At This Moment
The first rays are starting to pierce the fresh day on this side of town. They seem impatient. It’s almost spring. I’m watching the sun come around the top of the tall birch trees across the street. I squint. I close one eye. The warm beams slowly trace the contour of my face. They’re peeling off the last layer of crisp morning air I’m still wearing on my bare arms.
My elbows are resting on the table. My hands clasp a big mug of fresh, black coffee. There are tiny droplets rising from my hot brew. Little curvy steam ghosts against the brightening backdrop.
I lift my cup. I feel the first sip run down my throat. Tender and silky. Warm friendliness. There are few things better than the first of anything. First love. First kiss. First sip. Never gets old.
This is like the opening scene of a cheap chick flick. But it’s real. It’s happening right here, right now. And I’m in it.
So, here we are. Just the two of us. Looking at each other.
I’m sitting here. She’s right over there, barely 10 feet away.
She is petite. Dark eyes. Ivory cheeks extend from underneath her elegant black hat to frame her friendly round face. She’s beautiful. A cute kind of beautiful.
She looks almost unreal, backlit like this. Transcendent. Like a mythical creature.
I think I’m smiling at her. I can feel it.
Neither of us is moving. I can feel the cloak of time loosening around me. Giving me space to breathe. To think. Be. Damn, I usually don’t say shit like this but I have no other way to describe it.
I breathe. In. My nostrils widen, giving way to a soothing chill, slowly flowing down my throat. I take a sip of my hot, live-inducing elixir. I breathe. Out. My lungs slowly release the warm air. I can see my breath. My body slowly releases tension. My eyes are locked onto hers. I’m staring. Her eyes are black. They’re piercing.
“How’s your moment?” she breaks the silence.
I’m startled. Puzzled. I wasn’t expecting her to ask me that question. I wasn’t expecting her to ask me any question. Or say anything at all.
“What?” I say. I think that’s what I’m saying.
“You look like you are having a moment.”
I’m confused. “I guess.”
“What kind of moment?”
“What is the nature of the moment you are experiencing right now?” she reiterates.
I’m not sure how to answer. I don’t know what to make of this question. My mind doesn’t want to stay. It strays. I think of my work. I have to finish my tasks. Make phone calls. Organize things. I need to find a box to return my son’s sneakers. A present. Wrong brand. He won’t wear Nike’s. My wife asked me to order lightbulbs. The bathroom has been too dim for too long. It needs fixing. I don’t ever fix anything. But it’s on my list. I have a to-do list.
‘I don’t have time for this,’ I think to myself.
“You have time for this,” she says calmly.
This is weird.
“I’m not sure I understand,” is the reply I manage to assemble. I’m still organizing my thoughts.
At Any Moment
“You see,” she begins “mind time isn’t clock time. They are two different things. They flow at varying rates.”
I don’t get it. She’s a smart ass. I get that. But she’s cute. I stay. I sigh. I sip. I listen to the rest of her lecture.
“You’re sitting here thinking about all your important things. All the things you have to get done. Even when you’re not doing them.”
“So what?” I’m irritated.
She cocks her head. Slightly. It twitches. I think.
“What’s the point?” she asks.
“What point? The point of what? What the hell are you even saying?” I’m getting worked up over this cryptic nonsense.
“You’re halfway through your life, maybe more, and you’re still wasting your moments. Haven’t you learned anything?”
I don’t answer. I think I’m annoyed.
“You are thinking about things you aren’t doing. You are pondering your jobs and tasks and chores. You’re squandering one moment after another.”
“I’m wasting my moments?” I’m upset.
“You are wasting your mind time to worry about your clock time. You’re getting older. Your moments are getting shorter and you’re filling them with worthless garbage. You are an idiot.”
“Fuck you!” I shout. I’ve had enough.
“Fuck you!” She retaliates immediately before my insult has even left my mouth.
