Friday, June 23, 2006

What day is today?

I’ve locked myself out of the apartment. Defeated and wilting, I’ve taken cover in a coffee shop. Corner table. Against the pillowed window seat. Large iced black tea.

And the bags. The purple canvas hides a pair of red slingbacks, a bottle of fine and gently tasted wine, swimming change, errant Fidelity statements, a folded and smashed packet of Splenda.

The other bag is stuffed with girl goodies, not the least of which being a dark olive shirtdress, nearly identical in cut as the one I am currently sporting.

As I write this, a sleeveless, dreadlocked man asks me a startling question.

“Excuse me, do you know what the date is?”

I stop mid-line, mid-sip, my hand faltering cold from the cubes in the tea.

“Pardon?” I manage.

“Today. What day is today?” He motions to his newspaper, indicating an event listing with his pointed finger.

I want to chide him. Joke with him. Why today is Christmas Day, Mr. Scrooge…

But I can’t. I gulp, swallowing the words whole.

“The 22nd.”

He attends back to his paper, his rhubarb muffin, his ratty backpack. I face the glass, the street, listless.

What day is today?

To not know the date, to be blissfully unaware of one’s surroundings, one’s lack of obligations? This man, at least for this moment, lives within that realm.

I cringe. This man out-ages me by thirty years, yet I’m the one burdened by time. I’m painfully aware of everything. The cost of the dress and the tea and everything else backed out of my strained, quote-unquote budget. The position of the sun as it beats down on my chapfallen back, my borrowed minutes in the cool of this shop, the number of days it’s been since I was purged from the protective womb of college. All of it. I’m so tuned in, I am too engrossed.

I have an 18th century poetess moment. O, to be unaware!

The caloric contents, the manner of shoulds, guarded laughter, business casual, the price of freedom, the limits of experience, the blaring trill of the office phone, the barking orders of parents, bosses, elder siblings, speed and credit limits, blood pressure.

O, what I may find if only I didn’t know even the tiniest self-imposed weight of neurosis, lust for privilege, now-or-never, what could I become?

This man.

This man, at nine o’clock, growing salt and pepper coils in lieu of hair, a sprinkling of freckles across his nose, thumbing through the Voice, opposite his ukulele—yes ukulele—and singing off-key to “Comfortably Numb.”


Another twentysomething said...

That was a beautifully written post, K. Your language really brought me there with you. I really yearn for those moments where you're on vacation and you lose track of what day it is, knowing only that the careless bliss comes to and end in the near future. It makes me think, "God, I can't wait to be retired." But whenever I am criticized for being too scheduled, too organized, I reflect that maybe it's just the modern twentysomething's way to make the most of a day. We fit as much as we can into our days. While there are benefits to the chill side of things, I say keep making the most of your days. It's a good sign that you notice this man's qualities and ukelale. I think that means you get it.

60 and counting said...

Many years ago, there were never enough hours in the day. Too much to do and never enough time.
Now, I an sure there are only 10 hours in a day, and not enough days in a year.

Enjoy them while you can.


Buffy said...

I still can't get over the ukulele.

Tip toe...through the tulips...

themarina said...

How true. I've come to the conclusion that there's too much pressure on us 20 somethings. Always somewhere to be, something to do, someone to be. It's nice to be able to forget it all...even if for only an hour.

Mimi in NY said...

I think you worry too much. Take some more yoga classes. Go to Laughing Lotus on Friday and take my class.

NotCarrie said...

Not knowing the date reminds me of summer vacations in elementary school:)

In Penury Parvenu said...

I resent people who can play the ukulele...kinda like that smarmy Israel Kamakawiwoole.

argos said...

"well, look at the front of your paper, it's that date, plus or minus seven."

I think it was a pick up line.

Gina said...

"The position of the sun as it beats down on my chapfallen back, my borrowed minutes in the cool of this shop, the number of days it’s been since I was purged from the protective womb of college."

Love this.

Cheetarah1980 said...

I never know the date and my life damn sure ain't carefree. I'm just forgetful.

Anonymous said...

You will not become this man if you are smart, which you are.
Even if you did...what would be so bad about it? The fact that he was lucky enough to escape from the world as we know it, with millions of people running on borrowed, fleeting time that constricts everyone and everything we do. The fact that MAYBE the permanent clock that is ticking in everyone's heads didn't seem to be in his mind at this moment makes me envy him. He's playing a Ukulele for God's sake. Out of touch? Maybe. Happy? Seems like it...

Broady said...

I think folks like "that man" trade one set of stressors for another.

Sure, you could drop out the mainstream and never again worry about alarm clocks, deadlines, office politics, success or failure.

But in return, you live in uncertainty, sometimes fear, constantly hunting for sustenance, and I'm sure that if you're not already mentally ill, the loneliness and crushing regrets would drive you to some form of unreality.

That's a quite a load to take on in exchange for unscheduled days and rat race immunity.

Sometimes this self-imposed pressure to succeed can do more than just enslave us to a lifetime of feeling inadequate... it can help us accomplish great things.

Just make sure that the great things you accomplish are yours, not someone else's idea of greatness.

D.T. said...

I really like the anonymous comment. Most of us go to school, in hopes that one day we'll be successful. But to be successful, we first gotta be slaves to time. And if were slaves to time we end up losing the in between. The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what's in between, and we miss it when we follow time. So maybe your ukulele-playing friend does have something goin' for him...

K said...

I meant this post to reflect that I was definitely envious of the guy, and not just because of the ukelele--which I found to be incredibly charming, but his entire free spirit was just so amazing to see.

Anonymous said...

Oh, for heaven's sake.

Just because keeping track of the days is important to you does not mean that you always know the date, or even the day of the week for that matter. If you are very busy, the days can sort of run together in a blur.

Personally, I wear a calendar watch because I do not like to be confused about the date. And I would venture to guess that most people, if you asked them the date, would not be quite sure of it without checking a calendar or some sort.

I leave you with a sundial inscription: "Utaris non numero". It is Latin for "use them, don't count them", and refers to the hours. It can as well refer to the days.