By John Bridges
NOVEMBER 3, 1997: I hate this week. This is the week when the days grow short. Actually, of course, this week's days are no shorter than the days in the week before them. I am assured, by people who know about such things, that the morning is out there, precisely where it has always been, but mornings hold little interest for me. As far as I am concerned, mornings, whenever they happen, are something to be stumbled through. You can move them an hour backward or forward; it is all the same to me. I will still be having a cup of coffee at 8:45, standing in the kitchen, leaning against the dishwasher, trying to remember whether I took my fiber. At 9:15 I will be standing outside my front door, searching in my pockets for my keys. At 9:20 I will be in my car. I will stick my finger in my ear and discover it is full of shaving cream.
It does not matter whether the rest of the world proclaims this extra hour of morning time to be standard, that it is provided so that little children can see the school bus when it arrives at 7 a.m., that it is in synch with the rising and setting of the sun. It is not an hour I ever asked for, an hour I ever needed, or an hour I will ever use.
My friend Bromwell says he cannot understand why I should hate this week any more than I hate any other. After all, Bromwell points out, I am supposed to be a night person. He cannot, for the life of him, understand why I should be bothered to see the twilight arrive at 4:45 p.m. He cannot understand why I am confused when I am having my afternoon cup of coffee, look out the window, and discover that, in the world where Mother Nature sets out the glasses, it is already martini time.
He cannot understand the sadness I feel, gazing out into the darkness and knowing that, somewhere out there, the neon lights are heating up without me. He cannot understand that, in my world, it is that sweet hour when, in grocery stores all over the city, people should already be standing in line, hugging cans of tuna to their chests and stealing bites from already-opened boxes of pretzels. He cannot comprehend that, as far as I am concerned, this is that magic moment when all thinking people should be at home in their apartment complexes, checking their answering machines, opening their bills, sorting through their dirty laundry, and getting on with their lives.
He cannot understand how I resent any hour of darkness that creeps up on me stealthily, hoping to go unnoticed. He cannot know how I mourn for a night that has gotten under way without me. It would be as if, in his simple little world, he had overslept on a Tuesday morning, as if he had missed the chance to spend an hour with Katie Couric, the chance to read the morning paper, the opportunity to be there when his dog takes a dump.
It would be as if somebody had let a business meeting get started without him. It would be as if an hour had been ripped, untimely, out of his life.
That is not, however, a feeling that anybody can have in a morning. If a day gets started late, there is time for amends to be made. There is time for shortcuts to be taken. There is time provided so that people can catch up.
But an evening hour gone is an hour that has abandoned you forever. It cannot be replicated; its like will never come again. The pages you might have read on that evening are pages you will never turn. The wine you might have drunk will never reach the glass. The love you might have known will never come again.
That is why I hate this week as much as I hate any other. It has nothing to do with the passing of summer or the onset of winter with its long, damp expanse of gray. It has nothing to do with the end of the year and loneliness and a sense of one's own mortality.
It has to do with the fact that, for the next six months, the rest of the world will be in charge. People who arise early--before 8 a.m., for example--will, in truth, have their entire day before them. They will be invited for lunch appointments and make it to the gym in the middle of the afternoon. They will return phone calls and answer all their mail. Then they will go forth into the blackness, figuring their day is done. They will rush homeward, and when they arrive there they will put on their pajamas and their woolly, gripper-soled houseshoes, and they will cook up for themselves huge pots of stew, which they will serve up for themselves in large bowls. No matter what night of the week it is, they will watch Seinfeld. Then they will have a glass of milk, and they will get to bed on time. The hour will be, at the very latest, 8:45 p.m. By 9:15 they will have had sex.
As they are crawling under their coverlets, I will be standing in my kitchen, staring at my can of tuna and waiting for my day to begin. At such an hour, I will think to myself that it is merely the shank of the evening, that perhaps I should call someone up and make a date for dinner, that perhaps someone would like to take in a movie, that perhaps it has been a little too long since I have had a date.
Then I will call someone--someone who will pick up the phone and say, "What are you, some kind of crazy?"
I will say, "What do you mean? It's not even 9:30."
The person on the other end of the line will say, "My God, don't you ever sleep?"
I will ponder the question. But I will leave it unanswered. It will be useless to explain to a person--under the covers, already wearing pajamas on a perfectly worthwhile weeknight--that I must make up for the time that has been stolen from me, here at the onset of autumn. In all this darkness, I figure, somebody ought to be out there dancing, but the rest of the world does not know what I know. They do not know that spring will eventually come around again. The sun will rise early, and I will get my hour back again. In the spring there will be plenty of sunshine, and I will catch up on my sleep.
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