she sat in the white chair near the couch and offered me 20 of her years.
and i smiled and said, oh cynthia. but her eyes were serious. i could tell she had sat in some other chair or maybe lain back on her bed, staring at the ceiling. she had thought, i would give her 20 of these years.
so i say thank you. and then she says, we are a long lived people. i could spare 20. and then i believe her. she would if she could.
she would let the nuerochronologist stick a needle into the temporal stream that spirals delicately around her left temple. we would watch the 20 years snake through the tubing and collect in a special glass container. it is liquid. the color of 2000 summer sunrises blended together. a rose honey i think. and i would sit in the bed next to hers and watch her face.
they would make sure to take exactly 20 units. 20 years off her life. one has to be wasted in the process. one year is lost to residue in the tubes. the spillage. the imperfect transplant process. there’s nothing to be done about that year.
i would get 19. she would lose 20.
i remember how my dad would sometimes substitute teach PE when i was in high school. and he would walk the line of us poor white-shorted dorks and if anybody laughed or looked sideways he would say “drop and give me 20!” everybody thought he was hilarious. and i did more pushups than anyone. it was like we were slapstick partners.
but how could i take 20 of what gwen and earl worked so hard to give cynthia? she is brilliant. and the person in the room that everyone likes. and she would give me 20 summers of hauling her REI gear into the beloved doug fir forest. 20 years of seeing her boots on dirt trails. 20 years of sketching weeds. 20 years of new books. 20 years of perfectly loving the people she loves.
my god. what a thing! i would only fuck it up. whatever time she gave me, i could not possibly be worthy of it. but the fact she would offer…would hand over this precious stuff, so i could keep fumbling around, making even more of a mess, is nothing short of everything.
my friend kim wyatt from alaska used to say that the most valuable asset we own is our time. if you offer to spend time with someone, you are giving a gift.
i have spent the last 10 years or so being cynthia’s friend. every moment she has given me has been treasure. has made this world more interesting and exciting. we have crawled through the psyche of ourselves and everyone we know like daring spelunkers. we are brilliant philosophers and comedians and love each other wholly and without doubt. and i think this is enough. time enough. gift enough.
and when she is 102 and knows a million more things, i will be so happy.