Imitation Of Life

I am almost certainly losing my mind.

I’m sitting on the terrace with a cold beer and a bowl full of imitation crabmeat drenched in malt vinegar and Old Bay Seasoning. The imitation part withstanding, it is a flavor ripped straight from my childhood.

Though I play up my Iowa roots, the truth is that — though most of my family is from there, most still reside there, and it is the only place I have consistently visited throughout my life — I only lived in Iowa for a few weeks.

In fact, some 24 hours after I was born (induced, actually), my father returned to his brand-new teaching gig at Charles County Community College in La Plata, Maryland. A few weeks later, my mother packed up my three-year-old brother and me, and followed him there.

We lived in a modest brick colonial in Waldorf, Maryland, for five years. The once sleepy burgh is roughly halfway between Washington, DC, and Baltimore. It is tobacco country where, some 100 years prior, before 7-11 and Starbucks, Dr. Samuel Mudd harbored Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. There were brambled train tracks down the quiet gravel street, a swing set in the backyard, and a plum tree with a bluebird nest in the front.

On weekends, when we were a bit older, mom and dad would take us to Captain Pete’s, a battered old crab shack on the edge of the Chesapeake. The place was nothing fancy: newspaper for tablecloth, a roll of paper towel for napkins, and bushels of Old Bay caked crabs some two dozen deep. I learned my taste for seafood there, and ever since, have smothered my shrimp, crab, and lobster in malt vinegar and Old Bay Seasoning.

Moreover, though, trips to Captain Pete’s constitute some of my first memories: cracking crab shells with wooden mallets, skipping stones in the brackish backwaters just off the parking lot, and a basket full of stray kittens beneath the steps. We took one home and named her Sunshine.

It’s little wonder, then, that today I should unconsciously seek that sensory memory, just moments after telling Abbi, “I feel like the little kid in me is dying.”

Dramatic, I know. Hyperbole, probably. But it’s how I feel.

I have spent the balance of the weekend on the couch, reading, watching TV, and staring out the window at the Eastern Block looking apartments across Eleventh Avenue. Until this afternoon, the gray drizzle supported — endorsed, even — my melancholy. But the sun has broken through, and Abbi thinks I can use some. So here I am.

It’s a conspiracy of things, really, that finds me feeling this way. I’ve come to call it, “The Triple Whammy.”

First, my boss was laid-off in the midst of a company-wide (natch, culture-wide) paradigm shift.

Second, I got engaged and embraced a previously unfathomable level of commitment.

Third, I moved in with my intended: my space became ours, my time became ours, and my stuff became ours.

Academic, right? Guy gets married, and sweats growing up. Elementary. Universal. Simple.

I’m not sure it’s that simple, though.

I loved being alone with my thoughts as a kid. I loved construction paper, finger paints, and paste. I loved sketchbooks, watercolors, and craypas. I loved my Fisher Price record player, my Radio Shack transistor radio, and my mother’s Baldwin piano. I loved reading, and writing, and hosting tea parties for my stuffed animals.

As an adult, that love have manifested in these journals, songs, photographs, and videos.

Now, though, feels like, though, is a crossroads. No, it feels like an interstate cloverleaf, where highways and byways, roads traversed and considered, taken and not, intersect and overlap and offer a myriad of options and outcomes.

Example. I got home at eight thirty Friday night, shattered from a nearly two hour meeting with the president of the network (saying nothing of the week spent prepping for said meeting). I fell onto the couch, and only rose from it just now. This is the new normal. Nine o’clock in times. Mountains of anxiety. Sleepless nights. Sound and fury signifying nothing, with only U2’s “The Joshua Tree” as some sonic, restorative multivitamin.

The sky is growing dark now. The breeze has gained a chilly bite. Bono is singing, “And you give yourself away, and you give yourself…”

And I do.

All weekend long I have been paralyzed. All weekend long I have looked out my window at the rain, and the clouds. All weekend long I have wondered, ‘What comes next? What will it look like? Who will I be? And where did that litte kid go?’

I need to close the laptop now. I need to step outside. I am ready to start my weekend…

Alas, it is Sunday night. I have come to just in time for another week of soul crushing uncertainty.

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