5.23.2006

A Day in the Life

or, "Somebody Spoke, and I Went into a Dream"

a work (mired) in progress.

I

It was the day before the first eighty-degree day of summer. It was pleasant, weather-wise. It wasn’t so much cloudy or cold, but it was not so pleasant that you wished you could take the kind of picture that would remind you of the air’s purple-orange smell and the sun’s grassy face. It was just pleasant.

I remember thinking, there’s always time for friends. I liked to think those kinds of things, in those days. I liked especially to think such thoughts when there were friends near, or nearing. That day, in particular, at one-thirty, they were nearing the mall as I searched for my parking spot. I passed two or three and waited a moment for a woman in a black Suburban to back into her spot. She took too long, and I eventually settled for a spot a little farther away from the door than I’d have liked. As I walked toward the Penny’s entrance, I noticed a gusty wind, steadily blowing my hair, long and unruly – I was nearing my quarterly haircut, and the wind was not kind to me that day. Soon enough, the thick brown hair I inherited from my mother was wrestled from my control altogether.

I found them – they had already arrived in town, having driven an hour or so west – and they were looking at sunglasses. She tried on a pair that was white, and one she said made her look like a giant bug. They weren’t so bad, really, only slightly oversized. He said his wardrobe needed a summer upgrade. Shorts, a polo shirt, something. We were in the GAP store – or J. Crew, I don’t remember which – when I decided that fedoras should make a comeback. I thought: I should have lived in a time when people wore more hats.

II

He was sitting deep in the big bowl of a chair in our living room. She was on one of the couches, holding our newborn. My wife and I were sitting on separate couches – she with his wife on the small couch, I with myself – and we were giving each other knowing looks every few minutes. We were all talking, often at once. He and I were discussing a book idea – Great Bible Stories to Tell at Parties, I think was our current working title. He’d thought of it the night before, while they were out with another couple. Naturally, bald Elisha and the bears sprung to my mind. How do I explain the forty-two youths, I wondered?

We talked, too, about a kind of communal living we thought would be fun. Our wives, as was the tradition, listened and laughed and told us we were too ridiculous for our own good. Nevertheless, he and I agreed it would be interesting to live with another couple in a single house, so long as there was plenty of buffer room for maritals.

Amid the discussion, we ordered some wings (for three of them) and a burger (for me); he and I went to pick up the order. We got to the restaurant and the girls at the hostess station asked us to wait a moment while they got our food from the back. A redhead and a blonde. The blonde was perky and very young and gorgeous. The redhead had a freckly face that wouldn’t work well on film, but she came off saucy and somehow more appealing than her light-haired counterpart. The blonde went into the kitchen and brought out our food and we left. As we got in my car, he said, “Those women in the window there were checking me out, big time.”

“Nice. I didn’t see ‘em, but, all right.” I really hadn’t seen them.

On our way back, there was some strange interference on the radio. He told me about the night out with the other couple. They were at a coffee shop, and the boys were sitting across from their respective wives. At one point, my friend noticed two women sitting across the store, behind their wives. A redhead and a blonde. They had come in together, holding hands. They kissed once, he said, lightly, before several longer, more passionate kisses grabbed and held his attention. “I kept looking at him. thinking, is he seeing this? I can’t say anything now, but goddamn! Is he seeing this?!” He made a note to himself, he told me, to ask the other guy about it another time. “I’m still trying to figure him out.”

III

“My grandfather has been pretty sick for a while, now,” he would say during dinner. “My mom gave me the idea of writing him a letter.”

“What kind of letter?”

“I think she was thinking I could write something sort of listing off, um, recounting the things I remember about him growing up.”

“You don’t want to just depress him!” His wife kicked in.

“I know that.” He laughed a little. I’ll have to give it a lot of thought; I’m not going to just sit down and write it in ten minutes!” I laughed a little.

IV

She was looking through the Bible – she had just started in Genesis, scanning through. “Samson did some pretty wild stuff, didn’t he?” I’d been listening as she announced the occasional section heading.

He had still not held the baby, but I explained that I wouldn’t hold it against him. I had never really cared much about babies, myself. “This one was mine, though, so it’s different, y’know?” “Yeah.”

His phone rang, and he took the call in another room. The three of us stared at the baby for a few minutes, until he came back into the living room and announced that his grandfather had just died. There wasn’t much to say to that, but as he called his brother from the other room, I thought what a good story the day would make. I was like that in those days, always searching for stories. I hadn’t yet realized that stories find writers. It just can’t happen the other way around. They left – he hadn’t bought any summer clothes – and I went to sleep promising myself I would soon write the story I’d found.

The baby had not slept through the night, yet, and the noise from the monitor filled our bedroom. I always thought the sound of my child crying would break my heart, I thought. It was still so new as to make me smile, and I nudged my wife. “I think she’s hungry.”

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1 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

[if !supportEmptyParas]--><--[endif]

good story.

4:47 PM  

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