Everything Is Broken Now

Everything is broken now.

Thus begin the lyrics to a song, Or the thoughts within a poem. The words spilled from my lips in a panicked sprint, as if attempting to avoid pain or danger or an enraged predator, angry that its first attempt at a kill had failed. More words followed, some rhyming and some avoiding the repetitive sing-song pattern that incensed the hunter. The song—if that’s what it was—escaped my mouth in a rush of words, its redundant chorus emphasizing the theme. Everything is broken now.

More than a day has passed since then. I did not post here yesterday.

Once the verses stumbled toward their awkward conclusions, I woke up. That is, if I really had been sleeping. I doubt the trance was actually slumber. More likely, it was an emotional coma, brought on by the late hour and the disturbing television programs of the night before. Augmented, without doubt, by gin & tonic and its earlier companion, red wine. Mixing the stuff is troublesome, and I know it, but it’s not deadly in small doses. I drank the liquid anesthesia sometime before 10:00. And I watched the television screen, fully awake, until 1:45. I consciously decided, just before 2:00, to try to sleep. And I did. But I woke yesterday at 4:00 and got out of bed for all of forty-five seconds, returning with a promise I would get up by 4:45. My promise was worth nothing. I woke up just after 7:00.  After showering and shaving, I dressed in jeans that no longer fit and decided to abandon my usual routine of writing—I had “written” enough during the brief period of sleep. I spent most of the remainder of the morning retrieving medications from the pharmacy and picking up old mail from the post office. And, of course, I tried to document the lyrics to the extent my memory allowed.

A friend brought me two bottles of his hand-crafted wine yesterday afternoon. We drank from a bottle of white Bahama Mama while discussing the species of wood he might use to craft an urn for my wife’s ashes. Another of his wine creations, a chocolate and orange hybrid he says people either love or hate, awaits tasting. While we chatted and sipped the wine, I volunteered I was pondering what I might want to do with what’s left of my life. I suggested to him I could become a geezer gigolo, given the number of single and widowed and otherwise lonely women in the Village; I think I must have been slightly drunk at the time of my suggestion. More realistically, I told him, the idea of a year of travel appeals to me, but COVID-19 and anarchy could effectively eliminate the option.  The few opportunities I have been able to take to meet virtual friends—bloggers and Facebook connections and a few followers of my blog—have confirmed for me that I want more. In some cases, I know what those people look like; I have seen their photographs. But in others the only concepts I have of their appearances are in my imagination. It’s interesting to me that, without even the slightest hints, I envision hair style and eye color, body shape, skin tones, and the shapes of their mouths when they smile. Experience tells me my visions usually are far from reality. Surprises keep me on my toes. Like this one; I have drifted far afield of where I was going when I started this paragraph.


I continued drinking other wine after my friend left. And I burned incense, despite my earlier misgivings; another friend suggested my reticence about doing that was misplaced; she observed that my wife would rather I burn incense to find comfort than to see me sad and broken. I use the term “friend” even when the word may not be completely appropriate. Calling someone—with whom one has an amiable and casual but not truly deep relationship—an “acquaintance” seems almost derogatory. But calling that person “friend” seems too familiar and a bit disingenuous. I lack the vocabulary I believe is necessary to describe degrees of relationship between close friend and utter stranger. Acquaintance seems to fall much closer to utter stranger than to friend, but what other words are there? The English language should have a spectrum of terms to describe relationships.  Consider the range of terms to describe romantic or sexual relationships: lover, paramour, sweetheart, beau, girlfriend, boyfriend…and on and on and on. But more casual or platonic relationships? Acquaintance, pal, chum, associate…the pickings are slim and awkward.

As I gaze at the lists above, I notice my use of girlfriend and boyfriend. Those terms convey different meanings, depending on the sexual orientation and the sex of the players. Women often use the term girlfriends to describe both friends and acquaintances of the same sex; the term boyfriend seems to suggest a closer, nonplatonic engagement. Many, if not most, men would be hesitant to call a male friend or acquaintance boyfriend. They would be equally hesitant to call a woman girlfriend unless the relationship clearly was romantic and/or sexual in nature. These observations or, more correctly, assumptions rely on my heterosexual identity; I might see things differently if I were gay or bisexual. Who knows? I don’t.


