It’s spring.  I love transitional seasons but they also frighten me – they tend to take my mind and moods on random, unpredictable journeys.  Existential vertigo, as it were.

I’m sitting here at my desk in my office, ostensibly testing software while I listen to a Schubert violin rondo and sip my Pu-erh tea.  It’s dreary out which, I confess, I love.  I’d hang myself for sure if I lived in, say, Seattle, but I grew up on a coast and, much as I’d die for my high-plains desert home, I miss the oppression of humidity at times.  Overcast sky.  Fog you can’t cut through.  Mist soaking your clothes, your skin, your soul.  I do enjoy these days.

So… geeky, genteel suburbanite.  Except for that tickle.  The one I got yesterday when I found fresh deer tracks cutting the trail that runs behind my office building.  I’ve seen deer here once or twice but always at a distance and there was something about finding only their tracks.  That tickle.  Visceral.  Atavistic.  The tracks were deep but widely spaced, so it was velocity rather than weight that made the crater.  Small bucks, literally, maybe adult does.  The edges of the tracks were sharp, crumbly, not softening back into the earth from the melting snow.  I’d missed them by maybe only one or two hours.

I was out again this morning, as soon as I made it in and fired up my computer.  Just… you know… to see.

More of them this time.  Harder to tell their age since that mist has been hanging around since last night but they weren’t there yesterday.  And now… I just keep watching.  I start to work.  I get involved briefly.  And then my eyes drift past my monitor, out the window, down to the path.  The small island of woodland that it hugs.  Where the tracks were leading.  On goes my coat and an old ball cap.  Out go I.  Just… to see.  To follow a little further.  Up to the barbed wire fence, clearly labeled with the city ordinance prohibiting trespass on protected land.

I have been many things in my life, many of them conflicting and incongruent.  I went from wunderkind to inner-city thug to professional geek to suburbanite husband to hick dad but retained lessons and habits from all of them.  There is a line between multifaceted and schizophrenic and I sometimes am unclear on which side I stand.  I occasionally make a misstep, a social faux pas, forgetting which world I’m in at the time.  Laughing about the – to me – comical and violent demise of another boy during my teen years with over-educated intellectuals who think “ghetto culture is cool” as long as it’s artistic.  Discussing weeping at the birth of my child with undereducated men who think having nice handwriting and good grammar make you “queer”.   Providing luscious description of the prior day’s excellent lunch as my “status report” at work.   Casually producing a pistol from my waistband and doing a chamber-check in the midst of conversation with out-of-town houseguests.  I worry that I’ll just leave my desk and come back with a gutted doe.  Or not come back at all.

The mist, hushing the sounds of nearby traffic.  The dirt, quiet and spongy beneath my feet.  The smell of spring in my nose, lush, wet.  Pause.  Listen for movement, eyes closed.  Continue and repeat.  Those tantalizing tracks.  Maybe I’ll just follow them – just a little bit.  Not long.  Not far.  Just enough to assuage my curiosity.  Something primal has stirred.

I’m forty and live in the ‘burbs.  I read Dr. Seuss to my daughter and try to teach her how to walk the line between being a good person and being a victim.  I blow raspberries on my infant son’s tummy and make him giggle by snuggling into his neck.  I garden and mow the yard of my modest cookie-cutter home.  I stand aside for the elderly and always open car doors for ladies.  When I was fifteen, I shared a drafty bedroom with rats and roaches.  I once used a long-handled flashlight to club an auxiliary cop – only a few years older than me, from the looks of him – into semi-consciousness because he was between me and escape at an absurdly botched attempted burglary.  I had to be fast before he could get to his radio (auxiliaries weren’t allowed to carry weapons – when I briefly was one, they referred to us as “bodies”).

I have no idea how I got here from there.

I can hear the mist dripping from the branches.  Something crackles in the trees.  A step?  No.  Squirrels playing tag.  I smile, thinking of my daughter‘s laugh when I feign a speech impediment and quote “Up” – I hate squirrels!  The wire fence still holds a chill as I rest my fingers on it, give it a little tug, testing its strength.

I’ve had the pleasure of keeping company with bowhunters who were deadly skilled with a broadhead but I am a “gun guy”.  I’ve spent so much time with those tools that they are, in honesty, part of my nature now.  And, while I have seen a shaft do the same work up close, there is something about the argument made with one hundred and sixty eight grains of copper-jacketed lead that is a bit more emphatic, especially at distances measured in football fields.  I am normally pragmatic about my tools, loading my regular practice rounds within safe and accurate tolerances but, for hunting, it becomes a ritual of consistency and precision.  If you’re trying to kill me, I don’t give a tinker’s damn if I take your jaw off instead of putting you down DRT but an animal deserves a death with minimal suffering.  It has done me no wrong and will die for no reason but to put meat in my belly.  Everything must be as near to perfect as an imperfect creature such as myself can make it.  It’s only right.  I owe it.

When I was seventeen, an older kid from the neighborhood tried to recruit me and another friend for a robbery.  The story kept morphing to the point where I was exceptionally uncomfortable.  I met the two other guys who had recruited him and found they were shifty, stoned and stupid.  I agreed to check the area out and found it was actually a drug dealer’s house in the middle of a crowded, narrow and crappy block.  On three different days, there were guys both up and down the street “working on their cars”, except the toolboxes were never open and they never had grease on their hands.  I refused to take part but it never occurred to me to report it to the police – you just didn’t do that.  My friend and the guy who had approached us both were unnerved by my confidence in their failure and chickened out before the chosen day but the two original geniuses went ahead anyway.  I never saw either of them again.  Rumor mill – the precursor to the Internet – had it that no one else ever did either.

