Not Even Past
a daily story
Phil sets up a profile on okcupid.
1/1 Phil Gaffigan wakes and says to himself,
“This year will be different.”
1/2 During his planning period, Phil adds
specifics to his list of resolutions:
– Lose Weight (40 pounds by summer)
– Meet Someone (go on at least 3 dates)
– The Project (for real this year, study
– Less Internet (1 hour a day, maybe 2)
– Keep Diary (at least once a week)
1/3 Phil orders the Son of Baconator instead
of his regular Baconator at the Wendy’s
drive-thru. He gets the combo with chili,
no cheese, and a medium coke.
Phil sits in the parking lot and watches the
passing cars and pale evening sky while
he eats. Halfway through, he thinks
maybe he should have gone for the
Asiago Ranch Chicken Club.
1/4 Phil’s neighbor pokes his head out of his
garage and waves.
“Some week,” he says.
“That it is! Or was,” Phil says, fumbling
with his keys.
“Got anything lined up for the weekend?”
“Not much, you know. Going down to see
1/5 Phil and his mother watch Roseanne on
TVland until it starts to repeat mid-
afternoon. She won’t admit to liking it, but
she doesn’t change the channel either.
Roseanne begins working at the salon,
goes on a diet, files taxes, has a birthday,
fights with Jackie, makes up with Jackie.
Jackie often makes Phil tear up.
1/6 Phil writes in a new notebook:
Well, so far so good. I read somewhere
that it’s harder to keep a diary going if
you’re happy. So maybe if I don’t keep
this so regular, that’s a good thing! Ha!
Bet I have a ton of January diaries around
here somewhere. But this time’s going to
be different. It’s got to be. For one, I’m
really getting up there (officially!) and
time’s definitely passing quicker each
year. My memory’s shot, and it wasn’t
anything special to begin with! Seriously, I
can hardly remember last year. Did
anything much happen? I really have to
record things better. And not just on
Kinda lost control today. Not really a
binge, but definitely a slip-up. And after 3
days of being good too. Maybe I should
keep a food diary.
Honestly, feels like just another Sunday.
Nothing new, really. 2013 still looks weird
when I write it, like it doesn’t fit. Got to
keep my new year’s mojo going
Mom didn’t mention the blowup at xmas
yesterday. Didn’t say much of anything.
Man, I’m usually a lot more optimistic than
this. Pretty content, all said and done.
Been moping around the house too much
today. Maybe what I read about diaries
was that you don’t usually write about
happy things. Got to work on that.
1/7 Phil thinks of a great idea for a facebook
post in the shower but forgets by the time
1/8 Phil falls asleep early watching Ancient
Aliens. He wakes hours later and
stumbles around the house turning off all
1/9 Phil does 3 loads of laundry, cleans out
the fridge, and scrubs the bathroom floor.
A productive night.
1/10 On the way to work, Phil hears the
weekend forecast calling for clouds and
rain. Then he makes 3 yellow lights in a
row and everything seems like it’ll work
out ok. He kisses his palm and touches it
to the roof of his car with each light.
1/11 Phil discovers that all of Family Ties is
available on hulu for free. There goes my
weekend, he thinks.
1/12 Phil waits to run errands at 4:00, when the
whole city is watching the game.
1/13 Phil writes in his notebook:
Going to have to keep this one short. So
much grading still left. Where has the
weekend gone? Story of my Sunday
Actually was a pretty relaxing weekend
overall (except for the racket next door –
wonder what he’s building this time).
Watched tons of the early seasons of
Family Ties. Really brought back a lot of
memories. Though I didn’t remember
Jennifer being so funny!
Not doing so great with my being online
resolution. I’ve got to get out more. Maybe
see some actual movies in the theater.
Especially now that all the Oscar
nominations are out – got to catch up!
Should see friends more too. Maybe I’ll
see if Alex is free later this week. Sure
been a while. Really miss seeing that guy.
Good week food-wise. Only one bad
night. Man, I remember when one
Stouffer’s lasagna was enough. Just a few
years back, and I was still this same size
too. I seriously think they changed the
recipe and made them smaller. Or at least
Want to wait a bit longer to actually get on
the scales. So when I do, I’ll be able to
see some real change!
1/14 Both of Phil’s legs fall asleep after he
plays Temple Run too long on the toilet.
1/15 Phil sees two college kids holding hands
at Kroger and remembers the fantasy he
used to have about shopping as a couple.
Combing the aisles together for the
thousands of meals they would share.
Each shelf so full of possibilities.
1/16 On the way home from school, Phil’s
mother calls and asks if he’s coming
down this weekend. Phil says he’s not
sure, that he has a lot going on right now.
His mother asks what he could possibly
have to do that’s so important. Besides,
doesn’t he have a 3-day weekend?
1/17 Phil half-wakes from a nightmare and lies
frozen in bed. All he can think of is a
closed door. Behind that door, there is a
man. He can’t see the man, but Phil
knows he’s there. The man stands just on
the other side, face to the door, waiting.
1/18 Ian Rook, the AP English teacher, peers
down at Phil’s salad as he passes
through the teacher’s lounge and says,
“Good for you, sir. Good for you.”
Paula Hager, the Geometry teacher, leans
in after he leaves and says, “Don’t pay
any attention to him, Phil.”
1/19 Phil spends the whole morning catching
up on facebook. He likes 13 posts, 7
comments, 31 photos, and shares 2 funny
e-cards. He jumps from timeline to
timeline until his eyes ache.
1/20 Phil meets his mother for lunch. She tells
him how nice the service was.
“I think I’d like to try the Zesty Roma
Chicken and Shrimp,” Phil says.
“What, is that supposed to be good?” his
“It’s new. One of their under 550 calories
“Well, I’ll be. Isn’t that Richard’s daughter
over there in the corner booth?”
1/21 Phil sees the Geico commercial about
Eddie Money running a travel agency
5 times throughout the day. The look on
Eddie’s face as he sings “Two Tickets to
Paradise” cracks Phil up every time.
1/22 Before class, Phil writes in his notebook:
How is it that I have this long weekend
and still end up putting everything off until
the end? Especially the most important
It’s been 3 weeks now since the new year,
and what can I say? Little progress on
internet habits. None at all on dates and
the project. This diary is the only thing I’ve
kept up with, and even it’s late.
And then the weight. I got on the scales
last week, even after I said I was going to
wait. Needed a little boost. And then I saw
it: 1 pound. Only 1 pound lost! So I
doubled down right after, got super
serious. Went to bed hungry most nights. I
don’t know what’s worse than feeling both
hungry and fat.
Well, I can imagine a lot worse, I guess.
Should be grateful if that’s the worst of it.
Let’s see, what else? Caught some of the
inauguration yesterday. I’m not real
political but what I saw was nice. So funny
how Al Roker got both the president’s and
vice-president’s attention during the
parade. Biden even ran over and shook
hands. What a guy.
Ok, gotta go. Kids will be here in 2
minutes. At least this week will be a short
1/23 Phil searches for a box of old self-help
books in the garage. He finds his National
Geographics and Chewbacca suit but not
the box he wants.
1/24 While eating his Special K, Phil watches
squirrels on a telephone wire playing
or flirting or dueling or teasing.
1/25 In the teacher’s lounge, Sara Beth Crouse
and Paul Estes wave Phil over.
“Hey, Phil,” says Sara Beth. “Can we ask
“Sure, guys,” Phil says. “What is it?”
Paul leans back to make sure the copy
room is empty too. “It’s about Ian Rook.”
