly and cheerfully on like a demented top toward whatever Eternity holds for us…