One, he missed the wedding ceremony of a couple he'd never heard of (or "of whom he'd never heard"); two, he stumbled into the wedding reception of said couple, even though he considered himself a Gold Medalist in mingling incompetence; and three, the strangers not only invaded his personal space but scratched the chalkboard of his mind with superficial blather about the most quotidian -- no, banal -- subjects imaginable.
|What time looks like, Dali's version|
Even as the abandoned skating rink's* squeaky door slowly closed behind Howard and Tally, he could hear the guests polluting the air with grating, mewling earworms:
“You seem to imagine your life as a dull book in which nothing ever happens. Rosa Lee, why don’t you jump in there and write yourself a more interesting book? Write yourself one of those wonderful adventure novels or a romance! Be a character who squeezes the sweet juice out of life's bountiful fruit!”
“Oh, Cadie, I once bought a leather-bound book of empty pages. In the afternoons, I’d fill up some of those pages -- and remember, this book thing is just a trope -- then tear them out with disgust. So now I see my life as an entire book of blank pages, every day a blank page, and this is just one more of them. Or as a leather-bound book with no pages. One of those, anyway."
“Well, honey, at least you tried.”
"Damn it," Howard growled to Tally as he started up his 1965 Buick Riviera, "the linguistic gymnastics people will perform to avoid the reality of life!"
"The horror! The horror!" he added with a Conradian flair.
Tally sat in silence, gazing wistfully out the passenger-side window, then said in the hushed tones of conventional femininity, "Those hors d'oeuvres incited my taste buds to dance like a fiddler on a roof, taste buds I never knew I had."
As she sighed, her breath, redolent of crawdad legs and olives, fogged the car's window.
She began to fish around in her purse in search of a Marlboro Menthol Light 100, but something else caught her eye.
"Howard! I know what we can do! Let's go to the Holy Land!"
|Out they go, Blake's version from Paradise Lost|
"No offense, Tally, but you gotta be shitting me. There's no better place than the Holy Land to get run over by a tank."
"Oh Howard, you rueful rube. I mean the theme park, the Holy Land Experience right outside of Townsville. I just found a free pass in my purse! My friend Ureatha gave it to me the week before you abducted me. A place like that might well give us spiritual insights and inspiration and maybe provide a searchlight to guide us in our quest for an authentic life together. Ureatha found it very moving."
Howard had yet to recover from the small talk virus he had just escaped.
"Why not? Our day's ruined anyway."
He glared at the highway. Goddang, this had been a long day.
But Henri Bergson** was right about the relativity of time. Howard's long day was about to become a short one, and time would evaporate in the presence of Eternity, mere moments after the couple pilfered a pack of bubblegum cigars and a Tootsie Roll at a 7-11.
|Out they go, Dore's version from Paradise Lost|
Then "they, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow," like Adam and Eve in reverse, took their solitary way to the Holy Land entrance where the ticket taker, dressed like the cherub guarding the Gates of Eden, complete with wings and a sword of fire, accepted their free pass, and their spiritual journey began in earnest.
*The site of the aforementioned reception, even though scholars cannot be entirely certain of its history. Some argue, for example, it was a cucumber repository.
**Bergson was a French philosopher who spent hours (more or less, depending on your concept of time) thinking about time.