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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

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waiting redux
november 1, 2015

Back at the very beginning of my writing life, but past the juvenilia years, but still so far from where I am now in age that I can barely see it anymore, I wrote a short story called, "Waiting." It's never been published. In the narrative, an unnamed man waits for his girlfriend, in the first section for five minutes before she shows up, then fifteen minutes, a half hour, an hour, two hours, you get the idea, and finally, to where she never shows up.

I've always been fascinated by the concept of waiting. All those times in our lives, over and over again, when we become inactive, putting everything on pause until something happens.

I'm currently reading Raymond Roussel's poem in four cantos, New Impressions of Africa, in the Mark Ford translation. An aspect to it that particularly struck me was the poem's inclusion of long lists of objects or actions that have a relationship to each other. For example, in Canto Two, we're presented with example after example of objects that lose some of their length in certain circumstances.

Inspired by that, I've created this list of examples of intervals in which we are put into a waiting state.

Because don't all of us love lists?


--For the number of sentences that must be exchanged, talking to someone new, to realize the other is quite smart, or not smart at all.

--For someone struggling to lose weight, the bowed head in the bathroom, with that loneliness from childhood, staring down at one's own toenails, for the red needle to settle on a black number.

--For the after midnight incontinent, listening to the ever-rising pitch of the faulty toilet tank, a momentary god, hoping it will resolve, so that the glossy white top of the tank will not have to be lifted in that window darkness, and the ball cock assembly, with wet fingers, jiggled.

--For the time it takes for the yellow and blue flame of a disposable lighter to wave across the far end of a cigarette, igniting it, turning the brown tobacco orange, so that one may suck in smoke.

--For the one with worry about pain and swallowing, resignedly reading about golf courses past the scheduled appointment time in a dentist's waiting room.

--For the suddenly-woken homeowner, head lifted off the white pillow within the shadowy shapes of bedroom furniture, listening to hear if an unfamiliar noise repeats in the darkness.

--For the number of bites one takes seated in a crowded, noisy restaurant, to understand that the dish lowered in front of you is memorable, or mediocre.

--For the one whose pale lips are sliding across their white teeth in a childish way, the happy interval between when one realizes an orgasm is imminent, and the actual experience of such.

--For the patient lying with his backside naked on a gurney, staring at the blue and red squiggles on the monitor in front of him, waiting for the black fingers of unconsciousness to wiggle into his mind.

--For an old man who has eaten a plate of roughage the night before to counteract one of the side effects of the pills keeping him alive, wondering how many cups of coffee he must drink, while watching still more discussions on TV of today's weather, before he will feel that happy twang of little men in his bowels.

--For the one who cannot afford to be late to work again, keeping the key turned right in the ignition, sitting in the parking lot outside his apartment, knees jiggling, face of his disapproving supervisor looming in front of the rearview mirror like an insert in a Forties movie, listening to the engine trying to turn over, trying to turn over.

--For the writer who thinks they are ready to be accepted by a noted magazine, checking their email to see if they have received any word on their story's acceptance or rejection.

--For the young woman who has bedded her new boyfriend, standing by the stove the next morning with a spatula in her right hand, watching the translucence of two eggs whiten in the buttery skillet, rising up on tiptoes, anxious about a successful flip over of the eggs, watching the twinned white and lemon eggs float and roll over in the air above the skillet, like a face with the two dead yellow eyes she might encounter a few months later in the affair, when the boy comes up with a poor excuse for why he is home so late to their apartment, salt and peppering his excuse with "You know", and "Whatever."

--For the children in masks, whose parents discreetly hold back on the sidewalk, anticipating the tall front door swinging inwards, widening the top mouths of their pillowcases, finding out if they will receive candy or apples.

--For the old man or woman sitting in their silent home, looking at a slant of sunlight, a reminder that the carpet should be vacuumed, waiting for a call from anyone.

