“There are these moments, Hafiz, when it feels like Life called a thirty-second time-out or something. Do you know what I mean? Like when you’re getting ready for work, and you’re five minutes too early. Or you show up to the store, but it’s not open for another couple minutes. What are you going to do with five empty minutes?”
Hafiz and I were drift-hopping through the moon’s first arboretum like tired helium balloons caught in a draft. My guide book was dangling between my thumb and my first two fingers. I came down at an awkward spot and nearly took a digger over an embossed metal speed bump that was covering an extension cord so people wouldn’t trip over it. The temporary lighting was for a photograph or something. The first rose to bloom on the moon probably. The chrysanthemum lobby was torqued.
“Hafiz—do you know what I mean? Are you with me here? There’s these little windows of lost time no one knows what to do with. Your flight gets delayed. The policeman is running your license through the system. The nondescript pop-poof in the crisping sleeve comes out of the microwave a little cold in the center, even though you followed instructions. Now you have to heat it again. Your car spins the wrong way and you sink a fender into the snow, and you’re waiting for the tow truck. The rest of life is so well-orchestrated, the way it moves with such incredible acumen and grace. The way it staggers you on the whole. I mean, think how we met…! It’s surreal to even think about, but then there’s these moments. These dead bands in the system. They’re potholes of time that you can never fill in. You know what I mean?” I kept saying that. “Hafiz—do you know what I mean? Hafiz?”
He must have gotten a little over-exuberant or something for reasons completely unknown to me—he was hardly participating in our conversation today— and pushed off into a stride with a little too much abandon, because suddenly I was having a flash forward about the impacts of lunar colonization on the shatter-proof glass industry, and he was in the early stages of conducting low-g collision experiments with a young girl. He’d had no choice but to wrap her up in a bear hug and position himself between her and the moon’s token oak tree. And that thing wasn’t moving one bit. It was representing all oak trees everywhere, and it knew it.
They ricocheted off the trunk, giggling like people who’d been injected with 200 cc’s of the funniest jokes of the previous century. Like cowboys shooting paint balls at one another at high noon. Like they’d mistaken a six pack of canned laughter for strawberry spritzers. They landed on their feet, in the center of the arboretum’s aisleway, and gave an impromptu bow. Somebody clapped and I got in on it.
Then we all ended up in the same waiting line for a short film about the impacts of reduced gravity on horticulture, approximately seven minutes too early.
I couldn’t resist. “You see what I mean, Hafiz?”
“Yes,” he said. “I do. These are the moments set aside for gratitude.”
First I got hot and my face flushed and then I think I winced. I tried to think of something smart to say about the absurdity of nurturing one’s gratitude practice in the waiting room of some malpracticing dentist. But then, with Hafiz just standing there doing that thing he does that works in any gravity environment you can find, and that I still don’t understand, I had a flashback to how good it feels to feel good. To just drop the rest of it. And I picked that. If you can just blunder your way into the choice, so far into it you can truly see it, then it’s easy. Before I knew it the doors were opening for the movie and I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t ready.
“There’s not enough time, Hafiz! Just five minutes!?”
He patted me on the head, and the girl riding on his shoulders did the same, giggling, and then they went to the movie. And I just sat there on the carpet of the lobby of the lunar arboretum theater for approximately forty-five minutes, feeling good. Feeling myself dissipate a thousand frozen moments I’d been carrying around with me into nothing whatsoever.