I knew when I heard the clang of the grandfather clock at 1:00 am this morning I wasn’t likely to go back to sleep. Normally I would just have stayed in bed, tossing about for perhaps the next hour or so before finally having relented and slept. But today I had things on my mind. Late yesterday afternoon when I returned from grocery shopping I was asked, rather sharply I thought, why I buy so much at once. The grocery bill was only about $76 so I did not see that as the basis of the complaint. Nor did I imagine it mattered that I had bought 4 apples, 1 celery stalk, 2 English cucumbers, 2 green peppers, a bag of lemons, 2 packages of Black Forest ham and 2 bags of frozen jumbo shrimp. What did however seem to be the root of the cool enquiry was the three bags of steel cut oats (2 of which were gluten free) – particularly since there were two others in the cupboard, one of which was already open.
I wouldn’t say that matters of space or economy are generally an issue surrounding our household provisions. Clearly my alleged superfluity had struck a chord. I instinctively reacted intolerantly to the suggestion because I saw no evident or immediate reason for what I perceived to be a disguised condemnation. I didn’t bother to mention that I had forgotten about the other two bags of oats in the cupboard, a memory loss which is increasingly a casualty of aging. Yet it wasn’t until one o’clock this morning that I calmly analyzed the matter and unfolded what I believe is the correct response.
To back up a bit, my attendance at the grocery store yesterday afternoon was not motivated by a pressing need for food. Instead I was in the throes of recovering from what had transpired several hours previously after my shower when preparing to dress for the day. I discovered to my horror that none of my short pants fit. Although it took a moment fully to register, I realized that I would have to get a new pair immediately if I proposed to wear anything other than the sweat pants which I’ve inhabited throughout the winter. Because in-person anything is impossible these days – and because I have lately discovered that shopping on the internet is both convenient and successful (it is easier to target precisely the article, brand and size required) – I thought I would try the procedure once again. After some protracted effort (getting fat sizes even in the warehouse vernacular is never easy), I succeeded to find shorts which were a popular brand with the serendipitously preferred inseam (10″ as opposed to the more common 9″) and a desirable choice of colours, not to mention obviously the correct waist size. Since unearthing this product was somewhat difficult and unpredictable, I ordered not one but three shorts, 2 of the usual off-white colour, another of a pleasing rust colour. I mention this flagrant exuberance because it perhaps later characterized my purchase of steel cut oats, again motivated by a sensitivity to uniqueness and moderate difficulty in securing precisely what one wants. I knew from past occasions on Longboat Key that the steel cut oats were not always in stock on the shelves. I should further add in my defence l that I haven’t eaten steel cut oats since we returned from Longboat Key a full year ago – which partly excuses my failed recollection of what was already in the pantry.
My midnight rumination on the subject led me to a further conclusion and that was that the alignment of several bags of the steel cut oats in a row on the shelf qualified as a sort of military manoeuvre, in line with precision much the way a marching troop of soldiers presents an arresting view. This may sound like an inductive leap but to my rattled brain, disturbed and disordered as it was by the recent cataclysmic news of my hitherto unobserved obesity, I needed all the help I could get to set me straight once again. If you hadn’t already guessed, the other items I bought at the grocery store were calculated to fulfill what I knew from the past were recognizable ingredients in the advancement of diet control; namely, green vegetables not coloured – which I understand to be sweeter and therefore contaminated with sugar, things like corn and carrots. The ham and shrimp were directed to the Atkins Diet protein advantage. The lemons were designed to overcome the allure of olive oil. In short everything about my afternoon grocery shopping was aimed at dispelling the insouciance of my former habits and establishing a new and commanding regime in its place. The surfeit of items was to ensure the composure was long-lasting. I had ordered the three pair of shorts because I anticipate that the declension of my waist line will require time; plus I’ll have them for future use if required.
This then was the preamble to my getting out of bed shortly after one o’clock this morning. I hope it explains as well why I couldn’t sleep. I must admit that once I was out of bed and dressed the prospect of driving my car was appealing. It is perhaps a product of the advent of spring, historically I time I have responded to the more favourable weather. Silly though it may sound, my confusion yesterday contributed to a minor curtailment of my customary afternoon drive. After getting the car washed yesterday, instead of heading as I customarily do to Renfrew County, I turned back and went to the grocery store to fulfill the burgeoning concern I had about diet. In the past year I have established a driving routine of 1,000 Kms per week which by rote I have mistakenly assumed to be a necessity. It was only this morning when casually driving beneath the dark sky that I confronted the matter and acknowledged there is no compelling reason whatsoever to maintain the mileage. Indeed it is unlikely we’ll get a new car until about a year from now in any event – assuming we’re lucky enough to return to Florida for the winter next season.
While driving I saw two things which absorbed me in particular. One, the corpse of an animal on the road. The other, a vagrant walking along the road with his shopping cart of goods in tow. These two matters, unrelated as they are, made me think that there are inexpressible misfortunes in life which cannot be changed and which command our submission to the reality. The dead animal is clearly finished. The vagrant may get assistance from someone, from some institution or organization but not from me, as much as I acknowledge his disparity. I will never satisfy my inclination to improve the life of that man. There are I know those who actively dedicate themselves to help people like that. All I can meaningfully do is use whatever resources I have to contribute to the well-being of others when possible. In the meantime I live with the reality of road kill and setback.
There was very little traffic. By 4:30 am the number of transport trucks increased. The few other vehicles traveled at the speed limit. At one point I drove in the direction of the moon which was partial hidden behind a moving cloud formation, giving the appearance of spookiness in the dark sky.
As I wrestled to the ground the few thoughts and concerns I had, I began to propose a summary of things, an adjustment of things to an order of sorts, seeking to purify and rectify. To some things, as I say, there is no answer. And even if one has an answer to certain things sometimes it’s better to keep quiet, to ignore the need to qualify or explain. More and more I find myself retreating to the position of non-disclosure instead of openness because it avoids confrontation. Though the posture defeats self-expression to a degree, it is unquestionably sometimes the more pragmatic choice. Though it is easy to default to the “nobody’s listening, nobody cares” mantra, I am more and more convinced that the real reconciliation is with oneself not others so the extent of communication is limited by that fact alone. It becomes a matter of relevance not depth.