This will conclude my narrative of a typical day. I don't deny this may have been a self-indulgent exercise; on the other hand, it's my way of expressing gratitude for the life I get to lead right now. With so much writing focused on the miserable side of things, I think we forget to recognize the moments that could bring us contentment and pleasure on a daily basis.
And I'd love to hear about what makes you happy every day.
The walk back to the train is another period of creative frenzy.
Or at least, of observational richness. Sometimes I try to exist in the moment and enjoy the passage. But usually I can't resist taking my camera out.
All these faces. All these lives moving to and fro. And the light is better in the afternoon.
I seek out the most populated routes, or the poorest. I keep my phone close to my chest and snap pictures of a world that’s moving too fast to register without prosthesis, in the hopes that I can preserve some tiny slice from this day that might be worth recalling. I linger as long as I can or - as the days get longer - I detour and resign myself to a later train.
There are so many streets within these few square miles and maybe someday I will have walked them all.
Then I reach the station. I grab a slice of pizza or some other fast food to hold me through the evening. (Ideally, I won’t have to cook at home at all. Maybe this is intermittent fasting. Maybe it’s laziness.) I eat at a table in the concourse where I can watch the river of people flowing past: an endless supply of character and personality, all in such a hurry.
It takes a lot of ambition to make it in a city like this, and I wonder that I am here, having so little.
But finally it's time for a bit of competitiveness. We've got to board the home-bound train.
There is a third-party app that regular commuters use to determine which track a train is waiting on, before the station announcement. If you figure out which train is yours, it's good manners to log on and post it. "Usual conductor spotted on track 12!" "Track 12 - confirmed!" Without this, you've got to wait for the official posting - and by that time the train might be filled to capacity.
I need this edge if I’m going to secure a window seat - preferably in the quiet car - for the ride home.
This is critical. The return trip is where the nap happens. And the only way to ensure an uninterrupted nap is a window seat.
This nap is completely involuntary.
I might have been bursting with energy the moment before. It doesn’t matter. I will sleep. Sometimes I black out before we leave of the station. But always, always before the first stop.
It's like a curtain comes down. I haven’t seen the first four stops from a south-bound window in months.
Parts of the world may intrude on this slumber: the station calls, the squeal of the brakes and their cordite tang wafting through the doors, bits of conversation, coughs and sneezes, trees and businesses and junkyards flashing past. But for the most part the hour passes in accelerated stop-motion. The carriage depopulates around me in hypnagogic flashes, time-lapse style.
I usually wake as we’re passing the state prison - a complex of concrete and razor-wire nestled far across bucolic fields. There is an inmate there who burned my best friend to death along with his family when I was in elementary school. I hadn't thought of them in years and now I wake up next to this prison every day.
In any case, it leaves me enough time to shake off the nap and get ready for the drive home. "Final stop!" is called and I stumble out to the car.
If I’m going to smoke a cigar on a given day, this is when I light it - sitting in the warming car watching the more aggressive drivers jockey for a quick exit. Then, it’s the back roads home. Always take the back roads when there’s not a train to catch. I drive at a leisurely pace with some music going.
In a way, I'm still working. Professional responsibility compels me to ponder the cigar I'm smoking. Often, it's a sample left at the store by a sales rep in hopes we’ll take on some new brand. Strong or mild? Good or bad? Can we sell this? Keep it simple.
But my thoughts mostly go out the window with the smoke.
Gradually I find myself back in the garage and then at the house. It’s time for a bit of conversation on the day’s events, and perhaps an hour or television. Maybe a finger or two of scotch to open up a sense of relaxed time and of letting go, before we let the dog out one last time and then crawl into bed where we blink and then do it all again.
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Camera divider and signature illustration by @atopy.
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