I live a routine. Predictable, clockwork. I arrive at work at exactly the same time every morning. I drop off Eli at school at 7:15 and then drive a mile or so to the library. For a couple of years, I turned on the building lights every day. I beat my coworkers by at least a half hour. Walking into the dark, empty building was one of the highlights of my day. Enveloped by a sense of calm.
That’s over. Emily started three months ago. She beats me most days by ten minutes. It shouldn’t make a difference. The only thing that’s changed is the lights are on when I walk in. And I now shout out “Hi” at the top of the stairs as I walk past her office. I can’t even see her. Her desk sits around a corner. Still, I miss my empty building.
I look for her car as I drive up. We rent parking from another company. Assigned spots. It’s not that I don’t want her there, I just want to be first. This morning a white sedan sat in her spot. A four-door, backed into the space like a good Pennsylvania driver. Sometimes it seems like I’m the only one in town who can’t back into a parking space. I’m always crooked, over the line.
The white sedan is new. Not a new car, just new to me. It’s usually a black SUV or on occasion something that looks like a sports car. Sorry I can’t be more specific. I’m not a car guy. The chances of me identifying the make and model of a car on sight are nil—so just a sports car. “How many cars do they have, anyway?” It’s an unfair question. Three isn’t a lot. We plan to buy a third car before Sophie gets home from college next summer. With four drivers, two cars doesn’t work. Still, I didn’t expect the sedan, it wasn’t as nice as the others.
I pulled into my space, which faces Emily’s space. The black SUV sat right in front of me, nose into the spot. I looked around, no other cars in the lot, certainly no white sedan, so I know I wasn’t looking at the wrong car. It just changed when I looked away.
A year ago, in a meeting, I blanked out for a minute. No one noticed. We were talking about restaurants and suddenly everyone was deep in a conversation about real estate. It’s called an absence seizure. Lights on, nobody home. I had an EEG and an MRI—two procedures I’m still paying off—both were negative. Nothing apparently wrong. After a year, I wrote it off as one of those weird, unexplained things that just happen sometimes.
At lunchtime, I called Susan. Initially, I planned not to tell her, she worries about my health, but I figured I’d be pissed if she did that to me. “What the hell is my problem?” She asked me all the same questions I would ask her. Vision problems? Forgetfulness? Dizziness?
“You just got your booster two days ago, and you’ve been living on Tylenol Cold and Flu medicine. Maybe it’s a reaction?” Jeff googles Moderna and hallucinations.
When I got back from my run this evening, Eli was home from the gym. “Hey, how was school?”
“Good, we saw the end of A Beautiful Mind in Psych class today.”
“Oh, is that the movie about the schizophrenic guy who always hallucinates?”
My friend Brian called tonight. We went to college together. In his new job, he’s doing research on aging at Johns Hopkins. We talked about how we both notice areas of decline. I mentioned that I keep getting slower on my bike. I didn’t talk about my brain.
I don’t have an end to this story. No clever wrap-up, no moral, no conclusions. To be continued, or maybe I’ll never mention it again. Just one more strange event to mark in my calendar.
Note: To simplify the story, I only mention Emily’s presence as the disruption to my morning routine. In truth, we also hired a morning cleaning person which adds to my feelings of entering a crowded building at 7:20 in the morning. And yes, I understand that this is a ridiculous ‘problem’ to have.