Birds is all my brain thinks, but that’s just the beginning.
When my brain thinks something, it’s like striking a match that lights the fuse of my mind, and I watch the birds and wait for the explosion no one but me can hear.
It’s January, and I’m at my in-laws. I watch the birds, and it’s a new year, which is a beginning, but also an ending – of the thousand word project, and the words I’m thinking right now, which presumably will become the words you’re reading, are making up the final eleven to twelve thousand words.
The first week of a new year is for reflection and projection – looking back and looking forward – like standing on a bridge suspended over a deep chasm of the present. You can see both where you’ve been and where you’re going but not far enough in either direction to provide any measurable level of comfort.
The birds chow that seed – unabashed at taking handouts. How great would that be to just swoop in and gorge yourself on food you didn’t raise a finger to get, I think, as my father-in-law slides a plate of grilled sirloin and baked potato in front of me. It tastes very good. A melodious pile of guacamole perches on the sirloin. It’s the best I’ve had. No joke.
When life tosses you handouts, don’t use it all up at once, and when life holds everything above your head like a cruel big brother, splurge.
I savor the exemplary guacamole and realize in this new year I’m resolute about three things. I call them “The Three Fs.”
Fucking hard, and
And so is this guacamole, so I get more. Me and the birds binge a bit. That woodpecker’s flame is so orange against the snow it blows my mind.
The cardinals are so damn stark red it makes me want to pray. I pray for the best for myself and everyone I know. And what the hell, for everyone I don’t know too.
Usually what we guess is the “best” for ourselves and our friends is not actually the best for us, and that’s why I pray.
God, whatever the best is, lay it on us.
That flaming woodpecker looks at me and says, “Be careful what you ask for,” and I scan the room for a pellet gun. Instead, I find the bowl of guacamole and help myself.
There’s a flurry of action going on around me, and as usual I’m missing the majority of it, but that’s okay, I think.
I turn thirty-three this year. I look at myself in the mirror and see a young man, but my life feels old. People around me are succeeding in their own way – failing, marrying, divorcing, making babies, losing babies, moving, staying, rising to the top, sliding to the bottom, working too hard for nothing and doing nothing because it’s too hard to work.
I’m right there too. I’m content but hungry. Working hard and playing hard. Head in the clouds and feet stuck in the mud. Kind to others, hard on myself, and altogether too judgmental of pretty much everything. I’m terrible at small talk and get a little too competitive at board games.
This isn’t a story. Not of me or you or anyone I’ve made up. I watch the birds, and I don’t know that my wife will give me a picture of them, but dammit if I can’t stop staring.
Fast forward two weeks.
I walk through twenty inches of snow, in a white out, with a best friend I happen to share a studio with. It’s dark, and we’re trudging toward Mexican food that we don’t know is locked behind closed doors. Everyone in their right minds are at home, under down blankets, huddled around fires with this “Winter Blast” locked outside – I’d say, “Where it belongs,” but I don’t think this kind of weather belongs anywhere.
As we walk I think about when we were eight-year-olds, making tracks in the snow around the church and in the woods. Then when we were sixteen and skiing in a white out just like this one. Then being snowed-out of summitting a mountain in Arizona and driving a Volkswagon Bus with a broken heater the hell out of there and through Utah and Colorado and talking for hours about whether or not he should propose to his girlfriend. And now here we are, thirty-two and thirty-three. He married that girl we talked about, and just last week told me they’re expecting their second child, and just like that the world grows a little bit. And so do I.
We’re snowed out of dinner, and our laughs push back into our faces with icy wind and snow covering our deserted city.
It’s January 2010. Many of us are at a turning point in our lives, on the edge of success or maybe a cliff, and we have a new decade in front of us. We can either lay down in the snow and drift off to a peaceful slumber or we can keep on trudging.
I see lights in the distance, and I’m hungry for a margarita and some chips and queso, and nothing can stop me.
We push into the deserted restaurant and stomp the snow from our bodies. There’s one couple finishing up their meal, a manager who doesn’t speak English, and a waitress halfway through her first night on the job.
We order food. The margaritas are mostly ice, and the food is fine, but my queso never shows. I have to chase it down, and when it finally hits the table it’s the wrong cheese, so I give it another shot.
We polish off our tacos and correct queso, and I think about my father-in-law’s guacamole and that woodpecker and “The Three Fs” and –
This year’s blowing up, and I don’t think I’m the only one who can hear it.