I went outside this afternoon with a book and a half-purpose. Well, maybe a purpose-and-a-half. The half being fulfilling a promise I made myself when we were all really in the thick of it this winter — biggest snowstorm ever in recorded history and all that. I promised myself on the second day I spent trying to dig my car out that the first chance I had to see real, green grass, I’d roll around in it like a tickled third-grader.
I eventually realized it was a metaphorical thing I wanted more than a physical thing, although I love the way grass can feel like fur, like a blanket. I don’t wear a watch. It’s hard sometimes to feel the passage of time — to realize you’ve grown, that the person you were isn’t who you are anymore. I wanted to embrace spring. I wanted to feel like I was growing.
Purpose number two was to tell you this story.
I don’t know why, but Sundays always feel brighter than any other day of the week. Maybe it’s a special service God performs for all the people who happen to worship him that day, a way to tip his hat as his carriage rolls forward into the future. Maybe it’s just because I started thinking this, and when I notice it being bright, I think it’s evidence for my theory.
But it’s almost painful to walk into that light at first. My eyes aren’t used to it. “The yellow sun makes you strong,” Superman was told once. I know the same thing’s true of myself, so I tried to keep my eyes as open as they could go as I walked across my apartment complex.
Sundays are quiet, too — maybe for the same reasons they’re bright. They’re not the spooky kind of quiet, or the kind of quiet that precedes a storm. More like the quiet of a man sleeping on a train about to pull into a station. He knows he’ll have to get up soon but not quite yet, and besides, the last few minutes of your dreams are always the ones that stay with you, the ones you tell your friends about.
I dreamed last night that I went skinny-dipping. You weren’t there — I don’t think I remember anyone at all but my friend Ben from high school who I haven’t talked to in six or seven years. His mind was ten times freer than mine — he seemed so open to the world, as much as he hated what the people in charge of it did.
We plunged into the water and it felt like air, and moreover, it didn’t feel like I was naked, though I was. I was just me. I was just free. I was just swimming.
It was so quiet today as I walked down the mild tan sidewalk. There were some kids playing in the complex’s playground, but they were talking the way kids do. Only they really understand what’s being said — the rest is a secret from the grown-ups.
I wandered through the field across the street from my apartment until I found a tree a ways back from a Little League game being played. I sat beneath it and watched the game for a little. It was confusing in that both team’s jerseys were blue, though one had white lettering and the other red. But it put my mind at ease, watching a game that was a repetition of all the others I saw when I would go for walks over summer break at my parents’ house. The pitches that never go exactly straight in. The runners who rush across the basepaths as a kid scrambles to pick up a ball that’s been overthrown. The roar of the umpire declaring “Strike!” and “Out!”
(Where do they get these umpires? Are they ordinary bank managers and television repairmen who get a shot each weekend at being something greater?)
The excitement that rises each time a kid hits one into the outfield. The coaches talking about “hustle” the way televangelists discuss salvation. The families cheering their children. I think Little League is maybe the most American thing I know of nowadays.
The book I brought with me was Microserfs, a novel I first read when I was a freshman at college. I’ve read it three thousand times already, to the point where I barely pay attention to the plot and just think about characters and choices and moments. I remember reading one passage to a girl I loved very much freshman year. I remember scribbling down my dream “Jeopardy!” categories in the middle of a political science lecture.
Microserfs is about a bunch of people who start off working at Microsoft but leave to start their own company and their own lives.
“And then, I thought about us,” the hero tells us at the end, “these children who fell down life’s cartoon holes … dreamless children, alive but not living — we emerged on the other side of the cartoon holes fully awake and discovered we were whole.”
The story still has a certain resonance with me, though I’ve already learned most of its lessons. In a strange way, though the story is about people who are between 20 and 30, it’s really meant for shy 18-year-olds like I was. Maybe a cautionary tale in some ways. Maybe something else in more important ways.
The sun was warm and no longer hurt my eyes. A breeze tugged gently at my hair. I sat there for an hour or two, sometimes watching the game, sometimes reading. It’s nice to be able to trade between inside and outside that way. Eventually, the game ended — who won, I don’t know — and I reached page 250. It seemed a good time to go home.
It was maybe 5:00 when I got back — daylight savings time has really messed up my sense of time still — so I made myself some pasta, and had ice cream for dessert. I finally got to eat the strawberries I bought earlier this week. Up ’til now, I’ve been afraid of them. I hate the ones they put in supermarkets in the winter that come from the southern hemisphere. I’m sure it is summer there. The strawberries are red and plump. But they taste wrong — too dry, too empty.
The ones I got may have been winter strawberries still, but they tasted like summer itself, and that gives me hope.
And now I’m on my balcony. I finally moved the chairs back out from my living room, so that as I’m writing this in my spiral notebook, I can pause and look at the deep, deep green that dusk gives to grass. Some kids are still out playing, shouting and talking and laughing. Some people are walking home. And now people seem to be driving places, too; the engines sound almost reverent or meditative coming from the roads the ring my apartment complex. I always wish that I could see where all the people driving are going, because I think that that too would give me hope.
The tree across the street has blossomed a little bit. The purple in its branches is tentative. With the sleet last week, I don’t blame it. But I think we can call it safe to grow now. I think it’s safe to blossom.
The Newcastle I had with dinner, the last of a present Laura gave me right after my brief trip to the hospital, has gone to my head a little. My handwriting has turned loose and loopy. The unimportant parts of words have become little waggles of pencil. My face feels warm, like someone’s revealed one of my secrets.
And my mind — well, I’m thinking of you.