“Another nine minutes. She’d be dead.”
I wonder what he meant.
Almost 4 decades ago.
As memories fade leaving pin-hole punctures wrapped in thick haze of distant moments, there remain a few clear snapshots left in my head of what happened that August morning.
You know. Nine minutes that border life and death.
So specific. So odd.
Her body was glowing cold. Dressed in the previous day’s outfit. Low faded jeans, bell bottom style. Shoes.
A floral halter top circa 1976.
Tight in a fetal position. Her head and neck awkwardly stuck between the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and a crisper bin.
The paramedic pulled 92-pounds of stiff limbs from a cold cage. He heaved her to the linoleum kitchen floor as easy as a person tosses a used candy wrapper.
She was solid.
An overdose of pills and booze.
I was certain it was rigor mortis. I’d witnessed enough of it spending time staging G.I. Joe adventures in the plush red-draped lobby of the neighborhood funeral parlor owned by my best friend Joey.
But she wasn’t dead.
The paramedic said in nine more minutes things would have been different.
But how did he know?
I looked up at the kitchen clock. He said those words with such confidence. Who was I to doubt him?
In nine more.
Game over: 3:00am.
WE ARE ALWAYS MINUTES AWAY FROM A BIG EVENT. LIFE OR DEATH. YOU NAME IT.
May not be full release of the mortal coil but some kind of game changer is imminent. As you read this a thousand of your skin cells just died. A cancer you don’t know about yet grows larger. The love of your life is about to enter your space. You’re on track for an encounter with an asshole or the greatest inspiration you ever met. A phone call away from a life-changer. A drive. A walk. A run. A jog. A fall. A rise.
Minutes humble you. Not years. Years mellow you. Minutes keep the receptors open. Allow the flood of your life and the lives of others to fill where you stand. The next move you make can change your world whether you want it to or not.
TRANSFORM NINE MINUTES INTO 9 HOURS.
Never question why a challenge, a person, an illness, an opportunity, a setback, gets thrown in your groove. The intersection came upon you from a source you’ll never be able to explain or completely understand. It’s a waste of time to trace what lead you here but worth the minutes to live the steps you’re taking now.
Signs are all around if you just let go of skepticism, lessen the noise. Whose life remains in the balance once you open your eyes, mind and heart to the signs? When a change places a purpose in the road, your brain will hum endlessly until you follow it and hum the tune every day. You’ll ignore the call at first. Wait too long and risk insanity. Eventually, a physical disease manifests. Organs die. I know.
CAN YOU STOP IN YOUR TRACKS BEFORE A PURCHASE?
The most fiscally-fit people wait before making a purchase, especially a significant one. Waiting lessens the impulse to part with money for something you don’t need. Wait nine minutes. Then nine hours. Nine days. If you still want the item, buy it. Most likely the heat will pass. Your desire will grow cold.
NINE MINUTES TO GREATNESS.
I can write the best 200 words of my life in 9 minutes. I can watch Rosie monitor the neighborhood from the open blinds in the living room and ponder how happy I am to have adopted her from the animal shelter.
Greatness is defined by the whispers of time. In the small of actions that move and make you stronger, life is lived large. It’s when greatness appears. Greatness is not earned through the validation of others. It comes when you recognize and develop talents you’ve had since youth.
When you positively affect one life, you’ve earned prominence.Like a paramedic who believed he was nine minutes early. Able to save a life.
A master of greatness.
IS IT RIGOR MORTIS OR SOMETHING WORSE? IS THERE ANYTHING WORSE?
How many people do you know who died long ago? You see them daily. They live in a perpetual fetal position. Stiff. Lifeless. Nine minutes closer to a dirt nap. They work little corporate jobs, have little middle managers who define their big fates. They don’t have time to bask in their kids or the live life stories that add richness.
My former regional manager at one of the most horrific corporate slave joints around, Charles Schwab, told me “you don’t need to see your kids play baseball or attend dance recitals. You need to be at work.”
Fuck that. I pulled my head out of the fridge. Do something in nine minutes every day that makes you glad to be here. Breathe deep. Go sit on the shitter and read comics. Take your life back. Nine minutes at a time.
YOU CAN FIGURE OUT THE FLOW OF YOUR LIFE IN LESS THAN NINE MINUTES.
Ask yourself: Are you happy right now? Where is resistance coming from? Are you working for a future that never appears? When the future is the present do you look ahead to another future? In the silent noise that vibrates in the back of your head is there regret? Anxiety? Look inside yourself for answers. Others can’t be blamed. They’re not the cause. You’ll never discover truth if you’re not accountable.
In nine minutes can you write nine reasons why you feel the way you do? That’s the flow of your life. The time that bridges big events is where flow is discovered. Or changed, re-directed, improved.
We alternated nights in the only bed. Mom and I.
Monday couch (no sleep), Tuesday bed (sleep). There was a full-length mirror in our three-room walk up. I recall dad cursing, fighting to secure the clunky structure to the hall-closet door.
At the right angle the mirror provided a clear view of the kitchen. From the bedroom you could observe everything. The present events. Now I understand how it saw the future too.
Since mom always seemed to gravitate to the kitchen late at night, the reflection in the mirror of her pacing back and forth was not uncommon. I was a light sleeper. My habit was to wake, look in the mirror, turn away to the darkness of the wall. Many nights I was forced to get up and close the bedroom door so I couldn’t see what was going on in the rest of the apartment.
10pm: Wake up. Glance in mirror. Observe kitchen. Fridge door open. More beer for mom I was sure. 12:02am: Wake up. Look in mirror. See kitchen. Fridge door open? Heavy drinking binge. Turn. 2:16 am: Wake up. Turn. Look in mirror. See kitchen. Fridge door ajar. Again? Still?
I was mad. So mad. I got up to see what was going on. Mom half on the floor. On her side. Tangled in the extra-long, engine-red cord of a dead Trimline phone. Her head inside the bottom shelf of the fridge. I touched her shoulder. Felt the freeze of her body.
I happened to glance at that damn kitschy cat clock.Waggy tail. Shifting eyes.
Tick. Tail. Tick. Tail. Eyes right. Eyes left.
Never forgot 2:18. Plastic cat eyes.
A human accordion. She wouldn’t unfold. Still breathing. Shallow. I noticed the slight movement of a tiny chest. Up and down. Slow. Mouth open. Tongue shriveled. Lips colorless. Light blue.
I was in a panic. Half asleep. My mind reeling.
Cat eyes away.
Suddenly calm, I sat on the floor. Staring at her.
I watched mom’s chest go choppy. Still. Move. Move. Nothing.
Cat tail. Swing left. Right.
Extended on the exhale. Awaiting permanent stillness. Hoped for it. 2:22.
Whatever you call it. The power to make a decision that would change all. Slowed down everything. An inside voice, one I never heard before. Kept asking. Slightly teasing. The repetition of the question felt forbidden. But continued. Cat tick-tock.
A thousand pounds tied to a melamine tail.
She live or die? Choose. Now. No time left.
In nine minutes. Decide.
Go on the way you have been.
Cat-clock eyes are in your face.