Yesterday, I attended a planning meeting in which three men with advanced degrees argued vehemently over whether or not code refactoring needed to be done this sprint or if it could wait until just prior to candidate release.  Our test lead joined in the fray, demanding that naming conventions be standardized so her automated scripts would stop breaking every build.  I am pleased to report no weapons were produced and no blood was spilled.  It was terrifying but I somehow managed to stay awake.  All participants are accounted for today.

I really don’t know how I got here from there.  Here is better, I know, but… there is something lacking.

I want to indulge myself.  Challenge myself.  Get back out in the real world, into the wet mist, away from mundane mendacity of my current life, sterile and perfunctory in my technological bubble.  Closer to sincerity, to finality, to beauty.

I’ve cycled through Haydn all the way to Cypress Hill.  “Insane in the Brain”.  Yeah.  I can relate.  Ah.  Shifting gears again – J.S. Bach’s “Keyboard Concerto #5” this time.

When existential questions arise, I tell people that who you “really are” lives in your silences – when the voices in your head stop jabbering.  When you are plummeting towards the earth.  When you are single-mindedly pursuing on foot with murder in your heart.  When that heart pauses in its beating but your oxygenated brain can still process thoughts.  When you hold your firstborn child in your arms, fresh from the womb of the woman you have chosen for your mate.  When you hear an ER doc use the phrase “overnight for observation” in reference to your infant son who just vomited blood.  My problem is that I’ve been in all those situations and “who I was” was different each time yet each one was true.  Perplexing.

It’s hard to keep up with my shifts at times, certainly, but I’m somehow still good in my skin. Even a skin full of random shifts… and old scars… and new tickles.

It’s clearing up a little but still overcast and grey.  I can’t help but wonder if any of the trail has been washed away.  How much may still remain.  I’ll just take a little break and check.  Not too far, maybe over the fence just a little, where the tree canopy is coming back. A hundred yards… maybe two.  Don’t want to get in trouble or anything. Just want… you know… to see.

Ah, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major!  I love this rondo more than Schubert’s….

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ANDREW NONADETTI is a writer of fiction and, until recently, a deceptively charming but manipulative and abusive sonofabitch. To his surprise, though, there seems to be a genuinely good man hiding in there as well. And he's a quick study.... Feel free to email him at [email protected] to discuss his novel, life in general, terminal ballistics.... Pretty much anything, really. He's kind of gregarious and a big geek about a range of topics.

97 responses to “Shuffle”

  1. Becky says:

    Damn, dude.

    I never clubbed an auxiliary cop, but you sure make me miss my semi-rural river valley township origins, including my former life as a jack pine savage land surveyor and the further-away one in which I spent most of my time at a horse barn.

    Tough to express, really, how much satisfaction can be drawn from just looking at the ground. Like, actual ground. Where there is mud and grass and dead leaves and bugs and other things to poke at with a stick.

    The upper midwest is ground zero for that fecund spring smell, too. I never get over it. A lot of people don’t understand why I’m so attached to my flyover place, and to my somewhat hickish roots. That smell, I’m pretty sure, has a lot to do with it.

    Now I live on the very edge of the city, refusing to get any closer, and I have my 4-year degree and a stable job with benefits like a good girl should, but part of me would be perfectly happy–maybe the MOST happy–to just go right back to my no-degree-needed surveying gig or scooping horseshit for a living. I dream of barefoot, muddy children who can identify Poison Ivy and know that you can eat clover. And that it’s not half bad.

    Normally it would be an awful, condescending bourgeois expression of generic middle class boredom, but frankly, I am so far out of my element here in my cube, I’m starting to think I wasted a good decade trying to get here.

    In other words, I hear you, brother.

  2. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Becky, you have no idea (or maybe you do) how reassuring it is to hear someone say, “Well.. yeah.” People who spend any length of time with me tend to think I’m pretty even-keeled. Mostly, that’s because I harbor a constant, sneaking suspicion that none of this is real but I’m willing to accept it for now on the off chance it is. As I wrote, there are times in which I can’t really figure out how I got here. I don’t want to go back, God knows, but the reality in which I live today seems so… viscerally lacking.

    Thanks, Becky. Drinks – or some mulie jerky, if things go well this fall – are on me if we ever meet.

    • Becky says:

      Well, I do kind of want to go back. Not, like, back in time, but I’d be willing to take my experiences to date back to those places with me. You know, you can never go home again and all that, but I’ve wandered afield enough to suit me, so I wouldn’t mind wandering back in that general direction.

      In short: “Don’t throw me into that briar patch!!!”

      Maybe I was the only person whose parents read her Uncle Remus stories. Good ol’ Briar Rabbit.

      My current situation is far from awful, relatively speaking, just cramped. I wasn’t made for this urban bullshit. Plech.

      I’ll hold you to that drink offer. Don’t think I won’t.

      • Andrew Nonadetti says:

        I rarely say things I don’t mean, Becky. So either drink cheap or drink little – I’m a man on a budget these days. And, no, you are most certainly not the only person who grew up with tar baby tales.

        I think I just miss spontaneity and risk-taking. I am no longer the only person to pay for my mistakes so I am far more reserved, structured and conservative than is my nature. Moving out of an urban environment was brilliance on my part and probably saved my life. I don’t ever want to go back to that nor do I want my children to experience it. But I miss being off the leash a little. And I miss having to worry only about making my wife sad if I screw up and get myself bankrupted or killed. Responsibility has done me in.

