I take Saturdays and Tuesdays off. So yesterday being Tuesday, not needing to present myself, I didn't shave till late in the afternoon. And so this morning I didn't feel any pressing need to shave again. When one has a beard, the shaving bits, the upper cheeks and the throat, are not that noticeable. what's a half-day's growth?
But now I'm wishing I had shaved. I had a flat tire in the rain, coming in to work. Equidistant between bike shops. And no patch kit with me, like a tyro. So I locked the damn bike to a stop sign and caught a bus, feeling clumsy and enormous in my rain gear, like someone impersonating a Japanese hazmat worker. And when I arrived at the office, Juli looked at me in a puzzled way. I couldn't hear what she said, so I went closer. She said: "Oh! You have grease on your face."
And so I did, a great big smear of it, from examining my flat tire; I looked as though I'd blacked my face for a commando raid but only gotten halfway done. So I washed it off. 2:00 in the afternoon, and just starting the day: the omens were not feeling very good. My birthday, and I was excited about 53, a prime number, a number to conjure with: but now I was feeling rather seedy and used up. Maybe, after all, 53 is the official age of washed-up-ed-ness. The birthday greetings piling up on Facebook are lovely, but a little daunting. Who am I, after all, really? What are we celebrating? What is this thing, that wanders through Portland and up and down the net? Does everyone know but me?
I woke at three this morning, fretting about a whole long list of things, things I needed to remember to do. No sleep in me. And then this morning I drank too much coffee and indulged in disputation. Entertaining but hollow: I was playing a convinced Buddhist, for some reason, and we all know that I'm never convinced of anything, particularly if it has to do with me. I bump along the ground like a wrinkled balloon. I keep touching my face to make sure I'm here. I'm here, all right, but I'm not shaved. And I feel old and shabby, just something sketched in. A day's growth: you can sprinkle dots to represent that, each dabbed with one sure poke of the pen. Easy.
Then if thou are the food of worms O virgin of the skies
How great thy use, how great thy blessing! Everything that lives,
Lives not alone, nor for itself...
I try some Blake, but my voice dries up, vanishes. Online, I keep pulling up my blog, and there it is, but powder blue and not quite right. I click on this and that, and finally realize that, not quite consciously, I'm waiting for the old comfortable template to load again, and tell me everything's safe and secure. But everything's topsy-turvy. At the turn of the stairs are a couple hundred books ready to trundle off to the Powell's book buyer. I have to force myself not to handle any of them, or I'll pull them out of the "go" pile and put them back in the "stay" pile.
I'm like a cat: I don't really care what my surroundings are like, so long as they're warm, but I don't like them to change. (Is that what I am? Like a cat?)
I'm going to slip out, go to the bank, cash a check, maybe get a patch kit, and go pick up a library book. The siege of Constantinople, 1453: traditionally, the event that marks the end of the Middle Ages. Guns. The Ottomans must have had guns by that time? In fact I vaguely think I've read about them, enormous ones throwing stone shot. Maybe I served in the Varangian Guard, once. (Is that what I am? Like a Germanic mercenary? They were at first Vikings, later on mostly Anglo-Saxons. They probably looked pretty much like me.)
Saturday night Martha and I are going to see Brenton's Bloody Poetry at the Shoe Box Theater. (Shelley. Is that what I am, like Shelley?)