“About why he’s such a prick,” says
Phil grins. “Oh, you mean AP night?”
“We mean every single day.” Sara Beth
leans in. “What the hell is wrong with
“Oh, he’s always been that way. A real
Mr. Tedesco,” Phil says.
“Mr. who?” asks Sara Beth.
“Did he used to teach here or
something?” asks Paul.
“Sorry, never mind.” Phil steps sideways
toward the fridge. “Before your time.”
1/26 On his way out to meet Alex, Phil sees his
neighbor dragging a heavy bag into his
“Howdy, professor,” Phil says. “Need a
“Thanks, Phil. I got it.”
Phil nods and waves, then ducks into his
car already warming in the driveway.
1/27 Phil writes in his notebook:
What a nice weekend this turned out to
be. Snow day Friday so the week was
extra short. Went in to pick up quizzes and
ended up staying the whole afternoon.
But it was good! Got caught up on
everything, so the rest of my weekend
was wide open.
Finally got ahold of Alex and met up last
night. It was great to see him. We can go
months and just pick up like no time has
passed. But then I remember why we
don’t get together more often. Guy’s really
sweet, but man oh man is he exhausting.
Everything’s a production. And he has the
hardest time enjoying anything. Still wants
out of his job. Still wants out of Kentucky.
He’s been saying that as long as I’ve
He’s really got so much going for him,
though. Still sharp as ever. His 30s
haven’t dulled his brain one bit. Not like
yours truly! Abby’s still great too. She
popped in before heading out herself.
Wish she would’ve stuck around. Alex is
so much looser with her there.
We ended up talking a lot about people
we both knew on facebook. He says it’s
kind of like a game to him. How much can
he figure out about people’s lives from
their posts. I asked him how he ever knew
if he was right, since it’s not like he ever
talks to anyone on there. He said he didn’t
know. Would never know.
Typical Alex. Glad I saw him, but I’m
probably good now for another few
months. Sometimes I just want to say to
him: it’s not as bad as all that, is it? Is it?
But if I did, I bet he’d say: typical Phil. Ha!
You got me.
1/28 Phil is staring at the moonlight on his
comforter and trying to fall asleep when
he remembers where to find that box of
He heads to the garage but pauses in
the doorway. He doesn’t want to get the
bottoms of his new slippers dirty, but he
doesn’t want to go back and change
He steps out of his slippers and down
onto the cold cement.
1/29 Phil rummages through the box before
bed. It’s filled with his father’s most prized
books. The Power of Positive Thinking,
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,
Awaken the Giant Within.
Phil remembers his father dropping by
unannounced to give them to him. The
look on his dad’s face as he held them
1/30 At dinner, Phil spills barbecue sauce on
his yellow shirt with blue parrots, his
1/31 Phil listens to the radio in the parking lot
at Wendy’s. A caller asks Delilah to play
her and her husband’s special song.
They’re separated right now, but she
hopes he might hear it, somehow.
Phil sings along to the chorus:
Walking in Memphis
Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Walking in Memphis
But do I really feel the way I feel?
2/1 Phil wakes to a snow day. His mind
flutters with plans. The day is wide open.
Anything could happen. Then he falls
back to sleep.
2/2 Phil leaves AMC on and catches
snippets of Groundhog Day all day long.
2/3 Phil eats way too much 7 layer dip.
2/4 Phil writes in his notebook:
Thought we might get another snow day
but no. It’s for the best. Wasted the last
one. The whole weekend, really. Got the
DVR down from 98% to 73% full.
Last night was a total failure. Went to the
department’s Super Bowl party. Was a
little out of sorts with them ragging on
students like usual. Switched seats but
ended up too close to the food table. And
then it was just like before, like nothing
had changed in the last month. I must
have gained back every one of the 3
pounds I’ve lost, all in one sitting. It’s like
that story where a guy pushes a boulder
up a hill only to have it roll back down
every time. Every dang time. What’s his
name? It’s just like that.
Also, got kind of down after watching
Shark Tank. Seriously, what am I waiting
for? There was this rabbi on there with a
piece of plastic that bends sound around
to the front of an Ipad. Simplest little
device, and the rabbi was so funny and
smart and charming. He made a deal with
Damon but had an offer from Robert too
(who I always thought would be nice to
work with). Man, it’s like his whole world is
going to change now. And the rabbi
deserves it! He really knew his stuff.
What am I doing? What’s different so far
this year? I don’t mean to be so down, but
I’m really getting tired of the same old
same old. If Dad were still around, he
would tell me to pick myself up. Your life is
your own. You’ve got to take it in hand.
But it doesn’t feel that way right now.
I don’t feel it.
2/5 “Would someone please wake him?”
Kyle rattles Jake’s desk. “Dude. Mr. G can
totally see you sleeping.”
“Are you with us now, Jake?”
“History class is a nightmare to which I’d
rather not awake,” Jake says.
“Is that some kind of joke?” Phil asks.
2/6 On his way out, Phil rubs the wooden
animal head built into his mantelpiece.
2/7 “But when did Dad know he wasn’t going
to make it?”
“Why in the world are you asking me all
“I was going through some of his stuff last
week. Just trying to get the timing
“That was so long ago, Phil. I can hardly
be expected to remember every little
“Mom, please. You forget nothing.”
2/8 Phil spends half an hour browsing netflix
instant but can’t find anything he feels like
watching besides Cheers.
2/9 Phil slips into Walmart just before
midnight. It’s practically empty. As he
searches the shelves, he remembers a
story he heard about late night sightings
of aliens in the aisles. The pale, thin kind.
Something about store lights shining off
buffed floors so you might only see their
black eyes, at first.
Phil takes his corners slowly.
2/10 Phil writes in his notebook:
Just reread the past few entries. Man,
writing sure brings out the complainer in
me. Things really aren’t so bad. Course
days have their ups and downs, but most
are pretty good in the end. I sleep well
enough, and I’m always excited about
what the next day might bring. You just
I’ve been thinking today I should write
down things I’m thankful for. To at least
balance things out.
First, my health. I do need to lose some
weight, but the doctor said I was decently
fit for someone my size. And I don’t even
look my age. People are always surprised
when I tell them. My skin’s clear and my
hair’s good. Still that little wave and
Money’s fine too. House payments
steady, no new credit cards, not wanting
for much. Mom’s always telling me to live
a little already, but it’s not like I don’t do
what I want. Job’s secure and easy
enough. Maybe I’m not the best teacher,
but I’m certainly not the worst! Kids are
nice too, mostly. And with summers to
myself, I can’t really complain about the
I do have some habits I’d like to change,
but they’re not so serious. Not like I drink
or smoke or anything. Just some daily
stuff. Oh, and have good friends too. Wish
we could see more of each other, but I
know they’re busy. That’s something else
– I’m not too busy. Really have time to do
what I want.
So I shouldn’t complain. Perspective, Phil,
perspective! Sometimes I just overreact to
little things. Like last night…ended up
spooking myself over something silly. Got
this image stuck in my head of an alien
from a movie I saw in high school. Slowly
peeking around the corner of a dresser.
Ug, don’t even want to write it now. So
stupid. It’s not like I really believe in
aliens. But I couldn’t shake the feeling it
The whole thing made the house feel a lot
emptier today. That feeling like I was
being watched. Course, whenever I
turned to look behind me, nothing. But
still. Funny, these haunted feeling days at
least feel more memorable.
When I look back at the entries here, it’s
crazy how little I remember of the days in
between. If I try real hard and do the math,
I can sometimes figure out when certain
things must have happened. Then the
details might come back. But mostly no,
just days and days mushed together.
