Sunday, January 30, 2011

Time – and the Bottle

I have no sense of direction.  I didn’t know that there was such a thing - although I had heard the term used I had never given it any credence, had thought it to be a figure of speech, until fairly recently in my life.  Up to that time I had always stumbled around in places unfamiliar trying to find where it was that I was trying to get to and refusing resolutely any offers of help from other people.

“What could they know about how to get somewhere that I don’t already know?” was my mantra.

So I stumbled through a life of never knowing, unless I happened to be in a place that I already knew intimately, or a place that had a significant body of water – I seemed to find direction from significant bodies of water – where I was or how I was going to get to where it was that I wanted to go.

The aggregate accretion of experiences with people who did seem to know where it was that they were going (or in some few cases where I had grudgingly acceded to their views of how one might get somewhere) finally, after years and years created a body of evidence that even one as stubborn as I had to accept as proof of the fact that there is, indeed, a sense of direction.  The fact that I lacked it was, from my viewpoint a disadvantage, but to continue to deny its existence, to my always maximum disadvantage, and to the irritation of my intimates, who usually were victims, if not of my misdirection, at least victims of my bad temper related to the subject, seemed, once I had perceived that there was indeed such a thing as sense of direction, at the point of that discovery, to be something from which even I, Noel the stubborn, should cease and desist.

I guess age mellows one.

The realization and subsequent admission that there is a sense of direction, and that it is something that I completely lack, brought on a degree of pensivity.

Could there be other such “senses” that some have some don’t?

Could, for example, my running battle with everybody I have ever known about what the color of something is, be due to the fact that I have as sense of color much more acute than most?  One of my best friends and I almost came to blows when I was quite young, as was he, over what the color of his sleeping bag was.

It was clearly a very dark, almost black, purple.  But purple it was, nonetheless.

He said it was black.

He was, the Joe, who in my memoir, Screen Saver, picked up a hatchet and split an offending can of chili, spraying it into the air, and into the campfire, and all over his face.

That happened substantially later in my friendship with him than the disagreement over the color of his sleeping bag, but I have often wondered if, in relation to our heated arguments over that bag’s color, I had been flirting with disaster.

In any event, he couldn’t see the bag’s color.

I, long ago, stopped trying to describe to anyone, the color of anything. 

Most people just don't see the colors that I see.

There are myriad much less interesting stories, hard though it may be to believe that anything could be less interesting than the foregoing, than Joe and his sleeping bag,  relating to the subject of sense of color that I could drone on about.

But I won’t.

Suffice it to say that there seem to be – as illustrated by the examples given here – direction and color – senses that some of us have and some of us don’t have.

That is all a prologue to the following.

I have always thought that time has a horizontal component and a vertical component.  It has a horizontal axis and a vertical axis.

The horizontal component can be expressed in garden variety, we’ve-always-known-that terms: seconds, minutes, hours, days, and so on and so on.

The vertical component is the one I have never heard anyone speak of.  They allude to it but never acknowledge its existence. It is measured in numbers of – somethings – occurring across the horizontal component.  Those somethings can be gustatorial, transactional, gladiatorial, sexual or anything that humans do or perceive while suspended in the horizontal axis of time.

My sojourn here in France has stress tested one such thing that humans do.

It has been bottles of wine. It has been many, many, many bottles of wine.  They have been responsibly spaced across the horizontal axis of time but they have been many.

I should mention that they have not always been bottles. They have sometimes been carafes or glasses, but in aggregate they can have been measured in bottles.  But they have represented a startlingly robust vertical axis to a startlingly minute horizontal one.

And that has, occasionally been cause for concern.

But not much.

As I lay in bed this evening, having come back from a great dinner, only spoiled by the most self-absorbed and boring young people that I have ever had the misfortune of having been put in proximity of, and their droning, self absorbed, listlessly asexual conversation (they were, of course Americans)  I had a twinge of pain.

I had the first such twinge – I have twinges all the time anymore but this one was new to the area from which it emanated – this morning and had tried to ignore it.

The day that unfolded after that early morning twinge had been too interesting to allow me to notice further twinges.

But now, just before I started writing this piece, it is dark, it is night, the day is done and all I have to read is some kind of thriller that I  found in the inventory of abandoned books that various other tenants from the English speaking world have left behind (and I have been reading it voraciously, it being amazingly good) I had nothing to fend off my awareness of the twinges.

The twinge was centered, as it had been in the morning, in my left side in the bulge, not large, by the way, of fat that exists just below one’s rib cage.

I think that is the area of the kidney.  At least that belief allows me to foster deep worries about my long term permanence in this life, and I like having such worries.

I felt the area from which the twinge seemed to be coming from and I felt again, and yet again; but I couldn’t make any meaningful pain result from my probing fingers.

But when I moved the pain again re-asserted itself.  It was still there.

It wasn’t a very bad pain.  It was just an irritating, worrying little pain.

“Oh, I hope it’s my back and not my kidney” I heard myself say.

In my other blog I wrote a post that ended with my preferred epitaph: “He nearly accomplished quite a number of things”.

I think I like “Oh, I hope it’s my back and not my kidney” better.

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