My Saturday

 

(Eagle River, WI Dec. 2005) It was on this uneventful Saturday of my own when details of a book I’d been reading kept coming to mind. Saturday, was the latest by Ian McEwen. He’d written Atonement which introduced me to his elaborate writing style, full of vivid descriptions and deep, deep thoughts.

Saturday was an unexpected stream of consciousness diatribe of one man’s day, a nondescript Saturday in London, at some undefined time after 9/11. The book’s 289 pages take place on that one day. I compared his musing to my uneventful Saturday and couldn’t help observing that both days were nothing but a chain of nothings. A series of small events that became the sum total of the day. They meant a lot or maybe meant nothing at all.

I got up late. Late for me anyway. About 8:00am. I had errands to run. McEwen took about forty pages to describe his main character’s morning complete with inner thoughts of the lack of security since that fateful September day in America. My day was simpler.

I left the house and made the rounds in Eagle River from one place after another. My stops were a matter of a few blocks apart. I felt guilty not walking to the beauty shop to pick up some makeup, then to Radio Shack for a new phone battery. Turned out I had to order a new phone since they no longer made that phone or battery. Ah, technology!

Then to the bank for deposits slips and the post office for stanps. I actually walked from the bank to the post office, they’re so close. I was home again in less than forty-five minutes. Ah, what a simple life I have. I’d have had to add another twenty pages to match McEwen’s musing full of contemplation of the value of an uncomplicated life.

Bud joined me, going to the bookstore and grocery store. McEwen would have mined my inner thoughts for twenty pages about the Chai tea I travel to get at a certain store and how it haunts me that I am so fortunate to have this tiny comfort whenever I want it, when most of the would is in shambles and shouldn’t I weigh the sociological underpinnings of that purchase? Wow! That was quite a McEwenism!

McEwen, of the huge vocabulary and ambition to describe fully, completely, every thought and nuance of each person in his story, fills me with envy. But, alas my prose is matter of fact, terse and to the point. His descriptions require concentration and attention. At times, intertwined in his sentences, I forget what he’s seeing and where he is. Then I get it. He brings me up to speed with a punch.

I’d love to be able to describe as he does with his main characters, Rosalind and Henry, the hidden gradations of my own relationship. While I want to say that Bud drives me crazy with what he calls “messin’ with you“, I know McEwen would build the action up to a fevered pitch and glue the reader to the page. But for me it’s just another routine activity. Bud is what is called “high touch.” In fact, he can’t seem to keep his hands off me. He sneaks up and jiggles me in obvious places that might make a woman feel loose and slack. But it’s endearing. While this is delightful and I’d hate not to have it, there are times it’s completely annoying. How would McEwen express that?

We set off for the four block walk to the movies with a half hour until show time. Let me try to describe that in my McEwen wanna-be style. The six to eight inch snow that fell on Tuesday is, by Saturday, still holding onto the tree limbs which are full of white and fluffy balls. Several large evergreens carry so much snow that the bough reaches the ground so you want to hold them up, relieve the pain they must feel. We walk briskly. The air is calm, no wind and little traffic. We walk in the middle of the street for part of the way. The theater is on the main street, mostly uncrowded now that the tourist season is past.

There are more people at the theater than I’d expected. But then, silly me, Harry Potter is also playing. After all the children and families disappear into Hogwart heaven, we are two of ten people in our theater. It’s the opening weekend of the Johnny Cash biography, Walk the Line. Bud adores Johnny Cash. There’s a scene where Johnny’s teasing June, offering her a peanut and at the last minute he pops it into his mouth. So close to a ritual Bud and I have, I lean over to him and say, “uncanny, isn’t it?’ He agrees. McEwen would let go an ocean of prose to describe the intricacies, the give and take power struggles that have dominated our relationship.

After the movie we walk across the street for a sandwich. The place is nearly empty since its only 4:00. A man comes in with a young woman who helps him navigate an older woman into her seat. As the young woman leaves, she reminds him to call when they’re ready for a ride home.

Apparently it’s a son who is not so young himself taking his aging mother (Lily, I hear the waitress call her) out for a holiday dinner. He makes a big deal of ordering her a drink. She agrees to a beer but he seems to feel she should have wine and orders her a White Zinfandel. It is the holidays, after all. He gets her a straw, which she uses. Then he attempts to propose a toast and it’s clear the woman is oblivious to what is taking place. It’s sad to see him try so hard. McEwen would have a great time with this touching scenario and I’ll bet he would convey these thoughts and feelings better than I am.

We end the day by walking home and settling in for a customary evening of reading and listening to classical music. McEwen’s characters, on the other hand, are terrorized by a petty criminal who breaks into their house. The crisis is resolved well and Henry is left feeling not so safe after all in his quiet tranquil neighborhood.

What’s the moral of the story? What did the author want to convey? What was I supposed to get from this? Here was Henry, worrying a lot about distant terrorists and the threat they pose, when he was vulnerable to this menace on his own street. Does this mean we need to focus on our day to day existence and to things closer to home? Or maybe it means we aren’t safe anywhere.

Whatever McEwen’s agenda is, I’ve decided this little essay of mine is a far cry from his voluminous work. But then, maybe Saturday started out as a short essay about the meaning of life. For all I know, War and Peace began as a letter to the editor about the travesty of war. Perhaps The Old Man and the Sea was originally an article on the dangers of fishing alone. So, maybe I should keep adding to this humble little work and develop it into something large and meaningful.

 

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