I originally wrote this in January. That was a rough month for me. So I sought joy in whatever tiny crevices I might find it in. And when the joy came, there was all this self affirmation that went along with it.I haven't experienced the kind of full-body exhaustion and misery of that time for quite a while now, but going back to my old journal and finding things like this is a reminder to keep seeking joy in those crevices. Instead of wistful generalizations — sighs of "things were better back then," remembering glory days that probably never really existed — I prefer to sock away unexpected little bursts of happiness like this for the days I really need them.
I don't get headaches. When my body's trying to tell me something, my shoulders tense up; I get stomach aches; I cry. But today, my body threw me for a loop. So I got a headache. A temples-pounding, sensitive to light, head-between-my-legs headache.
I got in the shuttle back to the train station — last one in the van, as always, so I was relegated to the front seat (keep in mind, it's not cool to have shotgun here) — my head against the window, cushioned by the black knit North Face hat I found in the parking lot before Christmas. I still haven't washed it. I don't care.
I couldn't even listen to my iPod; I just wanted quiet. I trudged across the tracks and made my way to the bench under the sad excuses for heaters at the Arlington Park depot, and rested my cheek against the cool metal wall. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the conversations of the other people waiting for the train. About five minutes before the 4:44 lurched into the station, an old man with long, ridged fingernails and a puffy hooded coat shuffled up to the bench and motioned for the younger people to move aside so he could take a seat. He plopped down, careful not to jostle me. When he was settled against the wooden slats of the bench, he reached into the deep pocket of his coat and pulled out a golden pocket watch that glinted in the late-afternoon light. He clicked the release on the top, fingered the chain that tethered it to his jacket, then closed the watch and returned it to his pocket. "Your watch is beautiful," I said quietly. He grunted and looked at me quizzically, tugging the fabric of his hood away from his ear. "Your watch," I repeated. "It's beautiful." His face brightened. "Thank you very much! My girlfriend gave it to me," he said proudly, flipping it open and showing it to me. The watch had a tiny, circular portrait of a woman opposite the face. "She's a psychic." "I love it." Upon closer inspection, the watch wasn't a faded antique but some kind of shiny reproduction that could have been bought in a department store or thrift shop. I was a little disappointed, but I saw how special it was to him. He loves that watch; he lives by the time it tells. I lay my head back against the wall, and a few seconds later, he produced a laser-printed card from an inside pocket of the jacket (what else could he possibly have in there?) and handed it to me. "Here. She's very good." I smiled and thanked him. I had my tarot cards read once. She was wrong — so wrong — but it was an experience, to be sure.
My headache went away tonight after I got home — after an excruciating bus ride followed by a 10-minute walk up windy Western Avenue — with the help of three Advil and a bottle of 2007 Nero d'Avola. And honestly, this has been a good night. It might have been good just with the Advil. I might even have been fine without all the instant messages from friends and miscellaneous vehicles of flirtation. It feels good just to sit down with some pizza — all right, an entire pizza — and a movie and just enjoy my own company. I'm waiting now until I can find someone who's worthy of telling a stranger, "He's really great." With no other explanation than that. No caveats. Until then, I can deal with not having a psychic in my life who gives me pocket watches. I can tell time for myself.