Maps

Love is a striking example of how little reality means to us.

The party wasn’t quite going as I’d hoped. I’d brought Abigail that evening, picked her up as usual and driven to my friend’s place in the city. It seems we were sliding inevitably into the friend’s zone after a few dates. That night, she met Karen’s ex, Tom who was in town visiting. Tom was tall, he towered over me at 6 foot 3, handsome, very clean cut, and dumb. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt, but Tom really wasn’t the sharpest spoon in the drawer, but he was a pretty boy. We sat in the atrium and smoked sweet and spicy prickly-pear flavored hookah, Abigail cuddled with me on the couch at first, but gradually moved away from me and hung on Tom’s every word. The ass was clumsy and was screwing with the smoking circle by hogging the hose and pulling on it so three times the hookah tipped over while he sat there holding the hose and not puffing, and not passing. Several times I had to grab burning coals before they landed on a pillow or someone’s legs. I wasn’t looking good, I felt like an uptight asshole, and I probably was given I was highly irritated with Tom and Abigail. At least Karen and her current boyfriend were annoyed at them equally.

We finished smoking, and made some midnight quesadillas and opened another bottle of wine. Abigail was still all about Tom. Karen finally looked at me and asked me if I’d help her and Max beat the last stage on Expert that was giving them trouble on Rock Band on their Xbox, we left Tom and Abigail to it in the atrium and went to the living room. I usually do guitar, but I took drums this time, I prefer drums since it seems easier to me to play real guitar than Rock Band guitar in some ways. At least with the drums I could work on my rhythm. Max took guitar and executed the opening picado riff before I came in on the snares and kick, Karen took vocal. She really had the perfect voice for this song, smooth and bittersweet, drenched in far off longing.
“Pack up, don’t stray, oh say say say oh say say say…”
I held the beat steady as Max wailed through the solo and Karen’s voice rose, crashing through the crescendo.
“Aaaaaahhahh aaaaaahhahh, wait, they don’t love you like I love you!”
We nailed it with a near perfect score. I threw the sticks as Max cheered and pretended to smash the guitar controller, Karen hugged me as I got up.
“She’s not worth it, find someone who loves you,” she whispered to me.
“I know,” I replied and grinned.

After that point, Abigail was really only hanging around me to get to Tom since I was her connection to that circle. In the end, nobody liked Abigail, except me. Tom couldn’t care for her, Karen didn’t much either, none of my other friends were a fan. But, here I was head over heels for this girl that clearly didn’t care much for me. I was jealous of Tom, even a bit mad at him for stealing my girl, but how could I hate the guy? I had nothing against him, and it wasn’t him anyways, it was her, and it was me.

Polka Dots & Moonbeams

The atmosphere was splendid. White table clothes, the clink and clang of silver and glassware, conversation and laughter. Most everyone seemed happy at the family event. My wife was putting on a good face and trying not too be overly perturbed by my sister’s impertinent comments. The band was good, I recognized a few of them from the open-mic jazz night at the small hole-in-the-wall hipster cafe downtown, and they had been running through old swing standards as folks danced across the floor in the middle of the room. I was certainly enjoying myself. It was moments like these that I thought that marriage and family life wasn’t half bad. My wife and I had our problems, but each day was another day to start again. We’d had our arguments and issues the last few days, but tonight perhaps we could put it behind us, right?

As the band finished another number, I got up, and straightening my dinner jacket, excused myself to the restroom. Walking by the stage I gestured to the vocalist who’d been crooning away all night and whispered to him, he nodded and I strode back around to our table. The rhythm section took off, I caught my wife’s eye. She gave me a knowing look when she recognized the song (we only had two songs she and I, and this was one of them), I just smiled back and held out my hand, after a moment she got up and took it as I led her to the dance floor.
“A country dance was being held in a garden, I felt a bump and heard an ‘oh beg your pardon’, suddenly I saw, polka dots and moonbeams all around a pug nosed dream…”
My wife put her hand on my shoulder as I put my arm around her waist and we twirled off across the floor. I’ll admit, I’m a terrible dancer, so was my wife to be fair. But it hardly mattered what anyone else thought, my wife and I just spun and floated across the room, off into moonlit clouds above the restaurant.

