Panic

I’m sitting at work, making to-do lists full of simple tasks and reading silly articles online like, “The Real Reason Your Cat Is Staring At You” and “The Notebook Drinking Game, Valentine’s Day 2013 Edition.” The room next to my office is filling up. Three churches were closed last week and all of their valuables were brought here: gold candlesticks, stained-glass crosses, velvet robes, silver offering plates, boxes upon boxes of prayer books and bibles… all covered in permanent layers of dust. The air is thick, hazy. It smells like moth balls and fresh dirt. I hear rummaging, catch some movement from the corner of my eye. It’s probably Frank. Frank is a retired priest, maybe in his eighties. He comes here almost daily to sort through the old things, taking pictures of them, marveling at their rarity, telling stories about them while he directs uninterested movers to the various overstuffed storage closets in this decrepit house. Or it might be one of the people from the Hispanic mission church, come to pick over what’s left. There’s some mumbling and then a wheezy cough. It’s Frank. He walks into the room. I ask him how he’s feeling today. He tells me about his recent surgery, how he’s going in for a second procedure in a few weeks. They will use a green laser to vaporize his prostate. He picks up a music stand, walks out of the room.

I stare into my mug. I am paralyzed. Every tiny muscle fiber in my body seizes up and my heart pounds like a crowded club. A crowded club where life is happening in hyper-speed, blurring together, continually getting faster and louder. I’m traveling through some sort of time warp tunnel and it feels like everything all at once. In a few seconds I will be ninety-two years old, sitting alone, eating bland oatmeal, having a heart-attack, dying. Strangers will come into my house and move my couches. They may flip through a few pages of a journal, deem it uninspiring, toss it in the trash. Now they’re outside. Through the window: they lift a mattress into the bed of an old pick-up. The camera scans back around the kitchen, zooms in on a bowl of week-old half eaten oatmeal. End scene.

It’s not death. It’s not death that causes this kind of panic. It’s the ever-recurring realization that time keeps pushing forward, and it seems to be speeding up. It’s the fear that I’m not really living, that I could be doing so much more right now, but for some reason I’m not. I’m looking at the coffee stain on my desk and I don’t have the urge to wipe it off. The foreseeable future looks like stacks of paper and empty bottles. I would rather it look like mountains and bright colors. I would rather it look like dancing feet, passionate anger, maniacal laughter, motorcycles, sailboats, fire, stars.  I would rather it look like something worth the air in my lungs and the blood in my veins and that is not this keyboard.

photo (7)

North Philly sunset

photo (8)

My tutoring name tag. Too legit to quit.

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2 comments

  1. try not to worry too much, Sarah! I know there are amazing things in store for you, and you are where you are for a reason!! I can’t wait to see you this summer, and I’m always thinking about you guys! Love!

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