What I need to figure out is how to make
the days more memorable. Without
scaring myself half to death, that is!
2/11 Phil’s sister leaves a message on his
phone during class. She says to call back
if he gets this in the next 15 minutes.
Otherwise, she’ll just try him later in the
week when things are less hectic.
2/12 Phil realizes too late that he’s out of toilet
paper, and there’s no spare under the
sink. The extra rolls are in the hall closet.
2/13 After dinner, Phil calculates that he finally
made it through a whole day on less than
2,000 calories. He decides to go to bed
early, just to be safe.
2/14 At the end of school, Phil runs by his
mailbox in the teacher’s lounge and stuffs
all the papers in his bag. Only later at
home does he find, amidst observation
forms and safety reminders, a typed letter
from a secret admirer.
2/15 Phil sits in the parking lot and watches the
teachers and students enter the building.
He sees a stain under a window that he’s
never noticed before. He sees a still-
burning cigarette roll along the sidewalk.
He sees someone else sitting in a car.
Phil is suddenly afraid to go in.
2/16 Phil spends most of the afternoon going
through a shoebox of stuff from his ex-
He finds a note dated February 16th but a
decade past. It says:
Go ahead and make yourself comfortable
if I’m not home when you get here. Can
you also take out the soup and put it on
the stove? You’ll never believe what kind I
2/17 Phil writes in his notebook:
Something crazy has happened. I was
going to write earlier, but I didn’t know
what to say. I still don’t! But I’m about to
burst, and I don’t know who else to tell.
So, on Thursday I got this…love letter. Is
that what I should call it? At first I thought it
was a joke. I mean, these things don’t
happen in real life. Just too crazy. But
then I thought: why would someone go to
all that trouble?
Friday was weird because suddenly I was
looking at everyone like: Is it you? Is it
you? I really felt paranoid or something.
Guess I’m most afraid that it’s a woman
who doesn’t know. But practically
everyone knows! Plus, the letter does
sound like a man. Still, I need to make a
list and try to narrow down the
The whole crazy thing has turned me
upside down. Bringing back all these
memories of feelings I thought were long
gone. Even got out the dreaded shoebox
yesterday. My ex-box, ha! The weird thing
is, while I do remember a lot of the
feelings from back then, there are all
these things he mentions that I can barely
recall. Little daily things that I’m sure were
important at the time. At least I understand
better now why he was always such a nut
about keeping records and dating
(His handwriting does still get me, I have
I don’t know, everything just feels different
now. Like I’m in a movie or something. For
once I wish we didn’t have tomorrow off. It
just feels like the world out there is so full
2/18 Phil paces the house. He tries to grade.
He flips between channels. He clicks
from site to site. He stares into the fridge.
He gazes through the blinds. He checks
the mail again and again until he
remembers it’s a holiday.
2/19 Phil wakes 30 minutes before his alarm.
He takes a scalding shower, brushes
twice, shaves extra carefully, doubles up
on deodorant, gets his hair just right, and
dresses in his most slimming shirt. Before
leaving, he decides to add – why not? – a
splash of cologne.
2/20 The handsome new Physics teacher,
Ben Maddox, smiles at Phil in the hallway.
Phil smiles back, gives a little wave.
2/21 “Could be raccoons,” Phil’s neighbor
says. “Very smart animals. Natural
“Maybe it’s just dogs,” Phil says.
“I doubt that. The local strays never
struck me as particularly bright.”
Phil starts rolling his can up the driveway.
His neighbor says, “Whatever the case,
we can’t be having our garbage strewn
all over the neighborhood.”
2/22 Rita Campbell, the Algebra II teacher,
sticks her head in during Phil’s planning.
“They tell you about the open house this
“That they did, thanks.”
“They’ve got me running around like a
madwoman reminding everybody!”
“Well you can check me off your list!”
“Word of advice: always look busy during
“Don’t I always, though!”
“By the way, looking sharp today, Phil.”
“Oh. Well…thank you.”
2/23 Phil’s mother asks if he saw the news
report on channel 18 about his old high
“They said it’s haunted and whatnot.
Lights coming on at night, footsteps in the
halls, desks rearranging themselves.
That kind of stuff.”
“Now mom. You don’t believe in any of
“No. But you do.”
2/24 Phil writes in his notebook:
Interesting week, that’s for sure. But I don’t
know what to make of it. Maybe I’m a little
rusty at reading the signs. I’m going to
start a list of possible people, just to keep
So first, the known single men at school:
Hal Warner, Rodney Hopkins, Cecil
Walker, Ben Maddox. I know Ben is a
stretch, a hope! I’ve never heard him
mention a girlfriend, but then I’ve only
spoken to him twice. He was friendly this
week, true, but he’s always friendly to
everybody. If I’m being honest, I can’t
imagine him writing a letter like that. He’s
too straightforward, doesn’t seem the kind
to mess around. Plus, he’s just too hot!
As for the others, Hal is certainly a nice
guy. Helped me out a number of times
with some of the problem kids. Hard to tell
with guidance counselors, though. Been
I hope to god it’s not Rodney. I can never
tell if his jokes are just in bad taste or if
he’s the biggest homophobe in the
school. He’s always been nice to me one
on one, but the man’s kind of gross, to be
Which leaves Cecil Walker. Now that
would be something for the history books!
A dead serious, no nonsense blowhard
like our department chair writing little old
me love notes! Simply not possible.
Of course, this doesn’t include any
married ones. At least they’d have a
reason to write in secret. But none of them
give off signals, except maybe Paul Estes.
Though his are definitely mixed. Literature
guys are tough to read. Ha! (Dear lord just
let it not be Ian Rook.)
I guess I can’t discount the possibility of it
being one of the women. Rita was sweet
last week. She’s certainly been through
enough – I would hate to disappoint her.
And I do get along with many of the
others, too many to list. (Yikes, just
remembered Betty Jo Crenshaw back at
Homecoming. Ack.) Only if it was
someone like Josephine Overstreet would
I be really shocked. Such a classy lady! It
would kind of be an honor.
I don’t know what to do next. I’m no
detective, that’s for sure, so even writing it
out like this is probably useless. Maybe I
should just write a letter back. Leave it in
my own box and hope he checks soon.
Maybe that’s too risky. Maybe he’ll write
again on his own. Who knows!
2/25 During breakfast, Phil checks the Oscar
winners he slept through. He wonders if
Argo would be a good date movie.
2/26 Phil notices Gene lingering by his map of
the Fertile Crescent after class.
“How’s it going there, Gene?”
“Good, sir, good.”
“Your mom doing ok?”
Gene makes no move to leave. He rattles
the earphones in his hand like dice.
“Those boys giving you any more
trouble?” Phil asks.
“Not since Christmas break.”
“Well, if you ever again need me to”
“I will, sir…thank you. I’ve been meaning
to tell you. Thank you, I mean.”
2/27 Before the first bell, Phil tries to listen in
as Kaylee tells the crowd of girls
around her desk how her boyfriend’s
cousin’s stepmom once babysat
2/28 Phil struggles to write a letter to his secret
admirer after dinner. He doesn’t even
know how to begin. Dear Sir (or Madam)?
To whom it may concern? Dear you know
3/1 Phil finds a second letter in his school
mailbox. It’s in the same fake handwriting
font but much more explicit than before.
He quickly hides it in his bag, along with
the letter he wrote before school.
3/2 Phil writes in his notebook:
Now I’m really confused. If I had actually
delivered my letter just a day earlier,
everything might be different!
I’d just about given up when I wrote it.