--For the IT worker whose back is tired from bending over an occupied chair late morning, stomach rumbling, finishing his coding changes, then tapping the Restart tab to see if this approach gets rid of the virus.

--For the man or woman, biting their lip, looking from their bold hand to the other's lips, to see if those untasted lips smile with permission.

--For all of us with a phone to our ear, or near our ear, listening to the far-off ringing, hoping for a pick-up, a real voice instead of a recording.

--For the couple imbibing an illegal drug new to them, holding their breath, looking at each other from opposite sides of the kitchen table, listening to the radio, watching a kitten approach their legs and the kitchen table's legs from across the floor.

--For the one in a striped shirt who has been trying to conquer his shyness, and as a consequence has had more to drink than he normally would, the moment of silence between the upwards pitch of the final word of his joke, and the small group's response of laughter.

--For the older woman, both hands reaching behind her back on either sides of her rib cage, to fumble blindly with the fasteners of her bra, to hook them in place.

--For the time it takes, checking the hot, oil-stained bags again, opening all the white containers spread across the kitchen counter again, to confirm that yes, indeed, the restaurant has neglected to deliver one or several of the items ordered.

--For the boy and girl watching afternoon TV in her parents' living room, waiting for the artist to finish pushing his brush against the canvas, to see if indeed the finished painting looks like a walk through the woods, and despite their initial skepticism, it appears it might.

--For the wait while the different yellow and green numbers rise and fall in value on the small monitor, until your blood pressure has been ascertained.

--For the time in the playground where a child decides to no longer be bullied, lifting his jaw towards his taller opponent, balling his fist, to the time it takes that resistance to register in the bully's eyes.

--For the realization by an older man with an unbuttoned shirt that he is being mocked at a sports bar by a much younger man who is making references, lots of girls at the table, the older man doesn't understand.

--For the time it takes for iris bulbs, planted in a middle-aged couple's backyard, to rise over weeks and bloom with an extraordinary flop-over of colors, to realize that perhaps the couple should get involved in gardening.

--For the interval between when the plunger goes down, and the gaunt dog on the stainless steel table snaps its head up, seeing what we can't, yet.

--For a child talking to a new child at school realizing the new child is being sarcastic.

--For the time past the time that a dish is supposed to be ready that a dish is ready.

--For the man, on bended knee, holding up a diamond ring, waiting for the woman, wet eyes, wobbling lips, to respond.

--For the time it takes oil to heat in a deep fryer, to where the first piece of raw food to be fried, experimentally dipped within that oil, sizzles, your partner standing beside you, holding a drink.

--For the patience that must be exercised, seated, patting the tops of your thighs, calling to a cat on the carpet, before the cat, seemingly ignoring your request, grooming itself, one rear claw sticking straight up in the air like a ballerina's leg, decides, independently, to jump up onto your lap.

--For the boy kneeling at a pew, deciding if he should swallow again before opening his mouth as the priest lowers his host.

--For the moments it takes for eyes to stop squinting, emerging from a darkened movie theater onto the bright white sidewalk.

--For the hushed interval at a party, no longer listening to other voices, when you realize, standing in a small cluster of people you know, and people you've just been introduced to, that someone in that cluster has slyly insulted you in front of the others.

--For the anxious days that pass to ascertain if a thick, white salve prescription does in fact start to get rid of the red rash on your limbs.

--For that period, reading the opening paragraphs of a story, black print on a white page, before committing to reading the entire story, instead of just skipping over it to the next story.

--For your fingers running through your hair as your hair blows in all directions in the mirror, waving away from your handheld hair blower, rising above and sideways from your face, to when you accept the person standing behind you, back bent, getting into their underwear, isn't the right one.

--For the nano-seconds involved, red sensation brightening from one's bare sole up the seaweed of nerves in the leg, to realize that one has stepped on a nail.

--For the interval between thunder and lightning.

--For the time to put out a cigarette in an ashtray, which may vary, crushing its orange head, crushing it again.

--For the snick of turning one page over to the next, discovering how a sentence ends.