We were getting near the end of it though the news warned of a fourth wave. And I’d been off work for a month now which seemed great from a distance but got strange the more I got inside of it. I couldn’t get out as I normally would with my foot messed up and the gardening season hadn’t begun. I set daily goals and fiddled around the house but most days didn’t add up to much. Quitting drinking sounded good in the abstract but didn’t produce quantifiable benefits to outweigh the loss. I staged internal debates, what they call ‘bargaining’ from an addiction standpoint. The internal talks led to no more than unresolved tension. I circled the house adjusting picture frames and rearranging shoes in the entryway. Restocking toilet paper and kitchen roll, smashing fruit flies that fed off the soil in our sickly plants. Picking dead leaves off the tiling by the bath tub, wiping down counters. With a whole month off I could start writing letters to family members, fix the generator, reorganize the garage, start flossing again, trim my beard. Write. But of course I didn’t do any of that, I sat and thought instead. Or took long baths. For days I had the same song stuck in my head and wondered what was wrong with me. Strange dreams that hang on you the next day like cob webs.
The kids had mid-winter break, a week off. We drove several hours to Brad’s cabin and on the third day got out the guns. Lily had never fired a pistol before and we decided it was time. Brad took her through the safety protocol and I sat from the inside watching her aim at a patch of earth below the rise. The lake was frozen over and covered with fresh snow so we walked to the middle of it. Ice fishermen set up tents where they fried fish and small kids huddled together out of the wind. Guys with bibs carried drills with auger bits, a few had snow mobiles. It was not the kind of weekend it would have been if mom had been there.
At times it felt like my life was over already by the protracted pace of things. There was no way to calculate how much remained but still I tried. You had to believe your life was worth living and project into the future, that’s what my counselor said. I formed vague images of what our life could be like and they all took me back to the French countryside with old cottages and wood-burning stoves. The look of the land as the seasons changed and me as an artist who needed no outside validation, could just create for myself and that was enough. My life knit into a pattern I could lose myself in and not worry about the design.