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It Was Only Today

It began as most every other day begins – opening the door just before, or exactly on the stroke of midnight. He could always tell the time because the clanging bells from an old church gonged faithfully, and steadily each hour. This time, there were three gongs left as he locked the door behind himself.

A chill escaped from the region of his lower neck through his upper back that caused him to shiver ever so slightly as he took off his coat and hung it up. It was the date, he knew. That date had come again.

Rich in self-loathing, he muttered an “Oh God” and drew on a freshly lit cigarette while he stared down at the empty street. He thought of the semi-celebratory opening of a beer, but was tired enough to deny the impulse. Standing in the shadows and grappling with a bout of ennui were to be the circumstances of the moment. He knew that today would not be unlike many of those days in the past. The past that alarmingly seemed to be distancing itself from his memories.

The church bells had gonged one AM before he realized how long he had been staring at the night zenith and mulling out of focus, listless in his stance with his broad shoulders drooping.

Sleep was alternatively deep and on occasion, frustratingly light – waking for no reason and without even a remnant of a dream sequence that might have caused him to awaken so sharply. Bright early morning came with the reminder that because he hadn’t slept his normal and consecutive hours in a row, he would probably take a late afternoon nap. A reminder that the date was just another to later tear off of the daily word of the day calendar.

Moments came that would bring capricious bouts of apartment cleaning spasms, but flickered and were extinguished within minutes. A brief, forced march to the outside world and through a local park had made him shower, dress and reintroduce himself to the warm sun above. The white noise of the busy city washed his brittle thoughts, and people watching as he sat on an empty bench handed him distraction.

The bells of the church gonged twelve times, each stroke deeply resonant and uniform with the last and the one after. The day was moving forward and already half had been lost forever.

“Is this how alcoholics begin?”, he wondered as he sipped on a long-necked beer back at his kitchen table. The growling that had begun as a plea had now grown to a snarl and he peered into the freezer for a morsel of microwaveable late afternoon snack. None called him to attention so he grabbed the closest package, heated it and gobbled even as it sometimes burned his mouth causing him to suck in air sharply to cool it off quickly.

Even more frighteningly than spending the day alone was the thought that if the opportunity presented itself, he was comfortably within the frame of mind that he would politely refuse. It would have seemed forced and would have come out of pity. The invisible barrier between his determination to make it alone and the unsettling shouting of loneliness had eroded to gel thin. What he wanted did not coincide with what he needed.

Six in total were the distinct reverberations of the gong. That meant six in total left. Six more to mark in sequence before it ended, lost to waves of eternity.

The inevitable call came later. First on the line sounded upbeat and he could almost touch his smile through the voice box. Second came, and with some enthusiasm expressed happy thoughts of love. Third spoke and uttered in teenaged monotone. It always happened the same way during this act: he asked more questions in order to keep the conversation flowing then they did, he always told them what a wonderful day it had been and that no, of course not, there’s more planned for later. “I Love You” to each having been dispensed, the line was vacated once more.

Inspiration to venture out once more was doused. Enthusiasm was strained from the nakedness of the phone call. It would have been a sham to drive somewhere random, find a seat at the bar, order a beer, have a small meal and smile. He felt that his thoughts would have been on display as if continually flashing on a rolling, red-lettered neon billboard circling above his head. Better to lazily lounge in the environment in which he was at ease with. One that knew the widening boundaries of his frustration and self-pity. One that knew with certain clarity what was stealthily bubbling up ever so incrementally and would be erupting soon enough.

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Mental Confetti

Anybody can have, and is allowed, a bad, bad day. But resilience, perspective and determination are formidable tools that have sprung up in the wake of planting seeds and are indispensible to moving forward.

Much like exercise, being in school has the capacity to boost self-confidence. Especially when everyone wants to team up with you because of your grades.

Yes, I did fall off the wagon with smoking. But, I’ve resolved to get back in the ring and overpower the demon.

I am hardly able to fathom that the little boy who fit snugly in the crook of my arm at one time (and who pooped in it) is going to be sixteen on Sunday! He once told me that he’s getting old. Imagine that thoughts that I had as his Father.

No matter how hard I try to keep up, the mail stack on my junk table grows out of control.

I’ve been in my apartment a little over two years and it still looks bare on the walls and naked around the windows. I need inexpensive ideas and a method of making them look something other than walls of white and stark panes. I have a few pictures here and there, but is it because I’m a male that I haven’t even a modicum of decorative flair?

After all this time, I still love to play my guitar. I recently dragged out some old Creedence, Concrete Blonde, Four Non-Blondes, Bad Company, James Taylor, Beatles and a mess of various artists. It’s all pitch perfect and I make a great session player. Ah, the skills I’ve acquired and excel at – all of which can’t make a living!

I’ve teamed up with a lucky woman at work who has a history of winning on scratch tickets. I’m not a gambler and never had the proclivity to spend money on gambling, but we’ve won over $1,300 in three weeks. I’ve got a feeling …

I hardly see re-aquainted girlfriend. We talk every few days on the phone, but with opposite work schedules it’s difficult to have what you would call a relationship.

