It was in the dead middle of summer after my first year at college. Those days, I slept in until past noon unless I had an errand to run or work to finish for my part-part-part-time seasonal job at my old high school. I would spend hours with my laptop open and scrolling through endless pages of Internet fodder. I would spend hours with my laptop lid closed and a notebook open, and then hunting for a discarded and empty notebook to fill when I reached the second-to-last page. I never really slept unless I had to, and then I would overdose on sleep. This routine was enough to content me for a few weeks. Then I started to feel my brain getting smooth from repetition. It was nice, but I wasn’t.
The entire semester before that summer, every accomplishment sent my heart into a syncopated frenzy. I embraced the arrhythmia that was waking up, shaking off the steady, even breaths of sleeping. The skipping beats were stones on still water, and every skip was a ripple that I could read the future in.
The end of the semester did not bring that skipping feeling.
I remember reclining on the couch and reading a book I was able to find online and planned to add to the hefty stack I had completed so far that summer. It was a biography about a homeless man that took me by surprise. I’ve never been into biographies; they always seemed to either glorify the person or degrade him or her. But either way, the person was always larger than life. Biographies always read like extended tabloid stories, outlining the events that came before their big contribution or a personality quirk that would show up later on in life. I have no interest in the actions of the events in people’s personal lives, I want the consequences.
That biography gave me the consequences.
After a while, my eyes began to droop, a sign that I needed to change activities. I set the book on the floor next to the couch and opened the nearby notebook to a blank page and uncapped my pen. A few minutes later, I capped the pen and closed the notebook, setting them on top of the book on the floor next to the couch.
Something in my brain told me that weird stretches were necessary so that my body didn’t get too comfortable in the conventional poses of sitting, standing, and walking. I pulled at my left ankle so that my left knee was bent and the toes on my left foot were in line with my shoulder. I pressed my abdomen against the back of the couch and pushed the backs of my shoulders towards the bottoms of my feet, knees and back bending. I laid belly down and twisted my hips so that they stacked oddly on top of each other, my feet flat against the wall behind the couch. A contortionist’s dance, only I’m (still) nowhere near as flexible. Just strange and (still) unable to keep to whatever code my body tries to keep me in.
My heart beat a little bit faster from the physical exertion; holding yourself in weird poses when you’re not exactly in the best shape of your life is hard work. But the beats were still even, just accelerated like the slowest of crescendoes; indiscernable until the sound gets unbearably loud. But nothing out of the ordinary. I always did this when there was nothing else to do. I writhed on flat surfaces, stretching my limbs at odd angles and clenching my fists like I was trying to grasp something just out of my reach. Always, always, always out of my reach. My heart would sink when I opened them up, empty.
I ended up sitting inverted on the couch, my legs where my torso should be and my torso where my legs should be, my hips acting like a pivot point, my head and vision upside down.
My mother used to get flowers for no reason. She wanted things to spruce up the room, add some beauty to the house. But this house can never keep a plant alive; multiple trials yielded the same results.
But on this day, there were roses in a glass vase filled with water. They were a rusting pink color, a shade unsaturated from the original blushing pink, and the tips of the petals were browning.
I saw a petal drop.
I pulled myself off the couch so that I could sit up properly on the floor, an off-beat heart contraction snapping me upright. I can’t even tell you where the petal fell from. The area within the circle created by the outermost flowers was already littered with fragile and crumbling petals, a clue that the petal’s fall was inevitable. But my heart still skipped a beat anyway.
There was no drama in it. Just gravity overpowering the forces keeping the petal bonded to its brothers and sisters, making it fall the short distance from ten inches above the tabletop. It didn’t flutter. It wasn’t carried to any other place except right below the node that it dropped from. Still, though it didn’t make a sound my physical ears could discern, in my head its contact with the table cloth echoed. A drum mallet dropped suddenly on the pulled-taut skin of a timpani.
I can’t tell you where in the bouquet of roses the petal fell from, just like how I can’t tell you the x, y, z coordinates of where a raindrop fell from inside a cloud. But I am never surprised by rain. The clouds are too obvious an indicator; my skin prickles in anticipation, an imitation of a raindrop falling on my cheek.
But I was surprised by this petal dropping. What are the chances that I could have witnessed this event happening? What are the chances that I will ever see that again? The experience was singular, singular in the sense that only one petal dropped in that split second, and singular in the sense that I feel like I will never see just one single petal dropping ever again.
I tried to look for other things that placed that particular moment out of the ordinary. But it was the same sunny day that had happened for the past week. It was still the same empty house with just me in it for the afternoon. It was still the same table, the same bunch of flowers, even the remote controller for the television hadn’t moved from its place in the holder, the same x, y, and z coordinates from the previous night. The trees still swayed in the same predictable way outside with the light breeze through its branches. The same children played the same types of games in the front yard next door and were called in for lunch at the same time as the days before. I was still reading the same book from yesterday. I woke up at the same time as yesterday. I still did the same non-routine stretch that I always did. There was nothing obviously extraordinary about this day.
Though maybe that’s why I found that spontaneous but inevitable drop to be so out of the ordinary, instead of just physics. Maybe I got too used to constantly living my life with eyes pinned open to take everything in that I forgot that small things can take your breath away too.
I am still catching my breath.
These are not the roses described, but they are pink roses that I did receive from friends after a dance event during freshman year.
Inspired by the Writing Challenge: The Devil is in the Details. Written in one sitting with very little editing.
I’m reposting some old blog posts until I get out of my blogging funk. This one was originally posted on January 27, 2013, and was my 56th post on this blog. You can read the original here: One moment.