For the 52-Week Writing Challenge I seek the impossible. At my desk in the quiet late afternoon twilight after a long day in Real Estate my will to write is non-existant. I’m actively against writing. And I only have 15 minutes. Oh well, just get started? What is the difference between fifteen minutes and forever? Given the only time of which I’m aware is now.
Choosing to travel with my family to my son’s fencing class, writing in the car while everyone around me talks about things I’m expected to hear. Impossible. Yet the students returning from winter break cross in front of us. The late afternoon twilight surrounds us. The pressure to perform extends the time. I almost think this twilight will last forever as the bicycles swarm around, break lights ahead block our way. Conversations in the car go on, pointed opinions, energy flying while the dog naps in my wife’s lap in the driver’s seat.
Medium, of the Writing Challege, deletes the second space input after a period. In fact, keep hitting the space bar and you’ll never get another space. Does Twitter do that too? Does Donald Trump try to put two spaces after his question marks and find that he can’t? Mentioning his name, shouting it from the housetop. Behind and next to me the people talking inside the car express themselves, clarify, repeat, disagree, question, return to a thought, press forward. Me typing while we drive fits right into the environment, though my son imitates the rat-a-tat on the keyboard. Thought I was relentless. Maybe but so is my whole family. I’ll keep double-spacing after periods, typing words too fast and making typos. These people related to me by choice and blood push their agendas as much as me. Maybe more.
The urge to check email follows me wherever I go. A meeting went too long….how can I end it when there are others extending the minutes plus me giving my two cents? I saw a movie positing time is circular, not a flow. Maybe I feel stuck forever in the present because that is the way time works. Because I am. Has anyone ever said rapture will come from a dimension that makes time one single moment (I swear that moment will be me stepping out onto a train platform in Florence two decades ago)? Agnostically, the end is now — don’t expect it to be fun (though the train station in Florence was, and this moment here as I write, in a self-important Bistro with the aftertaste of Italian aperitif numbing my tongue, is fine, fine….terrifying to step back from business but there is good music…). Now or never. Should I check my email I’m pretty much condemned to Hell because that’d be giving in to the dark side, now and since now is forever, forever. Why would I do so? Well, you see there’s this thing called endorphins and this thing called “making a living” and I’ve convinced myself every time I check an email I win. So except for the cognitive dissonance of believing checking email is evil, checking email is my lifeblood. Yak! No time to be good for Santa, no time at all (except wait what is worse, to check email or to take time to momentarily escape from it?).
Tell me if this is Hell: earlier, a different day, I’d had a few sips of Chardonay and in the corner of my eye the woman at the next table did clap her hand down, her ring hitting hard and hand grasping the edge. Sensual. She plays with her earring and I see she and her date flirt. On this day of Donald Trump’s inaugeration, of my hammering away getting people working with me on Real Estate projects, of preparing to go confront my daughter’s Principal over sexism and violent classroom racism, this woman sensually slaps her table. Of course the main thing is noticing. That’s it. Is it Heaven or Hell? I ask because everything seems contextualized within a further context. To the point my world converges into a bubble of focused energy, hammering distractions falling like heavy rain or hail on the outside. The context is my life, and everything demanding my attention joins that same summation pressing upon this moment in which I’m found. I recall walking our dog on UC campus, repeated walks across the hills to San Francisco’s Castro, Market Street, back home to Upper Haight and its mocha chi’s a pre-child mystery time when wife and I both had the opportunity to walk each day. Were we even married? Where did it go? Has the dog consumed the time? No, the kids. But more, I hope the next email ushers in new power. And of course it, will, not. Any more than regular mail would have…
In the movie Arrival aliens say to Russians “There is no time.” And Russians think aliens mean time has run out. Become nervous. Especially when it’s p0inted out knowledge on offer is a weapon. Fears realized, an arms race. What next? They weren’t completely wrong if they thought time had run out: if there’s no time then it pretty much has run out… Rapture, woman and man flirting, Inaugeration of the Beast. And Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. A collage in the moment takes in my life, from Grandmother reading The Little Golden Book of Space Exploration (written before the first moon landing), to Donald Trump stepping into the world leadership role (Now?) to, among other things, set the agenda for US Mars policy. And all between. No time. Just sweating astronauts and chauvinists stuck in a time capsule together. Nyet!
For the next miraculous act I write some more, beyond what was agreed. As sitting down to a piano for ten minutes and playing for over an hour. The present keeps extending itself forward into time… Afraid to go to Hell for not following my schedule, not facing the next challenge. Yet three focus challenges in ninety minutes is too many. One is more than enough. The dog stands and looks at me while the fencing instructor talks to the kids. A clash of steel-on-steel and she turns to watch, her body still pointing towards me. Then she goes up to a student walking out of the gym and noses, follows, even nips, making it a kind of scene. This could go on and on, present forever in this forever moment. The only moving part is morality and what could be immoral about a d0g… she gives her name to herself and there’s no moving part here to bring us into our humanity, no, the dog brings us back to sanity while our humanity brings us away always away.
Words are a circular path leading back. Again. Another day, same place; another place, same theme; more words, without the actual stepping off of the train onto the platform. I may as well be in a cell with a tiny window looking out from.…high up? Underground? Or just a brain looking out from the portals of my eyes. Leonard Cohen, in the song Hallejulia, says “She tied you to a kitchen chair // she broke your throne, she cut your hair.” To me, that’s a little girl who didn’t want a haircut. Yet the little girl grows up and she can’t forget that she didn’t want a haircut — it’s permanently a part of her. There’s no time as I must attend my 3:20PM meeting with the Principal. So I quaff the last of my chardonnay and go.