drop and give me 20

Posted on November 26, 2012 by Val |3 Comments

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.


  1. I’d like the gift of more time with you. Is that greedy? I’ve never laughed as hard as I did in Alaska. You in front of Beth’s fireplace “dancing” to her Peruvian music. Or you laughing at my yurt dreams or dreams of light and heat or some other dreams. I still say that, by the way, about time. Some people roll their eyes, but others smile and take me into the woods. It sounds like time with Cynthia is time damn well spent!

  2. ah friend. we made fine use of those days i think. i loved being privy to your exquisite mind. yes! there is more!
    you come over and tell me what has been percolating.

  3. There’s something about the white chair… I remember feeling greatly relaxed when I arrived in that chair, leaning all the way back by the heater, and you showed me how to make it stick so it wouldn’t lurch back and forth.
    I’m so glad that, by some twist of fate, you met Cynthia (10 years ago? really?) through my friend Wendy. I have no idea what happened to Wendy, but I gather that the purpose of our relationship has had greater value to you and Cynthia. You never know who you’re going to meet, or where, or when, or how. I’m so lucky we met at Michigan that summer. Which leads me to here, thinking of you and your brilliance. You may call it a mess, but I would give anything to have you fumble around for another 20 years.

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