141. In the Moment
When it is Tuesday, I might still be in bed come the afternoon. It is often the alarm clock that wakes me. Tuesdays are when Coffee Club meets.
I allow myself plenty of time. A year ago, I would have walked if the weather was decent. But following a short bout with COVID, I developed an issue in my left leg that the NHS has yet to resolve. Rather than arrive in a sweat and fatigued, despite the distance being only a mile, I usually take the bus.
Tuesday’s routine begins with a stop at Pen & Paper, a shop in the Royal Arcade five stories below my apartment. It is my favorite shop in Cardiff and the name says it all. I chat with the staff, if they’re not busy. In this way, I exhaust the extra time I would have wasted waiting for the bus. When it is time, I walk past the pillar box at the bottom of Saint Mary Street to deposit the letters I wrote the night before.
On a typical day, I board the no. 6 bus and disembark at Cardiff Bay. It is a short stroll to the A-Bar, which is what my friends call it. It has a large A on its roof. It is the Academy Platform, a café installed in what appears to be a ship’s cargo container. It is located adjacent to Cardiff Bay Station. The job of the first to arrive is to try and claim the one long plank table in the back. We often have to join smaller tables to it when we are many. On this, the third Tuesday of October 2023, we were many.
I put their names here, because if I am still alive in twenty years and reading this essay again, I want to see who I can remember, who is still around: Andra, Ann, Brian, Joyce, Ken, Kevin, Nina, Sara, Steve, and Tracey. There were also two visitors. Carol was Ann’s daughter visiting from Seattle. Thomas was Tracey’s son, who had half the day off from training for his new job. They were twelve and I was the thirteenth. The A-Bar will disappear in November to make way for the new tram. In twenty years, how well will I remember this place?
There was a discussion that finalized where and when we would have our Christmas dinner. Then followed a half dozen simultaneous smaller conversations. Everyone was engaged in enthusiastic talk creating a loud buzzing as I began to doze.
That I was not talking much did not go unnoticed. They made fun of this unusual reticence, but they knew me. I sometimes arrived sleep deprived, as I was this Tuesday. I was sleepy and sitting in my usual corner where two walls come together, from where I could lean back and watch everyone. It was very comfortable. Good friends abounded, all of them excited with one another, a hive of happiness. I might not have been contributing this time, but I thought to myself, I have led a charmed life during which I have always had excellent friends, and I marked that moment as perfect. Their presence, their many voices, the cheerfulness, the laughter, it was all palliative and I felt grateful to be immersed in this society. When Ms Keogh died, my cherished companion of 35 years, friends were the reason I didn’t choose self-annihilation. It was enough to take measure of that place and these friends, to feel gratified with being alive among them, basking in the moment.
What is the point of existence? It has no point. What is the point of non-existence? It has no point. What is the difference? Everything.