and my attempt to spend it.
In this idle time, I attempt to derive some action, intention, or even acceptance of its immediate occurrence and inevitable passing. In reflection, I see my attempt as identical and futile as the attempt to write.
To spell it out clearer, I am attempting to spend this idle time with the currency of words that have accumulated, and I am growing anxious to release them. Yet, I have no service to request and thus no tips to offer. I am sitting here in this time, idle, attempting to find any description of action, intent, or acceptance that could permit the wasting away of my inflated thoughts that are growing and saving with no plan of use. As such, my potential is here, fading, and I remain here, idle, in time that passes.
My earliest memory is the afternoon of a sick day that must have been in 2004 or so. (I have earlier memories, but I cannot verify if those memories were thoughts that, over the years, became pseudo memories, or even more, dreams that, as a young child, I would awake from having forgotten that they were realistically unfathomable, for instance the night I dreamt that my father had ripped the heart out of my Teletubbies' Po plushie— Baba would never do such a thing). As my mother was a stay-at-home mom, she holds centre stage in the memory. Also as a mother to twin daughters, my sister (it doesn't matter who's younger, although I'm technically 2 minutes older as it was a cesarean and so only indicates the efficiency of the doctor: quick, the man was quick) is also present in memory. If I was sick, she definitely was sick. And so, my mother had to keep us healthy, happy, and, more importantly, of use.
My earliest memory is the afternoon of a sick day where Tamara and I cleaned our play room with our play toys, play brooms, and play carts. Mama surveilled us and pointed to more dust under the couch. Tamara and I happily swept around thinking this was fun, this was play, and at least we weren't at school where I would cry 4 of the 5 mornings and Tamara would have to hold my hand to the nurse's office to call my parents for verbal support.
I bring this memory up because of its context: it was an afternoon of idle time that was put to use. Whether this use was of our intention or not, we did something with that time and out came results: happy twins, a clean room, and shared purpose.
This next memory is similar in context and characters, but it could have been 2004, 2006, 2008, or all the above. It is a combination of multiple afternoons that had the same features: a sunny Friday 2pm that our nuclear family would return prematurely from the beach across the street for unknown reasons (well, known I'm sure at the time, but my childish apparition at the time failed to understand why we couldn't build sandcastles until the sun set, at which we'd return home as tired sandy zombies and melting ice cream in plastic bags waiting impatiently for showered and fed versions of ourselves).
This memory now is the archetype of IDLE TIME: the period of time that is open, free, and wide of possibilities in a way that paralyzes you entirely. As I fortunately have my twin to confirm or deny any memory of our childhood, knowing that we truly were 2 bodies sharing the same existence, we can remember those early returns back from the beach where the hot Abu Dhabi sun poured so easily into the lobby of our speckled brown marble apartment building. Back home so quickly, I was unprepared. Thus, this idle time is my earliest memory of a complete lost, bored, and, dangerously, dreaded emptiness. Fortunately, my emotions are fickle, and especially so as a child where whatever sensitivity I had carried I could quickly wave away with the onset of a game, event, or story. But this archetype would remain, and I would one day (today) return to this memory and proclaim it as my first proof of inability to deal with gaps of time that especially are found in afternoons.
Summer days are not particularly my favourite days: they've never been, and I believe this could explain why I was not particularly fond of my raising having taken place in Abu Dhabi with its 10 of the 12 months being that of hot, hotter, or hottest. In the heat, I find myself melting in every way possible: the ever pervading humidity, the blinding light, and the relentless restlessness of a humming, mumbling, whisper-shouting AC unit demanding your essence melt into static. I find these moments particularly perfect to encapsulate what these empty afternoons are to me: uncomfortable, blinding, and ever occurring moments that harness the power to rip a hole out of the room and drag me right under into the ether.
Besides the heat, idle time, to me, is purgatory. I find it hard to find something to do. And before you begin to mention a possible list to follow or to curate in particular for such moments, trust me, I have 3+ concurrent lists at the moment in both digital and analog forms. Therefore, my issue is not the brainstorming of things-to-do, but really the reason behind doing something in actuality. For in theory, each task seems useful. In reality, while I know I may just need to do something instead of nothing, I find it near impossible to begin without first discovering my raison d'être (if you haven't assumed already, this is an incredibly inefficient way to pass time).
At some point of my upbringing, I would guess around the same time I began to feel myself a conscious individual human (so let's say 13 years old), I realized that I could use my relations for help. Essentially, I began asking family members, friends, and strangers I'd just met what they did in their day, how they came up with said tasks, and why they felt compelled to do it in the first place. Here are some of the most memorable answers I've received:
Anna, my maternal grandmother, mid 70s, German but is fluent in Arabic and spells the ingredient "sugar" in at least 3 different ways around her kitchen: "Oh, what don't I have to do every day! There is so much to do! I wake up and go down and have my cornflakes in my milk with half a banana and a prune. I have my coffee with my french press which I finish before going back to take a shower. I might go to the garden then to prune some shrubs or plant some flowers that your Sido bought on the side of the road again. Oh, some of his sisters might pass by today and we might go to the stores or to church or to my friends place, you know I was part of the Ikebana of Jordan group for many years and they still get together and talk about the town, and that reminds me that I need to pick up that dress from the tailors, and I will need your help with that apple strudel for the dinner here tomorrow. Let’s do it before my German shows start tonight, and the German magazines you got me from the airport, thank you by the way. Wow, if only I had a day where I had all the time and didn't need to do anything, that would be great!"
Tamara, aforementioned fraternal twin sister, 2 minutes my junior, ecstatic with her intonations and may give the impression that she's not listening to you but that's her way to show that she cares for you no matter how dramatic your emotions might sound: "What do you mean "idle time"? No no, you just think too much. There's so much to do like walking or working out or seeing friends or reading. Just make a list [she doesn't listen sometimes—"yes, Tamara, I have a list(s) already"] and there! You have so much to do!"
Maple, our tortoiseshell cat, 3 years and 5 months old, offered to me during a week-long roadtrip with best friends in the east of Québec where she was a malnourished 2 month-old alien bold enough to be picked up by a much bigger alien: "Mmm, m, ... mmm." A pause or two. "Mm mmmm m, Mm, M." And returns to her 4th nap of the afternoon.
Step by step, Rasha, day by day, Rasha. Here's what I did today:
6:30am — Alarm rings so we wake up, him before me because that means he opens the bedroom door, that Maple has been MmmMm-ing at since 5:50am, while he's in the bathroom, I am in bed with Maple.
6:40am — I get up, wash up, et al.
7:20am — We walk down Brook St that I've come to realize has a beautiful slope that I guess must be 4% at max because it lovingly carries you down towards the water and right towards the coffee shop and this 10 minute parade of 2 becomes a lovely morning meditation.
7:30am — "Good morning, good morning, how are you, good thank you and you, good thank you, what can I get you, oh 2 medium black light roast drips hot for here and one with room for milk, ok, ok, thank you, thank you."
8-11am — He LaTeXs and I read, occasionally recalibrating the volumes of inner-dialogue and coffeeshop-noise.
11:30am — A grumbling pair of tummies walk back up the 4% slope that isn't too lovingly carrying us backwards.
11:41am — We break fast on apples, bread, and peanut butter.
12pm — What now????
6pm — Oh thank god, it's dinnertime.
Oh well, I think I've found my sort of purgatory.
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