Hello From The Middle
Hello From the Middle
I am writing this right now from a house in the woods. There is a lake nearby, and a large dog, and when it gets dark tonight, it will be darker than it has ever been in the city.
The thing about house sitting is that for a little while, you can become the place. At first, it’s strange, and new, and you are keeping your stuff in your bag, but by the middle of the week, your things are everywhere and there is an ease. You can stay in the space you made, but you know the rush is coming, the end, when you’re scrambling to leave no trace.
It’s the middle part that gets me, because I’m the kind of person who’s incapable of not thinking 10 or 20 or 1,000 steps ahead. In college, I knew a kid who wore these blue pajamas, with dark blue piping, all the goddamn time. He wore them everywhere, seemingly unaware that people would remember that he was wearing them the last time they saw him, or the time before that. I drove him home at the end of a semester and he didn’t know exactly how to get there because his parents had always driven him. Once, when I was having some kind of meltdown about the future, this kid said to me, “Why can’t you just be where you are?”
He was serious. I am significantly into my 30s now, and I still think about that a lot. So, you win this round, Pajama Kid, who I think is actually a lawyer somewhere now. Especially this time of year, when I try to avoid getting obsessed with the idea of doing better. Then the problem is the middle space — what happens between deciding to do better and doing better? The simmering, the liminality: Is it the worst place, or the very worst place? (Yes.)
For the last four-ish months, I have been living outside of Brooklyn until I have enough money to feel okay about returning. (Short version: finished grad school, liquidated savings, panic, sublet.) The outside is a rural New England town, where the sidewalks are not so much made for walking, and there are almost exclusively chain stores, except for the smoke shop that just opened up in the plaza. There are six of the most well taken care of feral cats the world has ever known, a Dunkin Donuts, and a grocery store at which I am attempting to extreme-coupon in a low level way.
When I got here, I thought I’d be in and out in a month or so. But because this place contains people I love, and because I am permanently neurotic about money, I’m still here. I don’t know if it’s the middle space anymore, since I’m not thinking obsessively about the next step. When do you realize that every second you’re alive is actually your life? There’s no such thing as pressing pause — not while you accumulate money, not while you live in a different place. It all counts.
When do you realize that every second you’re alive is actually your life?
My better self, then, is someone who looks a lot like me, and can also do this thing where I don’t freak out about what’s maybe in the future or what isn’t to the degree that it steals what’s in front of me away.
So I am kind of being where I am, or I’m trying to be. We can’t all just stay in our pajamas because that’s how we woke up.
Chanel Dubofsky is a fiction writer, journalist and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. You can read her stuff in places like Cosmopolitan, Previously.TV, RH Reality Check, The Billfold, The Toast, and more. She has one of those MFA things that people warned her about.
Support The Billfold