Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On numbers, eyes, and pauses

She walks in the building, in the motion of a day and its doings.  She wears a youthful beauty, but the effects of a heavy heart reside in her face, in her forlorn eyes.  I saw it immediately.   Like all the rest, she’s come to pick up her forms and tells me her name.  As I retrieve it from the drawer, I remember what was written inside.

I never considered that this job would be a front row seat to such humanity.  Answering phones, mailing invoices, scheduling appointments, greeting clients, these are the tasks where the stories of life are relived.  They flood the handset of my phone, spilling out into the spaces around my desk.  This place is not for sugar coated, hazy daydreams.  The tax office is where the deepest of life must be brought to the forefront.   And it gets me every single time. I never truly expect to find it in the sea of small talk, in the momentary encounters.  But, it comes, stealing my breath.

I remember how she placed an X over his name, every place it was printed.  The word, divorce, written on a key line.  I know the weight those seven letters hold.  I remember how it changed my family forever.  And there it is, on nearly every page, evidence of a joint life now being severed and split.   Brutal and real.  I uttered a silent prayer as she walked away.

And yet, another story where love surpassed the grave, as she slowly approached the desk with a smile on her face.  The spouse signature line will remain empty, for the first time in 54 years.  Her sigh is rich with a lifetime as she pauses there and sets down the pen.  Oh darling, she says.  We’ve never met, but I sense a kindred spirit.  It goes on, it just does, whether we like it or not and here I am having to handle all of this without him and to be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing.  But, another sigh, we go on, we just do.  I don’t understand how.  It’s a mystery.  As she walks down the hall for her appointment, I can hardly bare the weight of her story.  I can tell, theirs was a lovely life, rich with all the seasons.  And she carries their legacy in the fortitude of her smile, in the warmth of her eyes.  So heart breaking and beautiful.

Time after time, they pause at that same line, leaving it blank for the first time or perhaps, it catches them off guard too.

Does one ever get used to such things?  I hope not.  I hope that we always feel the tides of life, rising and falling, the motion of existence.  I hope the stories do not become commonplace. I hope the weight of life biggest moments are felt according their true value, as magical or devastating, as they may be. 

Birth and death and marriage and loss. Lifetimes. These are the stories of the tax office, often translated in lists and numbers.  Numbers aren’t my thing.  I read eyes and pauses, gathering a different kind of data.

The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.




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