For the first time in a long time – perhaps ever – I feel it’s relatively easy to live in the present. Planning during a pandemic is nearly impossible. As much as I’d like to hold out hope that certain events will take place – concerts, sporting events, returning to work from furlough, alumni reunions, travel – I think it’d be foolishly optimistic to fantasize about them. But that’s OK. The reality is, so long as I’m happy and healthy, I don’t need anything. I’m pretty decently content with spending my days running trails, calling friends, reading books, and listening to music. I’m a bit bored at times, but really. During times like these, being bored is a luxury.
The inability to plan has made it surprising when something actually sticks to schedule, though. My dentist appointment the other day, for example. When I rescheduled it from late April to early June, June seemed an eternity away. I never thought I’d see that appointment, and then it just arrived. It felt like it snuck up on me, oddly enough, though it had always been there. I guess I’ve just gotten so accustomed to things getting cancelled nowadays.
The dentist appointment was mixed, as it always is. My hygienist kept going on and on to me about how my teeth had some serious stains. But then after making me feel bad about it, she proceeded to talk at length about how the stains were easily removed with polish, how they’re likely the result of coffee, that no specific mouthwash or toothpaste could have prevented them, etc. Then the dentist arrived and said my teeth were beautiful. I felt I was receiving contradictory feedback.
The comment that actually got me wasn’t about my teeth, though. When I walked in and sat in the chair, my hygienist almost immediately asked me, “Are you a runner?”
I get this question pretty regularly. And 99% of the time it’s from a male who’s been staring at my legs. I don’t appreciate it. But this time was different – the hygienist was looking at my ghastly toenails peeking out of my Birkenstocks. She went, “I’m not a huge runner, but it really messes up my toenails. It looks like you must run a lot!” This is really no way to make friends with your clients.
That day at the dentist was overall weird. I had been up since 5:20 a.m. I went for a run. Then, just sitting down to breakfast, my roommate called. She was at the DMV, in line, and had forgotten an important document to get her new license. Could I drive it over to her so she wouldn’t lose her place?
I was in a hazy state as it was. It was 6:40, I was hungry, tired, sweaty, and still contemplating the previous day, when I had not only a black cat cross my way, but three black squirrels. I was in an internal debate about which was unluckier. In any event, I hastily scoured my roomie’s bedroom, found the document, and hopped in the car. I was going to shake off the weird feelings I had, damn it.
Things continued in a strange way, unfortunately. I got out of the dentist and knew that not only was our ancient landlord coming to the house, but also the carpet cleaners. I intentionally brought my sneakers with me to the dentist, planning on strolling through a park for an hour or so to avoid both. But when I stepped outside, it was thunderstorming. At 9 a.m. In Colorado. This was perplexing. I guess I’d go home?
While I managed to avoid our landlord initially, he returned to the house later to ramble to me about how we needed to get everything off the carpets – which we had done, to the best of our ability, and pretty well if I say so myself. I nodded mutely and kept glancing out the window at our front lawn, the grandfather clock laying horizontally in the grass.
The grandfather clock has a formidable history. About two and a half years ago, I was studying abroad in Germany for a month, learning all about the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach. I woke up one morning, on a completely different time zone than my friends at college, to a long string of Facebook messages. My future housemate, Bryce, was the culprit.
Bryce and I would be living with three friends in a house off-campus the following year, and he had discovered a “magnificent” grandfather clock for the space on Craigslist. The series of messages were basically him urgently informing me and the other three:
“GUYS THERE’S A MAGNIFICENT GRANDFATHER CLOCK ON CRAIGSLIST THAT WE SIMPLY MUST HAVE”
“GUYS CALLIE [Bryce’s ex-girlfriend] IS IN A FIERCE BID WAR WITH ME OVER IT”
“GUYS I NEED TO HAVE THIS CLOCK”
“I THINK IT’S MINE”
“GUYS GUYS GUYS I WON THE BID WAR”
“so if everyone could venmo me like 15-20$ to chip in for the clock that would be awesome”
I sat there, sweating from a humid-cold December run through the streets of Leipzig, eating cereal and shaking my head. There was no way I was paying Bryce a cent for the clock.
But sure enough, the clock arrived in our house the following August and was a useless yet charming decoration. By the time May and graduation came for us, the clock was the least of my preoccupations. God bless two of my housemates, Sophia and Marta, who actually moved the clock to our next house – the house I just moved out of.
The clock stood right by the door and had a very leaning-tower-of-Pisa-like quality to it. I was shocked it had never fallen over and crushed someone. In the last month, while cleaning out the house and preparing for new students to move in, I moved the clock to the living room, where I thought it’d be less likely to take a tumble. Yet it stood so precariously still.
A week or so later, I was seated at the dining room table when I heard a large crash in the living room. The clock had fallen over and smashed on my drum kit … spontaneously. We always thought the house was haunted, but this just felt very spooky. There was literally no force to compel it to move, whereas by the front door, it always had a mechanism for destruction. I straightened up the glass as best as I could, bewildered.
Then the day before the carpet cleaning arrived. And I thought: this clock just has to go. My roommate helped me dispose of the glass and started carrying it out the door. She noted, “It looks like a coffin, especially when we carry it like this, eh?”
And it remained coffin-like. Laying in the grass, hail and rain pouring down on it, receiving confused looks from passersby, the clock became more and more eerie. And I couldn’t help but feel it very symbolic.
It’s the end of a chapter. I moved out of that house in the Springs; so have all but one of my roommates in the last month. The next time our lives cross paths is uncertain. And that has nothing to do with living together again – it’s uncertain when we’ll even see each other again.
The clock represented our time together. And I suppose with it breaking, it also represents how meaningless time has become. I wake up every day having no idea what’s in store for the next 24 hours, yet at the same time, knowing exactly what will happen. How’s that? That’s living in the present, I suppose.