Sunday, October 5, 2008

dead squirrels

All this week, I saw dead squirrels along the road - piles of brown fur split open in crimson lines that, just to look, felt like a rush of little feet down my spine.

Not that roadkill is an oddity here, but it tends to only be nocturnal creatures, and the occasional house cat, that draw the deep sigh. This week was different though, but we all know this week was fucked.

The first few squirrels didn't phase me, didn't turn any wheels for me, but as the numbers grew, as my stomach became accustomed, I thought it through. When I was driving the last few days - and I felt the world with me -I would put on a record as I started my car, and maybe halfway through the first cut, I would drift away, and arriving at my destination, maybe five or six songs deep, I would turn off the engine with no recollection of hearing anything but that first half of that first track. The thoughts were so loud they drowned out the music. I could picture all the drivers around me, pulling off the freeway and winding towards home, without seeing, on instinct alone. The uncertainty was too deafening to hear the lyrics, too blinding to see the squirrel scurrying across the street.

Everyone was getting sick, everyone felt off. Outside the coffee shop, eavesdropping on conversations, a man said he couldn't explain it, he went for his run but felt no endorphins. I called my friend to get a beer, and he had been in bed all day with the flu. I asked my brother if he wanted to join us for dinner but he just needed to get back to the East Bay and take it easy, he was coming down with something.

And the sky began to thicken, and by Wednesday it was overcast. The pressure built and built, and I watched the debate standing up, pacing around the kitchen, drinking glass after glass of wine, picking at the appetizers that had been moved hours before from the coffee table to beside the sink. The headlines, worldwide, ranged from bleak to frightening, and the television blared, and the conversations, all the same, ended where they began, yet somehow days still passed minute by minute, thought by thought.

We went to the festival in Golden Gate Park last night. It is somehow always November past 18th Avenue, but something else was cold. Walking from the inside of the crowd, away from the stage, I looked into the multitude of passing faces, young and old, and got that sensation, that empathy for everyone merely for being human and imperfect and vulnerable, and I could see the hope in their eyes, however thin, and I stood there in the midst of thousands of familiar strangers, twisting my head around, digging my fingers into the muscle, trying to work out the knot in my neck.

There is something comforting about shit hitting the fan for everyone at once. Life comes with its ups and downs regardless, and it's sort of nice to know that we're all going through this one together.

While I looked for parking near the restaurant later, my friend texted me to say she'd been laid off. Then she called, and when I finally found a space, I called her back, and she talked it out while I waited for a table. She was taking it well, recognizing aloud how these things are often an opportunity - the turning points, the thresholds, the "...only makes you strongers."

The meal was incredible, and every third joke referenced Sarah Palin, and every fourth joke referenced Sarah Palin in some sort of compromising sex act, and outside the pressure continued to build, and as I laughed loud, the knot in my neck still continued to tighten, and when we walked out, aimless, onto Valencia, the sky opened up, and in the glow of the streetlights we could see the static of the first rain of the season beginning to fall.