After a twelve-hour day at work I came home to Gigi stretching out of her crate, tail wagging and body wild with energy. I fed her, changed my clothes, presented her with a pretty pink collar for St. Niclaus Day, and we headed out the door for a walk.
It was already a quarter past five, and with the sun setting so much earlier now the sky had taken on a pale, feathery hue, breathy with cold. We took a left at the corner and headed down the street toward the elementary school. Gigi was eager to move, and I wondered if it was because she was cold—as if she could chase away the shivers. I let her pull me along.
No music today. I usually walk with earbuds, listening to John Mark McMillan or Maggie Rogers or, more lately, Kimbra or KAINA. But I hadn’t felt the urge to listen to anything this late in the evening. I wanted the quiet, I guess. And the paleness of the sky made me melancholy-happy, wistful somehow. Just wanting quietude.
Winter does seem to me to be the purifying season—the time of rest, and coming back to oneself. I’ve always tended to want to still myself. I love slowing down. I feel like I see things more clearly.
So tonight as Gigi and I walked I let the cold soak deep into my naked hands and held to Gigi’s leash as she pulled me along the frozen sidewalk. We took a new path, down past houses I’d never seen before. A totally new place! A haven of houses that didn’t feel like Michigan at all. Or maybe—a Michigan I’d never seen. There were Christmas trees in windows, wreaths on unlit doors, houses still dark with outside lights on the modernesque numbers labeling the address. Ranch houses: one in blue, one in white brick, one in dark brown with a multicolored garage door. At the end of a culdesac, Gigi stopped, sat down and looked at me.
She pulled back her ears.
Gigi, I don’t have a cookie. Let’s go home.
Eventually, after a kiss, and prompting, she stood up and started walking back with me. I took a last look at a house near the end and wondered if anything I could say about this evening would have tension enough to even mention. If I don’t have any conflict to write…what’s the point? Every bit of writing contains a problem, a bit of sharp tension. But what if I want to write is merely acknowledgment—of beauty against the. . . unbeautiful? Or perhaps this: that all this quiet residential living makes me yearn for a place of my own. I see, clearly, that I do not have what I could: a place of my own, a Christmas tree lit by not just me, but a family. So there’s dissonance here. These houses represent a life so different than the one I’m currently living.
And I ask myself, so what do I want? Which life do I want? If I could live in one of these houses, would I?
The last question seemed especially silly. I’m just not in that place now. Why do I need my own house? But, now I am thinking. And I am disquieted.