And you know what I’m doing today?
That’s right. I’m doing nothing, in a Kundera sorta way.
Yes, I’m doing nothing:
Nothing, as in: I wake up late due to the afternoon sun blazing through my window. (The shades are helpless against this blazing.) I wake up to sunlight, and not to the monotonous tune of my alarm clock. I wake up to another day. (I’m helpless against waking.)
And when I do wake up, I stay in bed, despite the habitual bounce of my thoughts about the stuff that needs to get done. It’ll get done. Eventually. So, I stay in bed, reading.
The more fragmented my schedule, the lesser are the chances of my reading a book, these days. A whole book: Not a book of vignettes by a Parisian melancholic, or of poetry by an angry American alcoholic. A book, a long novel, or an epic story hasn’t rested in my palms in a long time. I still read though — but of course! — in between the fragments of my day. But I never read in bed.
But today: I do. Because I’m doing — nothing.
Yes, I’m doing nothing:
Nothing, as in: I take a scorching hot shower with a bar of handmade soap with tea tree oil and oats. It smells like the pine tree bathhouses that my people would heat up for each other, late at night — before a generous dinner but after the hard work — and they would come out with red and calm faces of innocence, long ago traded in for survival.
I take the first sip of my black coffee: I’m feeling peckish, I must say. I haven’t eaten the first meal of the day, and I’m about to skip the second. But there is no way I’m cooking today: Because I’m doing — nothing.
Nothing, as in: I walk to the farmers’ market. I do not drive. Instead, I accompany my kind man who tells me the fables from his previous day. His long stories. As we walk, we study the neighborhood: The homes that sit at an architectural intersection of San Francisco and Venice Beach. Homes with abandoned toys in their play pins and enviable tree houses decorated with Chinese lanterns. Homes with old vintage cars in their gravel covered driveways and disarrayed trash bins at the curb. Homes I’ve promised to build for my people — my kind people — and my child.
I watch an older couple approaching us: I wonder what I would look like, when I’m older. And I shall be older, certainly. The romantic notion that I would die young has expired with forgiveness.
And now: I want to live, in perseverance and stubborn generosity; and every day, I want to start with a clean slate on the board of my compassion.
What time is it? I have no clue. I do not own a watch and my cellphone has been off since the very early hours of this morning, when I was just getting to be bed after a night of seeing old friends and playing cards until we began to feel drunk from exhaustion.
I think of them — my friends, my kind people, my kind man — as I walk, and I can see the white tents the hippies and the hopefuls have pitched behind a plastic barricade. They’re all so specific, I get inspired to see them in a book: A long novel about perseverance and stubborn generosity; an epic story in which its heroine travels toward her forgiveness.
“When you forgive — you love.”
Someone else has written that in a romantic story about dying young. I don’t want to do that: I want to live.
Yes, I want to live.
We purchase things that only speak to our taste buds: Black grapes and persimmons. Sun-dried tomato pesto and horseradish hummus. Sweet white corn and purple peppers. I watch a tiny curly creature with my baby-fat face and a unibrow dancing around her mother’s bicycle, in a pink tutu and leopard uggs. I look away when she tickles my eyes with tears only to find a brown face, even tinier, resting over a sari-draped shoulder of her East Indian mother. Live, my darling child. I want you — to live.
My kind comrade and I walk over to the handmade soap store: I want more smells of home. We both notice her: She is African and tall — PROUD — with dreadlocks and a pair of bohemian overalls. How could you not notice her: Her face belongs to a heroine traveling toward her own forgiveness.
“Are you doing okay?” a very gentle gentleman asks us from behind the counter.
I smile into the jar of eucalyptus body butter and nod: Zen.
“How could they not be okay, here?” the heroine making a rest stop on her journey toward forgiveness says.
We laugh. All four faces in this store are calm. They are calm with innocence long traded-in for survival. But then again, maybe it’s just compassion. (And I’m helpless — against it.)
“I was riding my motorcycle this morning,” my proud heroine starts telling us a fable from her previous day. Her long story.
At the end of it, we would laugh. Not wanting anything from each other, but having so much to give back, we laugh with lightness.
We laugh — with nothingness, in a Kundera sorta way.
I think: We are no longer innocent. But that’s quite alright, I think.
Because with enough forgiveness, compassion often takes its place. Compassion takes the place of innocence. And that’s quite alright, I think. And I want to live — a life of that.
I want to live.