(Essay 1, Finite)
By gayla mills
I look down the long buffet table, torn between excitement and distress. What should I take? I can’t possibly have it all, so how do I choose?
At one end are treats from around the world: fine Belgian beer and petite Vietnamese eggrolls, caponata on French bread, and just-picked Indian mangos, Swiss chocolates and Costa Rican coffee. Oriental vases overflow with lavender and fresh-cheeked gardenias, their petals full and fragrant. Tiger lilies rise tall, cradled by burgundy wild grass. An earthenware jar holds a profusion of multi-hued wild flowers, which I long to inhale. Moving down the table, I spy films of every sort—romantic, terrifying, speculative. Next are the live performances, one act plays, musicals, and earnest dramas. The comedians follow, raunchy and aggressive. In the midst of all these distractions are the politicians, gesturing, accusing, and promising, holding our pasts and futures in their hands. I want to pause there and feel the pulse of the crowd, watch it surge and cry out, as it seeks answers.
But I continue my journey down the table, where I feel the breeze coming off the ocean and spy a lone sail on the horizon. Wouldn’t it be grand to take a boat out on the water on a warm day, with a picnic basket of food for a week and the call of the seabirds in my ears? But then I turn, and the mountains beckon, with their shady coverings and mossy footrests, silent mushrooms and restless creeks. A cool evening desert with dazzling stars speaks softly. The sounds of strings and wind waft over from musicians playing at the next section of the table. Is it jazz? No, it’s shifted to bluegrass, now swing, before the rock ‘n’ roll beats them back.
Just as I’m reaching for a bass to join in, I’m pulled further down the room, where the readers and writers invite me to join. They exchange witticisms and stories, and I’m torn between enjoying someone else’s tale or creating one of my own. Instead I glance down the crowded table, and there’s so much more—gardens to grow and homes to build, roads to explore and festivities to enjoy, stretching as far as I can see. My plate is laden, but I’ve only sampled a few bites, and I’m wondering if there’s time to even look at the rest. Maybe I should take what I’ve got on my plate and enjoy that first.
But my friends circle around, laughing. “You must look at the ceramics.” “You must try to paraglide.” “Don’t forget to listen to Prairie Home Companion.” I hear the grandfather clock chime and I stumble, dizzy.