Written the whole thing off as some weird
fluke. When I reread the first letter on
Thursday, it just seemed kind of vague.
Like it could have been written to
anybody. Or put in the wrong box by
So I wrote that there must have been
some misunderstanding. No hard
feelings. I guess it was kind of a test to
see if the person would even check.
For once, it was a good thing I waited so
long to do anything. Well, maybe. The
second letter is kind of nuts. And there’s
no mistaking it’s for me (he even noticed
I’d been dressing up a little more
recently). He asked all these personal
questions. Like really personal! I can’t
even write them down.
I was all ready to try and forget the whole
thing, but now I don’t know what to do.
The second letter has stirred things up all
over again. And the new tone is kind of…
exciting? I guess I always have liked
But how do I respond to that? I think I’ve
forgotten how! My mind keeps going to my
ex. Though that’s probably too serious, at
least right now. This person almost seems
like he just wants an encounter. (Which
also sounds nice.) But why go to such
trouble if that’s all he wants?
He sounds complicated, perhaps
conflicted or kind of new to this. I don’t
know, maybe I could be the experienced
one this time. Part of me is still hesitating,
but I don’t know why.
3/3 Phil heads down to the river, crosses on
the ferry, and drives the backroads of the
county he grew up in.
3/4 Phil sings “Against All Odds” in the
3/5 “Come say hi to your Uncle Phil!”
“How are the girls doing?”
“They were just asking when you…Greg!
Get the girls in here!”
“Bern, it’s fine…”
“Tell them I’ve got their Uncle Phil on the
“Listen Phil, I’m really sorry about
Christmas. I should’ve had your back, I
should have. But you know Greg didn’t
mean it. And jesus you know how mom
can be. You know the crazy shit she
comes out with sometimes.”
“No, tell them I said RIGHT NOW!”
3/6 Phil likes and then unlikes a photo of his
ex. He hopes he’s in time to stop the
notification from showing up.
3/7 Phil clicks on a link:
Feel like a Luigi in life?
Nintendo says this is your year!
3/8 Phil finds a third letter in his box.
It suggests they meet next Wednesday.
3/9 Phil is browsing in the Relationships
section when he hears an announcement
for a signing by local transgender author
Alana Nicole Sholar. He browses closer
and closer and then hovers nearby so he
can hear what she says.
3/10 Phil writes in his notebook:
I’ve made a decision. I’m going to meet
this ‘secret admirer’. I can hardly believe it
myself. Just yesterday morning I had
decided the complete opposite. But today
things are different. And I feel good
about it! And scared!
Ever since the letters started, things have
just been off balance for me. All those old
feelings for my ex stirred up. Not even for
him, really. But for that time I guess. I
haven’t talked to him in forever, and it’s
not like the last time was bad or anything.
I’ve seen his occasional updates on
facebook (guess he’s not into it much), but
that was only weird when I first joined
It’s not about him (him him him…he-who-
must-not-be-named, ha!). It’s not about
Murphy. It’s about me. I started to think:
What am I so afraid of? Why not try?
Didn’t I make a resolution to meet
I’ve wondered if maybe I don’t know how
to have a relationship anymore. I’m not
sure I even did when we were together.
I remember when we had those long
breakup talks. Well, mostly Murphy talking
(I always did like to listen to him talk). But I
never even got what I did so wrong.
So I went to JB’s yesterday to just look
around. I don’t know, try to get some
perspective or something. I hadn’t been
there in forever (and it looked different
again this time – why they keep
rearranging the shelves is beyond me!).
I guess I wondered if the ghost of Murphy
would still haunt me there.
But you know what? It was fine. It really
was. And I was kind of enjoying myself
looking through the books. Not that I’ve
suddenly become a reader or anything,
but it was nice to just soak in the
atmosphere and browse a little.
Then I saw this signing event for an
author named Alana Nicole Sholar. I’d
never heard of her before, but I saw that
her book was a memoir about growing up
here as a transgender person. This kind
of blew my mind. For one, I couldn’t
imagine JB holding an event like this 10
years ago. But even more, to grow up as a
transgender person here? HERE! And
then to write a book about it!
I was just so impressed. Alana was so
honest and real, and the people at the
event looked so much like everyday folks
around here. I wouldn’t have guessed
they could be so open and accepting. It
was all so inspiring! I ended up getting
her book – it’s on my nightstand right now
(I even got it signed, very cool!).
When I came home afterwards, my head
was light and I was shaking. I thought:
Phil, you can’t keep doing things the
same forever. You can be brave too. You
said this year would be different!
So I decided to take the risk and meet this
mystery someone on Wednesday (why he
chose Wednesday at school, I have no
idea). This time next week, everything
actually could be different. I keep
reminding myself: People can surprise
you. Even you, Phil, can surprise you!
3/11 Phil walks into the spare room but
forgets what he was coming in for.
3/12 Phil changes the sheets.
3/13 Phil waits by the trophy case. He stares at
the team photo from the year they went to
State and watches in the glass for anyone
“Yo, Mr. G!” Kyle calls out from down the
Please don’t let it be him, please don’t let
it be him, Phil thinks. He nods at Kyle and
then turns back to study the faces in the
“Hey, what are you still doing here?” Kyle
“Oh, you know, the usual. Just about to
“Cool cool,” Kyle says. He looks at the
photo behind the glass. “Pretty rad that
year, huh? I mean, those dudes didn’t win
it all, but they’re still legends if you ask…
what the fuck?” Kyle peers over Phil’s
shoulder and then walks past him.
Lordy, that was close, Phil thinks. Does
seem he’s a bit late, though. What if
someone else comes? How long should I
wait? He straightens his shirt and checks
himself in the glass. You look just fine, he
Phil turns to make sure Kyle is gone and
sees him arguing with some kids just
around the corner. He strains to see who
the others are when Kyle suddenly takes
their phone, throws it down, and cracks it
under his boot.
“Mr. G, you gotta bounce!” Kyle hollers.
“These assholes are messing with you!”
Phil accidentally smiles, as if to say it’s ok.
Then he hears the sneakers of the other
boys squeaking down the hall as they run
off. They laugh and scream: “YOU FAT
3/14 Phil calls in sick.
3/15 Someone knocks at the front door,
but Phil doesn’t answer.
3/16 Phil eats an entire box of Cheez-Its while
watching the episode of Roseanne where
Jackie sleeps with Arnie and decides to
become a trucker.
3/17 Phil opens his notebook and reads the
last sentences and then hurls it across the
room. The notebook slides down into the
crack between the bed and the wall.
3/18 Phil sits in his car before school. No one
seems to notice him. The day looks just
like any other day through the glass.
3/19 Phil hears muffled arguing in the
teacher’s lounge, but everyone goes quiet
when he opens the door.
3/20 Phil calls in sick.
Midmorning, he hears a sneeze out front.
He peeks through the blinds, and
someone passes directly in front of him.
He tracks the figure around the side of the
house, just missing him at each window.
In the kitchen, he crouches beside the
dishwasher and peers over the
countertop into his backyard. He sees his
neighbor walking across the grass.
Phil’s neighbor looks over his shoulder
and then passes through the hedge into
the subdivision that backs up against
3/21 “Why didn’t you ever get married, Mr.
Gaffigan?” Randy asks.
“He’s not that old, Randy. There’s still
time,” Amelia says.
“Yeah, maybe he just never met that
special someone,” Cody says.
“Right. That special…someone,” Randy
“Let’s all get back to work now,” Phil says.
3/22 Phil eats a cookie cake for dinner.
