Mid Century

If you wait long enough, stare long enough, space out long enough, the day will reveal its pivot point. Some time in the afternoon something shifts. The day has been carrying on as the day. The afternoon has been the afternoon. Until you look up and notice that it is now tilting ever so slightly into late afternoon. Okay, it is the early part of the late afternoon, but it is still a different part. Like cresting the Continental Divide, everything imperceptibly inclines toward one ocean or the other.

Of course, to note this, you must have the patience of a detective. More precisely, you have to have been on a diurnal stakeout. Essentially, you have said to the sun or to the shadows, go ahead, move. Make my day. You looking at me?

Of course, once things have inclined and are sliding in a certain direction, you are either moving too, or acutely aware of your stasis. You are either on the bus or off the bus. You are either advancing with this day or sinking with it. More precisely, you are either letting the day move you or giving up and just coasting.

And that you have the opportunity to observe and comment on something so utterly predictable, well, that is the real miracle. Whatever the circumstance, if life gives you this chance and you actually take it, that says something. Doesn’t it? What does it say? More important, what do you say when faced with such utter indolence? Long Day’s Journey into Absolutely Nothing. Without apologies, that is the other thing. Where was I?

The answer…I was in the lawyers’ office. Jane and I. Together. The experience lasted one hour and 15 minutes. And it felt very much like a full eight hour shift. Trusts and wills and property arrangements. Evidence of attaining a certain number of years. Of being married. Matters, which like the day, can acquire critical mass and tilt in a direction.

The thing about such legal discussions is that they are rife with actual scenarios. Not just abstract possibilities, but the playing out of events. Such as, the matter of who dies first. And what follows. And what follows that and follows them. Wills and trusts need executors, for example, yet time marches on. So I may imagine that someone from my generation will oversee my affairs when that’s all that’s left of me. So, imagine away, but in essence there may be almost no one around. That’s what generations are about. Jane’s daughter, for example, being of the next generation is a logical executor. I hadn’t quite wrapped my mind around this reality of my own siblings being gone. But there it was, playing out. Just, as they say, the facts of life.

As for the marriage, the legal arrangements even stare this possibility in the face, that people do get divorced. The last intention for either of us, but an historical experience shared by both of us. Scenarios. Possibilities. Thinking through what is left of life. An hour and a quarter of this was all I could take. And yet what could be more worthwhile than facing mortal life? And planning accordingly.

Look at the kitchen. I would say ‘our’ kitchen, for it is that, but being an apartment and ultimately destined for rental to someone else, it is also ‘the’ kitchen. It has a life of its own. And it has a message for us, too. Several, in fact. There is the lesson of the disappearing.

Freshly returned from our time in Britain, we have a new kitchen. The old one, particularly the cabinets, has been ripped out. Including several items attached to the inside of the cabinet doors. A magnetic knife holder, for one. A jar opener designed for disabled people, being another. In other words, they have tilted into oblivion, these things. Where are they? Our contractor has an answer, of sorts. They went where the Mexican-American man who ripped them out put them. He will talk to him, the contractor says, just as soon as the cabinet ripper returns from his annual holiday in Mexico. Which is to say, they are gone forever. Like the day, things naturally slide, and in one direction. Gone.

The only thing one can do is to apply a counterforce. But how much and when, it’s hard to say. And yet there is the other thing about the kitchen, despite its losses. Although the losses do provide an interesting starting point. Before we even get to that other thing, there is the decorative loss, or there seems to be.

Before departing, I forgot to specify one aspect of the kitchen, an important element of decor. The contractor made his own decision, and I wasn’t happy with it. Too jarring, it seemed. The kitchen’s backsplash all abuzz with a geometric pattern of 1950s rectangles. Which, in the fullness of time, that is about four days, settled in the background, even drifted toward acceptance. In fact, I wonder if time in Britain, where colors are muted, decor less insistent, hadn’t set my expectations. In any case, I have decided that the backsplash, actually made of a sort of glass, is just fine. Just fine for California. Particularly fine for what is, after all, a 1950s apartment. Mid century. I am mid-century myself. And now facing into the middle of the second century of this lifetime. Which, under the circumstances, is worthy of note, even celebration.

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