The weeks alternate, every other one extreme in one of only two ways.
These weeks here, like the one we just humped, piss me out of bed by 5:30 AM. Julie snores through it. The dog plays dead on the bed. I’m like her, he says, flashing his exemption. I prop myself up on the handrails as I make my way down the stairs, looking something between physical therapy patient, gymnast, and invalid. I pass the thermostat, glowing like a Timex watch I lost once when I got drunk in high school. It’s back below freezing again. The street’s unplowed. A sweet-looking Oldsmobile inches down our hill to the stop sign. I make coffee in a dark kitchen, stare into the light of my phone, looking for new words but increasingly fortunate to find even a new arrangement of the old ones. I take my medicine, because at a certain age that’s what you do and I’m at a certain age. I drink water, move my bowels, unload the dishwasher, and empty a cup of coffee before making the long slog back upstairs to wake up the kids. If I make it up to their room by 6:20, and if they get out of bed and dress themselves and don’t have a tummy ache or a sore throat or an ingrown toenail or a crippling pain in the groin or a math test to avoid, and they get downstairs by 6:30, and I make them their breakfast by 6:30 and their lunches by 6:40, then I run, at this point I run, upstairs to the bathroom to bathe, and shave, and brush my teeth, and comb my hair, and get dressed, and tousle the dog’s furry belly, and kiss Julie and tell her it’s almost time for me to leave, and register - but not reflect because there’s no time to reflect - her sadness that we never see one another in the mornings these weeks, and quickstep back downstairs, this time without touching the banister - which is what it’s called, after all - and round up my work stuff and kids and race them to the car, and clear the snow, and slide down our hill to the stop sign, and let something Conner says about Minecraft go in one ear and out the other while Jack stares into the light of his phone, God only knows what he thinks he’ll find there, and before we know it, we’re there. We wave goodbye, wish one another a good day, promise to talk about it (whatever it was) this evening, knowing with as much certainty as anyone can know anything that, by the time this evening comes, the race will have intensified, not relaxed, and the next time we’ll truly see one another will be tomorrow morning, or maybe sometime this summer, or quite possibly not until they’re raised and grown and all the screens have left our world.
The weeks alternate, though. Next week I can relax. But not today. It’s 6:42. We’re running late again.