I woke up this morning intending to write something. It was quiet, and the sun was bright and low in the sky. Early morning, with blue skies and quiet.
Yesterday, someone moved in to this floor of the apartment building. Four hours of the door squeaking open, then banging shut. Then squeaking open, and shutting with a bang. Squeak. Bang. Squeak. Bang. The repetition of thoughtless utility.
My senses, without asking me, attach themselves to anything intrusive, whenever there’s a noise I give myself up to it and am that noise, and since everything, once it has been set for stimuli, wants to be set off by stimuli, so at heart I want to be disturbed and am so without end. Rilke
Today, renovations continue on the long-closed Chinese takeaway across the avenue. I feel for them – they only seem to come to work on it weekends and holidays. I’m guessing this means they have other jobs that they are hoping to give up to make this one work. I have to admire their bravery, even as the sound of machinery cutting through sheet metal at 8am on a Sunday morning is loud and piercing, especially when it seems to get to points that must be tougher to slice through. Then the shrieking spin of the metal wheel is louder, as though it were climbing up the outside of the building and goblin-like, determined to find all the gaps in the windows and brick it can slip through.
They’ll stop. Soon.
The new neighbors are chatting in the hall. Squeak. Bang. The doors are fairly heavy, old metal fire doors that no longer fit very well. At least mine does not – the hang is a bit crooked, but the frame has been planed so that the door shuts.
And in pandemic world, it’s an illusion of safety. Some barrier against everything outside. Noises and smells finding their way past, breaching the walls of the castle – then the fortress is revealed as only aerial. It’s fine. It’s fine.
Later, there will be a walk. Most of us masked, fortunately, out for a stroll as though every Sunday was an opportunity to renew our acquaintance with the neighbors and shops, the local dogs and children, the delivery men on their electric bikes stopped at the corners. Most wait for the lights, or for me, unlike the people determined and desperate to get in their exercise. Then I am a barrier. Crossing over means to look both ways on a one-way avenue. But perhaps the stray cat will be in the garden, watching me carefully until I stop watching, so it can run. The weekly opportunity of Sundays, a different ground, below, to step over.
Perhaps it is. Of course it is.
I have been reading books with long descriptions of nature, of the change of seasons, of sunrise and sunset, the sound made by different sorts of trees. It seems so long since I saw trees in groups, more than the solitary ones with their rectangle of dirt surrounded by paving stones. There are some very excellent trees here – tall, old, reaching over the street to each other to discuss the changes they have seen. One fell over in the storm last summer, roots deep enough to pull up the concrete around it, not deep enough to hold it in place.
I feel like that a bit. If I pull up all the roots, again, it will cause upheaval. But that must be because the roots aren’t deep enough to hold me. And whose fault is that? It must be my own.
Later, there will be a walk by the train tracks. There were no trains moving in the sidings last night – no 2am howls of the train whistle warning someone of something. I woke up, missing the sound. It’s good to see the trains go by, especially the ones that will leave the state and head north. It’s so tempting to throw caution to the winds, and feel again the heady rush of descending to smoky train platforms, finding a seat, the little jerk of the metal car a small celebration of departure, the metal against metal of train and track. It’s tempting. I could probably walk to the nearest station, and at least get on a train to a beach overlooked by ugly concrete condos. But then it’s still necessary to look out and away, out across the water to wherever it gets deep, filled with fish and sharks and boats.
Always looking out. And instead, here, nearly a year of looking in. Where does it end?
Perhaps there won’t be a walk. Walking just is a reminder of all the physical boundaries, all the places that can’t be walked to. Or maybe there will be – one foot then the other, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow, just to be moving.
There’s a train whistle. They are back – that’s good. I’d like to work on the trains. To be constantly moving, maybe that would cure all this immobility. As a child, I used to dream of being able to jump on freight trains, like the people in the stories, and leave, silently and steadily, like a 100 car chain, heading out for a thousand miles. Or to stowaway on a boat, watching the dock grow smaller as the water surrounds the hull, and jumps up, frilly with salt and foam, determined, forward at the bow.