I sat and let the memory wash over me as the song played on the car radio. I smiled at the poignancy, though a grimace formed at the line,
“Now in a cottage built of lilacs and laughter, I know the meaning of the words ‘ever after’…”
But, it had all had meaning, at least to me, it hadn’t been a waste, despite the horrible things I did in the end. It didn’t matter if everyone from the outside saw two average-bordering-on-terrible dancers, that hardly mattered those moments when it was just the two of us dancing on the clouds. I hope at least one day, those moments will mean something to her as they do to me.

Somebody to Love

It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.

I steadied the rifle on the wooden rail, the telescopic sight swaying slightly, held my breath for a moment then exhaled slowly and squeezed the trigger.
“Nice!” Saul cried.
A small puff of smoke rose from the impact of the small pellet from the air rifle, but seconds later the small battery pack was billowing smoke and scorching the dirt and concrete around it. We’d spent all afternoon trying to blow up these battery packs. After all the hullabaloo regarding lithium-ion batteries exploding in phones, we thought these massive cell packs used to power small electric bike motors should give a good fireworks show, but after overcharging them up the wazoo with a 6 volt charger, then plugging them into a 12 volt car battery we could only make them puff and grow hot (while we hid safely behind a wall 30 feet away) but no explosions or smoke. Finally, we’d taken the puffing overcharged packs and put them against the concrete wall in Saul’s backyard and taken turns with the air rifle putting pellet after pellet into them before I finally caught one on fire.

This scene would have made perfect sense 10+ years ago, but Saul and I were in our thirties. The days of dry ice bombs, roman candles, bottle rockets, potato canons, home made explosives and flamethrowers were supposed to be behind us, right? But, here we were, spending a Saturday afternoon smoking hookah, drinking tea, and trying to blow things up again. Not to say it isn’t just as much fun as it always was, but I’m still having difficulty finding fulfillment in my life. I’m realizing that the most fulfilling times, the times I felt satisfied and happy were the times when I felt love. When I was a kid and I was with my family and everyone was happy to be together. When my future wife and I were laying on the grass in the park holding each others’ hands. When I was holding my son on my lap and my wife was next to me on the couch. To be honest, even when I was laying with Sierra and she was sharing her heart with me, which only happened two, maybe three times that she really opened up to me. I know I still have love in my life. I have Saul, I have my sister and brother in law. I have my son, but the times that I do see him make my heart burn for the times I can’t see him. I have Her, but the fact that she is so far also makes my heart burn in much the same way. And my heart breaks every time I think of my soon to be ex-wife. I can see so clearly what I’d given up now. Having a son and a wife to care for every day was one of the best things that I’d ever had going for me. Sure, it wasn’t the most fun sometimes, sometimes it could be exhausting, sometimes it could be a prison, sometimes it was exacerbating dealing with my wife, especially her indifference to me, but at the end of the day I felt happy. Granted, I felt happier still when I was in the arms of another woman, but that portion turned out to be unsustainable and cost me the rest. Despite my immoral behavior, the overall good I was able to do in my life outweighed it. I could be a good husband (arguably) and father. I could care for the needs of my family, I could sacrifice my time and energy and resources and love. In the end, I couldn’t have both. I couldn’t satisfy my desire for romantic and erotic love and keep my family.

On Sunday, it seemed like a no-brainer to me that I should give my wife flowers and a card for Mother’s Day. It turned into an emotional roller coaster I wasn’t prepared for. I picked out a bouquet in a vase with a red bow, and a card with a photo of the sun setting over the pier where my wife and I had gone on some early dates. I thought carefully about what I should say before putting ink to the card. An apology seemed natural, but I kept my focus on her good traits as a mother and how appreciative I was of those, and how much of a positive effect she had had on my life. I dropped off the card and flowers while I knew she’d be gone with the baby at Church. I expected a text later, it would either be a curt ‘thank you’ or indignation that I would dare to give her a gift. Turned out to be the latter. My tears had all been cried while writing the card, so there was nothing left when she told me she had thrown the card and flowers in the trash. I still just feel empty. I feel I have all this love to share, and no one to share it with. Even though I know that’s not entirely the case. The real case is that I have love to share but the people I want to share it with, I can’t, either because I’ve burned the bridge or they are too far away. I remember this very discussion would be had by folks at church whenever someone ‘fell away’ from God and returned to the world of sin as I had. Anytime the fallen fall on hard times, or became unhappy, or got mixed up in something, the answer was always the same “they no longer have God in their lives, so they had to fill up their empty life with something,” you could fill in the blank, whether it was alcohol, drugs, women/men, joining a cult, etc. I knew what people would be saying about me. It is tempting to go back, to try to get my wife to take me back, to get my church to take me back. I know repenting of my wicked behavior is one thing, but professing beliefs about God I’m not sure are warranted and wanting back into a marriage which was clearly toxic are other things entirely. I have to remember this is all a process, and much as I want to take the quick and easy path and return to the familiar, I know that I have to forge ahead into the unknown, moving forward through the shadows of uncertainty and doubt. Maybe they are all right. Maybe my life is now empty because God and family are gone. And my life will never be whole again until I realize that and come back. But, I have to find out for myself. I want people in my life I can love and that love me for who I am, however long it takes to find them. Especially that one person I can share my life with.

