Wait for Me, Day 20

This entry is part 20 of 23 in the series Playing "Wait for Me"

This is an entry in a journaling game I’m currently playing. An explanation, and my first entry, is here. Oh, and these posts are organized into a series now. You can see the post series page here. 

(I haven’t abandoned this—especially not so near the end of the game—I just wanted to do the entries justice and have had a lot on my plate the past week.)

As I tumble through this extratemporal void—or is it supertemporal? exotemporal?—I find my sense of time itself has shifted. I… am able to direct my movements. Not wholly, not in any decisive way, but my tumbling connects to my thoughts. 

Is there a day I could visit, then? A “best day of my life”? 

As the thought occurs to me, a memory strikes me, from my childhood: a day when nothing went wrong, when nobody got angry at something I did, when there were no arguments, no tensions. I find myself reflecting on that—on the fact I thought the perfect day was something that depended on the whether parents or siblings’ emotions stayed under control—but before I can process it, I’m there, on the very of the moment; I see an older version of myself, in a terrycloth bathrobe, laughing as he watches from outside this moment. He catches my eye, and I realize he recognizes this moment: he saw it from my point of view, long ago, and knew I would arrive for it. He shakes his head, smiling, heart clutching his chest absentmindedly. 

I blink, and find myself soaring off in another direction: to a park, to a girl, a first kiss. Outside that moment, I see several of myself gathered, not even beholding the moment, but laughing among themselves, neither with a rueful look nor disdain, but with a kind of envious wonder at this boy and his innocent excitement, his ardent emotions. They, too, turn and look at me, but the looks on their faces evince surprise at the sight of me, and then at the sight of one another as well, as if they’d forgotten in an instant their shared amusement. 

And I blink again, and now I am outside of time at a small upstairs cafe where music is playing, and people are gathered to be with us. My wife and I have been married for a few weeks, according to City Hall, but this is our wedding day, and we are with friends and those family who could be there, laughing and talking and sharing beer from a dozen corny kegs, all of it brewed by me (well, and a few brewed with friends). Outside of this moment, many others of myself twist and turn in the void: they seem so at home here that it baffles me, until I realize that the comfort I’ve attained, the ability to travel to these moments just by feeling what I felt in them, must be something not that I’ve learned, but that I’ve finally remembered. 

Then I’m at the hospital, among a crowd who are watching, younger mes who are flabbergasted, older ones who have tears in their eyes, wistful looks and smiles, watching a poor, terrified version of myself sitting in the hallway, waiting to be left back into the delivery room. These moments, the ones when I was alone out here, instead of in there with her, holding her hand uselessly but being with her, were the hardest moments of this day—and still harder ones would come. But then he’s born, and she’s alright, exhausted but happy, and he’s alright, nothing wrong, none of the million things we worried about, and finally things aren’t out of our hands—our hands. Us isn’t two people anymore, it’s three, and he’s beautiful and perfect and nothing will be the same again. 

And a thought from a recent day comes to me, or rather the heart-full feeling does, and I’m suddenly there: my son, facemask on his little face, hand in mine, walking back to where I parked the car, looks up at me and says, laughing, “Today was a good day, Papa.” And he laughs in the shower that we all take when we get home, just to be careful and safe, and he laughs when we put that plate of food in front of him, and when he says, “Papa, I wanna play No Man’s Sky!” and when I teach him how to play Three Blind Mice on the bamboo pennywhistle I brought back from India, on my EWI, on my saxophone. All that laughter, me and him and his mom all together. 

I end up blinking again, and I’m back at that day when I was a child, exulting in how nobody got mad at me. The old man smiles at me now, seeing me return. He knows. Wordlessly, we watch as the child falls asleep. 

And when he is asleep—when the entire house is—I slip into time, and find my little yellow notebook. It’s strange, holding it in my hand again; I’d forgotten about it completely, but the familiarity is incredible now that I’m holding it again. It’s not a diary, the very idea of keeping one had never occurred to me by this point, but it is my school notebook. I’ll read it. 

I open to the back page, and I write:

“Nobody got mad at me,” isn’t the best day ever. 

The best day ever is, “I was with people I love, and we made time to really be there with and for one another.” You don’t know yet, what that means, right? You don’t know how to not make time. You’ll need to relearn it, someday. There’s always someone or something there, demanding your attention, your time, your energy.

It’s not about avoiding bad things. It’s about embracing good ones, as strongly as you can. It’s about those moments when love beats wins and other things become background noise, wallpaper.

I set the notebook down, and I’m about to let myself slip out of time again, when I turn and look at the little boy sleeping in the bed here, innocent and small, but already weighed down by lessons nobody meant to teach him. Despite myself, I have tears in my eyes as I lean down and kiss him, softly, on the forehead, the way my father always did, the way I’m sure he did earlier that evening.

He stirs, just a little, but by the time he opens his eyes, I’m back in the extratemporal space, with that older version of me. He sets a hand on my shoulder, tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, and then he soars off toward some other moment, or maybe toward home. 

I linger for a moment, watching the child close his eyes and go back to sleep, and then I’m on my way again. 

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