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September 22nd, 2019
Lucilius could not wait for his shift to be over. The next car pulled up to the window and Lucilius reached out for the crumpled grubby money. He watched his hands make the automatic movements: flipping up the bill tongue, pushing the bill down into the small stack and dragging a quarter up the curved insert. He reached out through the window and handed the quarter into the proffered palm, for a limp, ‘thanks’. Lucilius tapped a wide red button and the red light flipped to green and the gate rose.
It was like this, hour after hour. Lucilius watched his hands make their movements, over and over, until finally...
his shift was done.
Afterwards he went to a pub by his apartment and sat with a beer. He paused just a moment before lifting the cold glass to his lips and savored the moment just before relief. He took a sip of the frothy drink, hearing the tiny static pop of fine bubbles. Something in him instantly felt as though it relaxed.
And then for the rest of the evening, he watched the movement of his hand, grasping the glass and lifting it to his face. It was like this, over and over, and he drank to fill the time as he waited until it was time to go home. Soon he could not really concentrate nor remember what his hands were doing, and it wasn’t long until he woke up in his bed and it was time to go back to work.
He sat down in the toll booth. He watched his hand reach for the radio to turn it on, but stopped. He just watched his hand, motionless in its reach, and thought about the evening before, watching his same hand reach for the glass of beer. He took his hand back and left the radio off.
When the first car came by, his hands again began their automatic exchange, but he stopped them, and watched them for a moment, concentrating on how they felt as one smoothed the bill into the register and the other retrieved the coin. He handed the change to the driver and looked the person in the face. The person was in a rush, pinching a phone between their shoulder and the cheek of their face. Doubtless in a rush to get somewhere else, waiting for the drive to be over.
It was the same with the next car and the next. Each time Lucilius paid closer attention, as though there was something eluding him, something that he could sense and yet not pin down. Constantly it seemed as though something were both receding away and always present, and as Lucilius paid greater attention it felt as though time were slowing down. The short time it took to hand back a quarter to a driver seemed as though it were packed with more time that unfolded and expanded as Lucilius paid ever greater attention, and as he did so the vanishing sensation that each moment ended with seemed more pronounced, and in that fleeting sensation Lucilius remembered the relief he felt at the end of a shift, or just before tasting a beer. And now he could sense it everywhere, with each moment as he paid attention. It was as though the moment were both fresh and dead. He focused even more intensely and time seemed to slow even further.
With a quarter in hand he was reaching out to hand it to the newest driver, when his focus, his attention, pierced the moment even more fully and the normal speed of his reach seemed to come to a near full stop. There was now nothing but a full immersion in the moment, which now gave up everything to the gaze of Lucilius. Time - for just a moment - stopped, to make space for eternity.
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