The weed eater is going strong. The lawn mower lies in wait. There’s hammering and industriousness all around these poorly insulated walls.
Me, I’ve turned on the heat and am having another cup of coffee. I picture the amputated limbs of trees tangled in my front yard, showing off my apathy to my hard-working, middle-class neighbors. It’s shameful, I’m sure. The sandy bald patches that make up more of the lawn than grass, the deep ruts in the driveway that catch the garbage can’s wheels, the crack running up the side of the house that is becoming more of a crevasse every day.
It’s not actually my house, so I don’t feel that bad. I’ve taken care of it as best I could. It’s sheltered me. Soon I will leave it, and the yard will officially be someone else’s problem.
Still. Symbolism knocks with the hammer’s blows, pecking at a fragile skull still cowering from yesterday’s monstrous sinus headache. The adults are outside, tending to business. I’m on the couch, binge-watching Netflix.
In my head, I can be 21, a college student with so much to do and no time to worry about such trivial things. In reality, I’m 43, still busy but mainly unqualified to be grown up. I cooked dinner for myself twice this week and didn’t spend any extra money going out to lunch. Victory! But the third beer I shared with friends while celebrating baseball’s return was a bad idea. Failure.
Failure wants to be my friend a lot these days. It cozies up to me when I, addict that I am, check Facebook for the first of 300 times in the morning and am confronted with a picture of my dead cat in the house I sold but still live in. It alights on my shoulder – the bad one, the one I slept wrong on again and is stiffly offended by my carelessness – when I get text messages from the child I once made up bedtime stories with. It intertwines its fingers with mine when I stand on my friend’s deck, laughter floating like lightning bugs in the spring night, and swing my hips in an impromptu mommy/daughter dance party.
It laughs at me as I write such sentences, dripping with self-pity and marinated in the self-absorption I have elevated to an art form. It shows me a short film – opening with twin dead 9-month-olds in their father’s arms, interspersed with status updates from friends smiling through chemotherapy, closing with credits of the names of people I still have time to appreciate if I would just get off my sizable ass.
It’s not unkind, this friend. It’s familiar, and very soft. Sinking into it feels like turning my aching head into the smushy side of the pillow, like the searing relief of the heating pad on high when I press my hands to my belly, like the sweet satisfaction when the rough edge of skin comes off in a long, neat, red-edged strip.
I know it’s not a feasible long-term relationship. I know my friend is a parasite. But we feed off each other.
The buzzing and banging of yard maintenance is growing louder. It’s as motivating as anything else to get moving.
That, and the fact that Kershaw is back on the mound tonight. In his seventh opening day start, he ran his line in said situations to 45 2/3 innings pitched with 24 hits, six walks, 52 strikeouts and an 0.99 ERA.
I can’t explain why that makes me feel better, why the sight of his left elbow cocked level with the script blue letters on his chest, ready to unleash hell, shoots a dose of energy past the caffeine sitting sluggishly in my veins.
I just know it does, so I give my friend a pat on the head and stand up. It will no doubt be here, awaiting my return, but I don’t have to take it everywhere I go.