I’m theoretically doing NaNoWriMo again this year, making up my own rules on relative word counts. I’m failing miserably, but that’s what happens when I try to write while working full time.
All the same, between word sprints on my phone and Melissa-enforced notebook writing while we were in Yosemite, I’ve managed to word vomit up some halfway decent words.
Here are some excerpts that I’m unreasonably proud of having written.
Hugs from James are different somehow. I’ve gotten a lot of hugs from a lot of people over the last month: some awkward, some nice, some sweet and brief, some suffocating. Devon’s hugs are different from the others too — quiet, strong, and steady — but still not the same as James’s. Hugs from James feel like home, like this quiet reassurance that no matter what happens, no matter how emotionally and psychologically beat up and exhausted I am, there is this safe haven waiting for me.
These emails cascade in reverse chronological order in my Gmail search, each click taking me further back in time to another message or thread I’d archived. Some of the more recent ones are just short, transactional things to me and Vicky and Lewis. News of Miramonte: the city council designating a new historic landmark, a favorite teacher retiring, a report on abalone poaching from Miggs Point. Photos of Wolf with his head stuck in a hole in the wisteria arbor in the backyard. A photo of sunset on the pier one stormy day. Forwarded REI event calendars. There’s nothing here from him about being sick — not the lab results or the doctor’s reports or the hospital invoices. I look now at the trail of messages, counting back the months and touching my finger to the computer screen to the spot where every email sent after that was a lie of omission.
It digs at me that somewhere in the world is an email to Lewis, or one to Vicky, that praises or criticizes the choices they were secretly grappling with. That there’s a trail of Dad weaving its way through our inboxes, his parenting reduced to paragraphs of text archived away, or even deleted by accident.
I stare at my laptop screen without seeing it anymore. I can’t keep digging like this, trying to uncover a man who was so central to my life yet seems to have been a person I never knew at all. I hesitate for a moment with my hand resting on top of the screen, then close it with as much finality as I can muster. I shiver but shake it off — I need to focus on the things I was supposed to be doing, whatever they were. Studying. Midterm. But studying means I need to reopen my laptop, and I can’t convince myself to do that right now. I’d sink right back to where I was.
It’s chilly out tonight, and I’m starting to feel the telltale scratchiness in my throat that means I’m getting sick. But the thing I really need right now is a run through the dark streets behind 717. Before I can talk myself out of it, I change into running clothes and duck out the back door before anyone sees me — I don’t want to have to stop and talk to anyone right now.
The night air stings my lungs as I set off. I jog down the hill, letting gravity pull me down the street at a fast pace. I’m not in the mood to stretch, or to care about how sore I’ll be tomorrow. I just need this: the darkness between the streetlights swallowing me up into invisibility. You can look for me, but I’m not here. I’m not here feeling all mixed up and abandoned and directionless. I’m not here hating someone for dying, for not giving more of himself to me than the years he already gave. I’m not here.