One Moment, Unsquandered

My wife of 22 years reclines on the living room sofa, just out of reach.

As she does every day when she finds herself on the sofa, my wife works.

With feet propped on a pillow, she assumes a comfortable position on the lengthy corner section. Sprinkled with cushions, her favorite spot looks more like a chaise lounge than the far end of a fancy couch. And truth be told, Liz needs such a configuration as her legs are fantastically long. Across tanned thighs a laptop rests comfortably. ‘Does the device warm her legs?’ I wonder. Fast fingers rattle the laptop’s keyboard as she fields questions from afar.

Whether it’s preparing for surgery or managing a property, she finds comfort in her work. Her fingers click softly across the laptop as I read The Dog Stars on my Kindle.

As we sit upon our sofa, sunlight winds its way through budding trees to fall upon my Liz. Having concluded a journey of 500 moments, a beam of light enters our open patio doors to set aglow a cloud of dust specs as well as my wife’s Caribbean profile.

And watching my wife shine I cannot help but stretch my left hand toward the far end of the sofa; the end just out of reach.

The moment, however, is interrupted as my effort is intercepted by our cat, Rifka. Sensing opportunity she uncoils a slender neck to block my reaching hand.

Sliding into the past, the moment vanishes as I begin to pet the cat.

Satisfied, Rifka cranes her neck and purrs.

Occupied, Liz types.

Additional moments slip by before I am distracted by a voice from the TV, hanging over the fireplace. Ignoring Heidi Klum’s wagging finger I return my attention to the cat. Quietly, I rub the bridge of her nose.

Another moment enters and exits our living room as Liz stops typing and looks to the ceiling.

From somewhere far away I hear a clock tick.

Liz sighs.

In the beam of light dust bits dance and swirl.

“It says right on the Airbnb site how may bedrooms our place has. And how many it sleeps. And every day someone asks how many people the place sleeps. Why is that?”

Leaving Rifka to her own devices I rest my Kindle across not-so-tan thighs. I shrug. “They probably just wanna double check to see if they can pack everyone in there, ya know. Maybe it’s a bunch of people staying together to save money.”

Without turning my way Liz nods. “It’s four couples.” She returns to the laptop and types. Quick fingers dart across the keyboard. “The woman seems really nice. They wanna stay for a week; end of June. They wanna know about the hot tub.”

Liz types then reads her response aloud. “Winnie, thanks so much for asking. The house sleeps five couples (and more children if need be) and the hot tub seats seven to eight. There’s also the waterfalls less than a thousand feet away; great for swimming! Below, please find some links to photos of the house, one of the hot tub and a couple of the falls at the bottom of the hill.”

She presses send and turns away, looking into the backyard. “Hope that helps.”

I shrug once more. “She’s probably planning to have a huge orgy or something and just needs to make sure she doesn’t let anything slip through the cracks, ya know?”

Ignoring my comment, Liz continues to type. I direct my attention to the cat and dust bits and Heidi Klum. “When something slips through the cracks it slips into the past. And it’s gone forever.”

Liz leans into her laptop.

Looking to Liz and then the cat and then back to Liz, I jut my chin toward her laptop. “Yeah, I’m guessing orgy.”

As fingers hover over an expectant keyboard my wife turns to face me. She raises slender eyebrows. “Let’s hope not.”

The moment lingers, pregnant with possibilities.

Squeals of delight jump from the television to trample our budding conversation.

Liz eyes me before looking up over the fireplace just in time to see Heide thoughtfully evaluate a Project Runway contestant’s creation. With finger on pursed lips Heidi nods approvingly. Liz jerks a square chin toward the TV. The sunlight curls around her profile to fall upon the cat. “I like that.”

I look to the TV. “Huh?”

“That dress. The blue one. I love the back; how it scoops low and ends just at the top of her butt. Nice butt by the way, huh?”

Admiring the model’s rear end, I pull shoulders to ears. “I prefer yours.”

Liz cocks an eyebrow.

I bob my eyebrows just so, causing my wife to smile.

The moment passes without fuss as it joins the others in the past.

Liz rolls her eyes before returning attention to her Airbnb client.

As Liz attacks her keyboard I lower the volume of the TV.

“Mind if I put on Pet Sounds? That was a great gift by the way. Thank you.”

“Can we just finish the show?” Liz grabs the remote and stabs the info button. “Seven more minutes.”

I nod. “OK. Seven minutes ‘till Pet Sounds. Original mono. On vinyl. I’m counting the seconds.”

Just outside our living room a breeze rustles eager branches. The breeze, Liz’s typing, Heidi Klum’s now whispered comments and the cat’s purrs are joined by a blooming sense of comfort.

Seven minutes worth of moments tick away as the groans of our World War II home join the din to warm my bones.

