First of all, Jack, you were sent to the corner for a reason. That pie was for everyone, not just you, we have told you endlessly about how wrong selfishness is. You won’t listen. And how many times do we have to tell you to use a fork or a spoon. Not only did you ruin the pie, no one wants to eat what is left once you put your hand in it. And how are we supposed to get that stain off your white shirt? Good boy? Oh, no, anything but, so you are grounded for a week.
In our family Murphy was a god, and his law was the eleventh commandment. I often wanted to ask at what moment my childhood ended. Had to be before my twelfth birthday, before the day on which I went from greeter at one of my father’s business parties in our oversized family room, to bartender, with no increase in pay. But I did develop a taste for Southern Comfort, so that was something of benefit. Once I did talk mom into letting me take the terror kids for an ice cream while she carried on her endless quest to replace the one small plate from her Royal Worcester china, never mind that she’d only once used eight place-settings which marked her personal best. But if you had twelve of every other piece, you could hardly have only eleven small plates. She did, I was told years later, finally give up the quest when, reaching for what she thought was the plate of her desires, she knocked over a Wedgewood platter, three large Belleek Vases and a Royal Daulton soup tureen. I had two sons, never saw the need to go to china shops, and the terror kids never married or had families.
The birds look at us as though we had two heads. They cannot, they say, comprehend how we can stand to live in boxes, to travel in metal containers, to be stuck forever to the ground. They say that food should be picked then eaten instantly, not packaged and half thrown away. They say they cannot see how we are supposedly more evolved than they, for they have the sort of freedom about which we only talk endlessly. But most of all, and saddest of all, we know they pity us as we pity ourselves.
I admit I am an odd duck, odder for not being a duck at all. But the expression has a certain je ne sais quoi to it, as does that expression and I am all about language. All that is a long round about way of acknowledging that I have always wanted to use the word antiphonal in my writing. I’m not terribly religious, and what faith I had has long been shaken by a world gone mad. Or at least a country gone mad. And even when I had some faith, I subscribed to the syllogism that religions music was to music, as military food was to food. We won’t even mention military music, that is an abject oxymoron.
It was a Thursday in August when he first noticed it. It was an unusually cool day, not the sort you’d expect in the middle of summer, but he knew the weather was ever more unpredictable. He was certain it hadn’t been there the day before, but he was surprised it was still there the day after, albeit ever so slightly larger. When he asked the elders about it, they merely laughed. “It is what you get for suddenly giving him a bedtime after dark,” his father said, “wait until he discovers the stars.”
He knew, the minute he stepped off, that it wasn’t going to end well. He should have realized it two steps earlier, but hindsight was of little use to him now. He knew he had to keep looking up, to focus on the sky. He knew he had to hope it would be like entering a black hole, where the end is certain but time slows and almost seems to stop. And, he remembered, the laws of physics break down inside the event horizon. What he knew he could not do was look down and see the ground rushing up at him. Even when you are 11, walking off the garage roof was not a really bright thing to do, the dare by your friends notwithstanding.
At the coffee shop they chatter as if in some foreign tongue, conversations overlaid one on another on another, until all I can strain are snippets of words, stray syllables. This is true everywhere I have visited, and it promises good coffee, for I have found that when I can easily eavesdrop on others at nearby tables, it is because the espresso maker has gone silent too long, there are few present, and I will regret the coffee shortly after drinking it.
The dream came to him again last night. He could never be certain if it was on the barren high mesa outside Taos or in the endless sands of Morocco. It really didn’t matter, since the action of the dream took place in a restaurant, and its location was ambiance, although he suspected it did have some deeper psychological meaning. In the dream he was grating cheese, when he awoke, nervous. Try though he knew he wouldn’t slip back into sleep until he determined if he was grating Roquefort or Gorgonzola, and he knew the cows would be soon enough calling him to the barn for the morning milking.
I received the invitation today, but I won’t be attending. I’m not inclined to RSVP, for that will only drive home the fact that I couldn’t afford to attend. They have to know this, and if they don’t, well… That really is their problem. My mother said you should always RSVP, yes or no, but she’s been dead two years, never said she’d attend anything again. And anyway I still believe the rule doesn’t apply to any invitation addressed to Current Resident
Between now and eventually lies all of history. We are unable to see it
though it lies in our field of vision. That’s the problem, we only know
how to look backward. We are barely able to see where we are. It isn’t
that we don’t want to be here, merely that here is difficult to see, for
we have a tendency to block our vision. Imagine a map with an X or other
marker saying “You are Here.” Yet seeing that we know we are not there for
in that instant we will look down and see where we truly are. But the better
statement to the “you are here” sign is not to call it wrong, but rather
to simply ask it, how did you know. It will answer, your visit was history
lying between my now and my eventually.