The thing about being in one’s forties is that there’s a humbling amount of perspective.
As I look behind me and see the wee charmers nipping at my heels and then look ahead of me and glimpse the sometimes quick and easy slide to the grave, it’s hard to have a big-picture sense of importance, consequence, bangin‘itude.
But then I remember that night in high school when I went to my dad’s college (he didn’t actually own it outright; it was more of a time share dealie) to sit on a folding chair out in the middle of the football field.
You might be thinking this was my way of lodging a protest against the game of football–of me staging a sit-in to make the point that human kitchen appliances deliberately slamming themselves together under the guise of “strategy” is a proposition approximately as ludicrous as Owen “Pass the dutchie to the lefthand side” Wilson playing a former soldier of fortune in Drillbit Taylor.
However, that night in the early 1980’s, I perched upon a folding chair out on the football field, anticipating something far more exciting than the prospect of getting cuffed and having my limp, Martin-Sheeny body dragged protestingly off to jail. You see, I was poised on the turf to watch Billings, Montana’s first ever out-of-the-doors performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was a premiere event I was attending at Rocky Mountain College, there under the big spotlights.
On the 50-yard line.
In my Flashdance-ripped sweatshirt and patterned overalls.
Then the lights fell, and first, there was nothing.
It was like a slow, glowing dream–a dream that my fear seemed to hide deep inside my mind.
What a feeling.
Wait a minute. That feeling wasn’t me having rhythm now, nor was it Mary Magdalene despairing that she didn’t know how to love the sandal-clad superstar that was Jesus. Nay.
That feeling was my soft contact falling right off my eyeball and landing on my cheek.
Christ on a sports field. The show had just started, and there I was, grabbing my contact off my face, balancing it on my finger, trying not to drop it in the dusk. Within minutes, as I considered and then rejected a sprint to the bathroom (if I missed Judas’ entrance, I’d completely lose track of the chain of events that would ultimately lead to Jesus pushing a big rock away from a cave entrance, rubbing his eyes blearily as he peeled the shroud from his body, picking up a few Cadbury eggs from beneath the bushes for sustenance, and then inventing Rolling Rock beer), I watched my contact lens teeter on my finger, buffeted by the wind, as it started to dry out.
What to do? What to do?
With less thought than I had applied to choosing potato cakes over curly fries at the Arby’s earlier that day, I popped the thing into my mouth.
For the next two hours, from Gethsemane to King Herod to that cross business, I sucked gently on the lens. Neither speaking to my companions nor shouting “bravo” after the finale, I focused on keeping the lens nestled in its cocooning little cheek bed.
I remained quiet–some might have assumed reflective–all the way home, until I dashed into the basement bathroom, snatched up a bottle of saline solution, and popped that baby out of my mouth, shouting, “Gag, but that was illin’.”
Due to my fortitude, though, the next day at school, when my friends asked me how I’d enjoyed the show, I was able to look them directly and clearly in the eye and report, “Actually, I only saw about half of it. But the righthand part of the stage looked great. So did the actors who stood there.”
And so whenever I wonder if my life has importance, if I’ll leave any mark, if there has been worth to this puny existence of mine,
I remember that night and the example I set for humanity.
Sure, Jesus was bitchin’ out there on the football field, but I, with my admirable unflappability, was schweet to the max.