Somewhere in this place there is a forest. It was here before us. Somewhere in the forest is a place we’ve all been. We go there alone. We go there at night. There, we are blind to one another. We cannot touch. Over our heads there are no stars. Beneath our feet there is no path. Strewn on the dirt floor are the things we have left behind. It is a place that will not fit in our minds, yet it folds itself into our world.
It’s Easternmost edge is rocky. It ends in a sudden fall. What is below the cliff, I do not know. To the West, the land is lush. Wildflowers thrive there. It is a riot of gold, pink, red and yellow. Petals rustle as you walk, and to lie down is to disappear. To the North there are trees. Giant, towering specters, bigger than anything you’ve ever seen. The tallest oaks shrink in their presence. To the south, there are ruins. I do not know much about them. The forrest has reclaimed them, but there are patches that look at though they have been dragged back from it. Like a furious battle once took place, and the spoils of war doled out.
I am there always. I can see, but I do not see others. Sometimes, I think I can feel them come, but I do not know.
I am also here. I am as much here as I am there. I know this street, I grew up with these people. To be here is to be home. It is difficult to describe being in two places at once, but I shall do my best.
On Tuesdays I treat myself to a scone. I hate Tuesdays, always have. It is neither the beginning, nor the middle. It is not within sight of the end. It is a squalid, unhappy day. I get up at the usual time, and having showered and dressed, make by way to Café en Seine, on Auxbury Road. Camille works on Tuesdays, and she sternly sets down my scone, and busies herself with my coffee. Camille is from here, but does not have the easy manner of the locals. She is warm, yet to smile is an effort, and she rarely indulges in small talk. I forbid myself to touch the scone until my coffee is in my hand, at which point I make my way to the corner table at the back – by the bathrooms. It is usually free. I sit there for upward of 20 minutes.
On Tuesdays, I am also there. I am always there. On Tuesdays I walk to the cliff’s edge, and look down.
I leave a drop of coffee, and a little scone behind. They chide me as I place them on the bussing tray. I catch the 8:40 bus from the corner, careful to avoid Agnus, who always smells of cabbage and wet wool. I take the bus downtown, walk 2 blocks, enter two shining golden doors, nod to the security guard, and by 9am am seated at my desk.
I like to take stones, just 3 or 4 at a time, and throw them from the edge. I cannot see them fall, but I hear them as they bounce. I lie on my back and stare at the leaden sky. I stroll through what we’ve left behind, and pick out items that might have been my own. The purple cords, the flowered backpack, the multitudinous hair pins. I try to throw these, but they will not go.
Robert Vincent, the man with two first names, strolls by my desk on Tuesdays at 9:05. He never hurries, but cradles a steaming cup of coffee. Once a month, he stops at my desk, lays his coffee down, slops it over my keyboard, and bemoans the presence of a Tuesday. On Tuesdays, at 9:04, I quietly replace my working keyboard with a broken, coffee-stained one from my drawer. Don’t worry about it, I say. No use crying over spilt coffee. On Tuesdays at 9:06, we laugh.
I have a collection I keep in the western meadows. I used to bury them, but now they form a mound. On Tuesdays, I crawl into the center of it and feel the weight of them upon me.
By 12pm on a Tuesday, having achieved roughly 20 minutes of work, and 2 hours 40 minutes of time wasting, I go to lunch. There is a good salad bar at the corner of King and 7th. I walk past that, and dine at a Vietnamese restaurant that uses far too much oil. Sometimes, I see Cora eating at the salad bar, and duck so that she cannot see me. Cora thinks I take a meeting at lunchtime on Tuesdays. I am often the only diner at the restaurant. I receive the same dish no matter what I order. I often wonder if it is a front.
Sometimes I climb the trees. Not the towering giants to the North, but the gentler oaks and pines that edge the meadow. I like to imagine there are creatures hiding up there. One day, they’ll come down to see me.
On Tuesdays at 1:05 I curse, and spill soy sauce down my front. I leave two folded notes on the table, and run back past the salad bar, past the golden door, past the security guards, and slink back to my desk. At 1:15, I button my jacket, feign fatigue, and make my way to the water fountain. I am careful to smile at Cora, but not to pause. Sometimes I form a fist, point my index and middle fingers, and place them to my temple. Sometimes, Cora laughs.
On Tuesdays, I visit the ruins. I like to sit and imagine what they once were. They are so degraded, that it’s impossible to tell if they once were one large building, or multiple small ones. Sometimes, I take loose stones and try to piece it all back together. Other times, I wonder if I could build something new from the rubble, but nothing new ever happens here. This place is built of what has been.
Having filled my bottle at the fountain, I enter the staff room, where I sit in front of the detritus of somebody else’s lunch for at least 15 minutes. Sometimes Cora comes in, but usually she is too busy. At 1:30pm I make my way back to my desk, where I sit for the next 3 hours and 30 minutes. At exactly 5pm I push my chair back under my desk, and make my way back downstairs, past the security guard, through the golden doors, onto the bus, around the corner and back to my apartment.
And so goes a Tuesday.