It probably came to me in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t get back to sleep.
“What if,” my stupid, unsleepy monkey mind thought, “you wrote a blog post about three different Octobers, ten years apart?”
Since I last left off writing about 1985, I’d read through the journals for 1995 and ’05. If there were entries on the same date during those years, I’d start there for material.
BOOM. Immediate roadblock when I opened the 2005 journal: Not a single entry all that October.
But the other years fared better: four entries in 1995, and five in ’85. If I was going to keep it to three years, ten years apart, I was going to have trouble straight out of the gate.
But here’s the interesting thing about failed thought experiments—they take you to places you never expected you’d go.
Even the Octoberless 2005 journal yielded a surprise.
Nested inside it was a small planning calendar I used that year, with notes throughout the missing month. One day leapt out at me: Saturday, Oct. 23. “Wm Frost, Northfield, noon.”
That day I drove south to Northfield, Minn., to walk around artist William Frost’s outdoor labyrinth. Nearly a month before I’d started working as a senior editor and felt the need to plan the next phase of my life. A walk through a labyrinth seemed like a perfect way to do that.
I kept reading until I crossed over into the 2006 entries, realizing it was that January that I’d moved into my current home. By late summer of that year I felt so optimistic I wrote (on Saturday, July 29):
“…[this condo] feels like a convergence [of] the past: it’s like living here … is an amalgam of East Coast, early Minnetonka, 1965 Indiana, Michigan vacations and out-west Howard Johnson’s, all the things that have built up to making me what I am today. I think I get off-track not remembering that.”
Of the four 1995 entries, Saturday, Oct. 7 stood out the most.
It was one of my worst years, as far as whole years go. I’d been freelancing and living in St. Paul since Dec. 1992, had moved to another apartment in August 1993, and was in and out of two relationships by the summer of 1995.
In that Saturday entry I described the previous weekend with my then-girlfriend Liz:
“…she was at home doing, of all things for her, ‘cookies.’ I stopped over with my last cigar and brought her a balloon and as she finished baking chocolate chip cookies I walked around Summit/Cathedral Hill smoking my cigar and looking at all the early autumn evening activity—people going to formal parties, lights being lit in mansion windows, leaves beginning to turn color … it was a nice walk. When I got back we had cookies and watched TV, then made love and went to bed.”
In the morning I dressed and left for my place, later stopping in to visit my ex-girlfriend before she left for a supper date with her current guy.
“Maybe we weren’t meant to be lovers,” the journal confesses. “But there is a reason, I know this now, why she came into my life. I just haven’t figured out the meaning, but I believe it has something to do with the separate sorrows we both have.”
By month’s end I admitted to feeling depressed, and quickly got back on medication.
“The October Black Dog came panting around my feet,” the journal says, “almost as I was pretending not to notice it, and tripping over it all the time.”
Ten years before that October Black Dog I was working as a proofreader in Fingerhut Corporation’s Creative Department (pictured above left in 1985 at my “new desk”). It was my first “real job.”
Things were changing. High school pal Theron Hollingsworth was set to marry his longtime sweetheart Michelle on Oct. 5.
On Thursday, Oct. 3, 1985, the journal reports I was “feeling like a prisoner all over again. Can’t keep my mind on anything.” There’d been a staff meeting at work that day and Paul, our boss, blamed us for “being selective about taking jobs to do, [keeping] inflexible hours, [our] productivity down, [therefore putting our] job grade level raise in jeopardy.”
I felt responsible for the bad report and took it hard, revealing: “I’m tired of feeling like a fucking failure, not being able to explain my fears and tired of worrying about faulty car stereos, nuclear war, clean clothes or good-natured smiles. What do I do with myself?”
On Saturday, Oct. 12, I met up with Theron at an Excelsior, Minn., book sale.
I was curious about the sudden cancellation of his wedding, but more interested in buying books than hearing his bad news.
Terry wanted to talk. So we agreed to ditch the book sale for lunch in Spring Park, at a place called The Greenhouse. Once we’d ordered food (he had a roast beef sandwich; me, an order of potato skins, we both drank beers), he had one hell of a story to tell.
Sunday’s journal entry went into detail:
“I asked him why the wedding fell through and his answer, the story, was more complicated than I could’ve guessed. It seems Michelle had been seeing a French guy by the name of Patrick, and that she’d had ‘an affair’ with him. Terry didn’t seem seethingly bitter or even really anxious about the whole thing. I think he’s painfully resigned himself to the fact of her infidelity. My father (whom I told later about what happened with the wedding) was worried that Terry, being as Dad said, ‘a very sensitive young man,’ might do something drastic … but little does Dad realize that the ones prepared to talk, the ones familiar with pain, are the ones least prodded to ‘kick one over the edge’—it’s the certain ones, the Flawless Wonders who, never before taking the moment to look at their shuffling feet, at last see the abyss belch before them. I don’t worry about Terry. I don’t even worry about myself—I did, but no longer.”
After lunch he hopped in my Datsun and we hit the road, stopping off for more drinks at a local bar, the Minnetonka Mist. Then we drove to our old high school off Game Farm Road, where “we got out … to chase birds that’d landed in the football field just outside the high school.”
“That was worth a laugh,” the journal states, “and I got my shoes muddy. We walked up to the high school and chatted about the ol’ Track ‘n’ Field days, about the stolid, unwelcoming look the old high school has … I couldn’t help thinking how cinematic our stroll around the track and conversation really was—it’s worth a few feet of film, this life.”
A few feet of film, these 20 years in total.
Time flattens and compresses in on itself, just like a movie reel. Moments of chocolate chip cookies and cigar-smoking strolls, making love, enduring workplace shame and anxiety, beating depression, and helping a friend through a failed relationship … all feel like walking a labyrinth: that confusing spiral of “all the things that have built up to making me what I am today.”
“I think I get off-track not remembering that.”
~ by completelyinthedark on October 9, 2015.
Posted in 1985, 1995, 2005, 2006, Writing
Tags: calendars, Cathedral Hill, chocoloate chip cookies, Datsun, depression, diaries, East Coast, Excelsior, Fingerhut, Game Farm Road, high school, Howard Johnson's, Indiana, infidelity, journals, labyrinths, Liz, Michelle, Michigan, Minnetonka, Minnetonka Mist, Northfield, Patrick, Paul, Spring Park, Summit Hill, The Greenhouse, Theron Hollingsworth, track and field, William Frost