Man In A Shed

“The lieutenant took my bike and my trailer last week, and I’ve been trying to get them back, he said he’d get back to me several times and hasn’t,” the young man pleaded, he was dressed in a patchwork black hoody, ripped jeans, and sandals, a guitar slung over his back.
“Well, I can have him give you a call, do you have a phone?” The lady behind the counter and bullet proof glass responded.
“I don’t have a phone, I’m poor and my bike is how I get around,” the man continued his pleas.
“Ok, I understand…” said the lady with a tinge of sympathy.
I had been indignant yesterday when I discovered that my car had been towed away in the middle of the night. At first I had suspected thievery, but then recalled my expired tags and the fact that the city police were oft compared to the gestapo by the locals. I had been on the phone with the police and the tow company, and been back and forth to the station and the DMV several times already. Finally, after those trips and almost $300 in office fees and fines, the police were preparing the release I could take to the tow company to get the car out, of course, after I’d paid their fee for the tow and the day in storage. But, as I sat in the waiting room at the police station I couldn’t help but count my blessings as I saw shabby transients shuffle up to the counter and plead their case. I was there with paid time off from my job, a sister with a car to drive me around, and I was armed with a cell phone and credit card to get me out of this mess, others were not so fortunate.

“Ok, Jason, sign here, and take this over to the tow company.” the lady behind the counter called for me.
I handed her the signed paper, took the release, smiled and said “thank you” before walking out into the daylight.

I was over the battle of trying to get my car road legal, it was costing me more than it was worth at this point, so after retrieving it from the tow company, I called Saul up and went into town to do some car shopping. With my wife’s and my finances now legally separated, I could finally take care of this. When I go car shopping I never seem to be able to stick exactly to my budget. Happens every time, still I felt I got a great deal for the money, and it won’t break the bank. Dropped the tired old car off at the junk yard to lay her to rest along with the memories. Sierra and I had had many a good time in that car, we’d dented the front end, damaged a shock mount, shredded tires, and busted the fog lamps, but it had all been worth it.

My wife was still furious when she found out I’d purchased a new set of wheels when I came over later for visitation with my son. I know at this time just about anything will upset her, and there is no getting around that. As far as she’s concerned, I’ve moved on easily enough, transitioning happily into bachelorhood complete with a new car and girlfriend. Not quite, the girl I am in love with is on the opposite side of the continent, and this transition wasn’t as happy for me as she was making it out to be. I feel it more than ever that my life has lost its purpose. It was all so clear before, I was a Godly Christian man, my wife’s husband, and my son’s father. I had purpose, I was somebody, there were people who needed me. Now what was I? I was living for myself for the first time in how long? While life is easier now, it is less fulfilling. It feels vain and hollow. Every aspect of my life used to be dedicated to others, whether they be my wife, my son, family, my friends, my church, my community, or my God. All that was gone. Sure, I paid child support and alimony, but that was taken with grudging acceptance from the recipient. Now I got up for myself, went to work for myself, made car payments for myself, planned my evening for myself, went to bed for myself. All this, more than anything, made me want to crawl back to my wife and beg her to take me back. Beg her to let me be her strength once again, to be admitted back to the family and care for her and my son day in and day out. Could I do that? Would she even consider it? In the end, I feel things would just end up for the worst. It is me that is broken. I was the one who did this after all. I fucked up the plan. Was it worth it? Sometimes I think it was, sometimes not. Do I try to step back into the role I used to take? Is that the adult, manly, noble thing to do? Maybe, but I think the most responsible thing I can do right now is to stay the course, give it more time, sort out my thoughts. Try to make a clear headed decision for once. But, how can I do this when I’m in love with another woman? I want to be with Her and I can’t just ignore my feelings.

