After a short brush with winter, temperatures are beginning to moderate; proving, again, that the third week of October can remain harsh and summer-like. Although, to be fair, 61°F does not feel especially summer-like. The expected high of 81°F, though, may remind me that summer remains on the prowl.
My sister-in-law is taking me out for breakfast this morning, in celebration of my birthday, which was yesterday. We’re going to the Track Kitchen, an operation that originally was set up for the jockeys, trainers, and other people deeply enmeshed in horse-racing and related equine endeavors. I still find it difficult to believe that, for the last forty years or so, I have climbed steadily and certainly toward the precipice of geezerhood. It is hard to determine the precise moment when the journey toward age discrimination began. Perhaps it was at age 18, when my obligation to vote and take up arms in defense of my country’s imperialist impulses commenced. Or maybe it was at age 21, when I was permitted to consume alcohol, legally, in a pointless attempt to deaden the pain of knowing my pedigree—as a member of Western civilization for whom war and war-like behavior was and is a significant aspect of my heritage.
But that’s not the topic for today’s breakfast, is it? No, today’s topic revolved around a post-birthday celebratory breakfast. That is, just a happy acknowledgment of the pleasures associated with early breakfast. The Track Kitchen opens at 6:30, about an hour later than a breakfast eatery should open for business but at least a couple of hours earlier than most other so-called breakfast eateries. My sister-in-law and I should arrive about the time the doors open, so our breakfasts will be among the first ones prepared today. I am willing to be a guinea pig in the name of flavor. And off we go, in just a matter of minutes.
Some mornings, I realize I have the freedom to simply drive away. Just disappear into the early morning darkness. I have the freedom, but with it comes the realization that exercising it would be an act of extreme cruelty. I cannot imagine behaving in such a cruel and callous way. Yet the appeal of anonymity is incredibly strong. The obscurity that accompanies being a complete stranger has a ferociously strong appeal. But overcoming that attraction is a stronger obligation than is yielding to it.
All of us have more freedom than we are willing to acknowledge. Our freedoms are broader and more beautiful and dangerous than we know. We have the capacity to upend our own lives and the lives of countless others around us. All we need do is step out the door and keep going…ignoring the expectation that we will return…dismissing the hideous torture to which we would thereby expose people who matter to us. The allure of anonymous freedom is rarely strong enough to make us act on it. The appeal of blending in with grey crowds in distant places simply does not have the power to easily overcome empathy, compassion, love, and all the other emotional strings that tie us to the lives we live. But the fantasy of expunging our existence…the illusion that we could erase all previous experience and eliminate in others the memory of our existence…remains. Even in the face of knowing that any attempt at erasure would unleash emotional firestorms capable of melting entire galaxies. And, so, we secretly dream, despite knowing we have been sentenced to life. On we go.
Darkness persists. The forest creatures wait. They will watch us drive away, soon, and they will watch when we return in full daylight.