If I could do what I want I’d become an electrician
I’d climb inside my head and I’d rearrange the wires in my brain
— the prophet julien baker
Sometimes it’s too much. And not enough.
I’m recovering from a weird overnight oxygen test. They want to know if my sleep was different than usual. Well, yes, now that you mention it. I was undergoing a weird oxygen test. Duh. I had this dream that the thing hooked up to me allowed the people to see my dream. But my dream was about this oxygen test thing, so basically in my dream they were watching me have an oxygen test in my dream. With this dream going on, how is normal sleep possible? And after 61 years of sleeping in a way I thought was normal, is somebody going to tell me now that I’m doing it all wrong? This is why Mo never goes to doctors.
The Christmas lights from yesterday’s run still twinkle in my mind. I had this grand idea to time trial a 5K under the theory that it’s silly to go to races when you can do the same thing with a Garmin. I went as hard as I could, and ended up substantially slower than the last two races. How is that even possible? Maybe partly because it was dark and I didn’t want to trip. But mostly I guess it reaffirms the idea that you push harder when people are around you. I still don’t understand how that’s possible. I guess more research awaits.
I run on the little downtown Mesa loop while Mo is at pottery class. It’s quite sparkly this month, all twinkly lights and frosted windows. I’m running the half-mile loop, so I can’t shake her.
She’s sitting on a bench at the corner of the Mesa Arts Center. which cost $95 million to build. I’m guessing she has about 85 cents.
I’ve seen her a few times here in the same spot. Is there a shelter in the neighborhood? It’s getting cold. Where does she go?
She has a roller suitcase and a Macy’s bag. She wouldn’t look that out of place going through security at the airport. Except I guess that’s all she owns in the world. A blanket sits next to her on the bench, next to a large straw hat. She doesn’t have the weathered look of the guys who have been here a long time. She doesn’t hang with the pack over by the Subway; she’s always here alone. So alone.
As I go by the first time, I veer wide. Never adopt lost puppies, I keep telling myself. You can’t save the world. I settle into what I’m hoping is race pace, push and recover. Push and recover. It feels awful. That’s a good thing, I guess. It’s hard to tell these days.
The second time by, she’s putting on her hat. She adjusts it just so, in a proud sort of way that indicates she still cares. So many homeless folks have lost that. My heart breaks for a millionth time.
I see the Scooby Doo van at the car place has a bow on the front. It’s for sale? Mental note to drop hints to Mo. The elderly lady at the piano store is missing. Did she retire? Did she finally get held up? How can these people be buying pianos when a homeless woman is shivering on the next block?
On the fourth lap, I say hello and give her the shy guy wave. She says hello back, and that’s that. I want to sit down next to her on the bench and talk. How did she get here? Where is she going? What can I do to help? I keep running.
A pack of homeless guys is hanging at the Subway, which has put up a no trespassing sign to keep them out of the patio. But one has bought a cup of coffee, so technically they’re paying customers. A tricky business, loitering. One of them has a small dog, which I speculate is more of a financial move than companionship. Who can resist giving money to a guy with a dog? As opposed to a woman with a suitcase and a straw hat.
I think about her during the next lap. I have 25 bucks in my wallet in the car. I can grab it as I go around. But is that weird to go up to someone on a bench and say “Hey here’s some money!” Is that intrusive? What if she’s Jesus? I’m wearing the old running shorts with a hole in the crotch. How awkward would that be?
I decide, what the hell, I’ll do it on the next loop. I curse the running gods as the fatigue kicks in with the faster pace. I run hard, walk, recover, run hard, trying to keep the heart race as close as I can to max without dying. An old man on a kid’s bike comes by me. “Sprinter,” he says with a smile. “Nah. Muerto,” I tell him and shrug. He laughs. It’s all relative, I suppose.
And then as I come by the corner of the arts center on the fifth lap, she’s gone. I watch for her along the course, but there’s no sign. Oh, well. I drive over to McDonald’s to warm up. It’s full of homeless guys nursing their cups of coffee. With a two-day stubble, a dirty t-shirt and my old Zantes, I fit right in. But the employees aren’t judging. A nice woman asks the old guy next to me if she can refill his coffee. He nods enthusiastically. I make a mental note not to hate corporations quite so much for a day or so.
I pick up Mo, and we drive over to the Mormon Temple so she can see the extravaganza. As we drive back down Main, I tell her about the woman. “Let’s find her and give her some money!” Mo declares. This is why we got married.
But, of course, she has vanished, off to what I pretend is a warm place to spend the night. Maybe she’ll find her way back, right? It can happen, can’t it?
I am annoyed that my time trial was so much slower than race pace. How is that possible? I am annoyed that it seems more important to me than doing something for someone in need. How is that possible?
So many lost puppies in the world. You can’t save them all. But how can you walk away from one?
If I could do what I want, I’d become an electrician. My head needs some re-wiring. How does The Prophet Julien Baker always know what I’m thinking?
I bought tickets yesterday for her show next week. Maybe a pilgrimage could do me good.
Life. It’s all relative.
Sometimes it’s too much.
And sometimes not enough …