My laptop tells me that it is midnight, somewhere. I’m here in my friend’s kitchen, one eye closed against the burn of whatever allergic reaction besieges me. His furnace purrs. An overhead light in the hallway dances off Ruthie Becker’s painting and two fat suitcases which await dawn and a ride to the airport.
I haven’t slept more than a handful of hours in any of the nights since I left the Delta. My transient insomnia has nothing to do with the presence or absence of comfort, welcome, or warmth. A yearning grips my heart and prods my mind to waken, urging me to explore the jumble of emotions churning in the heady mixture of bile and ambrosia which ripples with each shift of my broken body in the gloom. I surrender to wakefulness and trod down the stairs, willing my body not to fall lest the crash disturb my host.
Just as I left my computer on Central time for the first weeks of my California move, so have I stubbornly refused to change it to that zone since coming for this visit. I have a foot in each world and I find that I do not like it. Folks look at me strangely. They ask how my adventure fares. They inquire after job prospects; the wisdom of the journey; the success of resettlement. I’m crunched in hugs. Chairs spin to open their girth for my body. But I see a glimmer of reproach in every eye. Perhaps I imagine the holding back, the resistance, the impatience. I don’t think so, but perhaps. The avowals of love have a kind of crystalline overlay which acknowledges that while the speakers might value the times we have shared, they grant me license to remove myself from the lock of their embrace.
I don’t blame them. I left of my own accord. I cannot ask for indulgences now; I’ve surrendered my entitlement. I do not demand that any previously pledged loyalties remain intact. It is I who shifted the aperture and aimed it westward. However, a few immutable facts remain for my nocturnal examination. One truth persists, no more and no less than this: I accept my loss of status without complaint, but my love for these people and this place shines just as true. Distance, not strength, accounts for the apparent dimness of its rays.
It’s the twenty-fourth day of the forty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.