Times Like These

“See you sometime,” Daria said, her voice cracking – grief? amusement? – but there was no watch, no clock on which you could find sometime; it did not exist. She would never see Evan again. Not in this Starbucks, in the office, or meetings, or onstage during his weekly presentations, which was, oddly, when she felt closest to him. A fixture over her life was being ripped out of the ceiling.

It had been wrong, of course, for Daria to bestow such authority on Evan. Such influence. Such power. Of course there were many wrong things about it, not the least of which was she viewed Evan as a father – appropriate, since her father had been gone since her 8th birthday, whereas Evan had never been here. He made eye contact, provided nonverbal feedback, used reflective listening. The effect was like one of those convincing sidewalk drawings – you were sure it was real, but it wasn’t, just art covering a hardness.

But none of that mattered. Well, it did, but it wasn’t supposed to matter for her recovery. Daria was only responsible for her recovery, as her sponsor told it. Tell that to her feelings. As of late they were like a computer, plugged in, turned off, consuming energy without using it.

After they parted, Daria got in her car, pushing the brake pedal, tapping the ignition button, shifting to reverse. Then she sat there, foot on the brake, scrolling through contacts, finding her sponsor. As she was about to push call, she realized that behind, and across, Evan had been waiting to pull out, watching her tail lights. Now he was slowly backing up. Daria slipped the phone over to the passenger seat, afraid that he would see, would know she was calling someone, would know it was about their meeting, would know she was talking about him rather than to him, once again, seeking approval from him, support from others, validation from all.

Stopping at the exit of the Starbucks, Daria looked around to be sure he was gone, then called her sponsor, who didn’t answer. At the beep, the words ran out of her mouth and did laps in the air. “I don’t know what I’m talking about,” she said. But she did: gradually, imperceptibly, this job, this boss, this man, Evan, had become the standard to which her and the world were compared; they were a measuring tape that had unspooled all the way and now retracted rapidly into itself, stopping with a snap, without a tab to pull it out again.

Daria had enrolled in a beginner’s improv course and tonight was the first class. The instructor led them in some basic exercises and games, the point of which were to act instead of think. To say “yes.” To make a decision in the moment and not spend another one regretting it. Surely this was a forgotten spiritual discipline; energetic meditation? As though her mind were a full suitcase, stopped for exceeding the weight limit, and she was joyfully yanking things out of it and tossing them over her shoulder, not caring what they were or where they were landing. Now now now. She would only do now. Not The Spectacular Now, a film about an addict and the addict who wants to save them. No – just now, without adjectives, without doubt, without analysis – Yes.

As she drove home from class, Foo Fighters came on the radio. “It’s times like these you learn to live again.” Next week would be another improv class. Daria found her soul already pressing into it, like a cell phone against a window in a building with poor reception, wanting to be heard.

4 thoughts on “Times Like These

  1. This is beautifully written. How you stretch brief moments of time into deep reflective experiences that are so vivid and relatable is remarkable.

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