That's unusual for me on any day, but on Friday? Almost unheard of.
But I knew it was going to be that kind of a day. A good day. A special day. And so I wanted to look the part.
When I got to work there was a plate of vegan chocolate-peanut butter fudge on my desk, courtesy of Marsha, one of my longer term staff. Between mouthfuls, I cursed her, praised her, cursed again, eventually told her I loved her. The next couple of hours were an experiment: how much vegan chocolate-peanut butter fudge can go into a human body before 10:00 a.m.? The answer: at least a plateful, but there are some side effects (dizziness, jumpiness, general goofy behavior).
Our morning staff meeting was terrific. I was "on." I felt like we were all connecting. There was some good conversation going around the table, we were all in sync. Felt that way, anyway. Yes, possibly just fudge-induced euphoria, but I think the others were feeling it too. Plus, Dirty Santa. Which I asked the organizing staff person to call Fickle Santa instead, because we are after all a family agency, but no, Dirty Santa. My contribution was a big coloring book of Disney fairies and a 60 pack of Crayola crayons. My take home was a box of Whitman's chocolates, which I won't eat, but which my wife will take to her office later this week.
Somewhere in there, I'm sure I got some work done, but then, at noon, it was the office party.
My department consistently throws the best on-the-clock staff party, but this year we really outdid ourselves. Best ever. First off, we're the only department to always invite clients. We can't invite everyone, but we put an invitation out to everyone who we think can reasonably make it. Other managers too, and usually some execs. This time we had perhaps half a dozen clients show up, maybe more. And a couple of people from PR. And the Assistant Executive Director. And my boss. And a couple of managers. And a couple of Service Coordinators. And a former employee. And we had the fireplace log DVD playing on our newly installed second-hand flat screen in the conference room. And Billy brought his guitar and lead us in some Christmas songs. And the Assistant Executive Director gave Tammy the Employee of the Quarter award I'd nominated her for (she cried a little; it was touching). And there was so much food, so much good, good food-- tofu pumpkin pie, seitan-mushroom stroganoff, piles of vegan fudge, vegan sushi, minestrone, spring rolls, punch. Piles of non-vegan stuff too, if that's what you go for.
I don't remember getting much done after the party. Mostly I talked about how I'd had too much to eat and was supposed to be going out to dinner with my wife in just a few hours.
On the drive home, there was some horrible news. Elementary school shooting in Connecticut. Sick, heartbreaking stuff. I listened, and I was sad, but mostly I pushed it away. This was a good day. A very, very good day.
I got home and hugged my boy and said hello to my mother, who had come over to make Christmas wreaths with him while my wife and I went out an actual real true date. We decided to skip the dinner part. We went to Freedom of Espresso, one of my favorite coffee shops, sat and talked, wiled away an hour or so. And then we went to the mall (the small mall, not that mega entertainment complex Destiny you've heard so much about) and watched "Skyfall."
"Skyfall," it turns out, is exactly as good as people keep saying it is. If you like James Bond movies, you will most likely like "Skyfall." A nice combination of new action-y stuff, but with a good dose of that old James Bond vibe that made it something more than an action franchise.
We went home. We ate a small dinner, spent some time talking, and eventually my wife went off to bed.
I sat in the living room and read a few chapters of The Poisonwood Bible.
"Why must some of us deliberate between brands of toothpaste, while others deliberate between damp dirt and bone dust to quiet the fire of an empty stomach lining?"
I read that line. I read that line and lots of lines, but that's the one that stood out somehow. Not better or worse than the pages before and after, but it just stood out.
There's a lot of heartbreak in The Poisonwood Bible. The Poisonwood Bible is a big, beautiful book. It's one of those actually "important" novels. It can sort of crush you, indict you. The Poisonwood Bible is all about ignorance and suffering and exploitation and arrogance and hypocrisy and innocence and the fallen Fallen fallen world.
Reading a few chapters of The Poisonwood Bible sometime after midnight slowed me down. It was late, I was tired, that fudge-rush was gone. It was Date Night anymore. It was after midnight. It was quiet. It was thinking-about-things time.
I wandered downstairs and sat on my cushion.
The Poisonwood Bible and that Connecticut shooting came rushing at me.
I tried not to think about them. I didn't try to avoid them. But I tried not to think about them. I tried to only feel what they felt like.
My body shook a little. Tears welled up in my eyes. My breathing got funny. I tried to sit through it, wordlessly, thoughtlessly, with mixed success.
Eventually I got up and went back upstairs.
I sat in front of the computer. I read some news stories, but they didn't say anything important. They didn't say anything that made sense, that spoke to it, that meant anything at all.
I clicked on The Onion, where I found the only things online that made any sense at all.
"Well, I suppose we have to try to pick up the pieces and make some sort of sense of this tragedy and—you know what? Fuck it, I can’t do this,” said Connecticut resident Michael Zaleski, his remarks understandable given the circumstances, because, holy shit, what else can one say? “I’m sorry, but I can’t fucking do this. Can you? Can anyone?...”Then it was 2:00 a.m.
Americans reported feelings of overwhelming disgust with whatever abhorrent bastard did this and with the world at large for ever allowing it to happen, as well as with politicians, with the NRA, and above all with their own pathetic goddamn selves, sitting in front of a fucking computer instead of doing fucking anything to help anyone—Christ, as if that were even fucking possible, as if anyone could change what happened, as if the same fucking bullshit isn’t going to keep happening again and again and fucking again before people finally decide it’s time to change the way we live, so what’s the point? What the hell is the goddamned point?
I walked into my son's room. I watched him sleeping in the dim light. I watched him breathing. I watched just how small he was in that bed, how beautiful, how perfect. I rubbed a couple of tears from my eyes.
I took off my glasses, set them on his night stand, and crawled into bed next to him. I watched the rise and fall of his chest, listened to the in and out of his breath, until I finally drifted off to sleep, promising him the whole time that I would never let him be farther away from me than this, that I would always be right there, that I would always be within reach, within sight, knowing that they were promises that I wouldn't be able to keep.