I was talking with a friend recently. Just drifting along conversationally. And suddenly the exact word I had ready to pop out into our exchange wasn’t there. Poof. It was gone.
I knew the familiar edges of it. With the tip of my tongue I could feel it lurking behind a back molar. But the word itself – the heart and soul of my meaning had vanished.
“Ga …,” I said. I was certain that’s the way the word began. “Ga …” This only made me appear asphyxic. Or worse, an elderly woman who control of her own language was no longer reliably precise. Of course I reject that label.
I will admit to these occasional vacant spots in my memory where certain words used to be permanent residents. Words like … let me think … Argentina. Antediluvian. Bifurcation. Now their tenancy is more transient in nature. And the respectable mental hotel I’ve always maintained has become a little shabbier. Still genteel, but arguably no longer five star.
I tell myself this transience is not so much my problem as it is the watermark of the times we live in. Everyone and everything seems to be on the move. People I know buy houses just so they can move in, fix them up, sell them and move out again. (My great grandmother who clung fiercely to her sod hut out on the prairies would not understand that.) Others – and I admit I know few of these – own two or three, even four houses. Some they never stay in long enough to need to flush the toilet. (She wouldn’t understand that, either.)
The idea of permanence is foreign to us today. What we hear about is the importance of the journey. Of going. Not a lot about what we’ll do when we get there.
And the going has to be quick because we seem to have less time than we used to. Food therefore needs to be fast – grab and go I think the expression is. Nail polish has to dry in seconds. Ditto for interior house paint, the absorption of hand lotion, the whitening of teeth, quelling of acid indigestion, learning of a foreign language, recuperation from childbirth or surgery. And repairs to the car or computer or dishwasher are preferably done “while u wait.” We don’t even have time to spell out words completely. I sometimes LOL about that.
With all this accelerated impermanence it’s no wonder words should feel a certain pressure to conform – to be here today and gone tomorrow. I maintain therefore that words, and not my mental faculties are causing me this occasional public embarrassment. To admit the reverse would be like placing a ligature around my own neck. Like garroting myself. Wait! There it is. That’s the ga… word I was trying to think of.
Back again, are you? I suppose you expect the same daily rate as before. Alright, fine. But breakfast is no longer included.