I seldom take elevators. When I do, it’s with a sense of foreboding. Knowing that any minute, the metal ropes could snap and fling the car into the ever growing abyss beneath. I’m being morbid, I know. But everyone’s always talking about the bigger picture. Always alluding to this sweeping panoramic understanding of what really matters. But when life makes an abrupt turn in midair, suddenly we realize just how inept and minute we are; just how twisted our priorities are.
Last Friday I thought the metallic rope was snapping because I got an apology I didn’t even know was due to me. It felt…. weird. I had been wronged, but the apology was extremely vague on details. Apparently, the perpetrator didn’t think I deserved answers to questions like what, when, why or how? Nevertheless, she required forgiveness. Now that’s what I call nerve! So I granted forgiveness. I didn’t really have much wiggle room. And then of course I burdened my little head pondering how much damage had been caused by the unspecified wrong. What exactly had I pardoned? What a terrible predicament. Or so, I thought.
On Saturday, I thought the rope was really, really snapping. All morning, I went about my errands with an all too familiar sense of apprehension. I had very little time to do so much. I was meeting my cousin at noon for an important task.
He was late for the meeting. He didn’t answer my calls. Very unusual, but I didn’t think much of it; he’s a busy guy. At 1pm, I learned the real reason for his ‘rudeness’. He was lying unconscious at ‘Accidents and Emergencies’! Around the time I was snoozing my alarm that morning, he was being rushed to hospital, having been run over by a drunk driver! I was frantic. Calling even more frantic people. Praying. Rushing to hospital. The elevator was screeching on its hinges. My fear reverberated in the eerie silence of my own helplessness.
My cousin was banged up and disoriented. But his spirits were way up. Everybody blamed it on the morphine. I suppose they were right. But I think it might have had a lot to do with the fact that he’d been nicked by the grim reaper’s scythe, and lived to tell the tale! Best high there is! We could all breathe again. Or so, I thought.
On Sunday, the rope snapped. For real. It stopped fooling around. It just let go and sent me plummeting to the very abyss of grief. That morning, around the time I was easing into the laziness of Sunday morning, Mama Tendai was breathing her last. The news hit like a ton of…I don’t know…a mangled wreck of metal.
Outside my four walls, the world carried on spinning. The street bustled. Horns blared. People hurried. Mice scurried. Hawks soared. It appeared I was plummeting all by my lonesome. The barrage of emotions unforgiving. Shock. Denial. Confusion. Fury. Guilt.
It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t. Only, it was.
The shock wanes in the face of time. Denial falters in the face of all the evidence. Confusion settles with the dust. Fury burns out with hopelessness. But the guilt, the guilt clings like molten rubber to skin. It burns too. The things I should have done, but didn’t. The words I should have spoken. The moments I should have seized. The wrongs I should have righted. The rights I should have applauded. The guilt burns. It shadows me into the darkness. Normal human functions are splattered with guilt.
“How could I eat at a time like this?”
“How could I laugh?”
“How could my mind still wander to things that seem so trivial?”
“How could I carry on living? Breathing? Sleeping? Dreaming?”
The guilt beats down until every inch of conscience is drenched in it. It awakens a hankering to be better. To do better.
I’m reminded just how short my journey is; just how fleeting my chances to hit the bulls eye. So now, I ride the elevator with a little less apprehension. I’m compelled to look through the glass, at the people getting smaller and smaller as the elevator gains altitude. I’m forced to acknowledge that that’s me too. Minute. Insignificant. An ant in a world teeming with massive shoes. Any minute, I could get quashed and the ant hill would carry on unperturbed. But I’ve been spared thus far. Somehow, my rope still holds.
Somehow, my fire is reignited. Must be all the oxygen fanning through my lungs. I must honor the memory of my fallen comrade. I must draw from her legend. I must feel the love for those that still live. I must live so I too can inspire love. I must plan less about planning. I must dream less about dreaming. I must talk less about starting. I must simply do.
Because, who knows just how much metal still remains in my rope?