        • Becky says:

          Well I don’t usually drink little, so I guess cheap it is.

          And Oooh…that Tar Baby was r-u-d-e RUDE.

          I remember my dad reading that story to me in a way that would probably not be considered altogether PC these days…

          Then again, almost nothing is.

          Yeah. Responsibility. I resent it a bit. Mostly in the form of my mortgage payment. Now is as good a time as any, maybe, to default on it, declare bankruptcy, and begin operation TNB commune.

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Hey there, Anon!

    I have to put my two cents in here.
    I don’t think that you are different people depending on the stages of your life, but rather you are different people in each stage of your life. I’ve split off hundreds of times so far.
    You don’t want to get in a rut,eh?

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Oh, no – I’m quite rut-averse which is why I chafe so these days ;). My problem – if you want to call it that – is that the rules for each of my incarnations are so widely disparate. I used to embrace each role wholeheartedly but am finding that they’re beginning to blur, sometimes in awkward ways. I don’t know if it’s just fatigue on my part or what but I’m… tired of pretense. And spring fever doesn’t help me to resist the urge to be myself to the definite detriment of my current roles!

      • Irene Zion says:

        You can be yourself everywhere but at your job.
        You have to be careful and play a role there.
        Everywhere else, yourself is a fine man.
        Be it.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          If it did that, my family would likely never see me. 🙂

        • Irene Zion says:

          I don’t think so.
          I think you’d just be happier when you saw them.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          By the time I get home, my wife is usually ready to see if Sudan has a Craig’s List site – “Two small, white children, hardly used, strong backs. Make offer.” I can’t bring myself to leave her without backup after being besieged all day. I just need to start playing the Lotto at least half as much as I talk about it. Or at least once a week.

        • Irene Zion says:

          It’s too bad things aren’t like the old days in terms of families.
          It used to be, before my kids, naturally, that the aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents all lived in the same town and it was natural to shift the kids around to play with each other at alternate houses.
          Now everyone has relatives who are across the country, if not the world.
          Not much of a help, eh?

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          In fairness, though, I’d probably be even more obsessed with standing guard over my kids if our families were closer. I grew up with those people. They’re not right… in the head.

          But you knew that, didn’t you? So you were teaching me a lesson in perspective! Thank you, Irene. You are a wise woman.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Victor’s mother only liked one of our children and she up and died just before Lenore was born.
          My father loved them all, but he up and died early too, although he lived pretty far away anyhow.
          My mother only liked the same child as my mother-in-law. She was very helpful in rearing him. She used to tell him every day that his mother and father didn’t love him, but she loved him so that was all he needed. That really was massively helpful in his emotional development.
          I truly understand about toxic families.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Ha! I’m going to be in meetings a full four hours of my day today but, at some point, I’ll play tit-for-tat with some of the psychosis from both my and my wife’s side of the family gallow – er, tree. Sometimes, it’s just easier to go it alone, eh?

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      As an aside, Irene, you are the only person whose replies do not auto-email me. Odd.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Funny, David Wills said the same thing.
        I don’t know why my comments aren’t auto-mailing people.
        I would also REALLY like it if my Page 2 of my archive were not a huge ERROR 404!!!!!!
        Every time I write something, another old story goes hiding in the ether!

  4. Matt says:

    I was a video game software tester at Sony for a little while (which is nowhere near as cool a job as it sounds). Totally relate to the programmer arguments, as they always hated it when I brought them new bugs to fix.

    I’m lucky right now, in that my desk is in an open area with very large windows on either side, so that I can see all the greenery and sunlight outdoors all day long, but nothing beats being out in it. Especially since the place I work is only a couple of miles from the beach, and on breezy days you can smell the ocean. Every time I do I ask myself why I’m here banging away at work instead of out there, up to my shoulders in the crashing waves.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      When I’m feeling gracious (which isn’t often), I explain to the dev guys that my job isn’t to point out their screwups, it’s to make them look good. “I keep our mistakes in the family so nobody has to know about it,” has soothed more than one bruised ego.

      So, Matt – what answer do you give yourself when that touchy question comes up? (;

      • Matt says:

        Oh, it’s been a few years, and being the low man on the totem pole, I just turned all my bugs over to our test lead and let him handle them. And Sony generally prefers bugs get caught before a new game goes to market, so mostly they were happy about us catching stuff; the programmers just liked to bitch, is all.

  5. Tawni says:

    Ahhhh… trying to teach one’s child how to walk the line between being a good person and being a victim. Well said. I can relate.

    My son is gentle. He has never pushed or hit another kid in his life. We never spank or hit him, because, as we tell him, hitting people is wrong.

    The other boys in school (whose parents seemingly don’t find kindness towards others something worthy of instilling in their children) are regularly hurting my son. And he doesn’t fight back. Because we’ve taught him that… hitting people is wrong. Sigh.

    I’ve decided to enroll him in martial arts classes the second he’s old enough. I can’t take it. He needs to be able to defend himself in this world, gentle soul or not.

    “I tell people that who you “really are” lives in your silences…”

    Oh, how I love this. Beautiful and true.

    Nice one, Andrew.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thanks, Tawni. It is such a balance, especially these days when “zero tolerance” gets kids suspended for biting PB&Js into “gun shaped objects”, giving a classmate an Advil is “drug dealing” and streaking is a “sex offense”. We stress to our girl that you don’t start trouble and you try to use words first but that you stand up for yourself.

