I’ve been going to work early lately. I leave by 5:15 a.m. By the time I get to the San Mateo Bridge, a dusky light is beginning to emit from beneath the horizon on one side. It’s not much, but it’s enough to turn the sea a deep, sultry cobalt blue. I never knew blue could be sultry, but this color is. It’s rich, velvety, extravagant, and yes, sexy. It’s even warm, as warm as blue can be. But without being cloying like turquoise or other blues mixed with green that are obviously, clamorously beautiful.
This particular shade of cobalt is not obviously beautiful in the same way, though of course it is exceptionally beautiful. It’s regal and reserved, like the woman in the corner you didn’t notice at first, with the bevy of glinting blondes in the center of the room taking up all the space and air. But then you do, and you’re captivated because she’s dark, quiet, deep, and mysterious. She moves you, and you’re not sure why. You want to know more. She sucks you in. You go willingly.
The sea has been like that lately. As I drive over the bridge, I listen to NPR — the news. The news of Syria, of our president’s antics, of threats lobbed to and from North Korea, talk of nuclear bombs being detonated from satellites, the eruption of helpless laughter from the weapons expert consulted about the idea of a nuclear satellite threat.
I know I shouldn’t listen to the radio in the mornings. Just like I know I shouldn’t roll out of bed, stumble to the shower, and then fold myself into a car seat for the 45-minute drive to work (when no traffic), only to unfold myself, walk for two minutes, and fold myself back into an office chair. It’s so bad. My body complains. My lower back complains. My mid-back complains. My shoulders complain. My spirit complains.
I know of course what I should be doing. I know I should meditate for at least twenty minutes upon rising. Take deep, sustaining breaths, and feel God, if only fleetingly. I know I should then stretch. Do my yoga. Just a few sun salutations. It wouldn’t be that hard. If I’m really being decadent, then I should give myself a quick self-massage.
Actually I did do that this morning. As I massaged avocado oil into my skin, over every inch of the surface of my body, I imagined I was putting on a combination of armor and a magic coat that would protect me all day and make me performant — incredibly, absurdly performant.
I know I shouldn’t listen to this debilitated news of our world. It would be more edifying, certainly, to listen to music or an inspiring or truly educational podcast of some kind. But to be honest, I haven’t figured out how to get podcasts on my phone yet. I’m sure it’s not hard. I just haven’t done it.
I should be listening to tango, of course. Part of my job as an aspiring tango dancer is to know the music inside and out. To know the eras, the composers, the styles, the structure. To be able to recognize the song titles. Oh, and the singers, as well as the orchestras.
That would give my life a shine. It would restore my life a bit. The news takes a lot out of me. It tarnishes my life. It bores and irritates me at the same time. It scares me too. Also, I’m getting to the age where I realize it never really changes. The players change, sure, but the news? It’s the same thing over and over, the same stories, traumas, angst, worries. The economy, the stock market, the budget, congress, war, politics, poverty, pain, scandals. Over and over again. It’s enough.
My daughter sings a French song in the bathroom. She doesn’t know I can hear her. I didn’t know she knew any French songs. It’s one I learned as a little girl, when I was taught a little French at Miss Weir’s Preschool on Mesa Avenue in Piedmont, California in the early seventies.
I can hear the neighbors next door, talking. Over dinner, they argued a little. The door off their dining room was open. I could hear them through the window. I was curious. I heard the words, “Focus on your life… five-thousand dollars… one hundred thousand dollars… focus on your self…”
I wanted to open the window. Then, I thought about how upset and embarrassed I am when I’ve lost my temper and then I notice that not only is my kitchen window open, but my neighbor’s living room window is open too, and I’ve probably been heard. I feel like curling up into my shell then.
Now, they are outside in the garden. The sky is slate grey verging to black. The horizon is pearl-grey, just a hint of color still emanating, reaching up, clawing over the horizon, the last gasp of light.
A little bird with a very high, whirring tone — a baby, or maybe several — is keening at regular intervals. She, or they, sound hungry. I heard her yesterday too, and this morning. A hungry baby bird.
I thought it was Daisy whining. I thought Daisy was begging me to take her out and throw the ball. Then I realized it was a bird in the garden. And I realized I’d heard this before. Every year, in fact. It’s a truism for this time of year. Just after the lilac in the side yard blooms, just after tender new foliage has flooded my neighbor’s stately Chinese Elm, and the baby Gingko has sent her lovely, key-shaped leaves all along her trunk and branches. That time of year.
We had pasta tonight. Spaghetti with a sauce of olive oil, garlic, cauliflower, leftover chicken, lemon thyme from the garden, vodka, dry-cured black olives, and creme fraiche. At the last minute, I didn’t know if nutmeg or chile pepper flakes were the best choice. I served the pasta with neither, but then brought chile pepper flakes to the table along with parmesan reggiano.
The neighbors are all out in the yard now. I hear the high voice of the young daughter. I hear the parents murmuring. I hear the mother talking to “Frenchie.” I hear the father’s deep, murmuring voice. They are not fighting anymore.
But even when they were, I was jealous. I wanted to be engaging with a partner across the table. I wanted to connect. To ask, to learn, to acknowledge. To listen. Even to argue. To disagree. To work it out. And to then meander out to the side yard, sit together on the wood and wrought iron bench, and greet my children and my dog, Frenchie, as they spilled out of the house.
Yet, how can I say this? I have an enviable life, and I know it. Yes, I feel lonely sometimes. Yes, of course I want a relationship, but only a great one. Only one that feeds and grows me and one that I want to give myself to one-hundred percent. I know that feeling, that slavish feeling of wanting to take care of my mate with everything I have. It’s a good feeling. My problem is, I have never found balance with a partner, where we are both giving to the other and balance each other out that way. I think it’s possible, but rare. Exceedingly rare.
I’d rather be alone and independent than suffering in a sub-par relationship. I am free. I can talk as long as I want to the realtor who showed up at my door tonight. I can accept a dinner invitation from any of my dance partners. I can have dance lessons at home without inflaming a jealous lover.
My life is mine. My house is mine. My choices are mine. I can even leave, and have proven that. I can live abroad whenever and wherever I please. I can join the Peace Corps when the kids take flight, and I’ve always thought I would. These choices equal freedom. And it’s valuable. I won’t give it up for just anyone.
Cobalt blue. What is it? Cobalt. It’s mysterious. It’s enticing. It’s dangerous. It’s toxic. It causes the body to over-produce red blood cells, sending surges of oxygen through the bloodstream. It was therefore used by cheating horse racers, but often, the horses would die after winning the race. It says come, but only if you dare. No wonder it’s such a sad color.