The hour that gives me the most difficulty is 2pm.

I am good in the mornings. The sunrise is ever hopeful, the strange way you can tell light is new, the way it comes at you, shy through the trees. Yes I love mornings, because it’s another chance, you get another stab at it, whatever it is. Nothing bad has occurred really in the early hours to scar me forever or make me hate mornings, not yet anyway. I usually have slept well and I am prepared. I look forward to the coming day, and maybe fondly backward at the night before. The day begins and there’s an optimism that I associate with waking, a half full glass I anticipate and drink down all the way in one gulp like freshly squeezed orange juice with some sparkling water mixed in. AM is citrusy and bubbly and just squirted from the fruit and that is glorious and makes my mouth water. It’s the best, the opening credits of the movie. Nothing has happened yet and I am ready for it to. I am glad for it to.

The only time this isn’t true is when I have stayed up all night, which is rare, I mean, I can count the times I have done this in my relatively long lifetime on one hand. That is terrible, to stay up all night, and this I have never done without some type of drug, an upper, which gives you a burst of good feeling right at the beginning, and then pays you back bad feeling with interest, robbing you of maybe a week’s worth of joy and patience and the accepting of things and peace and reason and that unnamed force that gets you out of bed to put on makeup and dress up in something nice and listen to music and dance and sing and think that anything is possible and a good day is coming on. All that for about 15 minutes of shaky bliss at the start, I don’t think it’s a fair exchange.

There’s also a guilt there too, if you haven’t been to bed, and you are looking at everyone who has, and you watch them with your bloodshot eyes as they are getting up and getting their coffee and going to work with big white cups with brown recycled paper rings to keep them from burning their hands and their clothes look just put on and they have the morning face that you wish you had, one that had gotten to bed at a decent hour and dreamed and woke untroubled and now is in front of you, and the sanity of it is mocking the insanity of yours. The streets get more and more crowded and you feel more and more alone and even though you may be surrounded it’s like an island or a raft is surrounded by water and there’s not a drop to drink.

Sometimes you can erase that horror show of being up all night with breakfast, trick yourself with the hot black medicine of strong coffee and the crisp, butter comfort of toast, but it’s only while you’re eating and maybe a very, very short time after. The healing power of omelettes and pancakes and waffles only lasts for as long as its on the table. After it’s in you it doesn’t do much good. I don’t stay up all night anymore. I can’t take it. This is not for me.

I love the morning too much to sully it. it’s important to me to feel like there’s a newness and a comeuppance and a day that hasn’t happened yet that is gonna happen and you never know, you never know. I get excited about the morning like I am a puppy, jumping and batting my paws all for nothing and for no reason other than I get to go around the sun yet once more.

The night is also the same way, as the night dawns much like the day. the sun goes away to reveal the moon herself and there is much delight as she is bright and sometimes a sliver, sometimes full and round, much like me, changing and growing and shrinking and different always and every shape of her has a name and distinct attributes.

The night is often when my workday begins, comedians and musicians and waiters and bartenders and chefs and emergency room doctors and nurses and drug dealers even and police and firemen and all of us on the graveyard shift who ensure the nourishment and care and protection, physical and otherwise, of the majority of the working people who make the world turn day after day.

I feel safe in the velvet cloak of night and I come alive when I go to work and see my friends and play in clubs and it’s always been exciting to welcome dusk and the rites of dinner and drinks that go along with it and that moment when you can let go of the day, stop white knuckling the afternoon and know that everything is going to be fine, and even if it isn’t soon it will all be over and the bed is a delicious promise that is always kept (unless you happen to do those bad drugs).

The night is good to me and good for me and I feel safe and dangerous at once. I am a night person and a morning person and then that leaves the afternoon which is a problem.

2pm is the fearsome middle I struggle with.

I’m a strong swimmer, having been on swim teams as a child, always smelling a little of chlorine, with dry tight skin and choppy braids that dried into hard gel waves. There was also an issue of mold in my locker. My existence was mostly wet and then you mix that with dark, you get mold. It’s a fact.

I can’t say I loved swimming but I did it because it was the right thing at the time and I was fairly good at it and there was a simple kind of reward involved because I grew up in a cold climate and the water of the pool was often slightly warmer than the air even though it seemed like it would be colder and you didn’t want go in initially as the threat of being colder even still was almost too much to bear but if you actually did it and jumped right in and braved the bracing shock of ice in your life, in a moment you’d be fine and warm and swimming and the fear would melt with the cold and you’d be alright. I swam for that small victory as well as other minor wins like having a place to go in an important somewhat distracted hurry right after school. “I can’t. I have practice. Yeah sorry, I can’t.” which to me kind of meant, “I belong somewhere. I belong to something. I belong.”

I remember that Culture Club video where beautiful Boy George is singing and climbing up the ladder out of the pool and I thought that he and I were the same and that song played in my head from beginning to end as I swam and at the point when he would come out of the pool I would come out of the pool to encourage our sameness.

