Chances by Cid Corman
Today was a lesson in adulthood, or, at the very least, a lesson in making plans. I used to be a spontaneous person—and isn’t that the saddest statement I’ve made about myself yet. I’m older, and I may have lost the magic.
I rely heavily on well-laid plans. I pool my errands together so I only have to leave the house once every two weeks. More, if I can help it. There are too many variables out there in the world that I can’t control. For example: we will meet for coffee. I only have prepared the width of my attention span for you, and you alone. If you bring a friend I don’t know, he’s a variable. If we don’t sit across from each other, that’s a variable. If I don’t have my back against the wall, all the people walking behind me are variables. The stranger who bums two cigarettes off me is a variable. The money he leaves on my table as a sign of thanks is a variable.
But I digress. Today I had planned to go to the bank. I had calculated how long I would be gone (one hour, tops). I knew what I was going to do next (buy tea, buy smokes, buy lunch, go home, work). I mapped my way out of the house the way I knew how. I have always been lost, you know, in so many things and paths in my life. This errand, and all the errands before and after this—I had to make them go the way I planned. It is safe. It is accounted for. I am in control.
The bank was offline.
The pretty lady at the counter was talking. I stared at her lipstick for about a minute. I was at a loss. Have I told you that I asked her what I was going to do? Because I’m quite sure I do that. Ask complete strangers about perfectly simple decisions that I seem incapable of doing at the moment when everything else breaks down. It was like the blue screen of death, and I stood there with my mouth hanging open. You’re an adult, I tell myself furiously. I closed my mouth. I opened it again: What am I going to do now?, I asked the teller. I mean—she’s a teller, she should be able to give me the answers to life’s big questions. Is orange called orange because it’s orange or is orange called orange because of orange? Do you think dogs have a real, nuanced language? What parts of the world were created when God was sad? How can I make peanut butter not stick to the roof of my mouth? Why do I hate wearing a bra? Is time a dimension of the universe? She’s a fucking bank teller, says my other self, seated in the corner of my brain, chips in hand, ready for this shitstorm.
But I digress. I was told there were other branches (of course), or I could come back tomorrow (of course). I tried to think of what I was supposed to do next after this. I stood outside for a time, nowhere bewitched but definitely bothered and bewildered. Then I got in a cab and went home.
I think my brain is still offline.
Tomorrow, which is today, which is later: a new probability. And isn’t that something. I think I have always found myself here, in this moment: I do, I undo, I redo. And shouldn’t I try again. And isn’t that something.
I had a sense of
only a person
lost in pursuing
a calling loved knows.
As natural as
breathing. All of life.
This is from Nothing Doing by Cid Corman, published by New Directions, 1999.