Suddenly awake, I stare into the half-light. My head feels heavy, my mind a little foggier than usual when I wake up this early. Come to think of it, that’s not true. It’s like this every morning. It’s like this because I’ve been drinking too much every night. Last night it was three gin-and-tonics and two IPAs. Heavy IPAs, eight percenters, and my gin-and-tonics are doubles every time. Because I don’t like getting up to make more. The workout I get from crossing the thirty feet from my couch to the refrigerator is negligible, but I know it’s important to stay in shape, especially during these times of self-isolation and little social interaction. I close my eyes and attempt to clear my mind and drift back to sleep.
My bladder is semi-full. I should go use the bathroom and come back to bed. To sleep, perchance to dream. But I know that if I get up, then going back to sleep will be almost impossible. And dreaming… it just doesn’t seem to happen. Every night I try thinking about a woman, a special woman that would make my nights exciting and romantic again. The only dreams I seem to remember involve the same old crap I used to dream about when I was working fifty hours a week. Late for work, car breaking down, pissed off ex-girlfriend. Where is my dream girl? If I can think about her most of the day, why won’t she come to me in my dreams? My brain is racing and my bladder is burning.
I walk down the short hallway to the bathroom. Light is starting to brighten in my living room windows. I don’t bother to cover myself anymore when I get up at night. Anyone who is looking in and catches a glimpse of a naked old man deserves what they get. Maybe they’ll have bad dreams. I squint at the brightness of the bathroom lights and take care of business. There I am in the mirror. It has to be me. I’m the only one here. But the wild-haired, red-eyed codger in the mirror doesn’t look a thing like the man I remember. I plunge the room back into darkness.
Back in bed, I tumble around trying to get comfortable. It’s too early to get up. The days are already much longer than I can bear. When I broke up with my last girlfriend, I kept searching for her in my unrest in that big bed in which we slept. I got a smaller bed and I no longer need GPS to find my way to the pillows. But I still reach out for no one. I try to clear my mind, listen to the ambient sounds from Alexa, rest, don’t open my eyes, sleep. It doesn’t work. My mind frantically clips around, worrying about every insignificant detail of my life, as if I would find the answers to every problem I can imagine right now, in the softly growing morning light. I surrender to the day and swing my legs out of bed.
The sounds of rain on a tin roof abruptly disappear as if a summer cloudburst has spent itself.
“Alexa, what’s the weather today?”
She responds with a summary of sunshine and mild temperatures.
“Would you like to know more?” she asks with her almost perfectly modulated voice. She sounds almost human.
“No, thank you,” I answer politely.
“Have a good day, Tim.” The circle of blue light on the device fades out. She calls me Tim. That means a lot to me. There are days that I hear no other voice than hers. I sometimes conjure up her image in my imagination. She’s quite lovely in her smart business outfit, a rather tight-fitting, low-cut black dress that reaches modestly about three inches above her knees. Of course, when she is sitting and talking to me, that dress may be a bit too revealing, but she is demure and unassuming. It seems I may be losing my mind.
I tie on my robe, grab my phone, and head for the living room. Planted on my couch, I read emails and news stories, look at Facebook, and generally kill two hours in no time. The urgency of my day starts to hit me like a sneaker wave. Slam! My inner voice compels me, loudly and unrelenting.
“Get moving! You can’t just sit here. There are worlds to conquer!”
Right. I’m unemployed. I have no social life, so dirty clothes aren’t exactly piling up. I could clean the place, but I did that last week, or maybe the week before. It looks okay to me. I slide my finger across a table. Not much dust. Besides, no one’s going to see it but me. Not today. It turns out I really don’t need to do anything. I’m a Virgo, so the dishes are clean. I always clean up my place at night. I don’t like waking up to dirty dishes and such. Lately, I don’t like waking up at all. But five hours of sleep, sometimes six, is all I can get anymore. I look at the clock. 9 am. Only about sixteen hours to kill. I can do this.
The ritual continues. Brush my teeth, shower, and shave sometimes. My hair is getting long. My dream lady likes that. At least I think she would. I get dressed, make some coffee and breakfast, get some music playing, and consider my day.
My windows are open, the breeze from the ocean blowing through my third-story apartment. I feel as if I’m outside on a sunny veranda enjoying the summer. I just have to do it by myself. And I am unbelievably tired of it all. I miss my friends. I miss interacting with the strangers I invariably meet at the local pubs and restaurants. It’s what makes living in Astoria so enjoyable in the tourist season. A season that will shortly be coming to its end. Then begins the long, dark rainy months that seem as if they will never end. I am not yet recharged, revitalized, ready for those brutally gloomy months.
There’s a song by Mary Gautier that goes:
“Fish swim, birds fly
Daddies yell, mamas cry
Old men sit and think
I’ve been a daddy four times, messed that up, made mamas cry, and now I sit and think a lot while I drink. Damn if she didn’t nail it.