I have a 23-minute walk from my house to my office. Naturally, I leave with 21 minutes to spare. During the school year, I must part a sea of children headed toward the elementary school. Often, a single kid will have a train of relatives—an entire branch of a family tree—escorting the royal offspring. I have to vote in this school (just so you know that I am responsible after my confession about the walk), and I’ve seen big, giant posters proclaiming “we’re all going to collage!” with cartoon animals in graduation gowns and diplomas in hand. I wonder why they are already programming them for crippling debt for jobs that won’t pay their rent. But then again, I already know.
Luckily, it’s the summer, so all I encounter instead is an onslaught of leaf blowers. Sticks, rocks, and dust all whip against the face, because apparently everyone has the expense for landscaping. Does this contrast uncomfortably with the many, many tents posted up along the sidewalk? Yes, it does.
There are two people who, if I am not careful, will match me stride for stride for several blocks—both always going in the same direction. So I have to adjust, alter my route, depending on if I run into them. I’m sure they’re fine. But I hope they appreciate my two-block detour to avoid our awkward matching pace.
Two different lights have poor traffic flow crossing north to south. Because only one button for the crosswalk will begin the light sequence, I must approach from one side, hit the button, then cross to the other side of the street to catch the lights in the correct order (note: if you try to explain this process to another person, they will, in fact, think you are insane).
These trips are soundtracked by whatever I happen to have on my headphones that day. This allows time for daydreaming, attempts to forget about any whack arguments I’m still playing in my head from last night’s band practice, and imagining a way of playing that is as free, fun, and fulfilling as we think it should always be. It’s easy to imagine coming up with similar ideas to what I’m hearing, of being able to share that with other people, of having the fantastical imagination be acted out in real life.
Until I take off the headphones to enter a coffee shop, further biting into my walk time. There, on this particular day, a tall, slightly pudgy white guy, wearing black shorts, a black t-shirt, and short, gelled black hair, orders a cold brew and gives his name as Lance. And, as far as I can tell, I’ve never seen a more “Lance” Lance in my life.
After the coffee shop, I have another 5 minutes of daydreaming left. One particular spot on the sidewalk, without any particular cause, smells rotten. Whatever was there has left, but the ghost of the scent remained. This small little window in which to imagine better futures runs out, and for the next nine hours, I pretend to be someone else.