Monday, January 29, 2007

an evening with Emily

Togetherness does not necessitate conversation...

...although if you laugh aloud at something you are reading, you will probably be asked to share it.

If you can possibly manage to eat your hummus with raw garlic and olive oil, it is highly recommended that you do so.

And let it be known that if Emily ever meets Colonel Brandon, she will marry him on the spot.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Wrapper

There is a yellow bubble gum wrapper on the floor, lying just beside the crack where two slabs of cement meet. The girl in the pink glasses has passed by it three times today, and this is her fourth. The first time she was in a hurry, late for the second day in a row, and so she didn't really notice it, didn't even know she had seen it until the second time, when she saw it on her way to a meeting and realized she was seeing it again. The third time she saw it (though she must have passed by it once more, coming back from the meeting, but was talking to someone and didn't see it then), it occurred to her that she might pick it up. But she was on her way to lunch, and had a crossword puzzle she wanted to finish, so time was precious.

Now, however, lunch is done, and so is the crossword puzzle, except for one square in the lower right corner, where either an 'a' or a 'u' might go, and she doesn't know enough about astrophysics to get the cross-clue (she could look it up, of course, but then she will have already lost.) And she is about forty-five seconds ahead of schedule, which is of course ample time to pick up a bubble gum wrapper and throw it in the trash, and so there is no earthly reason why she shouldn't. And in fact her step falters for just a minute as she passes it by, but she keeps walking toward her office. She is surprised that it's still there, that in all the hundreds of people who have passed by that day not one of them has picked it up... but then, neither has she, and then wonders how many of them have thought this same thing, passing by, have noted it each time (except that once when she was talking to someone) and wondered who was going to pick it up. And out of all these people who might have picked it up, how strange if she should be the one to actually do it-- and how many of them, passing once again by the spot where it had been, would think of her, though of course not knowing that it was her, wondering who had finally picked up the wrapper, just as she would be wondering, now, if she had passed by this fourth time and found it gone.

At this thought she nearly turns around to pick it up, but by now it is several yards behind her, and she can no longer spare the time. It has seized hold of her thoughts by now, and she keeps thinking of it through the afternoon, as she sorts papers and transcribes recordings. Will it still be there when she leaves? That is the great question. It is almost unfathomable to think that, out of hundreds, not one would pick it up... unless (and this possibility has not escaped her) no one else has noticed it at all. If it is still there, then either no one but her has noticed it, or they have noticed it and have all failed to pick it up for reasons similar to hers. If it is not there, then at least one other person has noticed it, and more, has stooped to do the extraordinary. It is chiefly on this possibility that she dwells, and thinking of this person she is both a little jealous and a little in love.

Leaving the office, she fixes her eyes eagerly on the ground. It is possible, likely even, that in the back-and-forth motion of the day it has been kicked one way or the other, so she begins looking before she reaches the spot by the crack where it was lying before. It is not in any of the corners leading up to the spot, or under the doors where a stray bubble gum wrapper might be likely to lodge. She comes up to the right crack on the floor-- no wrapper. She looks to the left, to the right, down the hall-- not there. She goes on a few more steps to see if it has been kicked further in this direction. Her heartbeat has actually quickened. She must drink less coffee.

No. It's not there. Someone has, really has, picked it up. And what does this mean? She finds, now it comes to the point, that she's forgotten what significance this is supposed to have. Feeling suddenly deflated, she continues down the hall. She can't keep herself from sweeping the floor with her eyes, just to be sure. But it is not to be found. So someone has picked it up... or it's been kicked through a doorway, or stuck to someone's shoe walking by. That extraordinary person whom she envisioned, that one of a hundred who actually bent to pick up the wrapper, is no more real and substantiated than he was before.

Never mind. She shakes her shoulders a little, impatiently, trying to dispel the absurd depression which has settled over her. She takes a deep breath. And, to prove that she is all right, that it doesn't matter in the slightest, that she is in fact quite happy (after all, the workday is over and tomorrow is Friday), she smiles brightly at the janitor who is sweeping the hall.