My ‘secret’ gift of chocolates that I gave to someone at work post-Valentine’s day is no longer a secret. I never see this woman because she’s on an opposing end of the building, works in a different department, has hours that most times are ending at the beginning of mine and only comes to my end infrequently to keep an appointment with someone who needs her. So I haven’t seen her face to face in a few weeks. But yesterday as I was walking down a hall to fetch a cup of coffee, there she was walking toward me! An impromptu conversation ensued, I apologized for the candy-gram if it made her uncomfortable and I hoped that she wasn’t offended. She was not. She was flattered and said that she should have shared it with me. We talked small talk for a few minutes and parted with a ‘see you later’. I turned, took a small step, turned around again, took a big breath and said ‘Wait’! I asked if she’d like to get together for a cup of coffee, or a drink or a trip to Jamaica. She laughed out loud and said she’d like to get that cup. She asked me for my number and I wrote it on a nearby napkin. As I wrote she remarked that she could tell that I never gave my number out at bars. How? Because I didn’t write softly enough to prevent the napkin from tearing in places. I’m looking forward to the call.

I’ve been wakened a lot recently by charlie horses in my left leg. What, I’m going through a second puberty?

I told an eighty-two year old woman in a wheelchair that she was beautiful. She shook her head no. I repeated that she was beautiful to me and she replied “Is it because my lips are so full?”

Controlling the Gnawing

It’s been more than difficult.

It’s far too easy, and whimsical, for myself or anyone else to earnestly say “Good for you! I know you can do it!”, without realizing the accompanying throbbing anguish.

Tuesday should have been, but was not, the most trying day. You hear over and over that the first day is when the most panic is felt, and with it comes the likelihood of yielding to the snap judgment decision, despite all sane reasoning, to not even begin the process. Apparently, most who try only last a few hours during the first day. I intentionally forced myself to be busy. Busy I was – an all kinetic busy, mixed with a self-assured, false sense of Zen inner calm wrapped in a bravado attitude which boasted frequently that I’m better than the rest. Then came work where I mercifully could not leave. From there it was directly back to my building’s parking lot, and a quick and determined walk past the 24 hour 7-11 calling to me, into the building and the vertical zip ride to my apartment.

I first felt strong mental longing on Tuesday. My thoughts were a dilute mixture of steely logic while concentrating on the task directly at hand, and the icy juggernaut of thought that prodded and pinpointed my desires toward what I was denying myself.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday each held their own tumultuous tempest that seemed pre-planned and coldly designed to annihilate any plebeian willpower reserves that I was accumulating which would allow myself the comfort of solid resolve. Each of those three days held its own devastating trebuchet in the guise of a postal letter, a voice mail and an email. It was as if a troika of Trojan Horses had been misguidedly welcomed inside my already timidly fortified gates, and out of their belly came such mean, significant pains and blows to my wavering goal that the combined fireballs felt as if they descended directly from within Pandora herself. Each of those three days saw my willpower insanely buckle and groan, but denying logic, held together.

I did not give way to the inhuman temptation.

Saturday and Sunday have now officially expired, and with them a crestfallen ego that has been scored much too often with the black steel wool of verbal abuse. But, though the vessel I ride is low in the water due to the cruel barrage of maltreatment on many fronts that has coincidentally coincided with the timing of my quest, the lust for my mission has amazingly remained intact.

I marvel at the money still in reserve, untouched by debit card ripples that until recently, had never seen the account so still and smooth.

Somehow, miraculously, thankfully, through a combination of self-denial, brazen luck and pretending that the desire was not there, I have not relented. At the end of each individual twenty-four hour interval, at the rounded-off anniversary hour, I plant another imagined victory flag.

I will not deny that I have held up my adult fingers and deftly imagined them holding one, and I admit that I have almost felt dizzy as I role-played the inhaling and exhaling, but on Monday, well, actually Monday late night into Tuesday early morning at about 12:30 AM, it will be exactly one week since I last smoked a cigarette.

Smile For The Receptionist

The hardest part of looking for a job in my field is a cold walk-in.

I shower, dress up in business casual attire (nobody will know that I wore this yesterday) drive to a few select locations and walk in the front door. The receptionist greets me and I quickly tell who I am and what I’m looking for. More often than not she reaches behind herself and retrieves a clipboard with a standard application already neatly clipped to the board and a pen attached via a silver ball chain. I sit in a comfy chair filling out, yet again, where I went to high school and other pertinent information.

I rise, walk back to her and ask if I might meet with someone. I’m much better person to person and was once described by an old boss of ‘giving great interview’. Which is precisely why I left my old career involving cubicles and retrained myself in my mid 40’s – I enjoy personal contact.

 Most times there is no one to meet with. HR is out or the heads of the building are in meetings. I don’t take it personally, but I do kind of deflate as I walk out with a smile on my face after I offer a  sincere ‘enjoy your day’.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I need something soon! Very soon. I’ve thought of posting my bank balance on here, as long as I’m anonymous and all, to show my rapidly eroding finances (as I’ve seen others do) but I’ll think about it a little longer.