I did have to stop going to the pool when my body started to change, and grownups in the shallow end would give me looks and then more. One old man, who was teaching a tiny girl to swim, she was maybe 4 or 5, just a baby really and too young to be in the big adult pool with the serious and sporty thick black lines painted on the bottom to guide the face down butterfly stroke swimmers in their lanes and rope and floating Styrofoam borders that were supposed to keep everyone not on the swim team out – crossed into illegal pool territory and actually grabbed me between my legs as I crawled my continuous laps that my allegiance to the swim team claimed as its due and lifted me whole out of the water struggling and flopping, exclaiming “I caught a fish! I caught a fish!” and the little new swimmer laughed and clapped as the man rudely and unashamedly shoved his fingers inside me. If he did this to me, a small stranger, I don’t want to think about what he did to that little girl. I don’t want to think of it.

I swam maybe one or two or three times after that but I eventually quit the team, because it never felt right to go back in the pool. It felt scary and ugly and I started to really notice when people would spit in the porcelain rim around the perimeter of the blue tile and see the spidery clots of hair that would collect in the filters and on the wet ground and I suddenly got fed up with the chlorine and the mucus of others and athlete’s foot and the child molesters that all these foul things represented and I refused to go and took up cigarettes instead.

But before all that, I was a strong swimmer, as our coach used to say, whistle and stopwatch hanging from his neck, looking down at me. I forgot his name, which I cannot believe now, because it was so important then. From the ages of 8 to 12, my schoolbag always contained a large plastic ziplock containing a cold and damp athletic orange swimming suit and an old rubber cap that squeezed my temples into a lifelong tendency toward migraine when it was on me, and stuck to itself and stank unreasonably when it was off. I swim good for a long while but then I get tired, unexpected and instant, a wore down feeling that is inescapable as water and it usually happens when I am right in the middle of the pool, where I am surrounded by the wore down and the water and the only thing left to do is drown.

That is what 2pm feels like to me.

It’s not the beginning. It’s nowhere near the end. What can I do? The sunlight that seemed charmed and uplifting in the hours before now seems ordinary and relentless. Time stretches out before me and behind me and I can’t make sense of it and I wonder what I can do until night falls to make me whole again. There’s no running from the middle of the day. The broad daylight offers no escape. You can’t start drinking or indulging in anything then because then that would mean you have a PROBLEM and I would do anything to avoid having a PROBLEM so I just suffer mid-days as if it is my cross to bear. I wait to be resurrected and it always happens and that’s not the concern, it’s the waiting that bothers me. It’s the waiting that is the cruelty of crucifixion. It takes so goddamned long to die.

I have the worst time of this midday malady in hotel rooms, as usually if I am working somewhere on the road, my day is far emptier, even more than if I am at home. Hotel rooms are bad places in my opinion, as most of my friends who have died thus far have done it in those temporary spaces that are meant to contain us only for a day or two. They have checked into hotels and never checked out and that seems like the worst thing to me, to have to die there and essentially stay there forever. That’s hell.

At 2pm in a hotel room I am lost and I don’t know where to turn or what to do. The hour oppresses me and there’s no escaping from it. The only way out is through, and through means minutes and then hours and the sky can’t darken soon enough to save me. I haven’t found a solution to this other than to complain and allow the existential dread to overwhelm me and crash over me like a wave and at times I can write and possibly describe the desolation and desperation I feel which helps because when I put words to a thing, it helps me own the thing and understand the thing. It’s like I am eating the thing or making love to the thing, letting the thing inside me and have its way and become a part of me.

At 2pm, perhaps I should go swimming. Most hotels have pools. I don’t think this is just by chance. I think the pools must be there for me.

10 thoughts on “Swim

  1. 2pm = demands “do something!” haven’t thought much about 2pm. now i will think about 2pm until 2pm. hmmm i dont’ sleep much as it is. gah knows why. just is. thinkin’, today at 2pm, i will try to be creative. get the lag out and maybe, just maybe, do something different… ty

  2. Margaret–you are simply fabulous. Everyday at 2pm now, I’m going to send you good vibes–think of them as ethereal Visine drops to soothe your chlorine-induced bloodshot eyes.

  3. Yes. Afternoon sleeping rocks. I have children now. I miss naptime.

    But swimming would be a close second for me, I’ve no time for that either. I love it. But then I never got molested by a disgusting molester. That’s a horrible story 🙁

  4. Read, write, nap, swim, or call me. I will get you through your 2:00 PM doldrums. I come alive at 1:00 PM. Until then, I’m just a moaning, sleepy zombie girl, complaining about the bright light and chirping birds. Shut up, you damn birds! Love you and your writing, Margaret. xo

  5. That’s exactly what I was thinking, 2pm IS naptime!! It’s a shame that you feel so alone, Margaret, because you certainly make me feel LESS alone. Thank you for being you.

  6. What a great post! I call that time that lies between the times we are most alive, downtime. I crave uptime. I want to stay busy. I love work. I love to have something to do. I hate downtime. I despise vacations. I can’t stand aimlessness, just sitting about being bored. I am easily bored. I have spent very little time in hotel rooms but enough to agree with what you wrote. Hotel rooms are a spiritual vacuum. It is the opposite of home. It has this impersonal creepiness which is often shared by laundromats, the DMV, dentist’s offices. Animals have similar experiences, sometimes my cat mews at me incessantly for no discernible reason. Now I know it is because he is bored because it is afternoon and there is nothing to do.

  7. You are such a great writer, Margaret. Dare I say, my favorite writer? I read all the time, it’s my hobby and I’m also an English major. I am addicted to your blog. I used to be lonelier, but you are so generous and honest that I feel less lonely since I started reading you. Just wanted to say THANKS 🙂 Love You…Mara

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