More fictional musings from the keyboard of former Kamloops resident Bill McQuarrie.
SIMON WAITED, waited with hands in his pockets and back to the wind driven rain. Waited for his bus to arrive. Waited for the back-alley odors of fast food, dumpsters, urine, and diesel fumes to become less intense. Waited through the noise. Waited in the rain. Waited for this daily ritual of evening rush hour to end.
The irony in thinking of the 72 as his rush hour lifeboat was not lost on him. When it arrived, it would be anything but a rescue. It would instead be the same standing room only, people moving steel box it had always been. And it never ceased to amaze him how so many people, so close together, could be so far apart.
It would be a noisy place, yet devoid of conversation, thanks in good part to earbuds but more likely, facilitated by city and work life that left no time for anything but busy. Too busy, to be exact.
He groaned to himself, or so he thought, until two people turned to stare. It was a miserable night, in a miserable rain that seemed to flush what was left of his day and his soul onto the sidewalk.
Simon, a specialist in intellectual property law, was 38, born to baby boomers who had grown up in the flower power 60s, the age of Aquarius. They had marched against the war in Vietnam, sang We Shall Overcome and believed in Martin Luther King’s I Had A Dream speech. It was a time of hope and innocence that turned out to be the last era of its kind.
By the late ’70s, the chants of make love not war had faded, and both hope and innocence were in short supply as war had become more profitable and easier to make than love.
The world became, like his childhood, scheduled, structured, and controlled. Driven to soccer practices every Tuesday night, game every Saturday morning. When the season changed, the routine was the same, but the game became hockey. And like those games, everything else became an organized system of fully diarized events. Spontaneity died during his childhood and the concept of time, much like evolution, changed until one day, there was no time, only busy.
Simon wondered what a modern-day Darwin would think of time. Quantifying time was man’s invention, but what about time itself? Einstein theorized the passage of time depended on your frame of reference, and always too busy changes that reference. So, could it evolve?
He smiled at the silliness of his thoughts and blamed his wandering mind on last night’s conversation with his wife, Angela.
She and Simon were typical of professionals their age. Childless by choice, lucked out and were one of only a few who had purchased a condo moments before they became unaffordable and who, for the most part, enjoyed their work. But last evening, as they finished drying and putting the Sunday dinner dishes away, Angela admitted to a growing sense of unease.
“This is no longer our world, Simon. Not the one we imagined, anyway.”
She continued washing the same plate she’d been aimlessly scrubbing for the last minute before continuing. “Do you remember that song from our parents’ time in the 70s? I think it was called Cat’s In The Cradle?”
He remembered, and putting down the towel, he thought about her choice of words, the song and how they fit things he felt but couldn’t quite express.
The song was about a father and son relationship where the father never had time to be part of his young son’s life. It was always the promise of next week when they’d find time to be together again. But they didn’t. There was never time.
He and Angela didn’t have children, but they had each other, and he felt a pang of guilt for all the business travel that took him away or meetings that ran into the evenings. And Angela, who was halfway through her surgical residency, had most of her work scheduled during weekdays, but still had to deal with weekend on-call rotations and emergencies. Their lives were mostly about other people.
“We screwed up, didn’t we, Angela? It’s not that we did bad things. It was more than that. More serious.”
Angela nodded, but with enough uncertainty to suggest she didn’t quite understand where he was going.
“In a way,” she replied.
“What I mean,” he explained, “is that we, you and I, even our parents, didn’t do bad things, but we allowed others to do so.”
As he spoke, he was thinking about climate change, the obsessive pursuit of wealth and power, war, poverty, violence, hate and everything else that could be changed, but for whatever reason wasn’t.
“We are always so busy,” he mumbled to himself. “Busy earning money. Busy at our professions. Busy caring for our own parents. Always busy. Always letting everyone know how busy we were. And too busy to care about what we were and still are letting happen to our world.”
His wife smiled that gentle smile of hers. The smile that eight years ago had stolen his heart and ever since then, taken good care of it.
As he stood at the bus stop, still waiting for Number 72, and thinking of last night’s conversation, his phone announced, “New text from Angela.” Shielding it from the rain, he looked down and read,
“Pile up on freeway. Diverting 4 of the injured here. Will be late. Don’t stay up. See you in the morning or tomorrow after work. Love You A.”
Pocketing his phone, he looked up as his bus pulled to the curb, and thought, “We must change this. We must!”
Bill McQuarrie is a former magazine publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at email@example.com.