Saturday, January 23, 2010

Life, or Something Like It

There comes a moment when, suddenly, you realise life is actually happening. To you, right now, all around you. Some shard of opaque glass falls, all of a sudden, from before your eyes and you blink in surprise, blinded by the brightness of this shock: that the ephemeral concept you have imagined to be life, that you have been chasing since you can remember being able to remember anything - you've had it all this time, in your palms. You've been chasing something you already have.  

You recognise in the flash of a moment, maybe with the jolt of a bus or with a clap of thunder or with the unexpected coldness of a summer downpour, that life is not just something one reads about in books. It is visible, tangible, extant in the collage of your every-day experiences. Its very essence is in the minutiae of the quotidian, exactly where a person used to book-learning might least expect to find it.

I had a moment like this last week. I was out to lunch with two friends. We spoke of novels we liked, plays we had seen, places we had traveled. We deliberated over the variety of dishes on the menu, wondered how fresh was the Barramundi we had ordered, sipped wine from Italy, champagne from France. The glass doors of the restaurant opened onto a deck flooded in sunlight and summer breezes, and as the afternoon wore on the chairs outside gradually filled with young people dressed for evening.

And, sitting there, listening to my friends talk, listening to the chatter from other diners, watching the man across the way follow with his eyes the young blonde waitress while he pretended to listen to his companion, I realised that this, right here, is it.

And it needn't have been a summer day and French champagne. 

I have felt that clarity on other occasions, walking down grey city streets crowded with people weary from the day, or sitting at work looking out at a rain-swept sky: this is it. The only one you get.

Life is happening all around us, to us, all of the time. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

You sit in a chair that is attached at its root to a row of other chairs, two on the right and three on the left, and that is facing another row of chairs and backs onto yet another identical such row. You are in transit. You hold your book in one hand and your boarding pass and coat in your lap but you are constantly distracted, by the boarding calls that are not for your flight, and by the television that hangs suspended from the ceiling and broadcasts local news stories, the same ones again and again. It grows quiet suddenly, and still, and you realise a rumbling has stopped, a rumbling you were not aware of until it stopped, a rumbling made apparent only in the moment of its absence. It feels, to you, like the eery calm before lightning strikes, and you wonder what storm is about to hit. You are headed for New York City.