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Thread: your lowest point, and your highest point.
Nadir: early on. We’d drawn up a new will several months before, but it hadn’t been notarized. I went downtown to the big bank where I did my business, hoping Charlie was still around.
He was my guy at the bank. A month away from punching his ticket. A few weeks before I’d dropped in for some business, and we’d wandered over the elevators, rode to the 50th floor to the office of an investment firm. The receptionist smiled – hey, Charlie! and gestured to a bowl of chocolates. We spent an enjoyable interval looking down at the city from the summit. As I said, Charlie was going to retire soon, and I got the idea he wasn’t looking forward to it, at all. He liked being useful. He liked having a place downtown. He liked the people he helped. He liked taking them up to the room in the clouds where they had chocolates and a marvelous view. Weren’t we lucky to be here?
By the way, he was out of the office in January for a fortnight: sick. Couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t stand.
Worst flu he’d ever had, he’d said.
Now it’s the early stages of the Serious Times. It was before the lockdown, but downtown had already emptied. I walked into the great banking hall. It was empty and dark. The offices off to the side where Charlie worked were locked, lights off. There were hastily-composed notices taped to the door telling you which branch downtown would be open. This was odd – the main bank, the proud central location, was closed? It was as if the front line had broken and we were told to regroup at a safer location.
It was a branch in the IDS center. I wasn’t wearing a mask; no one was, it was early March – but the mood was jangly, radioactive. Everyone kept their distance by instinct. The banker said they couldn’t notarize a will. There’d been issues. Charlie had said it’d be okay, and Charlie would have made it happen, but Charlie was gone and I’d probably never see him again.
The next day I drove to the suburbs to my tax preparer’s office to drop off all my paperwork, and they’d said on the phone they had two notaries who could do it.
“It’s just a precaution,” I said to the woman at the front desk, “but heck, you never know.”
“Well of course!” she said. “Just makes sense. We’ve had two other clients come just for this too.”
We kept our distance, by instinct. I laid the will out on a table in the conference room, and left. The notaries entered one at a time to sign. They left the room and hit the disinfectant.
I gathered the papers and left, and felt relieved I’d gotten that done. I didn’t have to worry about my will anymore.
And that was the nadir.
It was a the week before last. Late Friday night at the supermarket – which, in this case, meant 8:45, since they close early, presumably to hose everything down with bleach. I was picking up a few things for the weekend, and of course was duly masked.
I was in a good mood, I guess, because it seemed that the end of the lockdown was nearer than ever, and a good whiskey awaited me when I got home. The overhead music was set on 70s, and it wasn’t bad, but it reminded me how much I miss Muzak. I don’t mean the anodyne orchestrated versions of pop songs – you really don’t realize how banal the main melody of “Horse With No Name” is until you’ve heard it by the 101 Strings – but the peppy happy-shopping music of the 50s 60s and early 70s.
Anyway. When I reached the checkout counter the music was Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” (The radio cut, minus the searing guitar solo) and I noted that the woman bagging the groceries was singing along softly. She had to be 30+ years my junior. I started singing, too, and we looked at each other and kept singing and when it came to the big climactic shout “LOOOOOVE’S GOT A HOLD ON ME” we both belted it out at the top of our lungs. In the store! As if all the rules had changed!
The two of us, utter strangers, rocking out from behind our masks – made me smile all the way home. The zenith isn’t the moment when it’s Over, because it won’t be for a while. It’s the moment when you realize you can be meaninglessly happy in an incident you couldn’t possibly have predicted, and that the world of humans, our random interactions and connections, is still as alive as ever. And perhaps, now and then, more so – because of The Duration.Published in