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Instructions for a Happy Day MAG
You will wake up early. Not early like cotton-throated and scratchy-eyed mornings. Early like the color of sycamore and silver birch creeping round the curtains. Early like flimsy shadows and dust on the windows and birds chewing away the night with raucous wings. You will kneel in bed and hang your legs out the window to breathe.
You’ll get your bike and pedal it so fast that the wind will hurt you, but you won’t consider that hour to be a paper round or an exercise regime. You’ll think of it as an opportunity to fill your lungs with something other than computer screens. You’ll think of it as a chance to roar down empty roads, young and fractional and untethered. If you have to wait at the traffic lights, you won’t curse or punch your handlebars because you’ll realize instead that those minutes spent “on hold” give you a little longer to pretend. To pretend that you are eight years old again and can contain a world inside you. That you are living somewhere above the tarmac but below the sky.
You’ll talk to your dad when you eat breakfast because you don’t talk to him enough and because it makes you feel lighter when you do. The radio will churn in the background and then play a beautiful old song that you will have almost forgotten to remember.
When you walk to the bus stop, the sky will be blue with streaks of cloud strung across it like jolted pens or white tire prints. The bus won’t arrive on time, because that’s asking too much, but it won’t have lagged far enough behind to aggravate you. You will find its contents not irritating but entertaining. You will realize that one day, perhaps ten years from now, you will get on a public bus and long to be a part of the tumultuous group of schoolkids at the back. So you will know better than to resent the noise. You will be grateful that you are still involved in all its careless crudeness.
You will not dismiss the day on principle – because it is a Tuesday or because you have History – but will accept everything as it comes. You will live for what it is, not what it is called. You will tie the dark bits to helium balloons and the sunlit bits to sand bags. You will employ a butterfly net to retrieve the laughter that is spilled.
You will chat to those who chat to you, regardless of whether they are the sort who will buy you credibility. You will pass smiles back to those who pass smiles to you – as though they are paper airplanes – and you will loan a pen to the boy who never has one. You will find better things than bitter words with which to fill your teeth and sweeter songs than sulking with which to tune your strings.
You will not pre-guess your doom or your future or try to stave it away with self-deprecation. Because when did calling yourself a failure become flattering? And when did all our misery and ugly, tarnished corners start to seem appealing and worthy of display? And when did we all recommend it to one another as though repeating our cycles of insufficiencies could reduce our flaws in number or in size?
When you return from school you will lure your body into angles and garnished lines and arabesques that flow like brush strokes. You will lick the sweat from your upper lip and know that you are tasting ballet. You will know that ballet is beautiful. You will unzip your heart, unfold your rib cage, untangle your aspirations, and let them balance upon the cadenzas of your ecstasy. You will not look in the mirror too often or pay too much attention to the sensation of your toenails bruising backward into your skin. Instead you will hinge your body into alignment and let every withheld secret pour from the 26 bones in your feet.
You will be driven home by your dad with the windows down – regardless of the season – and your elbow hanging over the edge in the way that makes you feel relaxed.
When the sun sets you will not think too much about tomorrow or the weeks that will follow, and neither will you think too much about yesterday. You won’t think about two years ago, or six years ago, or 12 years ago because you might as well be throwing a tennis ball into the atmosphere and expecting it not to return. Instead you will remind yourself that this is your atmosphere, this is your tennis ball, this is your present tense – your future past – and each blade of grass wants to be remembered. Each leaf wants to be beatified; each footstep wants to be relished. Each blink is older than the one before it.
So you will breathe,
See the sun bleeding shut and the birds on the power lines,
And realize that the air is not so dense after all.