      We use our daddy-daughter drives to talk about life stuff like that. She expressed concern that she might “get in trouble with the teachers” if she hit back. So I let her know – repeatedly – that it might happen. She might get in trouble and it might even be big trouble. And then I followed it up with, “So what? You have a right to protect yourself from being hurt, period, and that’s more important than anything else someone thinks about you. And you will NEVER be in trouble with me or Mommy for protecting yourself.” I think she gets it.

      I’ve taught her a few things, and then a few other things that she’s only to use on grownups that are trying to hurt her. But we’re going to interview a few MA schools later in the summer to let her learn with her peers.

    • Gloria says:

      Tawni – T and I are in martial arts. Tae Kwon Do. It is doing wonders for them. They are learning how to control their kinetic little body machines and they are learning about self control in general. I highly recommend it.

      • Tawni says:

        I didn’t know that about your little ones, Gloria. At what age were they able to start (focus on) Tae Kwon Do? I’m thinking six might be a good age to start my energetic son in martial arts. I’m also getting him a drum set if he expresses any interest. We need to find positive ways to channel all this crazy energy. (:

  6. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    One of the side benefits about living a life of conflicting and incongruent pieces, as far as I can say in my own similarly schizophrenic one, is the unexpected moments in which all they converge to your advantage, even if fleetingly. It’s possible that you had one such moment while writing this piece, or that I did while reading and relating to it so strongly. Either way it’s beautifully done. Also, I’ve got to figure a way to work the phrase “a tinker’s damn” into everyday speech.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Nathaniel. As I mentioned above to Becky, it makes me feel a little less unbalanced to read that other people can related and connect. As I wrote, there are days when I feel like flattering myself and referring to it as being “multifaceted”. I try to ignore that fact that there are many Renaissance men such as myself populating padded rooms :).

  7. Zara Potts says:

    I’m glad you posted this. I like the way you give us brief glimpses into your life and yourself.
    It feels like a meditation…

    I think it’s one of the hardest questions to answer -“who are you really?” -I think I am only ‘really’ myself in my writing. Every thing else is just a costume I throw on depending on the day. It’s only been recently that I have discovered who I really am.

    A couple of months ago I would have been quick to describe myself as rational and cynical and quick tempered.
    It’s taken me this long to realise that I am actually a ridiculous romantic, vulnerable and soft hearted. I don’t feel comfotable with it still, but I am getting more accepting of my true nature.

    The quick temper still stands though, unfortunately…!
    Lovely piece…

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Zara. I was hesitant, really, and almost went with the conclusion to the vasectomy story instead ;). I rewrote it about a dozen times, paring out some of the ugliness that came through originally. I never know where to draw the line and am always uncomfortable with sharing – and dredging up – too much. All that stuff I’ve written you about self-forgiveness? Yeah… I’ve had a little to practice with.

      You know, it’s possible that you are both and almost certain that you are still more. And, as I’m learning, all of it is “you”. That can sometimes be a load to carry, especially if it isn’t cinched down quite right, but it’s all stuff worth keeping and occasionally thumbing through.

  8. Don Mitchell says:

    Tawni beat me to admiring “When existential questions arise, I tell people that who you “really are” lives in your silences – when the voices in your head stop jabbering,” but I’m going to admire it anyway.

    But at the same time I agree with you that it’s often in action, sometimes dangerous but in any even intense, that you’re aware, that you see the different people you are but, I suspect, that after maybe 20 or so, it’s really the same person.

    I have to say, looking down the barrel of my 67th birthday, that it can take a while to figure out what threads all those different action events or silences have running through them.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      When I get admiration out of you, Don, it’s been a good day. I’ve experienced a lot and learned much but I find this settling thing…. It’s like a good Italian meal. I’ve gorged myself among fine company and have now been sitting around the living room, digesting on my own for a bit. But now [smacking lips]… I’m getting a little snackish. In the mood for a little dessert… maybe some espresso and Sambuca. Not sure. But something.

      When’s your birthday, Don? I’ll illegally ship you a .410 in remembrance.

      • Don Mitchell says:

        I don’t want to disclose my birthday on the internet — hey, I took my Facebook page down. Next you’ll be looking for my SSN. I’ll only say that it’s very close to the summer solstice.

        I don’t want the one .410 you probably have — the cut-down one, pistol grip, with the special store of 3″ double-ought shells. Nah. Too much gun for me.

        Daisy Red Ryder, please.

        What did you think about those home-made weapons the rebel guys had?

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Oh, come now. I’m not that bad. Besides, Taurus now makes an absurd little revolver that does that same thing but holds five more rounds and doesn’t come with the free time in Federal prison. Now… where do I send the BB gun to?

          Those were pretty impressive. Necessity is the mother of all projectile weapons, apparently, although I would *not* have wanted to be the guy that alpha-tested the first batch. Just like the Liberators of WWII, not pretty but got the job – acquiring a better one – done.

  9. Erika Rae says:

    You are such a mystery, Anon. I have to say, you get major points from my twins.

    With a flashlight? Tsk tsk.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      It was what I had handy – thought we might need it once we breached the roof, which sounds like an easy thing in the hollows of a teenaged male skull. Then we hit, oh, four inches of tar and blah, blah, blah, blah. We giggled like idiots on the rooftop, getting louder and louder until lights started coming on in the apartment buildings around the store. Someone must’ve called the cops. I’m not proud but I do recall it all distinctly.

