The Moment Apart

by Patrick Dubuque


My wife and daughter have been away for a week, visiting family, and the house is empty. I’ve left all the lights on, undid all the childproofing on the cabinets, cast the dishwasher open with the knives sticking out. These little interruptions happen every year or two: not really vacations, just pauses in real life. Every time they approach, I get excited. Not because I’ll be free of my family, whom I love very much, but because I’ll be free of myself: of routine, of diapers and figuring out what to eat for dinner and showering and knowing what time it is. They’re a chance for me to stop being me, to sink my head below the surface and forget.

Every time I end up miserable and paralyzed. I stare at blank screens, read old writing and sink into watered-down depression. I play twelve hours of Civilization straight, eat DiGiorno pizza and hate myself for it. I still do not shower.

This time I didn’t get depressed. I read a good book, Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh, wrote a couple of small pieces and finished a writing project I’d put off for nearly a year. But I spent most of my six days of freedom tearing at weeds with my hands. I did half a year’s worth of yard work in a weekend. It was boring and I felt happy. The time that I was so desperate for just flew by.

Baseball also plays with time like this. Spring training gets sucked down by its own meaningless like an undertow. Soon we’ll have the first real games crash over us, only to fight against small sample size and hasty conclusions. Momentum shifts, the feeling of rising and falling, an ending too near or too far. Then those poorly timed, worthless September games, wasted on the autumn, a cruel hyponetremia. We die of drowning and thirst, ad infinitum.

Here, now, is supposed to be the time of tension, the moment of the lights dimming into almost perfect blackness in the theater, the point of infinite potential. It’s the same allure that draws people to fantasy baseball, I think: the moment before the draft, when anything can happen.

I’m impatient for baseball, but not for its potential energy. I just want the routine, the slow drumbeat of meaningless, pleasant evening radio, lying in my weedless grass in the lazy summer heat. I want my wife and daughter home. I want life to go back to normal.