Slow Day

Slow day, long day, soft day. The rain has stopped but the clouds wash the sky and close it in, bring it down closer to me, walking along the street in my borrowed scarf and hat because I lost mine on the bus last week. It’s chilly and I stride along, turning up the volume on the sad moody music that it feels right to listen to right now. January keeps going and I keep going with it, step by step by step down the dim midafternoon sidewalks, past the bare stick treetops. I look at myself sideways as I walk down past the shops on Market Street and don’t think I look like anything in particular. I want to look like something in particular.

At the farmers’ market I hold a two-day-old baby goat. She bleats and nuzzles and I sample organic rye bread that tastes like sawdust and caulking glue, petting her wiry head, scratching under her chin, feeling her legs fold under my elbow. The woman at the bread stand tells me how these babies were born a couple of days ago and were doing fine but it was too cold up on her farm (two hours, three hours in the car each way, every Sunday to sell rye bread?) for them so she had to bring them in and warm them up and bottle feed them. “Once you start that,” she says, “there’s no stopping. You’ve got them for life.” I think about living on a farm, about having a goat. I think about the things you have for life and the things you have to let go. I buy organic vegetables and a huge head of garlic and taste some homemade granola, petting the baby goat’s head on my way out.

At the café I sit at the back table, nearest the cupcake frosting station, and read a book about New Zealand and write in my journal. I sit there for an hour and drink tea and think about summer, which will turn back to winter for me this year over a two-day time period in late July. I think about leaving, think about leaving, try to imagine myself on the other side of the world. “What if,” I write in my journal, “ I come back the same person, with nothing to show for having tried to have a big adventure? What if everything just goes on the same forever?” I picture myself in another café, in another country in another hemisphere, writing the same words. Market Street will be going on without me this time next year and there will be all sorts of new cupcake flavors while I’m gone.

I catch the bus home even though I was sort of thinking about walking back with my library books and my vegetables, and immediately start chopping and simmering and tasting for doneness. I focus on sharpening my knife and finding the peeler and wondering what that bag of potatoes is doing in the gadget drawer. An hour later I sit at the table eating my soup and reading my book about New Zealand, calculating and planning and researching as far as I can. At a certain point I have to stop because none of the books or websites can tell me that I’ll find a place when I go, or that there will be a place for me here when I come back. I shouldn’t be surprised though because nothing I have ever read anywhere has been able to tell how to find what I’m looking for. I keep reading in the hopes that I’ll figure it out but I must not be checking out the right books at the library because I feel as anchorless as I did when I was fifteen or twenty or twenty-five, and nothing about being thirty has been like what I thought it would be.

It’s been dark since five and I have to get up early for work tomorrow. I clean the kitchen and put my book away and think about Sunday: the calm face that conceals the beating heart.

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