The Stranger on this Old-Fashioned Screen
I’ve been journal writing for over ten years on my Apple’s iCal. It used to be called iCal and now it’s just Calendar. It used to be easy to use. After I bought the new iPhone6, I was advised to upgrade my operating system to Yosemite and that’s when eleven years of writing disappeared.
It was 4:30. Our view of the city was awash with rain. The phone rang.
“Hello, may I speak to Kevin,” he asked in a chipper voice.
“Hello. I’m with Apple Care. Is now a good time to talk?”
“Yes,” I mumbled.
“Okay so what seems to be the problem?”
It took two hours to retrieve my calendar notes. While the technician was friendly enough, even enthusiastic about being the first to fix this issue, it was a waste of my time. Whatever free time I have needs to be here. I should be writing on the unburdened page, a place that’s relatively free from the hassles of upgrades and operating systems. I might even revert to a notebook for daily reminders. Paper is becoming more appealing. Or just the good old-fashioned Word doc.
For purely personal reasons I need to write. I need to figure things out. I’ve felt emotionally fucked up since Sunday. Driving out to my mom’s was more stressful than it should have been. It was a clear day and I’d driven out before in Lil’ Grey but this time the sun seemed too bright and the podcast we were playing seemed too loud. Every stop seemed stressful as I geared down and then waited to go up the gears again. My legs were almost shaking.
“Did you have too much coffee?” Tawny asked. She’d initially set out her knitting materials on her lap and I felt resentful — when she drove she demanded my full attention on the road or the scenery but here she was preparing to knit and causing another distraction in the process. When I mentioned as much, she put everything away and said how she needed more space to knit anyway. This irritated me as well.
Yes, maybe I’d had too much coffee –six spoonfuls for two cups. The recommended dosage is two spoons for one cup. I was driving over the limit.
I can joke now from the morning comfort of our couch, but my soul felt raw that day. We went out to my mom’s and I felt resentment over her lack of warmth, her cheapness and her clinging to an impossible independence. When we arrived at her place, I tossed a beer bottle into her walker. I thought it would be a funny gesture, but it went unnoticed and later it took on a calloused quality. It seemed to be part of the story of “the Asshole Son.”
“Mother will die today. Maybe tomorrow. I don’t know. Sometime soon.” were lines that had came to me unbidden the previous day. Lines that retemporalized the beginning of Camus’ the Stranger. His dispassionate past tense account became my future. I thought of starting a memoir that would continue until my mother’s death. At eighty, her future can be counted in years and not decades. The harshness of the concept faded as I considered how writing often attunes me to details. If I set out to write something, a certain aspect of the world comes into greater focus. Perhaps, I’d be able to write an honest biography of my mother along the way.
“It’s always ‘ouch’ when I get up or sit down,” she winced. One hip had been replaced and she was waiting for surgery in the coming months to replace the other one.
As we sat in her small living room, I looked deep into her blue eyes. The light from outside was imperfectly reflected in the milky paleness of her pupils. We were there to help out around the house — help download photos of Jordan and Jenna’s wedding, replace the old bed’s wheel-frame with the new, wipe the floors, take out the trash, clip the dead branches away from the newly budding flowers. We were there to show our support, but I failed to ask her any questions to turn over details of her life.
As we left, I gave her an extra long hug. She didn’t laugh as she so often did during displays of physical affection.
This is some of what’s been cramped inside my heart. It’s a relief to write it out. There’s a lot more that I don’t have time for but in short: frames, we live with various frames around a situation, my experience didn’t fit the frame — I should have been driving with confidence — in “My Struggle” Knausgaard doesn’t struggle over gear changes as he drives his family around Scandinavia and savours the freedom of the road, why can’t I be more like Knausgaard? — instead I drive like a weakling. I’m a failure of a man and I take it out in cowardly thoughts against my mother. Yesterday I had all this clenched inside me. The irony is that our Saturday with Jordan and Jenna was so wonderful because I was there completely. It didn’t feel like a day boxed in by others: a Saturday that had to be fun because it would soon be followed by a working day. I didn’t care. It was an ideal day with my nephew and his wife.
Emotionally and technologically, my world has gotten more complicated at 43. I don’t want to waste my time on high-tech hassles when they can be avoided.
I need to write for you, my real and imagined audience.