Across the Universe

Sometimes my life doesn’t seem real. I feel that if it gets to being too much, I should be able to just close my eyes and scream and wake up, and there I’ll be in my bed ten years ago and wonder at this strange, vivid dream I seem to be living now. How could I have done those things. It is like at some point in my life I committed some crime against fate, I deviated from my programmed path by some freak glitch in the universe and split off into this alternate parallel reality. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It’s all wrong. None of this can be real. How can it?

I think there are at least one, maybe two moments of stark, palpable realization of self awareness in a person’s life. Where they suddenly become aware of the reality of their own existence. Before that moment they’d lived their lives taking their own existence for granted, never giving it a seconds though. Never wondering, “could it have been another way than this?” Suddenly the person becomes aware of the billions of parallel realities that could have been, and by that mere realization they realize that these realities are indeed real, but beyond their reach. In these realities they’ve been many things, lived different places, married different people or stayed single. Every choice springs forth from each moment like a cascading stream filling the loose areas between the jagged black rocks of time and space, like water flowing into a dry river delta, the number of realities growing exponentially ad infinitum with each passing moment.

I remember the first time I had this experience. I was in high school and it was 1 am and I brought a bunch of friends back to the house. My mom had gone to bed. My dad never would have allowed me to be out as late as mom did, and she also didn’t mind if I had guests back at her home during the wee hours. We came back and we were laughing and having a good time, I went to get a cup out of the cupboard, it had a clear glass door, and when I shut it I caught my own reflection in the glass. At that moment I became suddenly aware of my own existence, I stared at myself, into my own eyes and questioned my own reality. Was it really this way? Couldn’t it have been some other? It happened again today. I was rocking my son, he would rest his head on my shoulder, and then pick himself up and look at me and smile, and touch my face with his young fingers. His mother came quietly into the room. I kissed my son’s forehead and said “ok buddy, I’m going to give you to your momma, love you, goodnight.” I handed him to his mother, he leaned over and puckered his lips as he does before I go to get a kiss. I gave him one. And as I left he reached out his hand to me and waved a little toddler wave. I waved back. “You can leave now,” my wife’s cold voice came. My face cracked as a wave of emotion hit me, a tear almost started but I suppressed it, and made for the door as quickly as I could. Out to the hall, and stairs, and out to my car to drive away to my new home. It shook me I realize now, as I lay down to sleep. “Could it have been another way?” In another reality my wife doesn’t ask me to leave I as she comes in. She gives me a kiss as I hand her the baby and she starts singing a lullaby as I gently close the door behind me. I stay there and she joins me on the couch and we talk about our plans for the future. But, here I lay, billions of light years from that reality.

For Richer or Poorer

The grass was covered in dew and the fog hung low on an early spring morning. The people wore mismatched, sometimes dingy secondhand clothes. Old sweatshirts from long forgotten county or music festivals and events, old cargo pants and jeans, the occasional ugly patterned long skirt. I did my best to fit in, being clean cut, wearing a high end leather jacket, and selvedge denim, typing thoughtfully on a smartphone with a flip out keyboard (all the rage those days as some people, like myself, still held off making the dive to a fully touch keyboard). My text editor open,

class Display
{ static void Main()

I typed away with my thumbs, always filling in snippets of a class or method to include in my code base when they came to me. My wife had been gracious as I worked on these projects, taking a couple of half days every week to dedicate to them.

A man in a knitted beanie staggered down the line, cursing at some imaginary entity that it seemed only he could see. My wife hugged me close as he passed, I stroked her long auburn hair.

“Some interesting characters today,” I whispered once he was gone.
“I know, honey, some of these people just scare me, a few of them you never know what they’ll do,” she whispered back.
“Hehe, don’t worry, most of ’em are harmless.”
“That guy used to come into my work, sipping out of a gas can full of bathtub gin, we finally had to have the sheriffs come and remove him after he threatened my coworker.”
We’d started coming to the local food bank’s weekly distribution at the town community center to relieve some of our financial stresses. As a newly wed couple, we just couldn’t hardly afford the one bedroom place we’d started out in, even though it was a family property and had very reasonable rent for the area. We both worked full time, my wife at a dead end job, and me for the family business, and as a freelance programmer while going to community college. Neither of us had careers, jobs were scarce, cost of living was high, and we were up to our eyeballs in debt. My wife had a degree, but I kept switching majors, now starting my 8th year at community college. I would never complete a degree.

