Friday, December 23, 2005

More tired than usual, I get dressed for my work out early by my standards-- about three AM. I don't want to do it tonight, but I'm hellbent on going at least three weeks straight before having a break. Nissa says she read somewhere that's how long you need to do something every day before it becomes a "habit". Just under a week to go.

I'm dressed and about to get into it when the dog distracts me-- not unwelcomely. I pet him for a few minutes before he walks away to stand in front of the door and make puppy eyes at me, shifting his gaze between me and the door in an unmistakable way. I'm tempted to tell him that no, we will not go for a walk tonight, but eventually give in-- it's the 23rd of December and I've neglected his outdoor time all winter long, so I'm an easy target for dog-guilt. It's not that cold outside, either, and it's a few extra calories I could use to lose.

I get him into his harness (always a fight), grab the key to the mailbox and out we go. My trailer park is the largest in Maine and the mostly badly plowed-- the entire circuitous route to the mailbox we take could is one big ice skating rink, but I've lived in Maine all my life and know how to keep my footing in these conditions. As we walk, I am taking in the late winter night's quiet-- it's incredibly still outside, no wind, not a sound. In the silence, lights have a strange quality about them-- a string of white christmas lights looped around the railings to a porch and the warm-looking lights eminating through the curtained windows of the homes of a few scattered night owls have an unreal feeling about them-- like a painting, something out of an parallel universe of Thomas Kincade, where everyone's househould income falls below 35,000 a year. I guess it's a sight more real-feeling than anything he's ever painted, but it doesn't feel as though I'm really there.

In the quiet, I am thinking about how the walking and the atmosphere reminds me of being in Mariposa-- it was my first taste of indepence from my parents, and, if you think of it, probably the most independent I'll ever be. During lunch breaks or at night I would walk the empty streets, sit alone at The Grizzly for lunch or go up to the twenty-four hour gym I bought a month-long membership to. Sometimes I miss the people I met there, but I think I miss the alone time, and the feeling as though I could handle being alone, more than anything else.

I wanted to write about how, walking home, looking at the houses with the windows and the homey warmth, all the humble trailers with two cars in the driveway, I got to thinking about why I've been getting so upset lately, and I think I may have nailed it: I traded in my independence and my big dreams for a dime-a-dozen feeling of domesticity: working all day, then coming home to spend what precious little time I could with my Zack, eating meals we fixed together and sitting on the couch, watching TV until we both felt tired enough to go to bed. It wasn't much, but it was normal, and it felt like home: now, with me working late nights and him working overnights, and only having one full day of the week together, we take time together how we can get it. We go to sleep at different times, we wake up at different times. We eat maybe four meals a week together, and we're lucky if we had the time to make two of them. The days we do have off together, we normally sleep through, because we're on different schedules, and we're both always exhausted.

It's not about having less time together, it's about not having a routine. It's about leaving him sleeping in bed at 3 in the afternoon, piecing myself together without his help, and going to work for eight hours, knowing that when I get home, he won't be there, not until I've already gone to bed.

Money's certainly better now, and schedules work out better with school, but there's something missing: when I think back to how it used to be, both working all day and coming home to sit down to a meal together and watch whatever was on, I picture it, and in that image, there's a glow. That's the light I recognized in the lights of the houses I walked by. Maybe it was the same because those houses are homes, the way we used to be.

Or maybe it just seemed the same because it was so distant.

On with it.