  10. Jordan Ancel says:

    I think this is my favorite post of yours so far, Anon. I love it because of, as Zara pointed out, the brief glimpses into your life. I’m intrigued, to say the least, by your past and the stories/confessions that lurk in the shadows.

    Your introspection of how did I get here from there particularly resonates with me. I will be forty this year, and my life is so drastically different from what it used to be, that you intoned what I am feeling at this moment of my life.

    I’m no hunter, and I have no kids, but when I think about all the different careers I’ve had, my former marriage… I often think about the path I am on, and how I got here.

    I believe that at every stage of life (although, still being relatively young, it’s just a guess), there is always a bit of longing for something of the past. Something familiar. Something to remind us of who we were and how we arrived to where we are at present.

    To me, your tracking the deer is an analogy of hunting down that part of your past that you may miss. I’m not saying that’s how you wrote it. It’s just what I get from it, and I like it.

    I like it very, very much.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Jordan. For all my love of spontaneity, there is that need for linear memory, isn’t there? Something that you can look back on and, regardless of whatever kinks the road has held, and think you could have calculated the trajectory had you given it much thought “back then”. Except it isn’t always linear. Sometimes there are wormholes and you end up clear across the frigging universe.

      And they’re addictive. First, they’re surprising and a little terrifying. Then they’re exhilarating. Then they become the norm. And anything less is just… dull. Taking the local, all stops.

      Those tracks…. Those alluring tracks…. I do miss walking away from everything on a whim and seeing what there is to see. And still-warm backstrap lightly sauteed in butter and diced garlic, maybe wrapped in a little baby spinach leaves, washed down with a nice single-malt. At least I’ll be able to indulge in the latter in a few months. 😉

  11. Richard Cox says:

    Soooo…I go on hiatus for a bit and come back to find adverts on the site, and the guy who wouldn’t tell anyone his real identity is suddenly the most popular writer. I mean who picks up 130+ comments on their first post? That has to be a record.

    I read the other two posts I missed, but I identify with this one the best. As you said above “Well…yeah.”

    I always thought I was the most non-hospitalized schizophrenic-type person I know, but I think you have me beaten. At least with the chamber check bit and the rough childhood. I do hunt pheasants and quail occasionally but I can’t claim to carry a handgun with any regularity. As in never.

    Still, though, the conversations I typically have on this site are nothing those that occur when I’m in Arkansas drinking myself into oblivion with a bunch of rednecks who live in a tiny town owned by Jones family (as in Jerry Jones). The concepts I bat around while writing speculative fiction aren’t anything I could ever discuss with my rural-born parents. One day I shoot a 76 in a competitive golf match with one friend and the next I shoot a score twenty shots higher in a drunk fest with another friend. I go hunting and get laughed at because I won’t wear camouflage pants, and then a week later I visit New York and I’m painfully aware that my CBGB vintage T makes it seem like I’m trying too hard. Half my friends are married and suburban and the other half are hipsters who are too good for everything.

    Or just consider today, when I cleared the brush off the hillside in my backyard with a weedeater and a pair of hedge trimmers (but left the wildflowers I planted last year), dodged bees and wasps and a tarantula bigger than my fist, built a stone path up the hillside to the clearing where I like to sit and watch the sun set, watered my flourishing potato plants, filed the paperwork for my new S-corp, designed and printed business cards, built the “coming soon” page of the web site, did laundry, washed dishes, practiced golf, and now I’m trying to finish another draft of a novel (the one I mentioned to you before, in which a bored cubicle dweller wonders if anything in his life is actually happening).

    So, in a word…yeah.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Oh. Um. Surprise! 😀

      I’m getting more pleased by the moment that I opted to post this. I had no idea I had so much company – and fine company at that – here in the in-between mist.

      Tarantula bigger than your fist? Unless you’ve got seriously dinky mitts, you may wish to reconsider that “don’t carry a pistol” thing. I can make some good recommendations. I envy your setup, though. I’ve only got the beginnings of spuds – the Burbanks are coming up strong but I’ve only got a few Kennebecks and Yukons poking through (I use raised beds for everything, btw). But I just relaid all the stones in my patio and have been resanding them for the past two days. You know, in between kid stuff, other domestic ditties and all this nonsensical pining that I write about.

      Drop a line if you ever want to share any of those funky speculative fiction concepts. I am intrigued.

      • Richard Cox says:

        You tell me about your fiction and I’ll tell you about mine. Haha.

        Ok, so maybe it was just as big as my fist. Either way it was the biggest spider I’ve ever seen outside of the zoo. That’s when I went and put on some real shoes and jeans instead of the shorts and flip flops I had been wearing.

        I’ve been following your advice regarding the potatoes…as they grow I keep piling soil up around them to force them to grow upwards. The biggest are maybe 30″ high or so. My onions aren’t doing quite as well…they’ve all fallen over, and I don’t know if that means I’m not watering them enough or too much or what.

        I really enjoyed this post. It’s interesting to hear about your varied experiences and wonder how you got where you are. I think anyone who evolves over time probably thinks something similar, but when it really hits home for me is when I see how so many people end up exactly like their parents. Not that one way is better than another, but as awesome as my father is, for instance, I think I would go nuts if I had become a carbon copy of him. Then again, among my extended family I’m the odd man out for sure, so they probably wonder how I wandered so far off the beaten path.

