i wish i was special

Late yesterday afternoon, I was feeling all this pent-up anxiety - like if I didn't get up and do something, I was going to absolutely lose it. I had just spent two and a half hours writing and editing this MONSTER letter to a woman (seriously, Barkey: 2,500 words isn't an email, it's a novella), saying all sorts of things I'd had no intention of saying, and then - completely ignoring my better judgment - I had hit "send."

So I got up and pulled on my runners, heading out across the wide lawn of our five acres and off down the grassy, litter-strewn edge of a North Carolina road. As I went, I started singing "Creep," by Radiohead.

"When you were here before... couldn't look you in the eye."

When I got to the chorus, I stuck there. I started singing it, over and over:

"But I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo. What the #@^* am I doin' here? I don't belong, here."

My side hurt, and I slowed to a walk. I had been here, before.

I remembered a time, six years ago, when I had compulsively sung these words as I walked down a British Columbia road, into the cold. The person I was "with" at the time had said something that hurt me in some innovative new way, so I had stepped outside. I started to run, then walk. It was winter, and it was raining. Not a solid, healthy rain, but the sort of Northwestern drizzle that can't make up its mind - a steady, dripping mist that slowly, inexorably penetrates every crack and every pore until you're bone-chilled and numb. I started to sing:

"When you were here before..."

I walked on and on, directionless and singing - repeating again and again the words to one of the saddest, most self-loathing songs I knew. I wasn't dressed for the weather. I walked for an hour and a half. I got lost, I got found, I got lost again. I cried, prayed, sang, and was chilled to the bone. It did not make me feel better, or worse. All I felt was numb. When I got home and opened the front door, she did not even acknowledge that I had been gone. She either didn't care, or didn't want me to know if she did. I wasn't sure which explanation was worse.

"I want you to notice..."

Yesterday was a beautiful, North Carolina evening. The sun glowed orange as it settled down into the beckoning, skeletal fingers of the winter trees. A warm, sunny day was dying and the chill of night was rising from the earth, but for the moment, the steady rhythm of my pace kept me warm.

"I wish I was special... so very special..."

As the final traces of burning orange slipped down beneath the gray, matted foliage of the horizon, I stopped. I was standing at the edge of yet another tract of clear-cut land, another developer's scheme to replace a swath of trees with another little piece of the American suburban pie. I hopped the chain that held the "No Trespassing" sign and walked out, away from the road, to sit on the severed stump of a large pine tree, facing away from the road and back into the as-yet unblemished woods beyond. I had been here before.

How many times...?

There was something raw and visceral about this gaping wound in the forest, this emblem of the ravaging impact of my kind. It was on ground like this that for ten summers I lost myself in the rhythm of planting trees - hundreds of thousands of trees. There is very little room for existential angst when you are bone-tired and bleeding at a piecework job seemingly devised for your personal torture... or redemption... or whatever it is you brought out into the Canadian wilderness in the first place.

"I want a perfect body. I want a perfect soul."

It suddenly occurred to me that I had spent an afternoon writing an over-expressive, over-speaking letter so that I wouldn't have to think about what was really bothering me - a situation at work that is tearing me up, but will most likely be resolved, in one way or another, this next week.

I don't know what to do with this situation - with myself. On the outside, I am calm. If you ask, I will tell you that I am "fine." But inside, in a way I don't understand, I am torn. I've spent the better part of the past two weeks telling myself that I'm "fine." Here, though, on this cut-block window to my past, I want to sink away into nothing... to lie down and let the sun-warmed hummus-layer on the surface of the earth reach up to suck me in.

I left tree planting, once-upon-a-time, because I thought I needed to be doing something more suited to who I was. But who was I? And what have I done since I left the cold comfort of a world where at least I knew from whence my suffering came? In tree planting, you hurt because your life was filled with pain. Real, inescapable, physical pain. But here? Who am I?

"I don't belong, here."

On the walk home, I saw some owl droppings on the road. I remembered learning as a child that owls swallow their prey whole, then excrete only the fur and bones. I grabbed a couple of sticks and began to pull the droppings apart, looking for the skull of this hapless rodent. Was it a mouse? A mole? Bones, hair, bones. Somewhere in there, there must have been something to tell me what small creature I was dealing with - to give context to this excreted mess. But I could find no skull. Just the discarded, inedible remains of a tiny life, extinguished with a squeak in some North Carolina winter's night.


  1. Am I allowed to be the first to comment on my own posts?

    Let me just say this: FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS!!!

  2. If she reads this blog she will know that you're a writer and writers love to hear themselves write, and thus she will take that in consideration when she's reading your verbose deluge.

    And the previous paragraph answers your other question of who am I: you're a writer.

  3. Thanks, Mark. She's actually tolerated quite a bit of my over-writing so far... which is marvelous. I'm fond of being tolerated :)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts