Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Moment To Be Alone

An hour was all he needed, maybe a half hour when there was too much work, maybe less if the calls were falling like leaves from the tree of endless complaints, the strange tree that he was meant to trim daily but was always overgrown by the time he returned. But an hour was what he really needed and what he hoped for in the long spaces where there was only a computer terminal, a phone and his own hands typing away at a keyboard, like endless little footsteps that go nowhere, nowhere at all and very fast, when the light was yellowish and fuzzy and the window was glazed over with the steam of the heater and the breath of the people that walked by and talked in whispers, because everyone had to be working, and he was too, and his mind was so deeply focused on the glaring computer screen that he could barely hear the sound of the people behind him, or the cars outside, or the radio in the assistant’s cubicle, turned down real low, which only made it travel further and find its way underneath his skin where it would reside for hours, even after he was long gone and there was no longer any radio there, or the sound of his boss talking loudly to another manager on the phone, going over the latest ball game, laughing loudly, his feet up on his desk, just a few steps away.
But if he had an hour, just an hour, with nobody around, then that made it all disappear as if by magic, it made things come back to a place where he could vaguely remember who he was, and why he was, or if it wasn’t really remembering, at least it was a kind of lucid imagination that could stand in for memory, and maybe it was better than real thoughts. Here in his car, alone among the trees and the birds and the joggers and all the other creatures that lived in the park, he could at last breath, and it would take him a full ten minutes to get his breathing down to a place where he could smell again, and then he could smell the leaves and the flowers and the leather seats of his brand new car that he only drove for a couple of hours each day, and the smell of his own sweaty skin which he now realized other people might smell as well, but maybe they were just as clogged up as he was and maybe they were just as compressed as he was and maybe they were just as lost as he was so maybe they would have no smell, no smell like he did, until he was alone, here in the car, and by that time there was nobody else around, so he could only smell the sweat of the joggers as they passed by but nobody could smell him, and it was so beautiful that, for that moment, the smells were like a symphony of aromas and all the different aromas fit in so perfectly that he wouldn’t have rejected any one, not even the most noxious, not even the black smoke that trailed through the branches from the trucks that passed by on the main road just a block away, not even the putrid urine fumes that came from the homeless man that slid his way from one nowhere to another, sliding close to all cars, maybe hoping one would be open and a gold watch would be inside, or at least some change. He wouldn’t trade any of them, not at all, because they all added up to a kind of silence, a silence that drove into him through his nose and filled his lungs with delight and calm ecstasy and soon, after another ten minutes had passed, he would be smiling and his face felt strange for a moment, as if doing a strange acrobatic move that it wasn't accustomed to and then he would know that it was only a smile and it was all ok, at least for now.
It was only then that he would lean his seat back, all the way back so that his face would be looking up at the roof of the brand new car and then he would throw caution to the wind, and set aside all worries of who might see him or who might not, or what they may think or what they may not, and then he pushed his feet outside the window and he opened his mouth wide and swallowed the air like heavy food that would sustain him and then he yawned so powerfully that his whole body trembled, and even the car might have shaken a bit like a horse shaking beneath the weight of its master. Then he was smiling broadly and he knew that he had what he wanted, what he truly needed, the only thing he really asked for: a small moment to be alone, here in the park, in the middle of the trees and the birds and the joggers, just a few blocks away from the building where the computer terminal still waited for his return.
Ten more minutes and the sounds would begin to pulse through him, the footsteps outside, the songs that slid like silver necklaces enchanted by wizardry through the latticework of the thin branches above him, his own breathing which by now had become slow and heavy and then he could feel himself release even further and the sounds had become a drone and the drone was the street itself and the car was still and quiet but for him it was all moving and that movement signified that he was travelling, and he was further than anyone could suspect and the trees gyrated in the window and the window itself gyrated and then he closed his eyes and there was only darkness and the sound of teardrops falling on a vast pool of dark oily water. He stood alone, wet up to his ankles, and the noise of the cars driving by his own parked car were like waves, and the songs of the birds were like flashes of thin lightning across the infinite blackness of the sky and here he was truly alone, and this is all he needed, this is all he wanted. Soon he would be ready to return and the people could keep on whispering and the radio could keep on making its trebly soft complaints and the boss could keep on talking loudly onto the phone. After a moment such as this, he could take another afternoon, maybe another morning, just as long as he got an hour, maybe a half hour sometimes, but ideally an hour. That was all he really needed.

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