(Written in 2009)
Comfort zones discomfort me. I begin to take myself and the world around me for granted when I am safe and secure in my comfort zone, and in the process, I cease to question, challenge, and upset the status quo. Every once in a while, a little something happens in my life that shakes things up; ruffles a few feathers; disturbs the peace. And it is in these precious moments that I feel most vital, most alive, most free. One such significant moment that I still recall with perfect clarity chanced upon me 9 years ago.
I can still recall his face, and how its contours changed as he smiled at me. 9 years and it all seems and feels so immediate. He jangles in my head along with all those other daily particulars, names of people, places and other groceries one stores in their mind's address book without ever actually reaching out to them, or wanting to.
I like thinking of these items as permanent household fixtures if you will. They exist. I trust my bed because it doesn't grow wings overnight- it sticks around. I trust my network of family, friends and acquaintances because they occupy delineated spaces. The soap dish for the soap; the washing machine for the clothes; the front porch for the car. The electricity bill hangs around too, in all too officious earnest.
They could be coupons- the ones that ask me to cut along the perforated lines. And the ones that caution me not to use the scissor in mommy or daddy's absence. They could be the contacts on my cell phone's address book; or my friends list on Facebook. Ever accessible, ever navigable- like my fridge, or the national archives.
This is my safe, ever polite cereal box existence. (Please) Cut along the dotted lines. Be safe. Be supervised. (Kindly) Don't talk to strangers. (You are advised to) Protect yourself from the unexpected. (Please) Return things where you found them.
It's been 10 years. I can still recall his face. He is a Clarks salesman who sold me a pair of shoes on Oxford Street 11 years ago. He's a really good guy. I had a relationship with him that lasted all of 7 minutes. I won't say I've forgotten his name, because he hadn't one to begin with. He is the Clarks salesman: Australian, million dollar smile, priceless goodness.
I guess it would be fair to say it was the moment. If I could, I would clutch it and spin it around on its invisible axis to show you, but I'm afraid I can't. Rather, I'm glad I can't. It was the moment- my moment- and I was and am sovereign over it. For there it was. No perforated lines to cut along here. None of the safe and boring linearity of my address book.
I taste It very meaningfully, as if It alone is capable of articulating what I am trying to say; as if It were able to consummate those wicked, ever evasive thoughts that ricochet across my mind, this way and that, mixed up, simultaneously seeking and resisting a permanent postal address where I can call on them as and when I wished, at whatever hour any day and I would be sure they would definitively remain the same.
The salesman hasn't an address, however. He remains a stranded moment, not whole but membranous, uprooted from time and space, residing on continuum avenue (no left or right turns here), resisting my permanent fixtures, defeating the stationary and mind numbing tangibility of electronic appliances, microwaves and postal addresses. He happens.
He is more alive to me than so much of the immediate world around me. I tire of the daily particulars. They are too constant, too secure, too earthed in their safe, reliable existence.
The convivial chatter, the eating utensils and their perfectly rehearsed cacophonous clatter, mother's reliable daily platter- they come easy; so easy that they lull me into that distressing state of......half sleep. I am Marx's proletarian and they are my daily opiate. I know not pain nor pleasure, but only the soul stifling anesthetic of a convenient life complete with 'Directions for Use'. Be safe. Be supervised. Cut along the dotted lines.
I can't deny that I have often longed to cut along this precious memory of mine- to borrow Horace's phrase, 'seize' it as you would the day. I have wished to hold it and turn it around and examine it in the light, when I am suddenly and joyously reminded there is nothing and no one to hold, there is little to seize, indeed seizable. There is a smile. There is a personal history engraved. Not on stone- but on whichever breeze chanced upon my path that fateful day. There is revelation upon revelation but no Holy Book upon holier pedestal. There is Truth. But there's another customer. In line. 'Thankyou. Have a good day.' There is Big Ben which must strike 12.
I've bought my shoes. He's handed me the receipt. And I haven't an excuse to linger, probe and stay. Whatever we had is far and away. And I haven't an excuse. There is nothing to excuse. Forgive me please for sounding this obtuse.
I've bought my shoes, and he's handed me the receipt.
I've lost the receipt. Never mind the shoes (I was swept off my feet).
Never mind his name. And just as well.
I had a relationship with him that lasted all of 7 minutes.
Not accessible, not navigable, but simply, lovingly, sincerely,