AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: Ours is Not to Reason Why DATE: 2/17/2005 07:54:00 AM ----- BODY:
Look a-yonder comin' Comin' down that railroad track Hey, look a-yonder comin' Comin' down that railroad track It's the Orange Blossom Special Bringin' my baby back
My dad wants to know if I'm still going to work. "Well, yeah." I tell him. "I mean...unless there's something you want me to do..." "Nah, not really," He says. "You should go to work." Just like the time he came and found me at the library, working on my research paper about Nixon and Cambodia, and said, "Your grandmother died this morning. Your mother and I are going to go and make arrangements. Do you want to come?" And I said, "Dad, what am I really going to do?"
Well, I'm going down to Florida And get some sand in my shoes Or maybe Californy And get some sand in my shoes I'll ride that Orange Blossom Special And lose these New York blues
It never rains but it pours. While working--schoolwork, writing, and now, whatever I get paid to do--has always brought me solace, this time it's not so easy. I'm older, with a driver's license and my own money. I should be doing something. I should have called my editor last night and told him I couldn't cover that school committee meeting. Sitting out in front of the school before the meeting started last night, in the rain, Johnny Cash echoing in my ears like the very voice of loneliness, I apologized to my parents. "I wasn't thinking," I said. "I don't want you to think it was like, I've got more important things to do." And yet at the same time, I am shirking a certain responsibility here. I am holding all I have to feel at arm's length, trying to prolong my own numbness.
Well, I'm going down to Florida And get some sand in my shoes Or maybe Californy And get some sand in my shoes I'll ride that Orange Blossom Special And lose these New York blues
The meeting is interminable. I get back to the newsroom at eleven o'clock, and from there must begin writing my story. It's going to be another hour yet. Another mile to go before I sleep. The copy editors approach me--they already know, having seen the obituary. Another correspondent and I get to talking over the low walls of the cubicles, the kind of wry and cynical banter that is the common language here. Later, we ride down in the elevator together. She tells me she has been doing this--part-timing, freelancing--for five years, with no hope of ever seeing a permanent position. She tells me things that flatten me even further, even as I struggle to think, well, maybe...
"Say man, when you going back to Florida?" "When am I goin' back to Florida? I don't know, don't reckon I ever will." "Ain't you worried about getting your nourishment in New York?" "Well, I don't care if I do-die-do-die-do-die-do-die-do"
I've travelled this route so many times, at least, the car's on autopilot. I touch the steering wheel as if I'm manipulating a Ouija board, waiting to see where it will take me. At home the apartment is pitch black, warm and silent. I eat some Ritz crackers, take an antacid and my medicine, hoping it won't burn my stomach too much. Steve is sound asleep when I crawl into bed with him, but his hand flops toward mine seemingly of its own accord and grabs it. He makes a deep grunting noise in the back of his throat, several times, and it sounds as though he's trying to wake himself up, trying to be able to talk to me. But he can't, and soon he's back to grinding his teeth and breathing deeply, still struggling every few moments with what sounds like another attempt at speech. Finally I let go of his hand and turn towards the wall. I think about Kellie, and our conversation earlier, and how she said, "there's no death that isn't sudden." And how just knowing she would be concerned, knowing she'd want to do whatever she could, knowing asking her to come to the wake would be something she could handle, had helped carry me through the whole day. I'm clinging to these things. These things that are good. Trying to tell myself, Oh, come on, you drama queen, get over yourself already. Quit the pity party. My eyelids betray me. They will not close. Suddenly in the dark next to Stephen I feel as profoundly alone as I ever have in my life. There's too much that has happened. Too much to think about. Too much going through me. I don't want to feel any of it. Sleep's going to be hard to come by. I wish I could just unplug somehow, but often the times I need sleep most desperately are when it decides to be most elusive. I can't help feeling like the day's emotions have built up like poison in my body, and they have to be let out somehow...I tell myself I don't know how, but the bitter truth probably is I just. don't. want. to. Everything about me feels like clenched teeth, hands in fists, obsessed with maintaining control, and yet even that obsession is a distraction from what's really going on. Enough. Enough thinking. Ah, well. I'll close my eyes or at least lie here in the dark, even if it's an empty exercise. Eventually I'll probably at least doze. Even if only to get this day over with.
Hey talk about a-ramblin' She's the fastest train on the line Talk about a-travellin' She's the fastest train on the line It's that Orange Blossom Special Rollin' down the seaboard line
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