August 30, 2016

Stretch of Hours

“She was tired of her journey through a day, the limitless moods contained in any stretch of hours.”

                                                                                                                                 Dave Eggers

There is the dread of waking- the act of being birthed from the darkness into more darkness shocks him every morning a new. Could this be the day when his body quits, the heart stops, the brain seizes and refuses to move forward?

No. This is not that day. His thoughts begin to churn as soon as the sleep is wiped away, and he checks his stats. A few emails. Some likes. A love. A text from Jason. A scan of Time Hop makes him feel good about his past wisdom. Maybe all his thoughts, ensnared and enslaved after all these years will amount to something resembling a body of work. Or maybe, he should put the phone down and stop thinking for validation. He clears the little red notifications from his phone and slogs out into the world.

He sets the table and gets the waters as his wife, who has been up for almost an hour, finishes making breakfast. He thinks about her devotion as a mother and wife and friend and quietly nurses his appreciation. He thinks that he should tell her more often that he loves and appreciates her, but even thinking about it makes him feel awkward. He will write about it tonight and hopefully she will read it. He knows this is not enough, but he has always felt more comfortable sitting behind the wall of words. He can write anything. Project it to anyone, but a simple thank you for making breakfast everyday to his wife, feels forced and strange. He is not proud of his behaviour. He tends his slight shame as he heads off to wake the kids.

They are tired and still sleepy, but they know the routine. They will sit at the table and need to be done by six-thirty for showers. He reminds them to eat or take a bite every 5 minutes while he gently strums his guitar. "This one could be a song," he says, finding a groove. His youngest starts to sing a melody and he is blown away by her love of music. It feels like this love was passed down from his father onto this tiny child and now it has exploded exponentially. He knows that even if he has done everything else wrong in the parenting of his children- they love music and books, and this is enough. Breakfast done. He washes the dishes and is off to the shower.

This is one of the only times in the day that he is alone. He takes time to enjoy the smell of the lavender soap and shampoo. He washes his face with peach facial scrub. The grit of the pit exfoliates his face. His face is often covered with black-heads. He wishes his face was cleaner. Perhaps a facial, but really he doesn’t care that much. He has started to wash his face and after forty-two years this feels like a feat.

Getting dressed, he is disappointed in his ability to shop. He wanted to buy a more expressive work wardrobe this summer, but his hatred of shopping made him ineffectual at the factory outlet stores. He puts on a pair of red Gap khakis and a plaid shirt. A pair of vans caps off the professional yet “young” look that he settles for. He wishes that he paid more time, money and attention to what he wears, but at this point in his life his wardrobe is a routine. Cargo shorts, T-shirt, flip-flops on the weekends. Khakis, plaid shirt and Vans for work.

Then he waits. The rest of the family showers and gets ready. He reads on the couch and waits to see if the little one will tantrum today. She doesn’t. She is in a very good mood and pleasant and the day starts on good note. They leave the house on time and no one is stressed by being late to a meeting. The car ride is quiet. No music. Little conversation. He admires the sunrise and the greenery on the Singaporean freeway. This really is a beautiful city he thinks to himself, as he curses a driver who refuses to acknowledge his turn signal.

At school, he jokes with some kids. Says hello to peers. Smiles. Prepares the mask and starts his day. He wonders if other people could be crumbling inside at any moment of the day. He is actually in a great mood, so the professionalism is sincere. In his room he lights the lamps and explores his calendar. This looks like a manageable day. No surprises. He covers a mentor class and has fun with kids. No matter what else might be happening in his life, he knows that the time he spends with young people will always nurture his spirit. There is nothing better than spending time with kids in a classroom.

He talks to eleven year olds about the Political, Environmental, Economic and Societal lens with which they might look at the events of their lives. He shares the stories of his life as mentor text, and they seem surprised by his honesty and vulnerability. He tells them about his parents divorce and his inability to make friends in middle school. He prides himself on his ability to cut through bullshit and say what needs to be said. He knows that we are all boomerangs of emotion on the inside and even within the hour we can be burned alive only to rise from the ashes.

Lunch is quiet and fast. Salad again. The giant bean sprouts add a crunch that he enjoys, but they do not take place of the Jalapeño peppers, the salad bar hasn’t had in a week. Lunch duty on the field. This might kill him. It is hot and humid and he fights to stay awake. The boys play soccer and he thinks about how much he hates that game. He would rather watch them do anything else. Running back and forth, how can they get so much joy from something so inane?

Back in his room, the lights are low and the music helps him get through a To-Do list- set this week’s meeting agenda, write the eBrief, create next week’s mentor presentation, start thinking about the parent coffee morning, answer emails. Check. Check. Check. This isn’t teaching, but he convinces himself that it is benefiting learning. He actually likes it. He likes it a lot. Could he be a principal someday? Is that something he wants? Is it too soon to think such foolish things? He’s pretty sure he is doing a good job. People tell him he is, but he is not so sure himself. Next class. More kids. He will find is flow. His balance.

After school, he designs an activity on Pages. Making sure that the colors look good and the fonts are right. He prides himself on making pretty, useful things. His daughter does her homework as fast as she can and then reads.

He knows he will not run today, even though he should. He promises himself to get started next week, or the week after, after all the craziness of going home settles down. Instead, he shares some fries, a coke and apple pie with his daughter on the way home. He feels gross, but filled with joy as they drive home.

On the bed….rest the eyes a bit. oh no. Get up. Set the dinner table. Eat. Everyone is pleasant and has had good days.

This is life. This is family. This is all there is and it is more than he ever dreamed he deserved.

Bed time goes smoothly. Kaia is working through sleep issues, but has a good night. He finishes off a few things from the to-do list like a machine. Copying and pasting, opening and closing tabs, creating- emails, agendas, presentations. Click. Click. Write. Done.

And now…Iron and Wine feels too slow for the pace of his clickity clackity fingers, but the AC is blowing sweet cool air and the one glass of wine taste perfect. He will go to bed before ten and read the latest novel by one of his favorite authors. He loves the language and the things that it motivates him to do.

Then he will live tomorrow.

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