Sunday, my regular “yard-guy” came by with his colleague to blow leaves and otherwise tend to making my lots look reasonably well-maintained. The cost of the service, while probably reasonable, is considerable. I have, for years, toyed with the idea of buying a gas-powered backpack blower; spending $300-$400 now could save me literally thousands over the course of a few years. Or, the expense might encourage me to attempt to scale steep slopes and walk on unstable ground when I should not. I could die by smashing my head against sharp rocks because of losing my balance and falling. Or, I could move to a place with safer surface area. Or, I could devote time and effort to improving my strength, endurance, and balance, minimizing the likelihood of yard-work-related death or disability. Such seemingly minor matters grow more pressing as years go by. I write this paragraph as if I really am a geezer. I’m not. Yet. My father climbed up on the roof and otherwise took unwise risks well into his late seventies. I’m just past my mid-sixties, yet I seem to think I am more fragile than I am. I’m not fragile. At least not physically. Physically, I am just a tad out of shape; nothing that a bit of discipline and exercise can’t fix. “A tad” may be an understatement. Still, I’m repairable. My legs, especially, are strong and as stable as mesquite. Hmm. Something to not only think about, but do something about.


I will pick up a grocery order this morning. If I had been thinking clearly when I put in my order, I would have ordered some breakfast sweets. For reasons unknown to me, I lately have an appetite for cinnamon roles or apple crisps or something equally as unhealthy but just as satisfying. But, no. Instead, I ordered radishes and a cucumber and bananas and apples and tomatoes and broccoli and cheese and several inedibles like deodorant and paper towels and Dove bath soap. I tried to order dishwashing tablets, but the store does not have the ones I want in stock. So, Amazon probably will come to the rescue. As it did yesterday, when I ordered a used paperback book and an assortment of incense. My life is too easy; I can order what I want online, while many millions the world over do not have access to adequate clean water and sufficient food to keep them alive. Or maybe my life is not too easy; maybe theirs is just too hard. Or, maybe, we exist at two ends of a spectrum, when a point somewhere in the middle is where all of us should be.


I finished Bad Blood. I continue watching Hinterland. and Queen’s Gambit and various other things that keep me occupied and fill my mind with unnecessary but deeply appreciated diversions. I want a massage, given by someone who views the process not as a financial transaction, but as a healing gift. Even after acknowledging my life of unnecessary luxury, I still “want” as oppose to “need.” The very idea that I would rather appreciate what I have as opposed to what I desire is yet another “want.” I want to be a different, decent, better person. I want that. But do I need that? Maybe I don’t, but others do. The reward of giving. Reward. We seek rewards, even in altruism. I want a hug. I want an embrace. I need to give an embrace to someone who needs it more than I. This paragraph, like so many before, is attempting to slip into a worm-hole.

And I still need to see my doctor to have him remove skin defects, whether with scalpel or with a red-hot iron or with a sharpened axe and a pocket knife. Maybe later. You’d be surprised there’s so much to be done. Count all the bees in the hive. Chase all the clouds from the sky.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Everything Is Broken Now

  1. David, I know the real deal only too well. I’ll steer clear of the dangerous stuff, though I’ll try to do enough to begin to bridge the gap, physically and financially. I’m in favor of gin & tonic; and I’ll happily pay the guys who need money more than I do when I’m in a position to do it. When the weather cooperates, we ought to sit a safe distance apart on my deck and talk philosophies; that might be both fun and educational, at least for me!

  2. davidlegan says:

    Well, this isn’t House a Pooh Corner. Unfortunately, it’s the real deal.

    John, in my past life as a real estate broker in Shreveport, I knew two men who, in their forties, climbed upon their homes to sweep leaves, and spent the rest of their lives in wheelchairs. Not worth it. You and I should not be performing physical tasks that can be hired out for ten bucks an hour. Those guys need work, we need gin and tonic.

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