I viewed the day as unsalvageable, hours enmired in the Murphy’s Law complex, with everything that could go wrong, inexorably doing so. My mood spiraled beneath sea level, beneath the earth’s surface, deep into the rough hot center of its core. With limbs paradoxically both heavy and slack, I trudged back and forth in someone else’s office doing someone else’s bidding for someone else’s clients.
In the middle of the morning, I completely muddled a document signing made wildly cumbersome by a lack of identification requiring a plethora of witnesses. The accommodating neighbors parlayed the stubbornness of a driver’s license in a recalcitrant plastic sleeve into a comedy routine. From the lobby came the raucous laughter of the client’s son conversing with the front desk attendant, inspiring a new round of hilarity within the conference room. If nerves can jangle, mine resounded. Names scrawled on the wrong lines, pages turned in error, the agony of the client’s broken dominant arm, all dragged the event further into a black abyss.
But we got through it. I shuddered my way back to my little cubby and returned a call to the optician, only to learn that maybe, some day, the lab should have the replacement lenses for the ones which another lab incorrectly made. Perhaps. Possibly. Three to five days. . . delivery one to two days thereafter. . . business days, of course. Two months already gone; call it three before we might have something that could be correctly made. Or not. You have a challenging prescription, you know. Yes, I do. But still.
For a plugged wooden nickel, I would have thrown my notepads into the air and fled before they fluttered to the floor. I tried the tricks which usually soothe my soul: Cold water, a little walk around the back rooms of the suite, closed eyes, and deep breaths. Nothing helped. I could not leave with duties not yet tended, so I gritted my teeth and persisted.
Late in the day, I ventured into another signing, armed with my notary book and pen. We all hid behind masks, being of a certain age and immuno-compromised status. We previously had met, so greeted one another with our best twinkling eyes and nodding heads. As I started completing entries, the husband remarked upon my choice of writing instruments, a Lamy broad nib fountain pen (converted for use with a cartridge). More twinkling eyes, more nodding heads, broader smiles beneath double-layered squares of medical-grade synthetic fabric.
And then, for reasons I cannot reconstruct, the gentleman called his wife’s attention to something which reminded him of a visit to his former home in St. Louis. Oh, happy day! As we passed the documents around the table, we traded notes about Forest Park, city streets, venerable buildings, urban neighborhoods, and revered universities. He had lived in my city of birth during my last years there, the early to late 1970s. A mirror image of his nostalgia still wraps itself around my soul. The vagaries of human memory freeze the place in time. Like Brigadoon, the city where we each lived will forever endure. We allow no word against the place, for the city in our minds cannot withstand much scrutiny. Our hearts need it to stand tall on the banks of its wide river.
By the time the couple left, I had the address of his parents’ former home in Florissant, which I promised to photograph on my trip to Missouri this September. He had secured my consent to send me a birthday gift of the Japanese ink which we both acknowledge as superior. As I lowered myself into the chair in front of my computer, I realized that some part of a day once feared lost had thankfully been saved.
It’s the twenty-third day of the one-hundred and fourth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
“Dust of Snow” By Robert Frost
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.