Monday, November 07, 2005

A cold hard look in the rear view mirror

The brisk air assaulted my lungs like a foreign invader. Bronchi were shocked into waking by the chilly air just a few degrees north of freezing. I could see my breath huffing out of my mouth as I walked the few blocks to the convenience store.

On a night chilly enough to store perishable food on the patio, I inexplicably decide it was a good idea to walk to the store. An array of sensations, seemingly forgotten, came flooding back. My house keys wriggled around in the pocket of my slacks, feeling like an ice cube melting against my thigh. I felt the tips of my ears turning red. I fought against the cold air by lighting a cigarette from a long-ago purchase bar pack found on the inside pocket of my coat.

I walked at a swifter pace than normal, which increased the wind chill against my face but raised the heart rate, keeping shivers that threatened to penetrate my ribs from breaking the skin.

When I arrived at the corner store, before I could get to the counter I was sniffling like a coke-head after a trip to the restroom. Why does your nose run when you come in from the cold?

I made my purchase and headed back out into the night. I decided it was time to take the gloves out of my pockets and put them on for the return hike. Trying to soak in the moment, I was both repulsed and intrigued by the chilly autumn air. I stared at the fogged up windows of cars parked along the street, wondering how long it would take the fog to turn to frost. I looked up above the street lights and saw a few of the brightest stars penetrating through the haze of light that hovers over the city at night. Days of rain and clouds gave way this afternoon and evening to mostly clear skies. There was no protective blanket of clouds tonight to hold in the earth's warmth. Suddenly I wished the clouds were back.

When I got back to my place, I walked into the door and my glasses immediately fogged up, like the windows of those cars parked along the road. I didn't bother to try to wipe them off, I merely placed them on the table and walked away, letting them acclimate to the radical change in temperature.

They made the adjustment much quicker than their wearer has.

Spending nearly 10 years in the California desert seemed to virtually wipe out any recollection of what life was like in the before time, when I was an Oregonian. Now, seemingly daily, I'm bombarded by memories -- names, faces, experiences, locations -- that make the last 10 years melt away, like a dream upon waking. It all seemed so real while I was in it. Now, the memories, names and faces of a decade of living and working are slipping away. It's a mixture of the movie "Groundhog Day" and the end of Daylight Saving time all wrapped into a wool blanket. I keep falling back in time, over and over again.

I feel like I'm navigating my course ahead through a fogged windshield and the only clear view I have is in the rearview mirror, at a life mostly forgotten here in Oregon that is slowly coming back into focus and another life left behind in Southern California that I am reticent to let go of, yet it keeps receding away.

It's good to look back at a life lived once in a while, but I'm growing wearing of squinting through the fog and looking backward. I want to look forward again and find the road ahead.


GRT said...



3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) said...

Beautifully written G-Man.


Anonymous said...

This is, I think my favorite post on this site. So well-written. I felt like I was there.

Sometimes you have to look back before you can look forward, and sometimes you can't tell the difference. Soon the de-ja-vu will wear off and you'll be back to wreaking havoc in your own way. :)

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