3/23 “Promise you’ll at least take me to the
service next Sunday.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Is that too much to ask, Phil?”
“Mom, things here haven’t been so”
“So even the death and resurrection of
our Lord won’t bring you down to see your
“Ok ok fine I’ll come.”
“Well you don’t have to say it like that.”
3/24 Phil flips through the new Entertainment
Weekly in the bathroom. He skims articles
on the Veronica Mars Kickstarter, Cyndi
Lauper’s Broadway album, the Bates
Motel TV series, and Doctor Who.
3/25 Phil watches the snow falling faintly
beneath the streetlight. He checks the
school closings again and again.
But Fayette County does not appear.
3/26 Phil lingers in the Wendy’s parking lot
after dinner and listens to the latest news
about Hollingsworth v. Perry and
United States v. Windsor.
3/27 “You got a minute?”
“Sure, Paula, hi. Come on in. I’m just
finishing up here.”
“How are things going with you, Phil?”
“You know, same old same old.”
“You holding up ok?”
“I’m fine. I’m good.”
“That’s good. I’m right down the hall, you
“I know, I know.”
“Just don’t let them get to you. Really.
It’ll all blow over soon enough.”
“There are people here who have your
back. We’re not all assholes.”
“Haha, right right. It’s just…I don’t know…
“Listen, I know you’re keeping your head
down. And sure, keep on keeping on and
all. But you don’t have to take any more
bullshit, honey. You hear what I’m
saying? Those vicious little fucks don’t get
to decide things for you.”
3/28 Phil sees a little boy hiding behind his
mother’s legs at the checkout. He
remembers how often he used to hide like
that. How his mother always wore dresses
and heels in public. How she would say to
strangers every time, “Please excuse my
son’s rudeness. I don’t know what’s
gotten into him today. He’s not usually
3/29 “Madison, please take your seat,” Phil
“In a minute,” Madison says.
“Whatever you’re telling Shawna can wait
til after class.”
“Actually, it can’t.”
“I can’t start class until you’ve taken your
“Come on, Mr. Gaffigan. Today’s not even
a real day. Half the class is already on
their way to the beach!”
“So why aren’t you with them, huh?” Steve
asks. “Couldn’t get one of your boyfriends
to drag you along?”
“Shut up, Stephen.”
“Madison…” Phil says.
“You guys are with me, right?” Madison
says to the class. “Free day, free day, free
day!” she chants, shaking her hips.
“Your fat ass ain’t gonna work on Mr.
Gaffigan!” Steve shouts.
“Then let’s try yours!” Madison says.
“Madison, please…” Phil says.
“She’s just playing around, Mr. G,” Kyle
“Speak for yourself, Kyle,” Madison says.
“I mean, come on. What’s he gonna do?”
She holds out one limp wrist and makes a
face that Phil can’t see. The class erupts
in uneasy laughter.
Kyle stands up. “Take your seat, bitch.”
“WHAT?” Madison screams. “Mr. Gaffigan,
did you hear what he called me?”
Phil looks from Madison to the class to
Madison’s empty seat.
“MR. GAFFIGAN. Aren’t you going to do
something?” Madison says.
Phil’s left leg starts to tremble. He looks
Madison in the eye and says through his
teeth, “You heard Kyle. Sit down.”
3/30 Phil makes a To Do list for spring break
and then gets right to work on the first one
– CLEAN HOUSE TOP TO BOTTOM.
3/31 Phil is surprised how easily the words
come back to him:
All hail the power of Jesus’ name
Let angels prostrate fall
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all!
But he can’t remember the other verses.
He glances at his mother in her
handsome new hat and sees she doesn’t
know the rest either.
4/1 Phil knows Google Nose isn’t real, but he
wishes it were. He remembers being
fooled by the Google Romance prank
years ago. Love is just another search
problem, they said.
4/2 Phil checks his email and sees his
Amazon order has already shipped. He
feels lucky to have a warehouse so
4/3 Phil treats himself to Qdoba and Cold
Stone and a double feature of Oz the
Great and Powerful and The Croods.
4/4 Phil lies in bed trying to hold on to a
fading dream. Something in an Ethan
Allen, something about a flood, something
with his old friend Solomon, something
4/5 Phil quickly finishes his taxes and
wonders why he waits so long every year
when they hardly change at all.
4/6 Phil sees another ad for Mad Men and
thinks maybe it’s time to finally check it
out. Either that or Game of Thrones. Or
4/7 Phil digs his notebook out from behind the
bed. He writes:
I don’t know why but a dream I had a few
days ago just came back to me, and I
want to record it before it goes. The weird
thing is, I think I’ve had this dream a few
times before. It just feels really familiar.
I’ve been having a lot of old dreams lately.
This one started at Ethan Allen. I used to
love when mom would take me and Bern
there as kids. It was like visiting a weird
palace with too many rooms. All these
bedrooms and dining rooms and dens
mixed together and out of order. I would
get lost every time, but for some reason I
In the dream Solomon was with me, which
never really happened (mom didn’t like to
take other kids on her errands). We ran
through all the rooms exploring and
laughing about something I can’t
remember. But it was really hilarious.
Then I heard water running somewhere in
the walls, and I saw the rugs getting
darker. Solomon told me to climb up on
the furniture, but all I could find was this
tall dresser. I climbed up all the drawers,
and when I got to the top, Solomon was
already there waiting for me.
We looked down and saw cloudy water
filling up the whole place. Solomon said
not to worry, so I didn’t. I could hear my
mom still talking with the owner in the
other room, and I didn’t call to her. Then
all the furniture started to move. It was a
flood, like in the Bible.
We floated outside and most of the world
was water. Other furniture would
sometimes float by, but no people. It was
just me and Solomon, and for some
reason I felt really happy. Solomon had a
stick he would put in the water to guide
us, and I said, “Where are we going,
Solomon?” And he said, “Everywhere!”
And then we started to roam the earth. Or
float around it, I guess.
I’m pretty sure now I’ve had this dream
before, or one like it, because I remember
thinking about him out of the blue a few
years ago after I got on facebook. I looked
up his page and saw all these nice
comments saying what a great person he
was. And I thought: wow, it doesn’t sound
like he’s changed one bit, how great.
And then I realized that the page was kept
alive as a kind of memorial to him.
Because actually he was dead. A car
accident the year before. He looked so
gentle and confident in his pictures, so
like himself. I hadn’t seem him since he
moved away in middle school, but when I
looked at him with his wife and two sons, I
felt like I still knew him.
Sometimes I forget that he’s dead. Even
the other day after I woke up. But in the
dream, he’s so alive. I can see his bright
eyes and his dark skin and his crazy big
smile. And I can see us sailing to the ends
of the earth on that mahogany dresser.
4/8 Associate Principal Diehl stops Phil in the
hall between classes.
“Mr. Gaffigan, I’d like you to come by my
office when you have a minute.”
“Sure thing, Mrs. Diehl. What about?”
“Maybe at the end of the day tomorrow?
I’m all tied up this afternoon.”
4/9 “Come on in, Phil. Have a seat.”
“What can I help you with, Mrs. Diehl?”
“Seems we have a little parent problem
on our hands.”
“You have a student, let’s see here,
“Well, her mother has written us a very
strongly worded letter. She’s claiming that
during class you allowed another student
to call her daughter a…well, a bitch.”
“Now I’m sure there’s more to it than that.
We’ll need to talk to the student she
named, and we’ll get your side too, of
course. But that’s for later. That’s not what
I wanted to give you a heads up about.”
“Is there…another problem?”