The bread line reminded me of church in some ways. The regulars at the bread line would share the stories of their weeks, talk about members not in attendance that day. There were your alcoholics and druggies, and just your average perpetually homeless and impoverished, elderly who’s Social Security checks weren’t cutting it, single mothers stuck with five or so kids from five or so different fathers, and mentally ill that society and family had failed. My wife and I seemed out of place, dressing in clean, half-decent clothes, but every week there was an excess of food being thrown away, so we figured that our income was low enough (just barely) to qualify for the assistance, so why not?

The volunteers who worked the line were sweet people, many of them clearly Christians and Jews, giving blessings to the parishioners as we passed through accepting the food they’d hand out. They knew most of us by name, could inquire about our lives, health, and families. We would go through the line, gratefully filling our canvas totes with old bruised vegetables and fruits, overstocked baked goods, and at the end of the line: table after table of overstocked breads the grocery stores would donate as a tax write off. The last week of the month would be ‘meat week’ when there would be coolers full of donated frozen meats. There was always more than enough for everyone, and my wife and I would fill our bags to overflowing with enough food to last us the week and beyond. With the excess we’d invite our friends and family over for meals. My wife was upset one time when I shared where the meal came from, they never would have known that a roast leg of lamb dinner with seasonal root vegetables had been provided free of charge otherwise. But, my wife never wanted people to know our financial state, it was too embarrassing for her.

We’d stuff our full bags of groceries into the trunk of our aging luxury sports car and drive off towards the coast. Our little place lay on a little forgotten peninsula, almost like the real estate agents had failed to notice this small section of beach front property, so the housing prices remained low. My memory of those days was it was always overcast when we’d get back from the bread line. We’d carry our plunder up the steps, looking out over the little bay as we walked. We’d fill the counters of the small kitchen, unloading our food and laughing and talking, we’d come up with meal ideas for the week. After that, and before work, we’d brew our morning coffee and sit by the window and look out at the sea together, and think how fortunate we were to have what we had, our little slice of paradise, and to have each other.

Cast Away

We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.

My brother in law was singing an 18th century sea shanty in the galley, cooking over a hot stove as I unbuttoned my shirt, the window was open and in came the sound of the sea and the gulls, and the cool breeze which made the sweltering heat bearable. The small stateroom was a tight squeeze I’m afraid, there was about a half foot pathway between the chest of drawers and the bed, and only slightly more distance to the desk in the corner. The closet was apparently not water-tight, or so I was told, it was suggested I should air it out from time to time and to not store anything on its floor. The mice had been keeping me up at night, scurrying across the wooden floorboards. I had baited a few traps and placed them out for tonight. Probably would have been wise to have brought a cat on this voyage.
“Ooooh, shit, you’ve gotta hit this,” my sister said, walking in carrying a black bong and matching BIC lighter, all her smoking pieces had a plastic BIC in a matching color, very important.
She handed me the bong before I could protest. I took it and lit the smoldering herb, put my mouth to the piece and inhaled.
“Careful, it’s Durban Poison, it’s pretty harsh.”
It was too late, I’d taken a massive hit and was now coughing up a lung.
“Yeah, I got that,” I said between coughs.
“The cod is ready!” came the call to mess from the galley.
Dinner was served along with a white wine, Hebrew prayers, and a discussion of French novels. Afterwards, board games, or a TV show, or a pipe or cigar are typical evening activities as we retire.

I was three days into single life, last Friday I’d moved out of my wife’s home, and into my sister’s small bungalow near the beach. We’d signed the divorce agreement, and we were well on our way to our divorce being final. I felt I’d moved into a college dorm/18th century tall ship. Still, the rent was affordable, and my sister and brother in law seemed ecstatic that I’d joined them. Meals were family style every evening around the dinner table, and we seemed to share the household chores well thus far. I certainly had more cannabis and alcohol and erudite conversation offered to me than I was used to.

