I was at my parents’ house, otherwise known as the supply depot, looking for a legal pad. “Why do you need a legal pad?” Dad asked. “Because it fits in my padfolio,” I responded, though in truth the padfolio was his and as we’re being truthful I didn’t know it was called a padfolio until consulting the Internet during this writing. “But that’s 8 ½ by 11,” he said, “legal pads are bigger.” “When you say legal pad, people think of yellow and lined and bound at the top,” I replied, sounding like a riddle. The answer was dad giving me a different kind of pad: a “Project Planner,” published by Priority Management International. There were fields such as Project, Objective and Expected Result.
That last one pissed me off. I sat on the porch in April, shivering, wearing jeans, two shirts, a bathrobe, a winter coat with hood and sunglasses. This is an Expected Result of living in Wisconsin. After Valentine’s Day, any time the temperature reaches 40 degrees, we autorreact by proclaiming the arrival of spring. Basically we are Corky in Waiting for Guffman, absolutely sure the honored guest for which we have waited has arrived.
It was in this seasonal denial I returned to Wisconsin, almost ten years ago, in defeat. The Result was not Expected, then, either. Where I had been and what I had done is irrelevant, I suppose, and could be swapped with anyone’s Roaring ‘20s. But it was the first time a dream died in front of me. The grief prevented me from functioning and then functioning prevented me from the grief.
In Truly Madly Deeply, Juliet Stevenson’s husband comes back from the dead and she doesn’t know what to do with him. I can relate to that. Every day now I wake up and the dream is beside me, warm and breathing, for the first time in years. But then mirages often form out of a desire for relief. An oasis for the thirsty. Stability for the insecure. Which brings us to the Result of now, also not Expected. The key investors since returning here, those who spent their time collecting interest in my life, are withdrawing. Roommates are moving out, collaborators are moving away, friends are moving into houses for their children, and I am moved to emotions I cannot express.
My parents’ dogs were panting and pawing at the door, molesting my permission to be released. They wanted to greet the neighbor’s dog wandering through the yard, a Labrador Retriever whom I call Black Beauty because she is the size of a miniature horse. When I opened the door, they tore across the lawn, leaping at her, growling and yapping. “What’s the matter with you?” I snapped at them. “You know her.”
The next day I shared this incident with my grandma; an attempt at in-flight entertainment as we were destined for yet another doctor’s appointment. Occasionally she spasmed, then squirmed, trying to wrench from the grip of an unspeakable pain. My father informed me they had an hour-long conversation about assisted suicide. “If there was a number to call,” she said, “I would call it.”
The dogs and I came inside, to lose the chill, or regain it. As the songs were already playing in my head, I decided to actually play the final album from School of Seven Bells, a duo comprised of Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis, who died from a sudden attack of rare cancer during recording. The music is a lake at sunset, reflecting light from the surface of formless dark. “We are free to dream,” sings Alejandra. “This is our time of our becoming.” I have to believe her.