“Well, I’m not sure to tell you the truth.
Seems she’s been talking to some of the
other parents about your classes. Now,
there’s nothing specific, and I think maybe
she’s just trying to make her case
stronger, but she makes vague references
to class material that is incompatible with
her religious beliefs. And those of her
“Madison’s religious beliefs?”
“I know, I know. But seems some parents
have been getting themselves worked up
over that vetoed state bill that was just
overturned. You know, the one about
‘sincerely held religious beliefs’.”
“I’ve heard a little about it. But I didn’t think
it was for schools.”
“That’s what I’m thinking too. But it doesn’t
take much to embolden these people.
Mrs. Ledford even makes reference to
bringing her complaints to the next school
board meeting. And that is something we
certainly want to avoid.”
“I haven’t even told Jim about the letter
yet. You know he’s a lot more…sensitive
to the politics here than I am. So this is
just between you and me for now. I don’t
want to bring him into this unless
“I appreciate that.”
“Listen, I know your classes have been a
little unruly lately. The kids are always
going to be looking for an angle, so don’t
give them anything. Just go on about your
business. Don’t give them any cause.”
“I don’t. I mean, I’ve tried not to.”
“I’m sure you have, Phil. And let’s keep it
that way until we get this mess sorted out.”
4/10 Phil feels a sharp pain in his lower right
side and fears it’s appendicitis.
4/11 Phil looks out the kitchen window but
sees only a reflection of himself doing the
4/12 After school, Phil lowers the blinds and
lies down on the couch. He listens to the
hum of the refrigerator. It lulls him to
4/13 Phil writes in his notebook:
What an exhausting week! Guess I got too
used to sleeping in and lounging around
during spring break. But now the official
countdown to summer has begun. Only
six weeks left and I can’t wait.
Guess I’m at that point in the year where
the end is in sight, but it’s not actually that
close yet. Still all those days to get
through when I just want it to be over.
Wish I could just call it a day and try again
Been feeling so old lately. Sleeping long
hours like when I was young, but I don’t
wake up feeling rested. Even right now.
Saturday morning and I’m already too
tired to write or do much of anything.
Not much else to report anyway.
4/14 Phil watches Sandwich King, Love It or
List It, Dog Eat Dog, Extreme Couponing,
Swamp Wars, Skating and Gymnastics
Spectacular, Chopped, House Hunters
International, Dirty Dancing, Golden Girls.
4/15 Something wakes Phil. He gasps for
breath and hears a strange chorus.
Car alarms going off all over the
4/16 At breakfast, Phil eats a bag of Dill Pickle
flavored Lay’s while rehearsing what he
will say to Mrs. Diehl.
4/17 Phil fills up his gas after school. The hook
won’t catch, so he holds the lever himself
and watches the numbers flicker past.
4/18 Kyle comes by during Phil’s planning.
“Mr. G. Just need my work for next week.”
“I’ve got everything right here.”
“Hope it’s nothing too heavy, you know?”
“It’s light, don’t sweat it.”
“Right on, man.”
“Don’t even worry about me, Mr. G. I got a
week’s vacation out of this.”
“It’s not exactly”
“Chance to work on my own things,
“Sure, but listen. You didn’t have to make
it worse for yourself like”
“I mean, I appreciate what you did. But
you didn’t have to lie for me.”
“And have a good guy like you dragged
into it? Nah.”
“You didn’t have to”
“It’s done, Mr. G. Besides, have you met
Madison’s mom? Steer clear, man. She’s
“Don’t get me wrong, Kyle. I appreciate it,
I do. But why did you, I mean, for me?”
“I just hate fucking bullshit. You know?”
4/19 Phil wakes before his alarm. He stays in
bed and listens to the rain.
4/20 Phil checks the mail and realizes that the
Summer Preview was a double issue, so
there’ll be no new Entertainment Weekly
4/21 Phil writes in his notebook:
I need to go to bed in a minute, but I at
least want to record that things are going
better. It gets better! Actually, I’m not sure
about that. But at least this week turned
out ok. And today was even good.
I decided to go down and see mom today
without calling ahead. Yesterday was so
nothing, and I didn’t want that again. So I
just showed up at lunch with Cracker
Barrel. Mom seemed really surprised.
Thought something must surely be wrong.
We ended up having a nice talk, mostly
about the past, which she always enjoys.
Maybe I just caught her in a mood, or
maybe it was mine, or maybe both. Who
knows? I’m just happy to have a nice visit!
No need to overanalyze it.
I’m sleeping a little better too. Except
when the neighborhood animals get riled
up, which has been strangely often lately.
So much barking and howling and weird
cat sounds, like all together at once. Must
get each other going. Or maybe it’s
something in the air. Something to do with
Almost forgot, mom asked today if I had
any birthday plans. I said I didn’t, but now
that I think about it, maybe I should. It is a
big one, after all. Better start planning!
4/22 Phil finds his old Kroger Plus card and his
lucky nail clippers in the couch.
4/23 Phil catches himself in the hallway mirror
on the way out. He retucks his shirt and
tries to smooth down the back. But it
keeps puffing out.
4/24 On Man o’ War, a little girl waves at Phil
from the backseat of the car ahead.
Phil waves back, makes a funny face.
4/25 At the checkout, Phil sees a broccoli
casserole on the cover of a magazine. He
thinks maybe he should make himself one
for his birthday. But he can’t decide
between a Ritz or Cheez-It crust. They are
both so good.
4/26 All evening, Phil’s internet keeps cutting
out. His router blinks strange patterns of
4/27 Phil reads online about a sinkhole that
swallowed up a house with a man still
inside. He steps lightly afterwards, as if
the ground beneath his feet might give
way at any moment.
4/28 Phil catches the end of the Hot Burrito
Show on his way back from the mall. He
remembers how Murphy used to take him
on long Sunday drives through the
country, blasting the show the whole way.
4/29 Phil listens to the kids talking about
Saturday’s prom before class. They make
it sound really great. He wishes he hadn’t
backed out of chaperoning this year.
4/30 “Howdy, professor.”
“Hello, Phil. Sorry to bother you so early.”
“No problem, I was just getting ready to
leave. Wow, looks like it’s going to be a
nice one today, huh?”
“I’m not looking forward to the summer
“Well, what can I do you for?”
“Would you happen to have some bleach
I could borrow?”
“Sure do. Come on in.”
“Nice place you have here. You keep
house much better than I do.”
“Thanks, I try!”
5/1 Phil waves to Gene in the hall, but the boy
ducks his head and hurries past.
5/2 Phil notices another foreclosed home in
his neighborhood. He remembers this
family moving in some years back, both
kids bouncing in the grass while their
parents unloaded boxes from the van.
5/3 Paula stops Phil on his way in and tells
him how Mrs. Ledford showed up at the
SBDM Council the night before to
complain about him and two other
5/4 Phil writes in his notebook:
I’m kind of upset right now. There have
been some things happening recently I
haven’t had time to write about. And I
thought they were over. But they’re not.
The mother of one of my students has it
out for me, which is bad enough. But now
she’s gone and gotten other teachers
involved. Paula said she probably did it
so she wouldn’t be accused of only
attacking me. That just sounds too crazy.
Who would do that?
I don’t know all the details yet. I didn’t talk
to the other teachers yet either, Ms. Wilkes
and Mrs. Barrow. Freddie’s been teaching
Biology since way before I started. She’s
nice enough, but I wouldn’t say we’re
close. And Gillian’s still in her first year
teaching English. Seems like a sweet girl,
very bookish, but we’ve never really
I just hate that they got dragged into this. I
was already upset about another student
being involved, even before this. I thought
it was all over. I thought everyone was
moving on. So why do things keep
happening, one after another? I don’t
understand. I just want it to end. I want
things back to normal.
