I have this nightmare that happens through much of January. I'm a runner. (And that's half of the terror, you guys.) And I'm in this race and I'm winning (for some crazy reason) and I cross the finish line. I slow my stride. I sink deep breaths into my lungs, push my hands into my hips, and lean over - gulping hot summertime air. The relief is palpable.
The race is over.
And I stand up - ready to do ... whatever runners do when they're done racing.
And that's when I realize that I stopped in the middle of the race. That the rest of the runners are still going and I'm way behind. Suddenly, I'm the frantic runner you see sometimes on some random ESPN channel that's all arms and legs and no coordination and in last place.
And thank the sweet Lord, that's when I wake up.
It's been the same January Dream since I started teaching. Pretty sure it has something to do with finishing one semester and realizing I still have another one to go before I'm done for the year. Whatever, right? The thing is that the dream isn't just a dream. It's a feeling. It's an oppressive, heavy, burdensome feeling that I carry through the whole month. And eventually, every single year, it evolves into this monster of untamed restlessness.
Like I don't know what to do with my hands.
Or the pen I'm holding.
Or I chew my lip incessantly.
Or I stand up, just to sit back down again and click my pen.
The Boyfriend was gone all week for work last week, and I told him that it didn't matter where he was, or what he was doing - he had better be home in time to take me away. Bless his heart for not even flinching when he agreed. We left town on Saturday night and drove through winding roads and tiny towns and we didn't even turn on the radio. He turned on my seat heater, I snuggled down under a blanket and we talked about everything and nothing. Slowly, the sun set, and slowly, one more quiet winter day finished.
We pulled into his momma's driveway in time for dinner on Saturday night, and when I stepped out of the car ... there it was. It's a smell that's tough to describe to people that have only ever lived in the city.
It's the smell of space.
I took a deep breath and followed The Boyfriend up her short walk ... and I can't even remember what I was talking about when I looked up. My breath caught in my throat.
I could see the stars. All of them.
And the bricks on my chest lifted a little. The other runners in the race seemed to slow. I gained more ground.
Dinner Saturday night was authentic Mexican food in an old gas station turned restaurant. It was slow. Easy. Booths that were too small, bad music on the speakers, and there was laughter over chips and salsa. Back at home, I curled up on the couch under a blanket and closed my eyes. I was so tired that my ears were roaring.
I woke up Sunday morning slowly. Light was pouring in the windows and Momma Jo and The Boyfriend made breakfast. And for dessert? Ice cream. The day rolled by much too quickly - as they often do - and soon, she was back from church cooking lunch, and The Boy was outside doing ... whatever boys do outside in their trucks. She stood at the stove as my own momma did often on Sunday afternoons - cooking something only she knows how to make (trust me, I tried to replicate it this week), and we talked about such random things. She made creamed peas like my Great Aunt Erma used to make and as I put my fork down on my plate ... I finally felt a small release away from the restlessness.
When we left, I stood by my car door and took a few last deep breaths in. Cows stood twenty feet away looking at me, cats sauntered over the sidewalk, and the wind blew, blew, and blew.
There are days sometimes.
When the only thing I crave is the sweet smell of space.
Thank goodness for Momma Jo.
(And creamed peas.)
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences.
He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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