And closing my eyes I let moments slip by unencumbered.

A bird chirps. Then another. And another, all in a row. The roll call forms a musical necklace strung together by the strands of time.

Earlier this afternoon, before plopping on the sofa to join Liz, I had flung open two pair of French doors leading to the back patio. The spring breeze now joins flickering sunlight and the soothing household chorus to shepherd the steady stream of moments toward our home.

My eyes slip open just in time to witness the cat jerk to attention. Feline eyes narrow as Rifka peers into the backyard. Her ears perk as she sniffs at the breeze.

I lean toward the cat and whisper in conspiracy, “There’s something out there, huh? And it’s not those birds. I sense it too; something on the breeze. Something … coming this way.” Nervous, the cat leaps from the sofa, finding comfort in a far off corner.

And with the cat gone and Liz occupied I speak to myself more than anyone else. “An approaching moment perhaps? Winding its way from the beginning of time to live with us for just a second before exiting into the past?”

I look past the backyard in an effort to witness its arrival. “And what will become of you when you arrive, Moment? Will you simply slip away, unenjoyed?”

Liz darts me a look.

And from far away that moment gains momentum as it makes its way toward a couple resting on a couch in a World War II home, each just out of reach of the other.

From the future it floats, like a flower, atop time’s steady stream.

And trying to spy that approaching moment I narrow eyes like the cat and peer past open French doors.

I look to Liz. “You feel that, good-looking?”

She continues to type. “The breeze? Yeah, it feels nice.”

“No. Something else. Something … I don’t know. Something on the breeze.”

Liz stops her typing and turns to face me. And though I try to act serious I cannot help but smile at the curious face of my wife. Her head tilts toward the right. Then her brow furrows. “You mean like a smell or something? I smell cut grass. And coffee from earlier.”

“No. It’s not a smell. Or a noise.” I shrug, “I don’t know what it is, but it’s coming.”

Liz peeks at her keyboard before returning her gaze to me. She rubs her neck. “Well when it gets here let me know, OK? I don’t wanna miss whatever it is.”

“OK.”

She returns to typing. She stops, leaning forward to read an incoming message. Her head shakes, just a bit mind you, before she pushes back into the sofa’s soft cushions.

She sighs.

In the beam of light dust bits take flight once more, eager to dance and swirl.

“I just sent a bunch of info on the hot tub. I mean, how many photos do I have to show of that thing so people will understand the hot tub is big enough for what they need?”

“Orgy I’m telling you. Or-gy.”

Witnessing no response from my wife I mimic Raymond from the movie Rain Man. “Orgy. Definitely an orgy. Arms and legs and boobs and boners all over. Lots of boobs. Even number of boobs. Yeah. Even number. Many bodily fluids in the tub. Lots of fluids. Yeah. Need to drain and clean. Drain the tub. Very good. Definitely. Definitely an orgy.”

Liz ignores me as she reads her response aloud. “Below, please find some additional links to pictures of the hot tub. It’s made for seven but it can seat eight (one seat is by the controls and does not have a neck rest). And you can adjust the heat, lighting and each seat’s individual jets. Before each visit we drain and clean the hot tub for you. I think you’ll really like it!”

And as Liz sends her pleasant response to a curious woman far away a moment looms, ready to take its turn in the spotlight of the present. The moment rushes with the breeze, gracefully sliding though the woods at the edge of our property.

Warmed by the waning sun the blooming moment flows past trees to bound over a swell of newly cut grass to cross our patio.

Without resistance it slips through open French doors to engulf our home. And after an eternity’s wait the eager moment completes its journey from the future to find us in the here and now.

Heralding the moment’s arrival, a white light, akin to that of a Polaroid flash cube, engulfs our home.

For an instant the moment joins dust bits to swirl and dance, hoping not to be squandered.

The past, however, beckons as the moment steels itself for providence.

But before the past can stake its claim I reach out to pluck that moment from time’s steady stream.

Even as I hold it, I feel it slipping through my fingers.

And sensing an opportunity about to be lost I lean toward my wife.

“I love you.”

She continues to type. “What?”

“I said ‘I love you.’ And you know what? After all these years I still love you.”

In a far off corner the cat stands motionless.

From above the fireplace Heidi cocks a hip and smirks.

And from somewhere far away I hear a clock tick.

I shrug. “I do, really.”

Previously frenzied fingers come to rest as Liz sits staring at her husband of 22 years.

The breeze grows still and afternoon sunlight fades as the moment swells to fill the here and now.

Reaching across the sofa, Liz takes my hand. “I love you too.”

She gives me a gentle squeeze just as the moment slips through my fingers and into the outstretched arms of providence.

And without fanfare a single moment vanishes, this one unsquandered.

 

 

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