5/5 Phil writes in his notebook:
Paula called to see how I was doing
today. She’s so nice – no one ever calls
like that. I think she’s even more upset
than me. Which helps, since for some
reason others getting worked up usually
calms me down.
I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff this
weekend. Something related to all this
happened a few weeks ago. With a
student who has always been really nice
to me. I have no idea why he covered for
me like he did, or why he even likes me.
Do I remind him of someone? I have no
clue. But he did a good thing, not the kind
of thing you see every day, and now it’s
like it was for nothing.
Sometimes I think my brain is really slow.
Not only in figuring stuff out, but in
feeling things too. Like there’s this delay,
and I feel things at the wrong time.
When I used to feel happy, mom would
often say: What do you have to feel happy
about? Look at your life, Phil. And other
times I would be down and she would
say: What do you have to feel upset
about? You don’t know how lucky you
I guess most of the time everything seems
fine. I mean, life is ok most days. But then
I’ll have one bad day that makes me
wonder about all the others. And I can’t
tell which days and which feelings are
5/6 Phil plans stirring speeches in the
5/7 “What are you going to do?” Gillian asks.
“We need to talk to Mrs. Diehl first,” Phil
“I don’t even know if they were planning to
bring me back next year.”
“I’m sure they”
“I really really can’t afford to get
pinkslipped right now.”
“I don’t think”
“Laurence is still out of work, and I just”
“It won’t come to that, Gillian.”
“I hope you’re right. At least we have
Ms. Overstreet in this. Man is she sure
“Thank goodness she’s on our side.”
“I know, right? Now I’m actually thankful
she heads the department! The woman
does not suffer fools.”
“She sure doesn’t.”
“But, I don’t know, what if? I mean, Laur
and me, we just can’t move back home.
“You know, my dad was from eastern
Kentucky too. Whereabouts exactly
did you grow up?”
5/8 “Excuse me, Ms. Wilkes,” Phil says.
“Just a minute now,” Freddie says.
“Sorry, I can come back later.”
“No, gimme one…oh Mr. Gaffigan, it’s just
“I wanted to be sure you’d heard about
tomorrow’s meeting with Mrs. Diehl.”
“Yeah sure, I know. Same old crap as
always. I’ve dealt with these parents so
many times now. Wears me out, I tell you.”
“But I think Mrs. Diehl might be able to
“Oh, she’ll try alright. She doesn’t have
any more patience for these freaking
people than I do. She needs to minimize
damage, though. Especially for Rhodes.”
“I’m afraid Principal Rhodes and I don’t…
have much in common.”
“Who does? If you’re not useful to the
man, you might as well be invisible.”
5/9 Phil stops at Wendy’s on the way home
from school. He keeps thinking about
Mrs. Ledford’s phrase: a pattern of
5/10 Phil forgets what he was saying.
5/11 Phil sleeps, off and on, all day.
5/12 Phil writes in his notebook:
Spent the day down with mom. She was
all dressed up when I got there, though it
was only me coming. We had a nice
lunch, cake too, and then just visited all
afternoon (she didn’t ask me to take her to
church, thank goodness).
She certainly was in high spirits. Told
many of the same stories I’ve heard so
many times now – how hard the early
years had been with dad, how Bern had
been such a difficult child, how she wasn’t
even sure she wanted to be a mother, but
then along came her boy. She’s not
superstitious but said she knew it meant
something that I was born on her day.
I think she really wanted me to celebrate
more today, even though this year my
birthday’s not actually until tomorrow.
(Bern would disagree – she always says
mom doesn’t actually like to share and
only makes such a big deal like this as a
cover. I’ve told her many times I don’t see
why mom would bother. It’s not like
anybody’s watching. But Bern says mom
imagines an audience for everything.)
Mom could tell I wasn’t totally there. She
asked about my plans tomorrow, and I
said something about going out with Alex
and a few friends. She thought I would
have a big to-do for this one, but I said I
wanted something more intimate. Truth is,
I did have all these plans, but I’ve barely
thought about them the past week. Didn’t
even tell anyone. At this point, I just don’t
want to make a big fuss.
She finally asked straight out what was
wrong, and I told her it was just some
boring school stuff. Honestly, I wouldn’t
even know where to begin. Doesn’t seem
like anything serious is going to happen,
but listening to all of Mrs. Ledford’s
complaints, I felt…I don’t know, I could
kind of relate somehow. Not with exactly
what she was saying, but still.
I told Paula about this, and she didn’t
know what to make of it. She asked why in
the world I would feel bad for someone
who has it in for me. I told her I don’t really
know. I can’t seem to help it.
5/13 Paula sticks her head in during Phil’s
“Happy birthday there, Phil!”
“Oh Paula, you scared me half to death.”
“Got big plans tonight?”
“Well, not quite sure yet, might have, gotta
confirm a few, I mean, it’s a Monday and
all, people are pretty busy.”
Phil looks back down at his desk. Paula
squints, studies him a moment.
“Listen, honey. Some of us, well, we’d like
to take you out for a drink after school.
How does that sound?”
“Really?” Phil says.
5/14 Phil wakes to a terrific hangover.
5/15 Phil writes in his notebook:
I still can’t believe how amazingly great
my birthday turned out. A bunch of people
showed up for drinks after school, some I
would have never expected. Like Ms.
Overstreet, drinking an actual beer. It was
a wild sight! And Ben showed up for a bit
too, which just completely floored me. He
brought a girl (ok, no real surprise there),
but at least he was nice to look at for an
It’s hard to describe, but there was just
this feeling in the air. Sometimes it
happens with a certain group of people,
something just clicks. Everybody was
drinking and chatting openly (lots of
Ledford talk). There was just this energy
like I haven’t felt since those first years
after college when I was going out almost
every night. I couldn’t stop smiling, drank
way too much. I just didn’t want it to end.
I don’t even remember the end very well.
A few stayed with me til I could drive
home, which was so nice of them. I was a
mess yesterday at school (still can’t
handle my liquor at all). But it was kind of
a wonderful mess. I showed a movie in
class and just sat at my desk trying to
remember every detail. All day, teachers
kept asking how I was, but in that way like
we had a secret or something. It was so
At the bar, they gave me a card that said:
“Lordy Lordy, Look Who’s 40!” You know,
I really think my 40s could be better than
I just feel so grateful right now. To Paula
for sure, and to everyone who showed up.
But also to the universe for giving me
such a great night. Thank you, universe!
5/16 Phil weighs himself. He’s gained 17
pounds in the past 2 months.
5/17 Ian Rook catches Phil in the teacher’s
“My good man, I’m glad I ran into you. I’ve
heard about your trouble with that
“Who do you mean?”
“That parent, oh, what’s her name? Mrs.
Lanford or some such. The one giving
Mrs. Barrow grief over, which was it this
time? Oh right, BELOVED. Can you
believe it? Let’s alert the New York Times!
The esteemed Mrs. Lanford has an
“And with Ms. Wilkes, it was the usual
intelligent design nonsense again, wasn’t
it? Mrs. Lanford and her erudite pastor
know better than Mr. Darwin and every
other respected scientist on earth!
They’ve never made it to the Galapagos,
but they survey the beaches of Florida
every year now don’t they?”
“And what was it for you? Oh yes, your
disrespect for the South. Of all things!
