Good Narrative Principles

Wonder Bread


I’m waiting for the AC fix it guy. I’ve been waiting all day. Since eight am yesterday morning. So, actually you could say I’ve been waiting two days now. Can you hear the fury in my voice? Stick around cuz it won’t be for long. Pretty soon, I’ll move onto the next thing and I’ll forget all about being angry as a new thought slips in and replaces the first.

It’s impossible to hang onto anything long enough for it to take hold. I could use a gardening metaphor like take roots, begin to grow, nourish a new idea but that would mean I’m capable of hanging onto a thought long enough to picture something…anything.

I’m a bit of blank slate these days. You could blame it on the weather, the unremitting heat. Or the fact that I’ve given up coffee as of late. And drinking and apparently sleep, though sleeplessness is not something that I consciously signed up for.

My daughter comes home from school. She’s in a funk. Stamps off to her room. Slams the door just so I know that she does not want to talk now. Absolutely. Come dinner time, I forget that there was an issue earlier in the day. But at two or four in the morning, whenever I wake up from my nightly series of two-hour catnaps, it’s suddenly there. A perfectly formed memory. Where was it until then?

My eldest is cramming for finals. He needs to prepare to write an in-depth essay and is given a choice of twelve questions of which he will need to answer three. But which three remains unknown. Sandwiched between questions about the Mongol Empire and the Schmalkaldic Wars is question about Interwar philosophers. He comes to me wanting to know who was a great Interwar thinker. Well, there’s Wittgenstein I offer. But the cliff note version of what he thought, wrote and where he guided the culture towards, eludes me. When I finally sit down and read the Wikipedia paragraph, don’t expect me to concentrate long enough to plough my way through a lengthy article, I stop midway in the sentence poised between defeat and “really?” Can anyone really say there’s no such thing as objective reality? What would it be like to live your life with that thought as a constant? Do you wake up to an alarm? Do you eat fried eggs for breakfast? Or do you ignore the rumblings in your stomach as you roll around in bed musing on the significance of sensations such as that which we call hunger or boredom?


My son comes into the kitchen for dinner. Both of his big toes are bandaged in thick rolls of gauze. I don’t notice. It takes a neighbor who has come by to drop off the keys to her house so that I can water her plants while she’s away somewhere. I’m not really sure. I’m seeing the letter “I”. Ireland? Italy? India? Definitely not India. She is so not an India person.  The kindly neighbor who is traveling for two weeks maybe? Or is it three? I’m sure I wrote it down somewhere, asks my son, what happened to your toes? And it’s only then that I notice he’s the walking wounded. “What happened”? I ask tentatively, sheepishly, embarrassed that I am called out by my kindly neighbor for failing to notice the wound. He mumbles something and leaves before dessert is served. Very unlike him. Slights, social faux pas do stick with me. They somehow manage to cut through the welter of heat, media noise and my general state of restless inertia.

So I persist and eventually I’m told that he’s had ingrown toenails for six months or so he claims.

The point is the world is slipping past me. Past my door. Little messages bobbing on the surface like notes stuck in a bottle drift aimlessly towards me. I fish them out. Make a mental note and promptly forget them.

After tennis last Sunday, my friends invite me to join them for a night out at the movies. A girls night out. Clearly, I’m an afterthought. So that’s something I chewed on for awhile. But then I started dwelling on movies were I lose myself. Compared to those great films, which I won’t list out for you, thank you very much so that you don’t feel obliged to dismiss me entirely or consign me to some cultural ghetto which squeezes the full wonder of “me” into a dismissive label, I know we are being served Wonder Bread when we could be slicing up our own artisanal seven grain variety.

And so it slips away.

Today, maybe I’ll vacuum.

Or, maybe not.

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