Two Minutes of Eternity

I set two alarms on my watch, three minutes apart, to wake me up. Almost without fail, the first alarm interrupts a dream. Typically I’m involved in some sort of bizarre impossibility, such as trying to fight off killer whales in a public swimming pool. Or were they gigantic penguins? I don’t even know why I set the first alarm as I might as well be listening for a pin drop in a rock concert. At 7:10AM I sleep through the first alarm. At 7:13AM I stir to the distant annoying beeps of the second alarm. Why is it I have to summon every cylinder of motivation to get my fingers to generate enough energy to press the ALARM OFF button? I’d rather be saving the world in my sleep—fighting off those killer penguins with a kickboard.

The fact is I have to get up.  But I might as well be a corpse sealed in a granite tomb.

The awareness of the morning creeps into view as my eyes try to open. It’s that moment when I might lapse back into sleep for ten or twenty seconds. And when I awake again, there’s a heavy brain fog that’s cloaking the memory of my dream. The details are quickly fading. I was in a pool. Or was it a pond? And I was fighting something, but I can’t recall what.  Wait—it was a fish.  A seal? Or was it a large black inner tube?   My awakened conscious state acts as an anesthesia, erasing the recent events of my unconsciousness. The dream—and whatever the source of water was in that dream—instantly evaporates.

Two dogs lay beneath the covers: Domino, a rat terrier, and Sonic, a rat terrier dachshund mix. Sonic will sleep forever. Domino knows my alarms and prepares himself for the moment I swing my legs off the side of the bed to begin sitting up.  That’s the moment he will rise into his first stretch of the day. But that moment is a long, long, long time away.  At least two minutes.

Two minutes of eternity.

I lay in bed and notice just how wonderful it feels to have no weight on my legs.  How wonderful it feels not to be upright. How wonderful it feels to have arrived with a mind recharged.  My senses fully heightened.  It’s when I think: I need to write about this. Within these two minutes, there is no rush, there are no deadlines, and there is no stress.  Cocooned in a swirl of bed sheets and a blanket, I do more than just hear the birds outside my window—I listen to them. To the busy man on the street, birds are nothing more than producers of the same pestilent noise repeated over and over.   But the busy man is missing it, for he is the one out of tune. He has no idea of the complexity of their communication. And so he shuffles past the trees, and crosses the street before entering a building where he is irritably late for a meeting.  An hour prior, this man overslept his alarm clock and arose in a mess of hurried agitation.  Somewhere in there, if he were lucky, he had at best two seconds of eternity. At best.

My time is up.  My two minutes have ended.  I know exactly what needs to be done in order to leave the house on time.  As I swing my legs out of the bed, Domino pokes his head out into the open, then rises into his ritual stretch.  Simultaneously, I lean into him and press my face against his soft neck, while slipping my hand under the covers to feel Sonic’s belly. There’s a warmth there that never fails to reassure me that I am truly connected to these animals.  It’s a communication that is ours and speaks volumes.

And then the epiphany hits: I’m learning to extend my two minutes.


Copyright Ros Hill 2016

The Song

It all began with $85.00.

Paul: “Hello?”

Time Warner Cable: “Hi, this is Time Warner Cable. Is this Paul Tesh?”

Paul: “Yes it is. You can call me Paul.”

TWC: “Mr. Tesh…Paul, we have not received a payment from you in two consecutive months. We will be stopping your service if not paid by Friday.”

Paul: “Well, it’s not exactly my fault. I blame it on a couple I never got to know while visiting Boston.”

TWC: “Regardless, sir, if you don’t pay by Friday, your service will be terminated.”

Paul: “Perhaps you should listen to my story.”

TWC: “Sir, I don’t—”

He interrupted the representative, and told her to give him just a couple minutes to explain. She somewhat obliged and told him to go ahead.

Paul: “Three months ago my wife and I were in an Italian restaurant in the North End of Boston. While we were waiting on our order, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people wearing Boston Bruins hockey jerseys. It was a sea of black and yellow. I asked our waitress if there was a game that night and where the stadium was. Before she could answer, a woman with her husband in a booth next to us explained that there had been an early afternoon game and told us the arena’s location, mentioning it was the same venue where the Boston Celtics played. I had no idea they shared the same arena.”

TWC: “Sir, I really need to—”

Cutting Time Warner off at the “Stop Your Service” pass, Paul continued.

Paul: “This will only take a minute. Please hear me out. So, the woman in the booth goes on to tell me about how they flew in from Pennsylvania just to see the game. We mentioned we were visiting from Texas to watch our daughter play basketball, and that we are loving every minute in Boston. And that was about it. A little later they finished their meal, and as they left the woman said, ‘Enjoy your stay, and have a nice night.’ ”

TWC: “And that’s why you can’t pay your cable bill? Because some lady in Boston told you to have a nice night? Sir, I need to—”

Paul: “Ma’am this reason I can’t pay my bill is because I’m running out of money, and I’ve never felt happier! After that couple left the restaurant, their waiter came back to our table and said they had just paid for our meal, including the tip. They paid $85.00 for two people they had only talked to for, at most, three minutes.”

