I ran away.
I was roofing. Rather, I was de-roofing.
It was cold out, rather chilly. I could see the sun, I could see the shadows on the ground. When the light hit my skin, I was warm. When it didn’t, I was cold.
The roof was in the shadows.
The light didn’t hit my skin.
I was cold.
It is a very claustrophobic feeling, being cold. Especially when you can see the sun.
It wasn’t just that I was cold. I was moving, so my body was struggling to warm itself. It was like the expanding warmth of my body was trapped inside a small contracting shell of a cold exterior.
The section of roof I was working on was steep and small. Between a valley and a roll. Corners and edges are a pain to remove and refuse any sort of good rhythm.
Rhythms clear the mind. They help to induce a state of meditation. As any athlete or employee will tell you, a state of meditation while working is simultaneously calming and blissful. The job or workout breezes by with less attention to pain or frustrations.
I really needed to clear my mind. I was on a downward spiral of thought. One where I accepted that my fears might come true.
Interpersonal relationships. Women.
Did they mean what they said? Should I take silence as a good thing or a bad thing? Were they lying? Are they- she- just humoring me? What does she want? Is it the same thing I want? Am I being stupid? Should I do what I know I should do or what I feel I should do?
Each answer kept coming back in the negative. If I tried to stop and think in the positive sense, I couldn’t get free.
I reached a roll. It didn’t want to pry off with my shovel. I pick up a crowbar and hammer. I readjusted myself. My borrowed work jeans shifted uncomfortably as I tried to find a way to support myself on the small steep roof to pry off the shingle. They’re practical. Tighter than I’m used to. They didn’t help.
I hammed the crowbar in. Grabbed a nail. Yanked. It came out.
It didn’t take any real effort.
The next nail.
Place, hammer, pry.
I wanted it to be hard, to strain the limits of my strength. To tire me. To distract me.
I went back to the same pattern. 1. Roof: Shovel till I hit a corner, 2.Thoughts: downward spiral. It was only a minute or so later that I hit the valley. I stopped. I considered picking up the hammer and crowbar. I felt so trapped. I had to be somewhere else. Anywhere else.
In two quick steps I was at the top of the roof, in the sunlight. It felt good. I dropped my gloves. The air on my hands was refreshing. I still wasn’t happy. My mind was still deadlocked. I wasn’t sure why I felt that being somewhere else would help, but I was sure.
I felt guilty. My host was in some kind of a meeting with some people that seemed like they might be clients. I didn’t want to disturb them to say, “I’m currently mentally breaking down. I’ll be back later.”
He’s a good guy. I knew he would worry. Maybe even leave the meeting to try to calm me down. I just needed to walk.
I was already off the property.
I only had a vague idea of where I was. I knew mobile bay was nearby and I vaguely recalled a map and where a few things were. I could use my phone, but that was not what I needed. I would have loved to be lost.
A couple of times I distracted myself, got my mind off the negative spiral. I would congratulate myself for the that I wasn’t thinking about her when I realized I wasn’t thinking about her, which made me think about her, which started everything over again.
I found the bay almost disappointingly quickly. It was only a few blocks down the road. A hop skip and a jump later and I was on the pier.
“Women these days” the fat old guy fishing with his buddies began. I was right next to him and listening intently, I mixed up exactly how he continued, I think it was, “Dats a hrumph dump humph.” It might have also been, “Ders sha num rump bumpfh.” While the later is entirely different, it gets the same idea across.
I also couldn’t have agreed more.
I didn’t stop to fraternize. The pier was long and there was more to walk. I still needed to walk it.
Most of the way down I stopped and looked over the edge. There is a little gazebo thing that was casting a shadow in the cloudy dark green water. The shadow was enough to allow a few inches of visibility. Tiny little fish, maybe even tadpoles, swam madly about, in and out of the shadow provided visibility. I stared for a few minutes trying to find deep meaning. I actually hoped for the kind of epiphany, the kind of revelation that would free me from my little self induced torment so I could go back to work.
Lets see, “Look at all those fish dashing madly about, they…. Um, have no meaning? My life has no meaning?” That’s no good. Lets try again. “Look at all those fish dashing madly about, lessee here, um, dirty… small… insignificant….”
I gave up. The fish weren’t my answer.
I kept moving. I thought about getting in my car and driving. Going somewhere else. Leaving. Going on a road trip. Luckily my car was in the garage getting checked up again. I admonished myself for wanting to run away on some kind of road trip while on a massive free form road trip.