I’m dumbfounded, at a loss for a response. And I’m angry. Her bluntness pisses me off. I don’t know what she means. I’m not following. My brain doesn’t comprehend. But my gut agrees. What is this? My heart is beating faster. I’m annoyed at myself. At myself!
In That Moment
“A moment,” she says, “is the gap between the past and the future.”
I neglect being annoyed. I’m trying to follow.
“May 16, 2013. Thursday afternoon. Just after lunch. The small weeds between the cobblestones outside the restaurant were blossoming. Tiny pink blooms. Olivia sat on the ground. She was watching a bee. Just watching a bee load her tiny body with sweet nectar. Remember that moment?”
I do. My daughter Olivia was barely three years old. It was sunny. But she insisted on wearing her little pink raincoat. She had to. She’s always had a mind of her own. She was just sitting there. On the ground. Spaced out. Watching the bee. I was sitting on the red bench. Watching her watch the bee. I saw the bee. The air smelled like the ocean. Salty seagrass. I can smell it now. I can see Olivia. She is squatting; resting her tiny hands on her knees. Bent forward. Slightly. Purple-blueish cotton-candy ice cream smeared across her pale little face. She looks like a baby Pollock canvas come to life. We didn’t tell mom about the dessert. Our secret. She found out anyway. She always does. There’s a breeze. A soft gust. A rebellious strand of hair blows into her face. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t notice. She’s beaming. This is the best thing she’s ever seen: a bee collecting nectar from a tiny pink bloom. The best thing that’s ever happened in her life. Her whole little life.
That was the best thing I had ever seen. The best thing that had ever happened in my life. My whole life. That’s what I felt. Yes, I do! I do remember!
“I do,” I say.
She continues, “May 20. Boardroom meeting. Important. Of course. The new thingamajigs weren’t selling. The engineers pointed their fingers at the sales guys. The sales guys blamed the market. Chris blamed you and your guys. You had spent months on this, preparing it for weeks. You stayed late. Olivia learned to draw faces. You missed it. One sentence blew your presentation to pieces. Not because it was bad. Because Chris had been up Andrew’s butt since he started working at the company. Remember that?”
I’m trying to. I remember Chris. He was a dick. A class-A-cocksucker! Yes, I remember him. He sucked at being a salesman. Heck, he sucked at being a decent human being. His tie always came down too far, covered half his fly. No idea how he didn’t pee on it. He probably did. No one had to wear suits at the office. But this asshole always did. Ill-fitting, of course. We called him Office-Chris. He didn’t even know how to tie a fucking tie. He was good with the ladies for whatever reason. Absurd. And he was good with Andy. He was making Andy laugh. I was fired.
I remember Chris. I don’t remember that meeting. I don’t remember that day.
“I don’t,” I say.
In This Moment
“When you’re little you live in the moment because you have nowhere else to go. When you’re older your mind has plenty of places to go. You grow up and think time is something that happens to other people. And you don’t notice that each year is worth a little less than the last.
More of your day repeats itself. Your days repeat themselves. Everything repeats itself. Everything is going in circles. Every day. Every time. All the time. Soon the circles begin to tighten, and you realize it’s a spiral. Time passes. It passes faster. Even when you sit still. Even then it feels like you’re running somewhere.”
I’m sitting still.
She is staring at me. Piercing right through me. Right through my ignorance. Right through my guilt.
I’m noticing the moment.
Her black eyes. So black. The blackest black I’ve ever seen. They are observing me.
I think I understand.
Her head twitches.
I’m having a moment.
Her legs bend. Just a bit. I see it. She’s getting ready to jump. I can tell. Her eyes still focused on me. She’s turning her head. She leaps off the railing, quickly turning her little body while she’s spreading her wings. One flap. Two flaps. Right into the sun. My eyes can’t follow. She’s too fast, moves too quick. It’s too bright. I blink. She’s gone. I look. I sip. I breathe.
One deep breath.
I look around.
No one here. Just me.
I get up. I walk into the kitchen and I set my cup down on the counter. The numbers on the microwave glow bright and green.
It’s 10:04 a.m.