This Side of Eternity

One weekend they went to look at houses on the market, and she unexpectedly discovered an ability that she had not known she possessed. The ability to walk into a house for sale and sense if its last owner was living or not. Now in theory, this sounds like a faintly unpleasant if not downright morbid skill. Not nearly as amiable for instance, as the ability to knit argyle sweaters or play the ukulele. But in practice she found it to be an oddly sweet faculty. The soft crackling feeling that would settle around her shoulders like a magic cloak as she ran her hand across a tiled kitchen counter, felt a floorboard creak underfoot, or as she gazed out a bedroom window at the view someone had woken up to for sixty years. The feeling of being enveloped in a present absence. The sense of something or someone, both here and also not. Her husband smiled the first time she whispered the feeling to him. And then the real estate agent confirmed it. When this happened a second and third time he nodded his head thoughtfully. 

And she began to consider the things we leave behind in daily life, in daily ways, without deeply considering them. Only because most of us believe we can go back for things whenever we want to. But in the end that isn’t true is it? No one can go back. No matter how much they want to. No matter what they left behind. And what they leave behind are things. In the end, with things it’s not take it or leave it. It’s just — leave it. And this is what renders thingishness so precious– despite the bad rap it gets in lofty circles. Lofty circles tend to pride themselves on a preference for the intangible.

What they forget in their earnestness, she realized, is that life is the only place in the universe where we get to experience both. Granted when you are intangible you are invincible. But what is invincibility worth in a world without interruptions, inclement weather, innkeepers or inkfish? Invincibility without tangibility is redundant. Like sunscreen lotion in Plato’s cave.

When you are tangible you can harbor inklings, and intuitions, you can cock your head and listen to invisible music. When you are tangible it is given to you to dabble in the intangible. But when you are intangible your dabbling days are over. So are your days of dawdling, dueling and decorating cakes. And this may seem counter intuitive but — so are your days of doing nothing. When you are intangible doing nothing is no longer on the menu. Menus are no longer on the menu. So if you harbor a fondness for doodling, or a yearning for yodeling, if you are pining for pine-scented trails, have a passion for passionfruit, a hankering for pressed handkerchiefs, or just the simple desire to jump to a conclusion, fish for a compliment, forgive a trespass, retrieve your soul, or go salsa dancing at sunset, you would be well advised to press your advantage while you are tangible. Undertakings like undertakers work best on this side of eternity.

And remember, when it comes time to be intangible none of the thingishness comes with. Not the favorite brass lamp, or the flowering plum tree, not the love notes, not the lover, nor the long twilights of summer…This is not by any means a new thought. But it can be a shockingly new realization.

And all this being so, if that were you then, stepping with no feet, off the edge of this world, and into the nameless next–  wouldn’t you choose to float one last time at your bedroom window? And if you happened to find someone standing there with her eyes full of dreams– just as you used to– wouldn’t you find a way to tap her shoulder lightly? Wouldn’t you too want to remind someone, before you go, to cherish it all? This singular world of dreams, of views, of eyes and shoulders, of touch, and light.

3 responses to “This Side of Eternity

  • Nora

    Your prose and poetry transforms my ordinary daily life to a colorful, playful, reflective, joyful day! You have an extraordinary gift of transforming ordinary words to strings of wonder and awe about life. Am glad am in your mailing list and grateful you have started writing more again.

    • Pavithra K. Mehta

      Dearest Nora — lovely to see you resurface here! How long it’s been since we crossed paths. I hope you have been well. Grateful for your kind words and it gladdens my heart to know these scribbles touch yours. Sending our good wishes your way and much love.

  • vaishali

    i am loving this poetic prose……..hankering after pressed hankerchief…………go on my girl. just don’t stop sharing these precious pearls with us mortals. you young lady are my favourite soul……my goto person for peace and sanity in this mad world. your writing is magical and full of pixie dust.

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