17 June 2019

Thirty four


Saturday, the mania high water mark finally came. I had been planning to wait until Monday to see if I had erased the visa stress eating four kilograms, the weight for which I blamed the Home Office and every unsympathetic person I have met over the last five years who didn’t know the stress their country had put my little family under. Four kilograms was nothing, not even real weight, but if we don’t have metrics, we don’t have anything. My plan to wait until Monday made sense on paper, but then it didn’t and when I got up at 2AM on Saturday, I was too tempted. I stripped down naked to climb on the scale and stop it all. And there is was, the Japanese algorithm from this scale we’ve dragged with us from country to country, telling me that I was thirty-four years old, in terms of the metrics. This doesn’t feel good, I thought, looking down at the number. It doesn’t feel like anything. I got dressed again and put the scale back and went up again to bed for another couple of hours. There it is, I guess. I guess now I can go back to being normal.

Father’s Day I got up to run, but was immediately distracted — made coffee and meditated and procrastinated. I looked online at things and scrolled endlessly until I finally realised I needed to go now, right now, or it wouldn’t happen. It had not been raining and I felt good, as good as I have anyway. My body being light and aged only thirty four years, in terms of the metrics, I put on the 180 beats per minute running track list and went to a little loop up by the hospital where you can run one kilometre, going down an incline and then up a hill. Around and around, my Garmin GPS watch buzzing off the pace on each kilometre. I went eight and then nine and then ten and thought, I should do a half marathon one of these days, now that I am thin again and eleven buzzed and then twelve and then thirteen and I kept going.

Mei and Yoko were waiting for me at the door with a handmade card, and I was drenched with sweat. The card opened with a little cut-out for me, with my beard and glasses, but smiling. Mei had written ‘Vegan’ in the corner with a slab of meat crossed out, and I thought, yes, this is what I am now, this is what everything is revolving around. I showered and Naomi and I walked to church together. We sang some hymns I didn't know, but it didn't matter and I felt ill about halfway through the service and realised my body was weaker from the run than I thought even though it only was thirty four. The service ended and we had tea then the girls and I and Yoko went to town to have coffee and celebrate.

In ten days, I will be thirty seven, but that doesn’t matter because your age is just a number. Your weight is also just a number. Everything, it turns out, is just a number. I woke up at four AM and it was just a number. I showered and put on my sport coat to go to London for the day. The sun had come up and the rain had stopped again.

14 June 2019

More than you want

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The rain keeps up for the fifth or sixth day now and I think I've finally adapted. I can't write. I can't sleep. I keep waking in ninety minute intervals, ready to eat, ready to do something, first at one and then at two thirty. I act like I don't know what it is that's keeping me up, but I do know of course; I'm not eating enough to cover my running. I'm obsessive and then eat too much and then too little and then it's high fat then it's calorie maintenance then it's something else and I can't control it. Or I can control it too much, too carefully. I wake up and look myself in the mirror, look at the beard I'm growing and tell myself to be normal, you can be normal. You'll be thirty seven in thirteen days. Be normal, stop being whatever this is.

A student, one of my favourite students from a few years ago, was in campus and we chatted about the last couple of months and what he was doing. He was eating something which he offered me, and I didn't know what to say: No, not for any number of reasons, but thank you for offering. We walked together and I gave some advice about life plans, what another degree is worth in the grand scheme of things. We said goodbye at the top of the stairs and I went on to the next meeting, but I was happy the conversation had steered clear of animals and climate change and how tired I look — good, that's not what I'm here for anyway.

In thirteen days, I will be thirty seven. Every year you live, your life expectancy increases and even though I feel old, what an insufferable kind of old thirty seven will be. I will be young again when I'm forty, but until then I will just be getting older and older. My parents sent me a tracksuit, and I grew a beard — it's incongruity all the way down. You need someone you trust and love enough to say to you, Stop. Just stop. I wake up and eat again and have more coffee and meditate until everyone wakes up and the excruciating television show of the moment is turned on and off in the other room. I let the cat out and go back to my work, these two paragraphs I'm revising that I can't quite get right about how people avoid talking about the things that matter. Stare at a map of Tokyo trying to make plans for my autumn when I'll break free again, the guilt of however many kilograms of CO2 my flight will produce hanging over me like a judgement.

Instead, I'm just running and running. Running faster than I have before, with a metronome in my ear 178 beats per minute or 184 beats per minute like the trail is a treadmill and there are not hills. I got new shoes and ran so much they don't look new after fourteen days. I have a metric for that, the app will tell me how many  kilometers they've taken me if I look: there it is, 143.3 and I'll do another seven this afternoon. The rain stopped me a day or two and I found myself wandering around the house after I had proofread the pages I needed to and stood in my pyjamas looking out at Victoria Road, the water rushing down and thinking about the impending climate disasters that we rightly hear about now. Where are my children. Are they out in this.

Of course they are. The world has not stopped spinning, has it, all the concerns about net zero emissions and at what point we say the rain has become a part of a climate crisis and not just the rain, not just another day of rain. I don't know. I bought a new phone and felt guilty. I ordered something and it came in plastic and I felt guilty. I ran home and ate beans and curry. Waited to fall asleep and then wake up again.

07 June 2019

Home


My accent can create a kind of fishing expedition, with whomever it is I’m talking to, eager to tell me something about themselves, about where they have been in the States or their aunt or cousin living in Boston. I don't have patience for this like I should — when people ask me where I'm from, I will say I have lived in the UK for ten years and when their face drops and you can see they are searching for that phrase they know they should say 'Yeah, but where are you really from' I will throw them a bone and say, ‘But I grew up in Chicago.’ This is a demonstrable lie to anyone who knows anything about me or Chicago, but it’s close enough for British ears, something that perks the asker back up, the exotic Windy City, whatever that entails for you.

For me, Chicago, or Gurnee rather, the real place I grew up in the suburbs, is sort of embarrassing. It’s a town known for a rollercoaster and mall, if I’m being honest, and if I'm really being honest, I grew up in several places, in Texas and in Minnesota, and I was actually born in North Carolina, but this sort of story loses people around Minnesota, so I try to avoid getting further into the specifics. 

And now my parents are in the process of selling our home in Gurnee. After that, I will be from nowhere. I knew this was coming and now it has come and there's a final day. I could go back, but of course now, I have my family, and the children and work and so many other things to think about. I get asked how I feel — I don't feel anything, do I. What memories come up — nothing I can say to anyone, nothing I can write about while we're all still alive. It would implicate too many people. So that's that, isn't it. I hang up the phone, one of the kids needs something, I can hear them.

I can't sleep, or rather, I can't sleep as long as I think I should. I wake up because the sun is up and I think back to last year when I was in Sweden and the sun never seemed to come down and you could sleep with the window open, waiting for some number on the digital clock so I could go out and run around the lakes, have a big breakfast and try to stay awake the rest of the day.

There's so much to be done, isn't there. I open my eyes and and it's 4:27, too early to get up, too late to go back to sleep. What does one do. I wander downstairs and stack dishes or wash them. Meditate. Turn on the computer. Burn some candles and wait for the rest of everyone to wake up.
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