I scroll through my phone, unfeeling. I open my journal because journaling is on my to-do list. I write a one-page update. On the last line, as a sort of summary, I write, “I want this life.”
I’m about to close the journal when I realize what I’ve written. I stare at it, trying to ascertain the truth of it. This questioning of myself opens me up; a receptivity switch is flicked on. I chide myself for living much of my life with that switch off — what do I miss as I’m going through the motions?
I leave the car to wander campus. I find the tiny chapel in the Margaret Fowler Garden; I feel the energy there. Old. Round and high, taller than it is wide. A beautiful floor — white and gold patterns on stone — and a stained glass window, and dirty white walls with spiders. Chapel spiders. I close my eyes and I connect because my switch is on.
The stained glass reads “ORA PRO NOBIS” — pray for us. The images that flicker through my mind are of suffering. The 170 children sacrificed together in Peru over 500 years ago, whose remains were recently found. The women all over the world who are harassed, raped, deprived of opportunity. The gay men being “purged” in Chechnya. I am so sorry for your suffering. I am sorry. Me. I am sorry for Blaze, a young man who I knew, whose birthday would have been yesterday. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I slowly escape the chapel and my thoughts to find a spot to read, but I’m distracted by a lizard who I imagine I’m making eye contact with. I’m sorry we’re messing up your habitat. I keep reading my book and find a no-nonsense reference to the World Meteorological Association’s International Cloud Atlas, and I fill with emotion immediately. I put the book down. There really is a Cloud Atlas—it’s one of my favorite books, but I didn’t know it was a real thing. I don’t doubt that the author, David Mitchell, knows. Everything is connected, everyone is connected. “Time is. Time was. Time is not.” I feel the sacrificed children, the extinct species, the pain of Blaze’s family. It’s too much. Hobbes was right. Nasty, brutish, short. I have just enough presence of mind to realize that if I don’t do something I will turn a perfectly good day into a day of emotional despair. Didn’t I just write that I want this life?
I know now why I keep that switch off.
Kathryn Francis is a writer living in San Gabriel, California. Her work has appeared in the Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review and elsewhere; she can be found on Twitter at @kfrancis_ink.
Photo by chuttersnap.