        Sometimes when I read your comments and posts–this one in particular–I get the feeling you’re living in the Witness Protection Program.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Hah. No, I wouldn’t be nearly as restless if I was in the program. I’d just piss off my handlers until they moved us again. And, actually, that is my bit of fiction – federally-protected witness turned government assassin and interrogator essentially gets laid off with the new administration’s “change of direction” then gets picked up by an independent outfit. Works great for him until he’s given the task of killing an innocent – if annoying – family man and recognizes it as a last chance to reclaim his humanity.

          I already know I’m going to end up like my father – he’s dead. Other than that, I make a daily effort to learn from his mistakes and do my best to not be him as a father and husband. He’ll wind up in a future post, I’m sure. (;

          The onions… hmmm…. I know garlic will lay over when it’s ready but the only onions I’ve been growing are scallions and they’ve stayed pretty “happy to see” me straight through until the first frost. What kind are yours?

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Richard — I tried to send you an email, but the server for richardcox.net is refusing incoming.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Andrew, the onions are Yellow Stuttgarter and Red Wethersfield. I think they’re pretty common. The potatoes are Kennebecks and Yukons and some plain ol Russet Burbanks. Right now it’s all looking good but we’ll see what happens when I go to harvest them. I would assume nice looking plants means a nice yield, but this is my first shot so I don’t really know what I’m doing. It’s been fairly amazing to see these beautiful plants grow from some cut up chunks of potatoes and dirt. Gives you a new respect for nature, to be honest. And you feel a lot more like real part of it. Not that I’m ready to become a farmer.

          I assume yours are moving slower because you must have planted later? Being as you (claim to) live in CO?

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Hah. No, no hiding. I am a resident of this state, more often than not. And I assume that is exactly the case with my slow growers. You and I are growing the same varieties, looks like. We didn’t plant until mid-April and a friend of mine is having a similar response from his spuds.

          Last year, I way over-planted, putting a good eleven or twelve plants in a two-foot square box with the assumption that most wouldn’t make it. Well, they all did. I had gorgeous vines, almost five feet tall… attached to spuds that were about the size of golfballs. Not exactly meal-worthy but they made challenging targets around the hundred-yard mark :). I’m hoping the much-reduced density will give me larger potatoes this time – about five or six chits each in three separate boxes. Good luck with yours!

          Gotta look into those onions of yours, though. Hmmm….

        • Richard Cox says:

          I planted about twelve plants in a tie wall flowerbed, but I spaced mine about 12 – 15″ apart. I’m hoping that’s enough room for a reasonable yield but who knows? I was afraid I would lose them tonight, as we had 3″ of rain in a half-hour, and they sit at the bottom of a steep hill where runoff pours down in a Niagara-like waterfall. But I returned home from storm chasing to find my erosion control tactics had worked almost too well, and though a few plants were listing away from the hill, I was able to push them back skyward. I’ll be out of town for several days starting tomorrow, but I don’t think I have to worry about them not having enough water. Ha.

          The vines get five feet tall? Holy shit! I had no idea. I figured 36″ would be the topping point. Why don’t they need cages like tomatoes, then?

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Easy – only the top 8-10″ was above ground. 🙂

          Actually, now that I think about it, I used ten-inch board instead of my usual twelve. I had four levels and they were tall enough that I pondered another but decided I didn’t want to keep pushing them up so I let them be. So that makes them about four feet tall and not five. Still, though, I get the idea that they’ll go as high as you bury ’em.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Richard,
      I am loving reading “The God Particle.” I’m half-way through, don’t tell me anything!

      • Richard Cox says:

        That’s awesome! Thanks. But did you shield your eyes during the NC-17 parts?? 😉

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          There are NC-17 parts?!? Now I’m definitely getting a copy. 😀

        • Irene Zion says:

          Richard,
          I let my eyes read those parts, so far, but I wouldn’t let my brain see the pictures they made.
          My ears kept hearing the parts my eyes were reading and trying to tell my brain, but I put up a barrier. No pictures were made in my mind, so far.
          It takes a whole lot longer to read passages like that if your eyes and your ears and your brain are at odds.

        • Irene Zion says:

          @Richard:
          Where the hell have you been?
          You’ve missed LOADS of stuff.
          And we missed YOU!
          (You better have a good excuse, like lying in a hospital bed, oh, I have to get back to your book now.)

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          That good? My God (no pun), I need to read this book! Luckily, when you eyes and ears and brain are all in agreement, you can read the morning ticker and make mental porn from it. It’s a gift, really, and I am grateful for it.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Hi Irene,

          I have a fairly good excuse. I’ll be writing about it soon. I’m sorry I missed so much! How are you?

          P.S. If you’re halfway through, I think your brain can rest easy now. 😉

      • Judy Prince says:

        Thank you for giving me the opening to agree, Irene—-and I’ve finished “The God Particle”, giving it a definite thumbs up! I could really get into the skin of the protagonist, his foibles, strivings, logic, frustrations—-and of course a love story seals the deal!

        I tried to not give away anything, Irene. The book’s a total page-turner.

        Now from his comments with Anon, I think I’d like to read a first autobiography of Richard’s.

  12. Zara Potts says:

    Richrob!!!!

  13. Judy Prince says:

    Much of this was way out of my girlie territory, Anon—-I mean it terrifies me even to *see* any kind of firearm, let alone imagine using them—-and to kill animals! MEEP! See? Girlie.

    However, dammit, I “got” deep understandings in the interstices. You made me recall the times I get the urge to get past the barbed wire fence, and the countless moments I forget which Judy I am, in which place, with which people.

