Somewhere, someone is having the summer I signed up for. Somewhere, a version of myself is breakfasting on her back deck and spending her morning amid her fabric stash. She lunches on salad from her spotless garden, which she weeds and waters at dawn. In the afternoon, she lies in her hammock, reading the books she has saved up all year.
She showers around four, has tea with her Beloved at five, and spends her evenings in the laughing company of her friends at Joe’s. She walks her dog, paints watercolors of wildflowers, and makes jellies to give away. She is writing a commentary on the psalms.
I have never seen this woman, but I’m sure she’s enjoying the heck out of my front porch, which looks like this, with a world-class absence of me:
I can’t get half an hour to myself, much less any sort of long stretches of dolce far niente. That’s why this morning, quite unbreakfasted, I had to show up at my internist’s office so that a woman with alarming tufts of pink hair over each ear could relieve me of any spare blood I might have.
This is so far from my theoretical summer life, I can’t even see it from here. Having blood drawn doesn’t bother me at all since the phlebotomist we called “Eight’s-the-Charm” found a new line of work. But just going to the internist’s when the office opens is an exercise in Not Relaxing.
By 8:30 a.m., the main door is thronged with people who (mostly) bid 65 goodbye several birthdays ago. That does not mean that they have gentled with age. These people know that to be anything other than first in line is to fail, and they have never failed at ANYTHING. Their canes have rock tips on the ends and swords concealed inside. Their walkers have spikes, and God help you if you run across anyone with a motorized wheelchair. They wield handbags like boxing gloves, even the men.
They are also un-breakfasted, and they are at the stage where missing a meal constitutes an ill-advised sacrifice. Some of them have big Thermos jugs, so they can break out the coffee in the waiting room.
In a spirit of charity, and also so I won’t be found in the gutter with someone’s dentures clamped to my ear, I wave them all in front of me. A woman in a wheelchair runs over my foot as she goes by. Another woman, with one of the spiked walkers, elbows a man with a cane, who was trying to body-check another man brandishing a pair of Samurai crutches.
In the scrum, they fail to notice a second check-in clerk beckoning people into her line. Shrugging, I scoot over , while a grizzled man whallops the walker-woman with his oxygen tank. Moments later, purely by accident, I am seated in the laboratory waiting room, First in Line.
The man with the oxygen tank briefly wedged himself in the door, but lost the race to a large woman who did not appear to have any assistive devices. They both glared at me, sitting peacefully with my novel, although for all they knew, I could have been there all night. I was just settling into a lovely moment of dolce far niente when Pink Hair called my name.
Postscript: Dolce far niente is an Italian phrase that I adore. It means “pleasant idleness,” or “the sweetness of doing nothing.”