Zero to fifty-nine
Our heating system contains a timer. If I'm up past eleven p.m., which I often am these days, it's usually the chill in my toes that tell me of the drop in temperature. My hair—probably close to two feet long now—serves as a slight blanket of warmth around my ears and shoulders, but my naturally chilly toes (a feature, not a bug, my family assures me, though Jeff may disagree) require a bit of help in staying warm.
Last night I lay in bed, half-watching the softly-blue moonlight as it filtered through the slats of the miniblinds and settled over Edmund, who lay with me, snuggled in the covers of the guest bed. The light flowed, soft, indirect, over white whisker and orange stripe alike.I could not sleep. There was no point in tossing and turning in a bed shared with Jeff. He needed his sleep. Better to keep my insomnia to myself, and let at least one of us wake up rested in the morning.
The number on the clock beside me twitched from one, to two, to three. The moonlight moved, the cat groomed itself, and then tucked nose under tail for his next leisurely nap of the evening.
The second and third numbers on the clock twitched: zero to fifty-nine, and back again. Mostly I thought of Geof, of what he's going through right now, and realized that my insomnia had more to do with sadness and understanding than it did with any physical inability to sleep.
Geof was one of the very first people I told that my father had cancer. I find myself looking back over a precipice that a year ago I didn't even know existed; a precipice of…knowledge. The knowledge that someone, somewhere is going through any part of that process is enough to snap me, lightning-like, through a series of memories and understandings that - and this is the part that is hardest to admit—that I would give anything not to have. I suspect the same is true for every person who…knows.
The last few weeks of Dad's life had the unintentional side effect of showing me which of my friends had dealt with similar matters before. It wasn't in things they said, or didn't say, or even did—but in how they reacted to the things I told them. The knowledge showed in their eyes. In their voices.
I lay back in my bed last night, with a cat curled up by my waist, and thought about knowledge. How it has changed me in the past year. How Geof's mother's illness will change him. How we can wake up every morning prepared to face the day, and yet the very definitions of "accident" and "tragedy" imply a state of continual unpreparedness for the unexpected. How the word "cancer" only describes the disease of a single body, and not the multitude of emotions, upsets, and upheavals it causes in the lives of the people who care about the person who has it.
…and I thought about how sometimes I go to such pains in my writing. If I have made any promise at all to myself, it is that I will not live an unexamined life; I will not stumble blindly from event to event, from year to year. Even then, with that promise in hand, I find myself more often than not standing toe-to-toe with truths I don't always like—and more often than not, I'm the one to back down. It's easier to choose humor over honesty. It's easier to let my sarcasm, my oh-so-black sense of irony and humor, find ways to laugh at the painful parts of life, than it is to blankly acknowledge it as the painful, sometimes inscrutable, often inexplicable thing it is.
At sometime around the wrong side of three this morning, I found myself offering whatever form of prayer we spiritual theist-types have in our arsenal. Call it a wish on the Leonids, if you will. For peace, for solace, for strength—for a friend that is going to need all three, for a friend who extended the same to me when I needed it most.
But not for knowledge. Of that, we have too much, he and I.
Somewhere on the wrong side of three-thirty, Edmund awoke from his nap and timidly, quietly, crept onto my chest. Emboldened, he rooted around until he was situated just so—head snuggled against my neck, front paw reaching into and kneading my hair.
He purred, a slow and soft rumble, against my ear, and to that rhythmical, soothing noise, I finally fell asleep.