Thursday, August 02, 2007

Waiting. With Frog Poster

The time between finishing a book and waiting for it to come out is a strange one. It’s a lot of different things at once. It's like watching a thunderstorm cross the sky. It’s like waiting at a lottery drawing for that giant number jumbler to spit out the winning ticket. It’s like waiting at a surprise party for the guest of honor to come through the door. Someone sighted him in the lobby, he’s on the way up, do I have time to put down my drink? Should I stand behind the curtain or crouch next to the sofa?

And you realize: life is the waiting, not the arrival. The happening doesn’t determine the quality of our lives, that’s a common misperception, but the waiting.

And can you wait without fear? Without thought of gain or loss?

And then he comes through the door, and you yell and he drops the groceries he’s carrying, eggs splattering the floor like Pollack drips.

In November, on a TV show you slip up and insult the host. You had meant to say, “I’m sorry, I missed that, can you repeat that?” but instead said, “The fuck you talking about?” The live audience stares at you aghast. “My bad,” you say, “Let’s give it another shot.” But there will be no others.

In December, you are a guest on a cable access show in Sacramento. The host wears a cowboy hat and during commercial breaks he paws your leg and asks you to come to his house for dinner. He will make his special veal.

And then in January: Success! Fame! The President gets up at his State of the Union address and says “I was going to bomb Iran and, what the fuck, a couple of the stans too, Uzbakistan, Turkistan or something, not Pakistan I’m pretty sure, but then I read this book about a deaf guy in Africa and I thought nah, better to resign immediately and kick my vice-president in the nuts.” Can you imagine the sales after that? The movie deal? Leonardo will play you in the movie and will spend the weeks before the filming commences following you around, taking notes for his part. He will carry a small flipbook pad and write down notes like “limps slightly, appears to think a swim in the Hudson is as good as a shower, drinks a lot of seltzer.” He wins the Oscar of course, and not just because the academy loves a cripple. During his acceptance speech he says “I’d like to thank –“ and just starts to hum, a low deep hum that spreads through the vast theater and through the air waves, and harmonizes the brainwaves of one billion people and their sleeping spouses who have to get up early in the morning, and in the morning, the streets outside are free of pollution and want. People hug strangers at the corners when the lights change. Dogs play come and get me and stand up and tell you you’re wonderful and the skyscrapers are purple crayons writing out love poems on the stars.

But…it probably won’t break like that, is the thing. And even if it does, how can you be so sure the ever-blooming happiness won’t be marred by the Knicks’ continuing futility? By a nagging pain in your side? What then is success?

What if it’s just the waiting?

So then, taking stock of a moment: a sweat soaked shirt, two sleepy dogs, a waning moon, a bee sting, four remotes on the near table, a goose lamp that glows from within, a good woman with a stiff neck, shiny plastic chairs, caramel ice cream, a poster of a frog.


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