Friday, May 22, 2020

Waiting (2020 version)

One of my ex-boyfriends had a song I heard him perform only once; the chorus went Wai-hay-hay-hay...way-hay-hay-hay-hay-hay- tinngggg...  It went on.. not easy to sing on key unless you're sort of a yodeler...  but somehow some version of it has been repeating in my head.   Here we are, nearly in unison, across the world-- taking one of those 'breaths' a brilliant conductor can orchestrate and control by simply holding up his baton... while the brass, the strings, the woodwinds-- they all freeze in mid-breath or mid-stroke... waiting.

We spend a good part of our lives waiting; less so in the 5g internet age where responses are immediate-- goods are located and purchased, conversations anywhere in real-time, deals made, interruptions even possible.  When I was small I waited evenings for my father to turn the corner in his business suit-- he shared a cab and walked the last block or so.  Daddy! we'd yell, joyfully... greeting him just before he'd retire to the den with the scotch-on-the-rocks he'd waited for all day.

And now, the good witch in the story says, 'we must wait'... while the batter magically becomes cake, the oats and water turn into porridge, the pasta softens and curls, coffee brews.  Trees grow and fruit ripens, nested eggs hatch with life, babies are pulled from laboring mothers and childhood begins.  We keep ourselves occupied with schooling and tasks-- with jobs and careers and games and entertainment... while nature cycles on and provides us with most of what we expect.

So what now, as the whole world is paused-- not quite in unison-- for what have we waited?  For a new order?  For a universal decree of mourning?  A mass funeral for those families who have waited many weeks without comfort?  A diminished life for those who have been sickened and not quite recovered? Those who have been wounded and disabled?  A vaccine or cure for something that scarcely existed just six months ago?  A medal of honor for those who perished, who gave their lives unknowingly for some kind of cruel science?  Rewards for the medics and attendants who cared tirelessly and often hopelessly for people who were strangers and became intimates? For society to resume its habits and ways, or to resume with slightly altered protocol?  Will people be kind to one another? Has the waiting tested their patience to the limit?

For me, aside from its homophonic twin, waiting had a certain romance to it.  The 'hardest part', Tom Petty insisted, but I disagree.  The diagnosis is worse-- the verdict, the failure to acquit, the end.  We are all here waiting for death, some have said.... life itself is the waiting.

Ironically, people have learned to stand on line with more patience.  Of course, most have phones and social 'pacifiers' with which to entertain themselves.  I bring a book; I read, look around-- enjoy the air.  Things take much time these days; I waited tonight on a long supermarket line to find the price of chicken had doubled once again.  On my way out, I remarked about it to a woman with greying dreadlocks...  But I'll buy you chicken, baby, she said... in this voice that brought on a flood of tears.  No, no, I reassured her-- I'm fine-- just cranky.  We all need a hug, baby, she said... but we gotta wait for that shit! .... and we laughed.

Like those Biblical patriarchs and Greek heroes-- we wait for love, we wait for death, we wait for God to listen and look and reply.  Most of the time, we are clueless and helpless.  Especially now-- we wait for our mayors and governors to advise us, to coordinate a plan-- to be safe.

The tent hospital in Central Park has been dismantled-- just like that, it vanished almost overnight.  Families of those who did not survive here will have no place to pass and remember their loved one.  It is a grass field, once again.  Will children play here and forget the small successes and tragedies that marked this lawn in the month of April?  

I have learned from experience that grief subsides with the passing of four seasons.  My friend whose husband passed away does not believe this.  You need to get by one birthday, one Christmas, one anniversary, one snowfall, one fireworks display, one turkey dinner... etc.  It is unimaginable but it comes-- the day when you forget for an hour or two, you sleep without a dream, you laugh deeply and uncontrollably.

Walking around the Harlem Meer at dusk tonight, I witness people with masks zig-zagging paths to avoid others.  A few men are maskless by a bench, laughing and smoking, sharing food, touching.  Will we ever trust one another enough to stand shoulder-by-shoulder in crowds?  I passed one of my son's former mentors last night and we spontaneously and courageously clasped hands.  It was so human and healing and strange.  A woman shook her head as though we'd violated some civic law.

I am willing to wait for the next version of future... but not with phone in hand, biding my time.  I am hoping to fill this with some kind of energy-- some kind of work, some kind of prayer... so when the baton lowers,  I will pledge myself forward into the next measure, knowing it is likely to be the 'hardest part'.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Robert Brewer Young said...

Hello. I read your article in the NYT and having been reading you writing online. I am moved by your story. I am a violinmaker living in London. I would like to send you a bit of money, not loads but enough to buy a few weeks of groceries. If that helps let me know. You can find my contact details on my site robertbreweryoung.com or right to me at roberbreweryoun.com
Thank you for your work and art and being in the world.
Robert

May 24, 2020 at 2:00 AM  
Blogger Robert Brewer Young said...

Hello. I read your article in the NYT and having been reading you writing online. I am moved by your story. I am a violinmaker living in London. I would like to send you a bit of money, not loads but enough to buy a few weeks of groceries. If that helps let me know. You can find my contact details on my site robertbreweryoung.com or right to me at roberbreweryoun.com
Thank you for your work and art and being in the world.
Robert

May 24, 2020 at 2:00 AM  
Blogger Bo Reilly said...

And again I borrow a line from an artist on Spring Street: "There is no present like the time."

I just sent "Light Sings of Wear" along with a volume of Kurt Vonnegut's letters to my niece in New Jersey. I told her I wish I'd read these at her age. She's 25, I'm 63. These will keep me on the "good uncle" list for awhile. At least until I send her "Scars" which I haven't finished yet.

Also I picked the last volume of your book out of The Strand (online) so they better call for a restock.


Write Hard Live Free

May 25, 2020 at 6:08 AM  
Blogger Jim Manos said...

I also came to your blog after reading the NYT article and have been very much enjoying reading your essays, going backwards in time. We are approximately the same age so I can say that you are a good voice for people of our peculiar era. I look forward to several months of reading as I go back to your earliest posts. Thank you!

May 26, 2020 at 6:12 AM  

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