TWC: “They paid for your meal?”

Paul: “Yes! I wanted to shake their hands, say thank you, hug them, and take them out to dinner the next night….something! But they left. Gone. Their identities forever unknown.”

TWC: “What a bittersweet story. So generous, yet you could never offer your gratitude.”

Paul: “Exactly.”

TWC: “So, sir, not to sour your story, but your cable bill—I don’t understand what your story has to do with not being able to pay your bill.”

Paul: “It has everything to do with it. When I walked out of that restaurant, I couldn’t get over how great an unexpected surprise can feel. Like a warm, hopeful blanket of humanity had instantly been wrapped around me. You’ve heard of the term “pay it forward.” Well, I’ve been paying it forward ever since.

TWC: “So much that you’re literally running out of money?”

Paul: “Well, OK, not literally. But I am seriously wondering just how can I best spend my money? Do I want cable tv or do I want to brighten people’s days?

TWC: “Well, I know if you want cable, you better pay pretty soon or else—“

Paul: “Sorry to interrupt, but may I ask your name? Just your first name.”

There was a pause on the line. A moment of uncertainty. Should she or should she not divulge her name? Was she thinking that he might be cornering her into something? Could this all be part of a master scheme he was brewing?

TWC: “Carol. My name is Carol.”

Paul: “Hi, Carol, I’m Paul.”

TWC: “I know you are,” she said with a slight chuckle, ”Paul who’s about to lose his cable.”

Paul: “Carol, I’m gonna pay the cable, don’t worry. But can I ask you a question?”

Carol: “Go ahead.”

Paul: “Have you ever heard a song that moves you so much, it lifts you up off your feet?”

Carol: “Absolutely. I know some songs that get me dancing like I’m hopping off the dance floor.”

Paul: “No. I don’t mean literally. I mean a song that moves you. Sinks itself so deeply into your heart and soul that you could swear you have discovered the purity of hope. So powerful is the feeling you just want to cry because never in your life have you ever experienced such an overwhelming sensation of happiness. It lifts you like never before.”

There was a second pause. A few seconds before she spoke.

Carol: “Yes.”

Paul: “What was that song?”

A third pause. Another moment of uncertainty? He could hear her inhaling slowly, then the gentle exhalation—the kind we take to compose ourselves. He knew this type of pause. It was musical, lifting. Carol was composing…

Carol: “The song that swept me off my feet and gave me permission to cry was ‘Jennifer’.”

Paul: “Jennifer? Never heard of it. What type of song is it?”

Carol was overcome with emotion. She was attempting to reply, but the words were having such a difficult time formulating. Then there was that familiar chuckle, pushing its way through the tears. Unmitigated happiness cloaked her, setting free her words.

Carol: “Jennifer. She’s my daughter. She is my song. And never in my life did I ever expect music to be so beautiful.”

And there Paul sat, on the other end of the line—caught in a moment that he never saw coming. Caught in a gulf of emotion that grabbed him like a tight fist ten times his size. This song, this Jennifer, this miracle who he could only hope to one day meet. What an unexpected surprise.

But he paused. He was uncertain of whether to say it. To divulge or not to divulge.

Carol: “Mr. Tesh?”

Paul: “I’m here. Just give me a minute please.”

A minute on the phone can seem like eternity.

Carol: “Mr. Tesh. Paul. You okay?”

He was composing. Trying to find the words. They were piled up in his brain, like a disorganized heap of logs that needed assistance to restore to order. But he dug deep and opened up the memory, releasing it into full exposure for Carol to hear.

Paul: “We lost our song before he was born. His name was Daniel.”

Carol: “Oh, Paul, I’m so sorry.”

Paul: “It’s okay. Please, let me continue. We lost him at seven months. To this day, the doctors still have no idea what went wrong. One moment his little heart was beating, the next it settled into silence for eternity.”

He took a deep breath that, if you were in the room next to him, you would have felt the anguish of its tiresome weight.

Paul: “Carol. It was four years ago. And, sure, to this day, as you can tell, it hurts. But my story is bittersweet as my wife is carrying our newest song. It’s a she, and we have one month to go. Anything can happen. Anything. But, trust me, I have hope. I mean, why not? When that couple in Boston paid $85.00 for our dinner, it wasn’t the amount that I was so impressed by. It was the generosity. It was the giving. It was the wonderment of surprise. And that’s the stuff my wife and I hunger for. The surprise of how one song can lift you like never before. I’ve taken enough of your time, Carol. How much do I owe you?”

Carol: “Paul, your bill is covered. This one’s on us.”

Paul: “Carol, you don’t need to—“

Carol: “I insist. End of discussion. Just pay it forward someday.”

Paul: “And just how do you suggest I do that?”

Carol: “Oh, that’s simple. Love your new song like it’s all you’ll ever have.”

He said goodbye, and hung up the phone. Then, in a sudden defining moment of clarity and awe, and caught in a second gulf of emotion, he became fully aware of what the name of their new song would be.


Copyright Ros Hill 2016