Up to the Minute
[A Short Story]
How many minutes? How many minute-waning days? How are our days spent? Mine are spent in the minutes. We live life—I live life in the minutes, not the hours, not the years, not the days—weeks and weekends are absurd as well. Sun up to sun down. What do you want to know about what I have seen in these minutes I have lived, I have spent—spending time, spending minutes, the dollars of our lives, what value do we put on minutes, the minutes we spend with our children, the minutes we spend sipping coffee, the minutes we spend in the shower, minutes sitting on the bowl taking a shit–why is it we take a shit? To take or not to take, no; make, give, let go of . . . ? We do not take coffee when we have it, drink it; why do we take a shit when we make it? Having a shit? I sometimes have shit-fits. Taking a shit can’t be the same as taking a shower; take can’t be the same, except we do both in matters of minutes. We do spend time as well as money; minutes are money; time is money; why do we get paid by the hour—it should be by the minute. I worked sixty-seven minutes; I should get sixty-seven minutes of pay. I want a dollar a minute. I should get a dollar a minute but my supervisors will only exact minutes from us without paying us. Minute to minute; minute by minute; up to the minute; everything minute is in the moment, part of a minute. Maybe we actually live in the seconds; the moment of orgasm, right? Which came first, the minute or what was minute; what was minute giving us the name, minute. Spring arriving is a moment, not a day, not an hour. The summer solstice is another moment, this minute it comes.
It’s not the destination, it is the journey. The fucking, not the orgasm alone, right? Minutes? Woolf talked of the hours, focused on the hours; but it is as it was the minutes, sometimes the seconds. That’s how we live, not in the hours or the days or the weeks or the years—how many minutes in a year? Multiply sixty minutes by twenty-four hours, then multiply this sum by three-hundred and sixty-five, and that’s how many minutes. How many minutes of waves to the shore have come these last several millennia? How many minutes has the earth been around; how many minutes of sunrises have humans seen on this planet? How many minutes of walking have I done in my life, minutes of reading, line by line by line . . . the line in a text does not take place in a matter of hours. I read most poems in minutes not hours. Even when I do do something for hours, I did it for hours minute by minute, each minute, second by second. The birds on the window sill this morning chirping singing as they do; the sun through the branches and leaves of the trees between my window and the sunrise happens as it happened this morning in the minutes. I teach a lesson in an hour, but my hour is fifty minutes . . . how many minutes is Hamlet’s to be or not to be; how long does it take Juliet to kill herself; for Romeo not to put a mirror to her nose.
I cook an egg in minutes, boil water in minutes, cook pasta in minutes, take how many minutes to shower, to brush my teeth, to fall asleep, to make a pot of espresso, to wash the dishes, to walk around the corner to the store, to wait for my slice of pizza to heat up, to get my lottery tickets, to add money to my metro card, to wait for the train to work, to clock in, to do the attendance for my class, to wash my hands, to kiss my wife good morning or good night or hello. To order a beer; to drink the beer; to watch the replay of goals scored between periods . . . to cook a burger on the grill, to get the coals going on the grill. I hold her hand for how many minutes? I recollect holding her hand along the promenade at the bay for how long? I think about wanting to hold her hand. I think about liking holding her hand. I think about humans holding hands and chimpanzees holding hands. For how long? Chimps copulate face to face. Jesus spent three days on His Cross, but his agony was every minute, moment to moment. This that I write is how long line by line, sentence after sentence, prose is faster than verse they discovered in the 18th century I used to say, leaving a lot out of that encapsulation of an observation made from reading about the rise of the novel as a form.
Minutes, minutes, minutes; what then is this about living in the hours? Sorry Virginia; it’s all of it in the minutes. How long does it take for waking up again that makes me smile immediately ensuing? How long in recognizing that I am happy or that I am sad, shedding a tear or two or more, for my mother’s heart to stop beating while I hold her hand after she has been disconnected from the machines that have been keeping her breathing, not necessarily alive? How long it takes to get the weather. to get the traffic, to find out if the D train is running this Saturday morning are all questions I could ask. To do the steps in a dance; to take a piss in the bathroom at Bar Six; to wait for the D back home from West 4th Street station was how long the other night? To ask my wife if she wants sushi for dinner; to look over the menu; to order; for the food to come; to get a second carafe of sake; to drink the sake and order a third; to drink the cognac we drink honoring my wife’s mother who has been dead these last three and half decades; to toast my dad on his birthday now five years after he died. Mrs. Dalloway’s Moments; Mrs. Dalloway’s Minutes; yes, The Minutes.
Everything is in the minutes; to start the car; to stop the car at a red light; to wait for the light to change; to cross the street; to chew a bite of my sandwich, to nibble your lover’s ear, my wife’s; to say I am sorry, to say I love you, to say I am going to kill you; to kill a person, to shoot them once or three times or to stab them twenty four times in the chest and the neck. To fart, to burp, to sharpen a pencil; to slice a tomato; to wash an apple, to soak blueberries and then to put them in a bowl with yogurt.
To wait for a room to cool down after having put on the a/c. To listen to a song; to sing a song; to play a song on your trumpet or guitar. Not to roast the Thanksgiving Day turkey. That last wave I saw from here on the beach, the sands I dig my feet in, the time I take to watch this seagull hovering the incoming waves like a kite; watching a child with her dog whose back is almost as tall as she is . . .
I get up and stand facing the ocean as the waves continue one after another and another and another continuously continuing to keep on keeping on, rising, swelling turning, curling falling, tumbling crashing in one thunderous crescendo after another and another and another not so much in petty paces but in a great epic rhythm here and now and now and again now, Odysseus’s adventures are played out moment by moment line by line, the waves coming in and going out, the tides and the surf in its tumult as it has been then and then then always evermore repeating itself for millennia after millennia into ages and eons of minutes . . . how many minutes in a millennia of minutes all of it all of them momentous moments of moment to moment second after second … as I stand for how many minutes I have forgotten until I turn and decide that I have to go to the IGA to buy things for lunch later eaten in minutes after having been prepared in minutes after having been brought back from the supermarket (that Julian Moore shops at) in minutes, after having been packed in minutes, after having been paid for in a minute, after having been rung up for a few minutes, after having been shopped for in how many minutes, after having walked to the IGA in minutes, after having decided in a moment that I would go and get things for lunch as I stood for a few minutes after having sat for a couple of dozen minutes on the beach at the shore near the surf.