“Selling Time”

It’s a white hot summer day, and we are making our way around a miniature golf course, four of us guys in our late teens. We are still sandy from having come from the beach, wearing colored t-shirts, shorts and sandals. Two of my friends have been eyeing the two girls playing in front of us, trying to come up with a pretext for going and talking to them, which they finally solve through the simple expedient of hitting a ball over our hole and into the part of the course the girls are playing on.

There is no one immediately behind us, so I take this time to run over to the vending machines and get a drink, a Fanta Root Beer, which is approximately 33 degrees Fahrenheit when I get it, and tastes delicious. Walking back, I see there are now two of us on our hole, and my two buddies have joined the girls in their game.

Fortune favors the brave.

My friend Raj and I are left to finish the game, which we do; he then has to head off to earn some extra money doing some lifeguarding for a private pool party.

“See you ‘round.”

“You, too. Don’t let anyone drown.”

I’m on my own now, but we were all in separate cars when we met up at the beach, so, no worries. It is 5:00 in the afternoon, and the thermometer on the bank signs says it is 91 degrees, which, for a Florida summer isn’t that bad. I figure on heading home and taking a shower; I don’t really have any other plans for the weekend, other than heading back to school Sunday night.

My parents aren’t home, as they are away on vacation; I am staying at their house for the weekend just to take a break from the dorms and see my buddies. None of my other friends attend summer semester (or quarter) at their colleges; all of them are working jobs back home for the summer. Since I make money playing the piano a few hours a week, I have the time, so I am trying to get through school faster taking summer classes.

After a shower, I grill a couple of pork chops on my parents’ gas grill. I sit down at the table to eat them and to read more of “Adam Bede,” which I am reading for school. The story is dark and depressing in all the right ways, and I find myself still sitting at the dining room table six hours later, reading the last chapters accompanied only by the sound of my parents’ old wall clock.

I walk around this house, a house my parents have been in for the last eight years, peering through the shadows. There are walls and walls of books. There’s the old piano I learned on. There’s the stereo I listened to the radio on at night all those years I had insomnia. There’s a picture of my sister and her husband.

It is 1:35 A.M. I head back to my old bedroom, which my brother and I shared for years, with its stacked bunk beds. I climb into the bottom bunk, place my glasses on the windowsill behind the bed, and peer at the outline of the moonlight coming from the doorway, now blurry through my unassisted eyes.

I can feel a little sunburn on my neck as I sink into the pillow. The day passes before my eyes like a slide show:

… the beach … miniature golf… my buddies and those girls… a Fanta Root Beer… my friend going off to lifeguard… a shower… grilled pork chops… an old library book with an even older story… walking around the house in the dark…

When I wake up, it is Sunday morning and bright as a sheet outside.

All the years, just selling time,
All the days of here and gone:
Growing, going, nowhere fast;
One more night, and one more dawn –

Selling time that no one bought;
Mundane and quotidian –
Doing little as a lot:
With no prime meridian

All the minutes, meaningless,
And yet with intention rife:
All the years, just selling time,
What’s it all but luck,

And life

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