This morning that un-named fear that I had irrevocably fucked something up startled me awake. I looked hard at the clock, as if a deep enough furrow in my brow would make the red digits mean something. It was time to get up for work, but the alarm wasn't screeching. I shook my head and thought until the rusted bits in my head clicked into place.
No. It is Saturday. I don't have to go to work.
I got up anyway.
If I think hard enough to figure out what day it is, then I’m too awake to go back to sleep. I knew if I tried, there would be a long stretch of staring across the landscape of the sheets, imagining what I should have said to the girl working the register at the coffee house last night, and then the headache would start at the base of my skull and spread down my spine and hang there all day like a dead cat with its claws stuck in my back.
Saturdays do that to me now. Or maybe I do that to my Saturdays--force them open before the sun starts making the cheap glass in my window pop and creak. When I first moved here, the sounds of the early morning glass dug into my weekend dreams and planted mute dead things outside on the roof, tapping and clawing at the window for me to let them in.
I shoved my legs over the edge of the mattress and waited for inspiration.
What do I want to do today?
Aye, there’s the rub. I don’t know what I want. No desires whatsoever. I didn’t want to make pancakes. I didn’t want to read the morning paper in a little café. I didn’t want to do Tai Chi by the river. After forty-one days here, I still hadn’t made friends who would call me up to go on an early hike through the Confederate Memorial Park, which is fine because friends ask questions I don’t want to answer.
But I had to do something. If I sat in front of the TV, the headache would find me on the couch, and then I might as well have stayed in bed.
I pulled yesterday’s clothes from the hamper and tugged them on, thinking that my grandmother would put her hands on her hips and press her lips into that tight line of disapproval if she knew what I was wearing, but I was the only one who knew. The sun peeked over the treetops and the window glass popped once before I could get out of the bedroom.
I went outside with a crowbar and started pulling up the rotted wood from my neighbor's flowerbed because someone else wanted a hundred bucks to do it for her. I told her I would do it for free; it's just three boards. She’s as old as my grandmother, but has no kids, so I let her pretend that I’m her grandchild. She tells me stories about when she was young and followed some band across the country and slept in someone’s kitchen, and all night people kept tripping over her on the way to get beer from the fridge. She smiles when she says that was forty years ago, and she was forty years old. I smile and tell her that it must have been great living her life as she pleased and doing whatever she wanted, but she stops talking and pats my hand and asks if I want another rum and Coke.
I wedged the iron between the lip of the sidewalk and the wood. The crowbar made strangled scraping noises against the concrete, and the wood mushed into itself like oatmeal. It smelled good though--the way bread smells good. Beetles and sow bugs scampered out from between the red mud and the wood and sought hiding places in the pine straw.
It took me longer to get it all up than I expected. I'd lift one end out, and move down to lift the other end, and the first end would sink back into the wet clay. I thought about that guy in Hell with the big rock he had to push up the hill over and over again. He probably got to know that rock better than a mother knows her daughter, knew its name even. After nine hundred years with the same rock, if someone said he could go, would he miss it? Would he come back at night just to feel the same crevices under his fingers? Finally, I had the board loose enough that I could put the crowbar aside and just lift the wood out of the dirt with my hands.
I had to break the long boards into shorter boards so the trash service would pick them up on Tuesday. After I finished cracking the spine of the last board, I stacked them all against my fence and stood there in the sun, sweating. I looked down at the red lines the clay left across the palms of my hands, and I wondered if Jesus ever looked at his hands that way, noticed straight lines across his palms, and shuddered at the thought of long red gashes across his back, and still went through with it all, not wanting anything more than to say it’s finished.