    Most to the point: This piece of all your others has the most flow to it, the most elegance, the most poetry. The most POETRY, you crazy man!

    An irony is that you were writing about the you who doesn’t know which who he is—-and the writing itself is evidence that you were feeling the most “you”.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank heaven for girls, little and slightly better than little. But, wait. Are you saying my vasectomy piece (so to speak) wasn’t elegant and poetic?? Or my sideswiped by a Prius bit? I must now weep into my wine. (;

      As I’ve grumbled above, my annoyance lately isn’t being unable to feel the real me, it’s my inability to let whichever me I’m feeling at the moment be free to express himself. As I drew in the writing, showing up to a status meeting, gore-streaked and toting a freshly-killed doe would not be considered “HR friendly”. Nor would I want to make the call home – “Honey? Yeah, um, I’m afraid I won’t be bringing home the bacon for awhile. Seems I got forgetful and brought in the venison at work instead. What? Yeah. Again. I’m sorry, my love.”

      But thank you, Judy. I always appreciate your appreciation and hope those beyond-the-wire memories were pleasant and haven’t attracted any unquiet ghosts.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Ah, Anon, so I missed your main point—-and you had to explain it to me in a comment……..HA! I love that!

        Think I’ll go kill a deer.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          You know, in fairness, I didn’t really have “a main point”. I just felt like sharing a bit, letting some of my own ghosts have a voice for a little while. I guess they had more to say than I thought.

          Then again, I’m very tired and I’ve been drinking (as usual) so perhaps I should stop writing now. 🙂

  14. Simon Smithson says:

    Ah… strange orbits and overlaps.

    Before reading this post I was thinking about a girl I once knew, who put up these postcards on her wall. And it was a tiny, tiny thing to do, but the postcards and the way she put them up spoke so much about the way that self-expression was a complete and total part of her – or at least, so it seemed to me – and it threw me back so completely and fiercely into considering who I was and how I shaped the world around me.

    A little confronting, but that’s the way it goes, I guess. That’s where so many of the good things come from.

    Engimas wrapped in riddles, Anon. I hope your son pulled through fine – and I’m impressed by the way you noticed the small details of the guys not actually working on their cars.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Simon. When all was said and done, it turned out to be acid reflex (my son, that is). Of course, he was only a few months old at the time and anyone vomiting blood is normal cause for concern. We took him to the ER and heard everything from viral infection to blocked intestinal tract to internal injuries and blah-de-blah-de-blah-de-blah. In the end, my wife spent the night with him at the hospital and I took our daughter home and discovered that the advantage to being an apathist instead of an atheist is that you don’t feel like a hypocrite when you pray.

      As for the little details, I was sharper back then but, then again, I had to be. When you play stupid games, you sometimes have to work hard to avoid winning stupid prizes. As already noted (though this time with some relief), life is different now. When I leave the house with pants on, it’s an intellectual victory.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        “When I leave the house with pants on, it’s an intellectual victory.”

        You’re a latter-day Voltaire.

        • Judy Prince says:

          You two—–it’s a two-guffaw nite now, thanks to you two.

          Goethe

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          @Simon: You were being amusingly obnoxious, of course, but given his comments on politics and religion, I will put this in the “flattery” column.

          @Judy: Always happy to amuse. 🙂

    • Irene Zion says:

      So Simon,
      I hear that YOU are invited to Lenore’s graduation.
      That’s all I have to say.

  15. Lorna says:

    I loved this journey through your life, Anon. If there ever was a question that runs through my mind, it is “how did I get here from there”? Sometimes it is a question asked in appreciation and awe, sometimes in disgust. Thank you for putting into perspective for me that all of our experiences, good, bad and in between, mold us into well rounded people. I really needed to grasp that this morning.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      I’m full of – well, a lot of stuff 🙂 – but was specifically thinking “of lots of sayings” this time. One is “I wouldn’t be who am I if I wasn’t who I was.” It’s all part of the package, isn’t it?

  16. reno says:

    this, THIS, is a great fucking write. sorry about the language, sir. but i’m the worse and always cuss when i come across something i like. great style. great meditation. richards nailed it with his comment. thanks, richard (damn you). this spoke to me on many levels. the glimpse of your kids was way cool. the detail of the dreary day set a nice tone. and like judy said: poetic.

    yup,
    r

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thanks, man. Seriously. And you needn’t worry about course language – I’ve heard it once or twice before (: and I appreciate the sincerity of passion. Much obliged, Mister Reno.

  17. Kristen Elde says:

    Amazing! Such rare (and eloquent) transparency. You express disorientation so well.

    “I occasionally make a misstep, a social faux pas, forgetting which world I’m in at the time. … I worry that I’ll just leave my desk and come back with a gutted doe. Or not come back at all.”

    Love that, feel that. (Minus the gutted doe concern.)

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thank you, Kristen. I suppose I express disorientation so well because I’ve had so much practice experiencing it. 😀

  18. I find it reassuring that there’s another person out there who thinks like me and has lead a similarly random life. I find it hard to look back and connect the dots. It’s like there have been dozens of Davids. I can see myself and take note of my memories, but I can’t recall exactly what I thought or felt, but I was so different.

    Of course, I’m a teacher now, so I can’t go into the various facets of my weird life. Not under my real name, anyway, or without pretending it’s fiction. But we seem to have gone down relatively similar paths.

