I’m sitting in my office, at my desk, with my feet in red slippers and a hot beanbag on my lap. The sun is starting to fade and the breeze is seeping through my windows, making me shiver and making me think. If I wasn’t so hung up on heating and reheating this beanbag, I probably wouldn’t have noticed how the rest of my house outside of my office is floating in between lightness and darkness. Day and night. A sliver of time that lasts for no more than 45 minutes, if you’re lucky.
Dusk. It’s when everything is cast in a kind of magic orange light. The way I feel about dusk is the same way some people feel about trains and red wine, basements that smell like old books, hot soup and ginger ale, old girlfriends and last kisses. It feels like a memory the second it happens.
I call this the witching hour. Whenever I’ve got a photo shoot to schedule, I try to do it within this 45-minute window. People look their best during the witching hour, but most of the time I’m too busy or they’re too busy to hit such a specific and moving target. So most days I just watch the witching hour pass, observing things as they happen in the cool, orange in between.
It occurred to me recently that I’m not much in the mood to write about my own life. I don’t know why that is. There has been plenty to report on –– stories that would entertain you, bore you, inspire you and anger you. But it’s not these stories I wish to write, because right now all I want to do is pull from my imagination things that aren’t real and mix them with things that are real, like a bowlegged cowboy wishing to ride two horses at once.
All of this became apparent to me in the witching hour, as I watched my neighbor –– an elderly fella with a little dog –– ride past on his bicycle. I don’t know the guy’s name and I don’t know his dog’s name. I know he lives three doors down and that he has a long glass jalousie window the length of his living room, turning the core of his house into a fish bowl. I know that his couch sits opposite this window and that when he sits on this couch, he sits facing the road, staring out what is essentially a big glass wall. It’s like he’s watching television, but the television is us. Also, he lives alone.
He pedals past my house at the same time every day. First he walks his little dog and then he pedals his bike. Today I counted five laps spaced three-and-half minutes apart. 17.5 minutes. A steady 17.5 minutes and then he was gone. Back to his fishbowl and back to his dog.
Watching this man circle my house, I felt as if I was in a time loop. Afraid to move, I was simultaneously fearful and awestruck, convinced that any sudden movement might upset some delicate balance and that I’d be stuck forever, a variable in a perpetually unchanged environment. (Think Groundhog Day, an underrated and awesome movie.)
So what does this have to say? About me? About where my head is at? About the old guy, his bike and his dog? About routines and people and my insatiable prying?
That ordinariness is compelling in extraordinary light. That when you notice temporary things, you notice everything.
PS. Bicycle art by Darwin Wins.