Yesterday evening as I was about to take the dogs over to my friend Louise for Thanksgiving dinner I discovered that my Bose in-ear headphones had given out. What happens is that the join between the wire and the jack, where it goes into the iPod, gets so banged up traveling around in my pocket that eventually, after a year or so, it can't make the connection to carry the sound. It's obvious that something is loose because if you wiggle the wire the sound flips from one ear to the other and you have to fiddle with it to get the sound in both ears, and that's a recipe for driving me crazy.
So yeah, every year and a half or so I end up buying another pair of these. But I use them A LOT. They pay for themselves. And when I don't have them--especially for the dog walk but also for blocking out a lot of horrible noise (store music, gum-chewing, stupid overheard conversations on Metro, etc.,)--I get kinda panicky.
Which meant that this morning I had to go into the fray. Nothing but this necessity would have induced me to go. I went to Target first, but they were out of them, so I went to BestBuy. They had lots of them, and a crowd, and cops everywhere. And when the assistant gets the headphones out of the locked cabinet he carries them to the cashier. Well when I got to the cashier they had vanished and I was irritable because this errand had already eaten up half of a day in which this errand was the very last thing I wanted to do. So some sort of assistant assistant went looking for them and found them. The place was filled with people who apparently wanted to be there, that is to say, it was filled with loons and idiots. Or maybe a person (me, too, for that matter) turns into an idiot just by entering any big retail chain on Black Friday.
The other thing is that I'm still recovering from last week, when I was jammed up against this deadline, had my father's girlfriend in the house, PMS, unusual social activity, and the usual round of anxieties that decided to hold a calypso carnival in my head all week. By Friday the combination of the girlfriend and the work and the anxiety had killed my appetite (how? You ask. I am not at liberty to say) and I was running a sleep deficit. I'm still not caught up on food or sleep. So I actually recruited Louise to go with me on this errand because I thought that if I snapped or got faint, well, she could stand in line. Because I could not go a day without the headphones. As it happened this backup plan proved unnecessary. But most of the day was now gone.
I went home and forced myself to eat a sandwich, which took the edge off the anxiety. Eating is to be recommended. Then I pretty much waited 20 minutes or so for my blood sugar to get back up to some sort of functional level, so that I could take the dogs out.
And this is where it gets good. Because now, it is early evening on a fall day, there's this sky, a bright intense blue with fluorescent pink clouds visible through the now bare branches of the trees, and all the land colors are sort of muted and purply brown and mysterious, and leaves are still floating to the ground, and it's not too cold, just brisk and sharp, and I have my new headphones and I listen to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf singing Schubert lieder. They just go together, days like this and music like that. It's like the music is in the atmosphere, and the things I'm seeing are making the music more emotionally vivid. I don't think I'm explaining it well. But it is this strange poignant pleasure, and it is enough. And this, more or less, was what I was able to save out of the day.
There is always this one day in November, every year, when I feel like I give up my resistance to the winter and instead go out walking to meet it. On that day I don't worry that the dark is coming on so early. I actually want to feel the cool air on my face. I don't want to go home till I'm tired and cold. I'm glad that all the clutter of leaves is gone from the trees and I feel as austere and wild and mysterious as they look. And it's weird how on that day every year, my personal All Hallows' Night as it were, what I want to listen to is Schubert.
So you see, I had to get the headphones.
Update: On YouTube you can also find Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing "Du Bist die Ruh" which I could have put here but it is too sublimely beautiful and therefore does not fit in with my plans for getting through the next several days.