    Your comment about running in different circles amuses me, too. I used to have a friend who thought my book collection was “gay” because “only fags read.” He was a close friend, yet all my other friends were hardcore book freaks.

    Oh yeah, and I dig the “atavistic” reference. For obvious reasons.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thanks, David. Have you ever played the “visualization game”, where you pick an iteration and imagine where you’d be if you remained static on that path? All the little decisions we make, the tiny little variations and deviations… what amazing differences they make down range, eh?

      I have very few friends to begin with and only two who knew me before the age of twenty seven. My social circles are definitely getting more homogenized but I still have my moments. I spent a long weekend training with some “civilian contractors” not too long ago, then went back to work with people arguing over which flavor of Linux was more “kick ass”. It took a little time to readjust. Yeesh.

      Feel free to email if you ever want to compare notes. I’m good at keeping secrets ;).

      • I’ve never played that game.

        I’m pretty good at culling. I seem to lose friends in one big go, then make a bunch of new ones. It’s not a particularly good skill, unless you enjoy reinventing yourself, but there we go.

        I think my old drinking buddies etc would be more than a little surprised to know that I’m a teacher with a girlfriend, two cats and a savings account. In fact, even I’m a little surprised. More than a little surprised.

        But yeah, it’s weird to think of your life and imagine the things that happen – then think about the alternate possibilities. I don’t even like to think about it. One of my high school teachers explain evolution and the big bang and whatnot… and explained that if any little thing had gone differently, the whole world would be different now.

        Which really isn’t that big of a concept to grasp. But my little stoned mind was freaked out at the time.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Yeah, it’s not a particularly productive game and should never be played when feeling maudlin but it has been a sometimes amusing distraction for me. So many little choices that all add up.

          Such as the choice to take on gainful, profitable employment… which means I’m off to another meeting. Sigh.

  19. Cheryl says:

    Hi Anon (I still have to refer to you as Anon, I can’t help it),
    I have been lurking for a couple of days, and re-reading this without the time to comment. This is such an evocative piece, and I can add my voice to the chorus in that you are not alone in looking around and wondering, “How did I get here from there?”

    I’ve long felt that the only consistency in my life is contradiction and inconsistency; and wondered if I am alone in this. Posts like this, and the comments that follow, remind me that it is a pretty universal human state of being.

    Some of my favorite parts:
    “I want to indulge myself. Challenge myself. Get back out in the real world, into the wet mist, away from mundane mendacity of my current life, sterile and perfunctory in my technological bubble. Closer to sincerity, to finality, to beauty.”

    and

    “… I’ve been in all those situations and “who I was” was different each time yet each one was true. Perplexing.”

    Indeed.

    So much more to say and so little time.

    However you got here, I am glad you are here. However I got here, I am glad I’m here too.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Cheryl, thank you. It’s funny – I thought I wrote this because I had something to say. I guess it turns out I wrote it because I had something to hear. A regular chorus, it seems.

      And I rather like “Anon”, truth be told. And I really like being here with you and everyone else, too.

      • Cheryl says:

        You say it so well, Anon. You had something to say and we had something to hear. Glad we could return the favor (sorry I’m out of tune – not really a chorus kind of gal, you know.)

        If you do end up gutting a doe on the conference table after all, please post a video of it on youtube so we can see your coworkers’ reactions. ‘Kay?

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Hey, you’re not out of tune, you’re singing a solo ;).

          I’m now laughing at my own imagery – carrying on a conversation about code release schedules, pausing and warning, “You might want to slide that chair over – I’ve gotta move the bladder for a sec and she might squirt a little.”

        • Lorna says:

          Ahahaha! Can I put in an order for some venison jerky? I will savor the flavor knowing you gutted the deer on the office conference table. 🙂

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Well, dibs on the backstrap but I’ll do what I can for you. Loin okay? 😀

  20. Ryan Day says:

    I love the way you bring us in and out of the present here. This made me very nostalgic for like every phase of my life at once… I grew up between rural Georgia and Urban Chicago where guns meant very different things. I like that you engage both here. Such an insane dissonance between playing robin hood in the fort you built by hand near the creek, and sneaking over chain link and hoping the Latin Kings aren’t under the bridge where you found the noose…

    We used to get chased off the basketball courts by some cops redneck son in a pickup in Georgia, but at least you were pretty sure he wasn’t going to shoot you… towards you maybe, but not at you. In Chicago you never knew. We ran real fast from a lot of courts growing up.

    And now, I’m sitting in a big open window over a beautiful little plaza in Spain… with a bunch of degrees under my belt, which I feel like I got pretty much by accident… and they let me teach people about books and stories… And I’m going to meet my fiance for a big fat dinner… And, yeah, I don’t know how I got here, but I like it, but its weird, but I like it… Thank you for a really beautifully written piece.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Thanks, Ryan. It’s funny how things only seem dramatically bizarre in hindsight, isn’t it? I remember a classic cartoon for The New Yorker – a map of how a Manhattanite sees the world. It was a detailed street map of midtown, vague landmarks in New Jersey and then the Pacific Ocean with blobs for Europe and Asia. It’s good to live in “here there be tygers” territory to gain perspective but sometimes… it can be disorienting when those fragments form a whole.

      I hope you enjoyed your dinner. Having spent the weekend planting my garden, I’m now sitting in my backyard – keeps sleeping, wife watching TV – enjoying the sunset with a glass of scotch at my right hand and my snoring Lab at my left. Nobody’s shot at me today so I guess I’ll get to see how “Lost” ends. 🙂

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