The Paperwork

by Jeff Oaks

My to-do list is growing these days. Spring maybe. Maybe I’m distracted by birdsong and breathable air. The administrative work I’m letting gather dust seems to have a powerful repulsive field around it. I’m keeping a general list of things owed, things that need to be sent, said, seen and assessed, but all I want to do is go to the gym and run outside with the dog.

For eight years I’ve lived alone, burnt by my last relationship’s failures. It had been a good time: my job had improved, my bank account stabilized, I learned to cook for myself, I wrote a ton and even began sending things out. Things I’m proud to have written were actually published. One dog I loved died but a new even better one found his way to me. I lived in a virtual writer’s paradise: getting to teach what I love, having enormous amounts of time to write or dream or grow bored in, reading what and how I wanted.

But then this winter, I woke up and felt a terrible ache to be touched, a want of human, male, intimate companionship. After the past year of preparing for and then living in the aftermath of my mother’s death, of a new architecture of life and living, the erotic was rushing up again. I joined the faculty gym and began working out. I joined a couple of dating sites and was surprised frankly at the level of interest, thinking I might meet at least one person who’d somehow manage to like me despite my constant sense of doubt, who’d forgive that. I’ve met a bunch of really good, nice guys who, in turns out, are similarly afflicted and know that self-doubt, as long as it’s not crippling, is a sign of maturity, of having lived. Who find the ways that doubt has made me thoughtful very sexy.

The realization that I might be thought of as sexy at nearly fifty has completely disrupted my nice, neat scheduled life. I’m not unhappy about it. It’s just a surprise from what I was taught to think about being “old”. I expected to have to learn to love paperwork, to be the helpful guiding mentor for younger people. To sign the forms necessary for their parties to happen. To be a signature and a smiling avuncular presence.

But today, April Fool’s Day, I feel instead like I’m drinking the champagne of life again. O Spring, let the paperwork pile up a little. Who will even notice if it doesn’t get done? No one but the faceless who depend on paperwork to live.