Wednesday, 26 May 2010

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I'm back. That was an ordeal. You would think that having lived in Southern California for a decade, I would be emotionally equipped to handle forest fires. I have, after all, dealt with them before. But those fires were "in my vicinity," and the worst element of each was the effect the resulting air quality had on my wife's lungs. This fire, while not nearly so dangerous as those, was actually "near me." I'm talking consider-the-view-from-my-apartment-near-me: I took that picture after returning home from the teaching gig that I have to wake up at 5 a.m. in order to commute to. I was informed that I might need to evacuate at a moment's notice at approximately 7:45 p.m. on Thursday. I started packing the car almost immediately, but kept having to sit down and force myself to breathe or I would've had a full-fledged panic attack (just in case you were wondering when I was on Facebook). Part of the panic emanated from your typical what-to-take debate: running around the apartment evaluating the relative worth of Item X versus Item Y. As the night progressed, however, I became increasingly concerned that my evaluations were too much about me. My wife is currently in Italy, where it was then currently the middle of the night. I became haunted by the possibility that I was selecting items of marginal value to me over items of intense value to her. So I started having to think like her—to look at our life through her eyes—the result of which was that I felt (and still feel) profoundly close to a sleeping woman half the world away. Nothing makes a person ache for the woman he's loved for over than decade more than an adrenalin-fueled tour of that time. But then another possibility started dogging my thoughts: the potential for there to be something of hers that my forgetting (or remembering but valuing less than this other thing) would appear evidence of a diminished love. Against my will—not to mention knowledge of her character—scenarios arose in which she became distraught upon learning that I had neglected to save her wedding dress but remembered the Kitchen Aid mixer. So after having been at this for hours I began a desperate attempt to a contact a sleeping woman on the other side of the world with no cell and sketchy internet access. As the night deepened, exhaustion vied with adrenalin in a toxic combat that severely impaired my judgment. I thought it perfectly acceptable to hijack her Facebook account and contact Italian friends I thought could maybe get in touch with the people staying up the road from her. It didn't even seem like a good idea at the time: I was simply that desperate. What had begun as a feeling of deep reconnection with my wife became, as night turned to morning, a fear of a future condemnation by her so fundamental it would kill the marriage. In my mind there came to exist a singular object so...

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