To bed late (after 11) and up early (around 6), so that I can get my son to school and then get me school. Dragging on these Tue/Thu morning where I have to be present and attentive by 8 AM. I ask a dumb question five minutes near the end of the class. It wasn’t really dumb, it was meant to address something the professor said, but of course, I clearly don’t have the social acumen to know when the right time is to ask a a question. So, I am still routinely met with the eye rolls from the professor who isn’t interested in answering a question, and chastened for not speaking up when I should have spoken up. I am ready to leave school and go back to the office.
I hate to say that I was made to work in an office in front of a computer, but I really think that I was made to be this way. A driver’s license photo of me from 1999 greeted me for twelve years or more, until in 2012 the license expired and I had to see the inevitable results of many years of thinning hair staring me in the face. The 1999 photo was there in a pile of old DLs I had laying around, and I kind of remember the day that I’d spent chasing my first Texas DL. I am wearing a nondescript, navy blue polo shirt purchased from a thrift store that is still in business here in Austin–it’s actually within blocks of where I presently live.
In 1999, I was rather unhappy about facing the fact of needing to purchase shirts with collars to be tucked into khaki pants for the office life. It was a necessary, but surely temporary evil. The office life was always meant to be a springboard or money cushion for a life of writing novels and living free. In the 1999 DL photo, I look a lot like my father–weary from dragging myself to the office for years. I was really just tired from having to chase down all of the paperwork in the right order, and probably a little pissed at the person taking the photo for barking at me to smile more or something.
Now, I sit in an apt on the grounds of a seminary as I watch one of my oldest and final dreams come to meet its end. The act of me staying here at seminary would likely be considered part of some kind of miracle. I know that I don’t have it in me to preach or be pastoral, and I think everyone else pretty much knew it all along. It really is just a matter of finding the next office job and starting over in Austin for the umpteenth time in just as many years. In June, it will be 10 years since my mom died, and I was on the verge of finally getting to vacate that sad, hexed translation company of MCE after having worked there for eight years. In June of 1999, I was just beginning to work there. Now, it will be eighteen years since I came to Austin, thinking that life would be magic. My face in the DL photo from 1999 tells you how my life has really mostly gone.
For some reason, on these mornings when I am not fully awake and alert and I am more prone to committing some of the older social faux pas, or just generally being incapable of doing a good job of reading others–I start to make all of these weird connections in my brain…like, it’s a year ending in the number 7, I was born in a year with a 7 in it. If you add up my birth month and birth day, you get 7. For some reason, 1947 is a year that always pops into my head, and I associate it with a lush, green and cool spring that I wouldn’t have known unless I’m reincarnated. In 1999, which wasn’t a very 7-y year for a lot of reasons, Austin did seem to have an endlessly cloudy spring, if not a cool one. And then, all of the old places and moments and faces start to pile on top of each other in a disorganized jumble–1999, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, etc. send me moments and faces that engage with each other in my mind. The trips to Corpus Christi in 1999 and 2000 blend with the one that we took last year. The last summer at MCE, following my mom’s death at the start of June, gives way to the first summer I dated my wife, and the last summer we lived in Austin before moving back to Waco.
I am waylaid by these things in such a way, that it becomes difficult for me to accept that I am entirely solely responsible for their appearance in my head. It is like someone or something is insisting on forcing me to try to make meaning out of all that has happened, and I continually try, and try again, and keep failing, and I know that time is running out. The world in 1999 was my oyster, and now it feels more and more like an ever-increasingly Procrustean bed, where the only things that really properly fit are the final things to come, even as I insist on trying to jam in the past twenty years’ worth of meaning and the next twenty years’ worth of meaning, into this bed that is perhaps really just a simple and clear sign that I should resign myself to the office world of polo shirts and khaki pants and the kinds of faces like the face I had on the DL photo of 1999. If only I could grow back the kind of hair that was on my head in 1999!