I’m having trouble making sense of everything now. I miss my wife and child. For the longest time, I didn’t actually believe we’d ever be parted in this way, perhaps logically, but I hadn’t grappled with the emotional reality. Sure, I had been living downstairs and my wife was sick of the sight of me, but I couldn’t imagine the isolation of living in another house across town, our comings and goings completely unknown to one another now. She’d gotten her own checking and savings account, I’d payed her child support and alimony for the month. Tonight is my first visitation, and it will be the first time I’d seen my son or wife in days. I’m beginning to grasp that this is my life now. In a way, the freedom is nice, being able to use my time and finances as I see fit and not being answerable to a spouse. In another way, I feel disconnected, lonely, like a bunch of big holes have been torn from my side: wife, son, and faith. And I’m at a loss of how to fill the hollowness.

Of course, Her is still here with me, and for that I’m glad, but the physical distance between us is now all the more palpable. Part of me feels like closing myself off from the world, the other part of me feels like diving into it with abandon. I know I just need time to adjust and get my sea legs. But, I’m so impatient, restless. This gaping wound in my side begs me to fill it, but I know that it is better that I let it heal on its own, that I fill it with myself, and not someone or something else. That isn’t to say that I don’t love Her, I do. I desire her above all else, but I know that I need to be okay within myself, and not make her responsible for my happiness. In a strange twist of irony, I feel I’ve lost my ability to love Her as well I could before my separation. My love for Her was pure then, when I was whole (despite the issues of marriage), but now it has become clouded with my emotional baggage and all these things I need to work out within myself. I know I’ll be whole in time, even if I’ll always miss my wife, and never be able to see my son enough despite our visitation agreement. I’ll be able to love fully again.

Photographs & Memories

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But we sure had a good time,
When we started way back when,
Morning walks and bedroom talks,
Oh how I loved you then,
Summer skies and lullabies,
Nights we couldn’t say good-bye,
And of all of the things that we knew,
Not a dream survived
It was a solemn occasion, gathering each memory and placing them in that small box. A necklace I gave her for her first birthday we celebrated together, engraved with her initial, the chain still held a tangled strand of her hair. A ring with a heart shaped piece of marble, the corner chipped, I was always meaning to buy her a replacement. My wedding ring. Notes written on stickies, on bits of paper, on card stock. Mix CD’s full of love songs. Photograph after photograph that used to sit framed about the house, smiles, silly faces, kisses. Souvenirs from our honeymoon. From vacations and adventures. Once the tears were flowing they couldn’t be stopped. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so freely, the tears flowed out cleanly, uninhibited by any inner contradiction. Not a cry of pain, or shock or empathy or release as when I confessed my adultery, but of pure sadness at joyful loving memories that were forever behind me and the person I’d loved so deeply, and hurt, and lost.

The Answer

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“Are we making the right decision?” The question hung in the air after I’d posed it, dead air on the other end of the phone.
“…Jason, it’s over. You’ve hurt me enough, the only thing that is holding me together is sticking to our plan,” my wife’s voice on the other end finally responded.
“I’m so sorry, I’d do anything to fix it.”
We seemed to have this same conversation almost every evening. My wife would phone me up as I sit in the room downstairs, cataloging our assets, trying to sell them to pay for the divorce.
“Sorry isn’t enough. I wish I’d never met you, I wish I hadn’t chosen you, I wish you’d never been born.” She ended the conversation.

Whenever I have space from my wife, I’m haunted by the memories of our good times together and all that I know I’m giving up, our sometimes happy little family. So, I often ask, “are we sure about this?” But, every time the answer is the same: it is out of my hands. This is the only path forward. I’d broken our life and our family, and it was too late to go back. Every day more trinkets, old love notes, photos, and jewelry show up on my nightstand, all gifts I’d given her. I’ve yet to figure out what to do with them, I can’t give them back, and I can never throw them away, I can’t throw away our memories.

All that is left is to sell this stuff, pack my things, and fill out the packet the lawyer gave me. Just everything feels so hollow at this point. My emotions are tangled in knots.

