Life as an Extreme Sport

when the stoic fails

This is the second time in so many days that I have been sitting still enough outside that squirrels have walked by me as if I wasn’t here, one actually sniffing me before continuing on its way. Buddha, I suspect, would be proud.

I’m sitting outside again – as squirrels have not yet invaded the indoor spaces here – enjoying the evening weather and sunset. It had gotten muggy earlier, so I’d headed indoors to Starbucks. Free wifi and caffeine? I’m always a sucker for a good deal. The grass is a little itchy on my bare legs, but the breeze is nice and I have some limited internet access from Sage’s guest wireless.

I have a bunch of raised red welts on the back of my left hand – as if I were breaking out in hives, or one of the cats had badly clawed me while playing. In fact, given how closely they resemble the marks Lunar and Toledo sometimes leave, and that one or two are bleeding slightly, I thought perhaps I’ve spent the entire day with a bloody hand and just not noticed. It wouldn’t be unlike me,…

I gave them to myself. It took a minute to remember, and realize, as I repeated the grasping of my hand and squeezing, hard, until the pain breaks through and switches my focus elsewhere, out, away.

I got a phone call while at Starbucks, full of bad news. I reacted as well as I could, as well as I normally do – I have delayed reaction down cold at this point. And then I packed up calmly, my feet carrying me to the one place I felt I would be okay falling apart in, safe falling apart in, gripping my hand to blood along the route to not fall apart alone.

I am sitting across from a statue, a woman resting a vine covered sword against the ground. She’s holding a bundle of what looks like palm fronds in her hands, and a hood is draped over her loosely tied back hair. She’s classically dressed and carved, emulating the Greco-Roman tradition, and standing in front of what looks like a funeral byre. Carved on the back of the byre is a memorial to soldiers of the Great War. She’s fading in the dusk, becoming brief outlines and nothing more against the night sky. It crosses my mind that she would make an excellent Halloween costume, except I don’t expect to have a Halloween.

I have a history of being stupid when falling to pieces alone, and this final bit was just too much. My brain short circuited and I went on gut instinct, which sadly is not the most thoughtful of creatures. Go to the safe place, go to the safe place, go to the safe place… not thinking through the implications, just go where, if stupid happens, stupid can’t happen. Where I will be safe, and can lose control, and know then when I yank myself back together, I will be in one piece, not hurt or damaged in any way.

Except I was wrong, and the implications were explained to me. Which I suppose is good – a functional equivalent to a slap in the face. Instead of a physical gating mechanism, an emotional one. We’ll see what the long term damages are. My hand will heal, hopefully so will the rest. It’s hard for me to trust, especially with things like this – I don’t fall apart often. I can’t. And it doesn’t take much for me to curl up inside myself and go “right, people suck, don’t trust people, people are bad.”

There are squirrels racing all around me now. Some are fighting for nuts, others space – some are running in abject fear from the giant German Shepherd that is terrorizing the park with gleeful abandon. It’s sort of nice to see. A reminder that my world is so small, so insignificant in the scheme of everything. That right now, some poor squirrel sees me as a place to hide from the giant, furry, slobbering terror, and that giant, furry, slobbering terror thinks the only thing I am good for is a scritch behind the ears before turning back to ball and squirrel.

It’s perspective.

The trees are changing colour. One tall tree across the clearing from me has a crown of gold and red leaves. She’s the only tree to have changed yet, early to the party, but beautiful and regal, not giving a damn what the trees around her look like, or think. The air has just started getting cold enough at night to hint at the promise of fall, and winter. The tree just changed her clothes early, a rush to protect herself from the cold. A rash impulse – I wonder if it’s one borne from previous experience? I could understand that, empathize with it. Apparently, as I’m already anthropomorphizing.

My mother was in the hospital over the weekend, something which several of you already knew about. My father called me this afternoon, while I was at Starbucks, to tell me that they did a scan Sunday evening, before discharging her.

It’s spread.


It’s riddled her brain.

It is definitive. It is terminal. It is now just a matter of time.

Another dog is racing through the park, chasing squirrels. A brindled pit, happy as the day is long. You can almost hear the doggie thoughts as she races by – squirrelsquirrelsquirrelBALLlooksquirrel!Hey!HUMAN!SMELL…CAT?CAT!oooohlooksquirrel! Another happy creature, just glad to be outside, running.

I want to run. I want to run, to get in my car and drive until there is no more land, until I am at the edge of all that there is, and then leap away. Just crash and sink into the wet wide saltwater, tears and body blending away to nothingness and release.


  1. That is one huge pile of suck. I am so, so sorry, and I wish I could do something to make it better somehow.

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