Because what, you said the Civil War was
about slavery? Not their precious states’
rights? Did you besmirch their honorably
racist ancestors? And they say this was a
“We probably shouldn’t”
“NOW they want nuance? NOW they want
to talk about complexity? THEY teach US
about nuance and complexity? Let’s have
these philistines attend one of my classes
and see if they can keep up! Though I
suspect they could teach my Lear a thing
or two about being a bad parent!”
“Well, I wouldn’t say”
“Of course you wouldn’t. You’re too easy
on them, Mr. Gaffigan. These fools cling to
their quote unquote beliefs and then bring
their cretinous bile to your door and you,
what, invite them in? And the whole time,
they never even admit why they’re really
there, why they chose YOUR door.
Cowards, all of them.”
“I need to be going, Mr. Rook.”
“The next time Mrs. Lanford or any of
these…people come around, call on me
will you. Will you, Mr. Gaffigan? I’m on
5/18 Phil attempts a 15-minute run on his
5/19 Phil writes in his notebook:
Well, 5 days left with students, then back
for 1 more to pack up my room (though I
hope to get most of that done this week).
I don’t remember when I was last this
excited for summer. I probably say that
every year, ha!
It does seem like things are finally settling
down. Hopefully smooth sailing from here
on out. I think Mrs. Ledford is not going to
push anything further (Paula says she
made a big mistake attacking so many of
us – we teachers stick together,
apparently). Maybe I do need to
reevaluate some of my curriculum this
I want to reevaluate a lot of things soon.
My birthday was wonderful, but I’ve got to
get myself out there more. I can’t act like I
have all the time in the world at my age.
I want to meet more people and really
enjoy every day. Want to feel better too
and get serious about my weight again.
I tried to start things up yesterday, but I
think I pushed too hard. I’ve always been
bad at cardio, though ok with weights.
Maybe I should join a gym and get a
whole routine going. Need to buy some
new workout clothes first!
5/20 Phil eats a quick snack so he won’t be
hungry while shopping at Kroger.
5/21 Phil gives his first set of final exams.
5/22 A brown bird lands on Phil’s side view
mirror while he’s stopped in traffic.
5/23 Phil notices his microwave clock has
been reset when he gets home from
school. He figures the power must have
blinked out again.
5/24 Phil tells his students to have a good
summer. They tell him to have a good one
5/25 Phil skips graduation.
5/26 After seeing another post on Arrested
Development, Phil decides that this
summer he will finally try some of these
series he keeps hearing about.
5/27 “Has the whole neighborhood been
losing power recently? Or is it just me?”
Phil asks from his backyard.
“I wouldn’t worry about it. A temporary
thing, I’m sure,” Phil’s neighbor says from
“Just hope we don’t lose it on one of those
super hot days.”
“Does feel like summer’s really starting
“Not your favorite season?”
“You could say that.”
“Mind if I ask why?”
“Do you have any graves to visit?”
“Today, I mean. Any memorials?”
“Oh, not around here. Not much military in
my family. Besides, I’m not one to dwell
on the past.”
“What else is there to dwell on?”
5/28 While cleaning out his desk, Phil finds the
extra piece of Orbit Sweet Mint gum he’d
5/29 Phil writes in his notebook:
Well, summer has officially begun! Except
for one professional development thing,
no school stuff until mid-August!
It kind of feels like new year’s all over
again. I was looking back at my
resolutions, and the only one I’ve really
kept is this diary. Which is at least
Actually, I have been on the internet a lot
less than last year. But I’m not sure it’s
helped. I still want to check out some of
those shows that are supposed to be so
cool. And I’m thinking about trying
something besides facebook. Maybe
But first, the weight. I can really plan every
meal now. No school interference. And
once I get my treadmill routine going and
lose the first 10, I might be ready to try a
real gym. And who knows, maybe a date
too! Need to find some decent bars and
fun summer events. And look into setting
up a whole new dating profile online.
Man, I’m so out of practice!
5/30 Phil dumps all the temptations from his
pantry and fridge into a tall kitchen
garbage bag. He empties a jar of queso
over them just to be sure.
5/31 Phil pounds the treadmill and sings,
“Turn around, bright eyes!”
6/1 Phil decides to finally order a ShamWow.
6/2 Phil feels a dull ache in his chest and
fears it’s a heart attack.
6/3 Phil weighs in and finds he’s lost
4 pounds in the past week.
6/4 Phil wakes in the dark. He almost
remembers the dream he was having.
Something caught in a loop, upside-
down, something almost geometric but
not, an impossible space, exposed.
It feels familiar, like the nightmares he
used to have as a teenager.
6/5 Phil digs his weights out of the garage
and sets up a little workout area
beside the treadmill.
6/6 Phil can barely hold himself up in the
shower. His whole body feels like jelly.
6/7 Phil watches Pawn Stars all evening.
6/8 Phil keeps checking all his regular sites
for something interesting.
6/9 Phil writes in his notebook:
Seems I always forget what summer’s like
until it actually gets here. I have my plans
and all, but I still don’t know what to do
with myself half the time. I already miss
school a little. At least it was busy.
My diet and exercise routine is going well
enough. I’m actually looking forward to
weighing in tomorrow. Though I did
overdo it this week with the weights. My
body doesn’t recover at all like it used to.
This weekend was a wash. I had plans to
go out Friday night, but I just couldn’t get
myself out the door. And then yesterday
was one of those blah days where I
couldn’t focus on anything.
I’m about to go down and see mom now.
At least it will get me out of the house.
And I’m sure tomorrow will be better.
6/10 Phil studies himself in the bathroom
mirror. But he can’t see the difference.
Maybe a different mirror would help,
6/11 Just as Phil finishes his lawn, another
mower starts up in a yard nearby.
6/12 In the frozen food aisle, Phil hears
someone behind him say, “Cute as hell.
He’s just cute as hell.”
Phil grins and ducks his head into the
Stouffer’s freezer. He glances back
through the frosted door and sees a
woman staring into her friend’s phone.
6/13 Phil traces a breeze in the house to two
windows he doesn’t remember leaving
6/14 Phil drives to Wendy’s for a Frosty Waffle
Cone just to get out of the house.
6/15 Phil goes to start The Wire but gets
sidetracked by hulu’s Saturday Morning
TV collection. He ends up watching
He-Man, She-Ra, and Fat Albert all day.
6/16 Phil walks an old route through his
6/17 Phil writes in his notebook:
I’m feeling, I don’t know, ridiculous.
3 weeks have already passed since
school got out, and the days just blend
together in my head. Why does this
always happen? I make all these new
plans, but then I just do the same old
things over and over. Only my diet seems
to be working. I guess because it’s a habit
I went on my usual Father’s Day walk
yesterday. It was good! I really needed it.
I can feel dad so much on those streets.
It’s weird how strong my memories are of
him on our paths. Much more than when
I’m in the house with mom.
I don’t think he’d understand my life right
now. He was always so active. Hated to
sit still. Hated, really, to be in the house.
He said his mind worked better when his
body was moving. That’s where he got all
his ideas, walking those streets.
It’s funny, when I was walking yesterday I
started thinking of all the streets in our
town that I’d never been down. I feel like I
know the whole town, but really it’s just a
few set paths. There are actually all these
gaps, like clouds floating over the map in
my head. The weird part is that it doesn’t
feel like anything’s missing. It feels
complete, even though it’s not.
I’m going to try again. I’m going to really
do things this week. I’m going to read this
next week and hold myself to it. Dad
always said it was never too late to
change your life. Another week, another
6/18 Phil sets up a profile on okcupid.
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