Time

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

I carefully cleaned the desk, being sure to wipe up ever inch so not a single foreign object, dirt, or lint could be found. I arrayed my tools, it was quite the kit, but they’d sat idle for almost 6 years now. On the higher end were a set of watchmaker’s screwdriver’s starting at .5 mm thickness, a jeweler’s loupe, assorted Swiss and German made tools to adjust and remove bracelets and case backs, lubricating oil, polishing clothes, polish, and more crude household additions like an old soft-bristle toothbrush, latex gloves, and a Scrotch-Brite pad. I had actually wanted to be a watchmaker for a while when I was younger. I’ve always had a fascination with time and timepieces. I remember my first wrist watch, it was a small digital thing with a rubber bracelet, indiglo and a weird display that looked like the HUD of an futuristic spacecraft. I would look at it and play with that thing while I was sitting in the pews at church. It was for a young boy who would think it ‘rad’ looking. As I got older, I remember the first time I saw a true mechanical watch, the only kind that existed before the discovery that applying an electrical charge to silicon dioxide would create a predictable oscillation that could be harnessed to keep almost perfect time, not only for watches, but also would provide the steady metronome-like heartbeat of billions of microprocessors in this information age we live in. But, before the quartz movement and electric powered watches became standard, building an accurate timepiece was an incredible feat and a costly one, requiring dozens to hundreds of parts, precisely designed, built, and adjusted. These mechanical movements were beautiful though in their operation, a symphony of moving gears, springs, jewel bearings of ruby, diamond, and garnet, escapements, and balance wheels. They are a testament to man’s ingenuity, and despite being rendered obsolete by modern technology, I love these devices, they are works of art in their own right. These days, you generally only find them in high end watches worn as symbols of status, or in antiques. I had some of both as I’d collected wrist watches for years before I married my wife.

Now, I laid out all my old tools, and then pulled out my watch display case and lifted the lid. Inside lay a small fortune in watches, well over half the combined value of the two cars sitting in the drive way. I had mostly collected watches that were historically important designs. Most had adorned the wrists of great explorers, soldiers, or pioneers, those who’d fought in wars, scaled the highest mountains, plunged to the depths of the ocean, or landed on the moon. I looked over the collection and sighed, I selected my favorite, one I’d planned to pass on to my son when he was a grown man and it was time to pass the torch so to speak. Seems a kind of trite dream, “daddy’s watch”, made me think of Christopher Walken’s famous performance in Pulp Fiction. But, it was also the most valuable watch I’d kept after selling a good part of my collection. With proper servicing, it would run for many centuries to come, I’d hoped to have it as an heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation in the family I’d started. But, I realized now it had a more pressing purpose. I’d resisted selling it and others over the years even when my wife and I had been in dire straits living paycheck to paycheck, but now there was no choice if we were going to pay for the divorce and other expenses we’d incurred. It was a heavy diver’s watch, not gaudy, covered in precious metals or jewels, the only precious materials were practical, a crystal made of sapphire and jewel bearings of ruby inside. I’d worn it daily for years, but finally had decided to keep it in the case and only pull it out for special occasions, cleanup, and servicing. I knew every scratch and scuff on the case and bracelet, but overall, it was in great condition, and if I can find a buyer, it should pay for everything.

I went to work on the case and bracelet, scrubbing and cleaning, polishing, and restoring the brushed metal finish. It took hours before it was good as new, I unscrewed the crown and set the time, the automatic self-winding movement had already charged the main spring enough to set the watch in motion. I put it to my ear and listened to the steady, quiet, soothing tick. I slipped it on my wrist, felt the embrace of the familiar cold steel. My friend was a much better photographer than myself, and she’d be coming to take pictures of it for me tomorrow so I could post it on a few exclusive forums for selling such pieces. I set the watch in my automatic winder display case, flipped the switch, and closed the glass lid as it began to spin the watch, turning a small weighted gear inside to keep it wound, and pulled off my latex gloves. I watched the watch spin, and in turn its second, minute, and hour hands continued on their axis, the polished steel gleamed as we spin around the earth’s axis heading away from the sun towards the evening’s darkness, and our planet and solar system hurtle blindly through space to an unknown doom. It is kind of mesmerizing in a way. Sometimes it is terrifying to find time is slipping through your fingers, other times it is a comfort. Times like this you remember how much time you’ve wasted, you never anticipated it, you were just procrastinating, leaving it for tomorrow, only to wake up one day and realize all you’d missed. I don’t wish to say that I wasted the past years of my life that I’ve been married, I know these were valuable experiences to me, and I made many wonderful memories. Perhaps I couldn’t have made any better choices, impossible to say. I remember hard times in my life I’d put my wrist watch to my ear and listen to the calm, steady ticking, and just remember that in time, it would all be better. Time is at the heart of everything, from computers, to business, to music, to dance, the very substance of life. I hope to stop taking it for granted.