One of the perks of living in a trendy part of town is the surfeit of spontaneous visitors who swing by my place because they happen to be in my neighborhood doing something else.
One bitterly-cold afternoon last February, a painter friend of mine buzzed me from downstairs. He’d been running errands near my loft and had some time left on his parking meter. As he stepped through my door, I said, “Sorry I don’t have any fun snacks to offer you. Travel has been so hazardous during this horrible winter, I haven’t made it to the grocery store lately.”
“You never have fun snacks,” he said, “even in balmy weather.” He put his briefcase on a chair and took off his coat.
“That’s because any time I have snacks around I can’t sleep until I’ve eaten every last one of them,” I said.
“I’m not arguing with you,” he said. “I’m just stating a fact. ”
“How about a cup of coffee?”
As I busied myself making coffee, he rustled around my lair, peering out windows, opening and closing his briefcase, and peeking inside the books strewn on tables and chairs.
After I’d brewed a couple of fragrant cups of java, we headed into my studio to critique my latest paintings.
He nodded astutely at the sight of my semi-nude gray-hair self-portraits. “You’re doing your best work ever.”
Although he always claims I’m doing my best work ever, I chose to believe him. Possibly life is linear…who am I to know?
Suddenly he glanced out the window and jumped to his feet, almost capsizing his coffee.“Oh no. I just saw a snowflake.”
“Omigod. I forgot about today’s apocalyptic snowstorm,” I said.
“I’d better get going. ” He jammed his arms into his overcoat sleeves and popped on his fedora. Rushing to the door, he waved goodbye.
“Call me when you get home so I’ll know that you’re safe,” I said.
I watched from the window as he ran up the alley, hurtled himself into his car, and floored it.
“I hope he’ll be okay,” I said aloud, putting my hands to the sides of my face and making my mouth into the shape of an “O”.
You see, although he only lives a few blocks from me, the weather people had predicted a bombcyclone-thundersnow thingee, and I feared for his life. I had no idea what I’d do if he didn’t call and say he got home safely…there’s no way I was going out into that blizzard to rescue anybody.
After he left, I sat on my red metal folding chair and gazed out the window. Through the gathering twilight and tumult of thunderbombsnowflakes, I saw struggling pedestrians and idling, angry automobiles. I sighed and said aloud, “Oh, why am I here?”
When I asked that question I meant why am I here in Minnesota, not why am I here in general, but my late-afternoon brain, which had wandered off to wherever it goes when it’s not under strict supervision, rushed back to answer my question.
“You’re not here for any reason except to eat, propogate and die,” my brain said. “That’s the meaning of life.”
“I didn’t ask for the meaning of life,” I said to my brain. “I asked why I’m in Minnesota.”
“The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the other one.”
“No one asked for your opinion,” I said to my brain.
“Then who were you talking to, if not me?”
“I was talking to the Universe, you silly creature. If I’d been talking to you, that would be like talking to myself, and why would I ask myself a question since I already know the answer?”
Just then the phone rang. I assumed it was the Universe calling, so I answered immediately.
“Hi. I got home alright.” Indeed it was the Universe, masquerading as my painter friend. “Oh, I forgot to tell you something.”
“What?” I said.
“I left a pizza in your freezer.”
“Thanks,” I said, hanging up the phone.
“Well, that takes care of eating,” my brain said. “Now you have to work on the other two things.”
“I’m not taking orders from you,” I said to my brain. “I’m the boss here, not you.”
“I wasn’t talking to you,” my brain said.
“Then who were you talking to, if not me?”
“I was talking to the Universe, you silly creature,” my brain said. “If I’d been talking to you, that would be like talking to myself, and why would I talk to myself when I can talk to you?”
“That makes no sense at all,” I said.
“You’re not making sense either,” my brain said.
…and that’s pretty much how things have been going around here lately…