Monday, September 24, 2007

The Chair Bound

My eyes were flinching beneath the lids. My mouth was open. Short breaths fluttered the hollows of my cheeks. The fingers of one hand clutched and loosened on one arm of the chair I was sitting in.

Now was my time for just sitting. I had sat more this summer than in all the rest of my life put together (or so it seemed), and when I bothered to think about it I wondered why I didn't mind. Day after day I sat in my chair in the apartment building lobby, staring into space, while other tenants and visitors ambled in and out of the front door. Sometimes my eyes seemed hooked in space; to focus them took real effort, so that I would be conscious of a pulling sensation when someone walked past me. My mind was unfocused as well. I thought about nothing, nothing at all. I was not always conscious of the passage of time. It would have been possible to start reading a newspaper, or to read some book, but whenever I considered it I forgot to do anything about it. I would think of the books that lined one wall of my apartment, which I had brought here in boxes from my native Philadelphia twenty-three years ago. I would picture the set of motions necessary to rise and fetch one of them, and the bookshelves themselves: how taking a book off the shelf would leave a gaping hole on one of the shelves. But from there my thoughts blurred and vanished, and when someone walking through the lobby and passed by he would find me sitting steadily with my empty hands locked in my lap. It was as if I were asleep myself, or in that space on the edge of sleep where people make plans for some action but only dream they have carried them out.

Someone was at the front door of the lobby. The front desk manager had stepped away from her desk. The door buzzer buzzed. I sat still for a moment. The buzzer rang again, and I gathered my muscles together to rise from the chair. "Coming," I called. Then I glanced at the front-desk manager, but she only frowned slightly as I went to the door to open it for the visitor.

Thus, the morning passed for me, the meaninglessness of my position rivaled only by boredom.

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