In my recurrent anxiety dream I am constantly late for the bus which goes to the airport then connects to the train which leads to the ship. In my waking life I’m the guy who gets to the terminal an hour and a half early. It all goes back to my father.
He told me, early on, he was so poor as a child that when he entered kindergarten the teacher warned the class to Pay Attention and my Dad heard it as, Pay a pencil. He was shaken up because he had no money to pay for anything but relieved when told all he had to do was listen. So he listened hard and I learned to listen hard.
When all you do is pay attention you are ever fearful of missing the boat. In 7th grade I could swear something was passed on to the class while I was absent with the mumps or bumps. When I returned everyone knew the meaning of life or how to grow up or what they would do in the world…and I had missed class that day.
By age twenty-one I had accelerated through high school and finished college, married and flown three thousand miles to the other coast. By twenty-nine I had three children, a hefty mortgage (for the day) in suburbia and a profession for which I had little interest. Zorba the Greek would call it the full catastrophe. Clearly I had gotten on the wrong bus. It took me another twenty years plus to get off that bus though warned by Peggy it would complicate my life.
When Peggy and I were in Amsterdam we got to the train station early one day and took our seats in the last car. After an announcement on the loudspeaker one by one people got up and left before the train departed. Finally it dawned on us to follow them to the next car. It seems that the engineer had de-coupled that last one. By being punctual we almost missed the train and never would have seen Bruges with its great beers, belfry and canal boat accompanied by swans to the Lake of Love. Life with Peggy has been a magnificent complication.
In the movies the woman says to the guy you’ve already missed the last train out so I suppose you’ll have to spend the night...or the other way around…. and the plot thickens. Where you running? Bogey got those letters of transit out of Casablanca but he didn’t get Bergman. He got his moral compass instead.
Now my wish is to turn it all around. I would like to miss the damn boat or train or plane. To linger. To find the scent in the tulip that has no scent, listen to the wind, to meander the footpath, hang out at the café, sip the spirits, overhear an argument in the next booth, join a celebration in another, to elongate the moment.
The next bus will be the one devoutly to be missed. It won't be the Streetcar Named Desire, nor Magic Carpet Airlines back to Eden. It’s the trolley heading out of this world with no return.