Because I had such a late schedule of filling out applications yesterday, I had to call the ex and cancel picking up my children. It broke me dreadfully, but I had no choice but to keep going late into the afternoon. By the time I would have finished, picked them up and brought them back, it would have been time to leave. The guilt was a consuming fire in my mind. But, honestly, and regretfully, I would have had to spend money on filling my tank and buy more food for them. That money will now go toward gas and food this coming weekend when I have them again.

The woman who I’ve recently reestablished a relationship with called me and asked if I wanted to come over and have dinner. I agreed because I didn’t want to repeat what I had done to her before. Not that I really wanted company, but again, I’m realizing (through her observations) that I do have a tendency to self-isolate, so I agreed. I’m glad I did.

Something that I note about myself is that when I’m alone, I tend to not eat. At all. For a day at a time. I’ll sip tea while quietly looking out through the window or I’ll flip through the channels looking at nothing at all and I’ll smoke way too much (picked it up again as I lost my job). But, I’ll not eat. Anything. Funny that I don’t even get hunger rumbles in my belly.

She made chicken, rice and sautéed vegetables and it was delicious! Ice tea washed it all down perfectly. She commented on how thin I was and I became a little self-conscious. We hung out for a few hours and then I left about 9:30PM.  It was a welcome distraction from my normal routine.

I can’t keep regular sleeping hours either. I wake up multiple times each night and after a while I drift back again. In and out, in and out. Sometimes fall asleep around 7:00 PM, sometimes at 5:00 PM, sometimes after midnight. Sometimes wake up for good at 4:30 AM, sometimes at 6:00 AM, sometimes at 9:00 AM. Each night (or day) it’s different.

This morning I’ll shower, dress up in business casual attire (nobody will know that I wore this yesterday) drive to a few select locations and walk in the front door.

I’ll smile for the receptionist. I hope there’s someone to meet with.

 P.S. I’ve noticed that a lot of other blogs are able to respond to a comment within a blocked box. For instance, when I post a comment, that person will respond in the comments section and it will appear as a thinner width-sixed box under my original comment. When I respond to a comment on this blog, I get it showing as a line by line by line comment section. Can anyone point out how you do that – get a threaded, thinner width-sized box under the original comment? I’ve looked through the options, but don’t see anything that addresses this. It would make a threaded comment much neater. Thanks for any help.

Oh, I get it. I have to click the ‘Reply’ shown within the initial comment itself! That is, instead of going to the bottom of the post and entering in a brand new comment. Oh, OK.

Bit by bit, I’m losing them all over again

I woke up with a start just a few moments ago.

I had shut off my waking alarm last night before going to bed. It was not making sense leaving my alarm on to get up for work when I’m suspended. It was the alarm for a scheduled calendar event that went off instead.

As I woke, I had the rushing thought that work was calling me because they needed me. I bolted up, came across the bedroom and picked up the phone that I use for alarms. Instead of it being the phone it was a reminder that I have my kids tonight – after work.

My thoughts shattered as a piece of glass falling from above. Reality enveloped me and here I am without work to go to, sitting in my underwear, smoking my second cigarette already. ‘Pathetic’ and ‘scared’ were the words that almost visibly came to me.

If I’m permanently out of work, the alternative schedule that I’ve set up to see my children regularly would be quickly dashed. I work 7-3 shifts. On alternate weeks, I’m lucky enough to see them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, which lead into the weekends that I have them. On the opposite weeks I see them on Tuesday and Thursday night. Every week – Monday after work, Wednesday after work, Friday after work when they also sleep over until Sunday late afternoon. Then I wait until Tuesday after work and then Thursday after work and it’s the weekend that I don’t see them. Today begins the week where I see them Monday, Wednesday, Friday night leading into Sunday late afternoon.

The schedule may seem bizarre, but in my profession it works out fantastically! I set it up purposly in order to get to see them at least every other day. My thought is that I helped bring them into this world, why shouldn’t I see them as often as possible despite divorce? And the schedule works out perfectly for that! It’s been in effect for over two years and I can’t imagine not seeing them on any given scheduled day.

If I am forced into another job – believing that I can find another job, my schedule would be destroyed. And then, the utter embarrasment of telling the ex, and the kids, that my schedule needs to change. I would lose the opportunity of seeing them as often, and thus, another stone would be dislodged in the continuity of seeing them. Which, God help me, would be just fine with my oldest.

Seeing them less would only help to solidify the expanding physical gap between them and I. I pale over when I think of the countless times when I’m not there at the end of the day for them. For instance, when they’re sick and need to cling – even ever so lightly, for comfort and I’m not physically there for them. She’s become the only one they cling to for support because she’s always there. And, I’m not.

It’s a continual loosening and redefinition of our bond. It invariably happens each hour, each and every day that I’m not there with them, and they’re growing up, and getting used to, their Father not there as a daily presence. It tears at my heart no matter how I try to put it aside and tell myself that this is just the way it is.

Losing my job would ease the pressure of my oldest from seeing me as often.

Good morning. I’m struggling.

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