I found a little place at the very end of the pier that wasn’t occupied by fishing lines. I’m not sure how long I sat there, out of places to go, my only option to go back.
The light glinted off the water and disappeared much as the little sparkling bits in the trails of fireworks disappear at the big 3rd of July show. I always thought that was clever. To have the big show on the third so everyone goes to it before having their own 4th of July party.
Glinting, moving, fading, another sparkle right behind it.
I slowly calmed down. I spent a while just breathing, relaxing. A speck or two may have gotten stuck in my eyes as they kept, erm, watering.
I have no idea how long I was there. I guess eventually I hit that meditative state I was looking for.
I started to head back. I was feeling a little better and I was no longer thinking about the crap I had been stuck on earlier. In fact, just thinking about the fact that I was no longer stuck on the matter didn’t throw me right back into it as it had earlier.
I stopped to read a little poster on a wall midway back across the pier. It was pleading with people to not litter in mobile bay.
“The Mobile Bay estuary is worth seeing because it is beautiful and it is worth understanding and protecting because we need it.”
Why is the word “because” in the same sentence twice?
I wrote better than that in middle school.
Lets try it a little differently, maybe with some punctuation.
“The Mobile Bay estuary is a beautiful resource that is not only worth seeing, it is worth understanding and protecting.”
For some reason I found this incredibly humorous. There are multiple novelists that live in Fairhope. It is a little artist town here in southern Alabama. I find it amazing that not one of them could be recruited to write the little “protect Mobile Bay” board on the pier. Maybe just a local high school English student?
This little issue reminded me of another atrociously written sign I saw in North Carolina.
“Each Employee’s Hands Must Be Washed Thoroughly, Using Soap, Warm Water and Sanitary Towel Or Approved Hand-Drying Device, Before Beginning Work and After Each Visit to the Toilet.”
Ok, first of all, what is happening with the capitalization? Why is every word capitalized? For that matter, why is “or” capitalized while “and,” “to,” and “the,” are not? Second, why is the entire thing written as one sentence? Could this not be expressed perfectly well in two or three sentences? Third, why is there no article before Sanitary Towel? Would it not make more sense to write “A Sanitary Towel” though with the capitalization scheme, it makes about as much sense to write “a Sanitary Towel.”
Lets try this again and make it readable.
“Each employee must thoroughly wash hands before beginning work and after each visit to the toilet. A properly thorough hand washing technique must include the use of soap, warm water, and a sanitary towel or approved hand-drying device.” I suppose this version would not allow someone else to wash the employee’s hands for them while the original version would. My version also includes a period to separate the idea that hands must be washed from the idea of what thorough hand washing includes.
I came to the conclusion that the various government of the south must be uniformly afraid of punctuation. There is no better explanation for the government sponsored signs in North Carolina and Alabama both displaying an atrocious use of the sentence separating constructs.
I was feeling better about myself. Not only had I finally regained control of my own thoughts, but I had spuriously convinced myself that I was more intelligent then the combined governments of the south.
I headed back into town. I still had a roof to remove.
I managed to get myself a little more lost this time. I decided to finish the little loop that I had begun, a decision that would take me through town and back to the house in roughly the same amount of time. Of course, with all of the interesting things to check out in town, I forgot to pay attention to what street I should be turning on. One of these interesting things was the trash cans.
“Waste Please” they read. Heh. Whoops. I don’t think this is what they are asking for. I’ve never before seen a city advocate that the people waste more, much less ask so kindly. Perhaps they meant, “Waste, Please.”
I also walked by a fudge shop. I’m pretty sure it is impossible to be even slightly depressed while walking past a fudge shop. The smells will mechanically turn any depressed mind into a little door opening shop entering automaton.
I decided an ice cream cone was just what I needed.
I was right.
There is something so youthful about an ice cream cone. A little sugar and cream, the coldness on the inside competing with the heat the beating sun was now providing. How many times has mom fixed a lost game, a race disqualification, a bad day, with a trip to the local ice cream parlor?
Actually, not many, now that I think about it, but that ice cream cone I ate while running away from my responsibilities in Fairhope sure felt good.
Oh yeah, responsibilities.
My host was worried, as I was sure he was going to be. I apologized profusely, picked up my shovel, and got back to removing some shingles.
They were no longer in the shade.