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TomTomes 1.3: 10.19.2020

TomTomes 1.3: 10.19.2020

Jan 31, 2021


The low hum of a passing car pried my eyes open.

I had been laying in bed, awake, eyes closed, for about fifteen minutes, by my rudimentary count. My alarm had gone off and I felt no need to keep sleeping, though I didn’t feel any particular urge to rush out from the warmth of my oversized comforter. I noticed my arms were wrapped around the pillow beside me, hugging it close to my body. I pushed it away and shot up, sitting upright. I turned to face the half-open window behind my head and looked out into the dawn. It wasn’t quite light out yet, though the sky was slowly changing such that the stars were fading into the serene robin egg blue. Another car passed by on the small, public road outside. A gray sedan, at the speed limit, rolling towards the traffic light that stood at the end of the block. Between my second story window and the road was a yellow patch of grass and a tall steel fence, black as the night, with sharp tips on each pole to deter any would be thieves.

From up here, I could see up and down the road, and when the leaves of the trees outside sat in just the right way in early fall, just as they were today, I could even make out whether the stoplight had turned green. I turned back to face the rest of my bedroom, as the soft cyan hues from outside began seeping into each square inch of the carpet. My white closet door was cloaked like a silk sheet, bathing in the coolness of the morning air. Before I threw the covers off to go wash my face in the bathroom, I picked up the small book of poems that had been sitting on my bedside table the last few months. My bookmark was still where I left it at the start of summer, and now, a faint but noticeable layer of dust was beginning to collect on the front cover. I held it in my hands and looked up at the ceiling, as a diver looks at the sky before attempting a jump from the highest board. But I placed the book back where I left it. I’d get back to that in time.

For now, the day already felt as though it were running late, so I flipped my body around and placed my two feet squarely on the ground. Out from under the covers, I could tell the morning was a bit colder than it had been of late, perhaps the season was finally starting to break. In Los Angeles, the high temperatures don’t fluctuate very much between summer and fall (barring an unexpected and unsolicited heat wave); it is the nightly lows that cling to any sense of seasonality that the placid climate typically does not allow for. After brushing my teeth, I stopped for a moment and stared into the mirror, hands clenching either side of my narrow sink countertop, peering into my own eyes from only half a foot a way. I studied the blueish bags under my eyes, which looked like welts from a bar fight under the stinging fluorescent bulbs. There were other small divots in my skin, running around my cheeks and neck, from past bouts with adolescent acne, which never quite reformed to its prior sheen. My eyes blinked out of rhythm. For a moment, I saw the reflection of a man twice my age letting out a sigh of disappointment.

I flipped the faucet on and splashed water on my face, washing those nameless specks from my tear ducts. The other man disappeared; it was only me looking back now.

I dried my face and went back out to the living room, where the mess from the night before had not put itself away on its own accord. Notepads and blankets strewn about on the floor, with a couple of cocktail glasses sat on coasters, swimming in a pool of condensation. I grabbed a handful of the cups with my fingers like a claw, clinking them together as if they had been shared by guests at a dinner party. Placing them in the sink to join the remains of yesterday’s dinner, I again found myself looking out the window, as a small spider dangled just outside from the tree branch, having spun a masterful web while the world around rested. The sky began picking up traces of the sun’s golden glow.

There was no plan for this morning, no routine built in that I could readily jump into. The only consistency was the lack thereof. I had made stilted attempts over the years to adapt my habits, but no single self-help book or morning workout would ever lift the dread from my shoulders that caused me to collapse under its weight. It was much easier to sink into the couch, and stare at a wall, wallowing in grief-stricken angst.

It had been this way for many months now, and though the blessing of a roof over my head counted for something, there were not enough lampposts on my path to show the way through. I sat and looked into my silhouette dancing around on the darkened television screen. I barely watched TV anymore and yet that general malaise you get from an extensive network binge still hung in the room, as if the gravity was greater here than anywhere on Earth.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” floated through my head in a fleeting daydream.

“But it is,” reality retorted.

I logged on to my computer, catching a glance at the task bar showing that it was already almost eight o’clock. If I jumped online now I could get a head start and be out early today. But early for what? I questioned my motivation to overachieve when the result was perhaps just incentive to begin drinking again sooner. I stayed off the booze while signed on at work, though working remotely these days made forming addictive habits as easy as hopping back on a bike after a few weeks away. If there was anything to be grateful for, it’s that my body could no longer respond to hangovers with the hair of the dog, and I desperately needed water in order to fight them off. I opened up the windows behind my computer to let that cool air inside, though I was wrapped up in my layers of sweatshirt and sweatpants, bundled up and hidden from the outside. I felt it hit my face like the smack of a footstep in a puddle. I breathed in deep, and held it for a moment, maybe two, while closing my eyes, imagining another life. A different life, another time when the sun rose like a fire in the sky, only outmatched by the fire in my heart. I yearned for the return of that bright glow emanating from my sternum, that buoyed my mood and served as steward through each hour.

The next car that passed by had removed its muffler to show off its engineering; the jolt of the exhaust pipe blasting like a foghorn shook me out of my mind-vacation and back into my desk chair. I watched the car speed towards the light, which I couldn’t make out from my vantage point on the far side of the room. The car’s engine flared again as it made it to the intersection, taking advantage of what I assumed was the light turning green right on cue. I wasn’t impressed by that driver’s need to show off, but there was something to be said about pressing on, full steam ahead, even if the path forward is telling you not to try. 

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