The bus company I work for has offered me a steady contract for 32 hours per week. I am happy and on the other hand I feel a bit sad. I have been living my life on the wild side if I may say so. I have never been a regular Joe if it comes to jobs. All the jobs that I have done in my past are not all the best paid ones in the world. At least I had fun and saw an awful lot of our planet. And now it’s the last day of February the last day as a Temp. Tomorrow it is the first of March and my contract is activated. It gives me the shivers.
Maybe February is the time for endings. Some of the worst things in my life have happened in February. No, that’s untrue- they just feel like they all happened in February. Endings tend to have a similar quality: a slowness that’s not the same as a bleak, cold, February morning.
Then your blood seems like it will never be warm again, sluggish through your veins, now, it just feels like it’s gone underground. It’s not the slackness feeling of a hot, humid, summer, with the sun merciless on your face, turning your skin from brown to a burning and glowing sensation, when you can’t make the effort to even reach out to that cool glass of beer that your wife has placed on your table. No, this is the hushed, sticky quality of the air before the rain suddenly falls in a sheet, and you’re soaked from head to toe; your umbrella dripping uselessly onto your shoes, as the “road” that you walked underneath turns to a muddy river in two minutes flat.
What just happened, you ask yourself, even as you sigh and think “February”. Snow has gone, Winter just packed it’s suitcases and springtime has not arrived yet. Afterward, you try to pick it apart: And loop the past on a scratchy rewind, like those tapes you played over and over until they became scratching, static bursts between the snatches of that so familiar love song. Where the hell is it, you think, just that one moment, the turning point when it all started there were you found the right one, the moment that you found love is coming undone.
You’re looking for the sign, that one dark cloud in the distance, the flash of lightning, but sometimes all you’re left with is the clear sky ahead and the thickening air, that is taking your breath.
One morning I woke up and found a baby spider that has crawled into the folds of my fading grey lounging set that sits outside the deck in our garden. It has been unexpectedly cold the last few nights and the little rascal had probably sought out the warmth of the couch cushion.
I flap my hands at the furry resinous intruder: unsurprisingly, it moves not an inch. “I’m giving you ten minutes while I brew the coffee for myself and the tea for my wife”, I tell it solemnly: “after that, you’re out”. When I step out again, my hands slowly warmed by my steaming mug of coffee, it’s gone. I feel both smug and guilty; like I’ve won a battle and lost a more important war; like I’ve missed the forest for the trees, like I have once again, failed to read the signs.
How are you feeling, my wife asks me. “Okay”, I say and she accepts it for what it is: a barefaced lie. We are, neither of us, strangers to this; when all the stuff inside is so tangled that the only possible answer is just a simple “Okay”.
There’s a dissonance that leaves me tongue tied; the inexplicable chasm between what I know I should feel, and what I do feel; akin to letting yourself in with the key and just finding yourself in a stranger’s house. This is familiar territory, I remind myself. You’ve been here before, you know how this goes.
Endings are not an undiscovered land. And yet. I look up The 5 steps that I learned in the past years again; try to see what I’ve missed. Everything, it looks like; there is no progression, no gradual climb down. I’m just here. But there must be, I think, increasingly desperate for something, anything that feels familiar. But no, this is the fun house mirror version of myself, everything in its place and just that bit distorted, rendered unrecognizable.
I imagine what a therapist would ask me: how are you sleeping, are you eating regularly, do you shower, do you make the bed, do you change your clothes, do you exercise? Answer: Well, yes, yes, yes, yes, no, but I never did, it’s not unusual. I still hate work for the usual amount, not more or less.
You should be happy mate, a colleague tells me, I’m not saying who had some rough times in his past. I tell him a long and involved story about how I have lost many people on my way that kept me company. This is not a problem but having a contract is also having some obligations towards my job before it was easier to get a day off as there were no strings attached, to me life is like a friendly cow a huge white-and-black speckled beast. It moos at odd times and reminds me that life goes on; that February, in fact, can be great for some species: plentiful green grass, the fresh air that comes with some springtime smells; outside it’s getting more and more pleasant, of course with slightly unpredictable weather and cool nights.
I lie in bed and listen to the night sounds the squeaking of the roof, the occasional drunken song from two houses away, the rain showers that bash into the windows, a faint siren in the distance from a firetruck, some kind of chirping sound.
That gives me exactly that feeling that you’ve got during the long lazy summer nights. That moment your sitting at the kitchen table and a moth wanders in, flirts with the dazzling white light and then wanders out. It’s not hard to fall asleep on these days, when my thoughts seem to have no particular direction. When I wake up, I don’t remember my dreams.
Fact: time moves forward and I am getting old.
Fact: February seems to last forever.
It’s cold at night, during the day it shifts rapidly from sunny spells to bashing rain showers. Running around in winter jackets and sunglasses on. I’m doing my job for the last day as a Temp. Tomorrow I am one of the guys with a steady job. It feels like a new episode in my life, is this the final destination to my pension.
How are you feeling?, I used to ask others; and now I ask myself: How are you feeling?, the answer is that It feels pretty double and even a bit emotional. Although inside of me the salty blood is still flowing through my veins. I will be an Old Sailor forever.
The Old Sailor,