The Button-Pusher is exactly four minutes and thirty-eight seconds late. Thirty-eight seconds, if one assumes that an appointment at seven involves arriving on the hour. Thirty-eight seconds or not, the Button-Pusher is still four minutes later.
Four minutes is two hundred and forty seconds.
It’s the day where millions around the globe are more or less ostensibly united in the spirit of one of the Christian fathers who was martyred centuries ago. His name? Valentinus.
The association with romantic love? Fast forward a bit for that. Then skip ahead to the 21st century, where it’s virtually a societal norm to celebrate (once in what the other humans call a “relationship”) the holiday. Flowers, chocolate and other spiritless, unoriginal products of mass consumerism are on galore for single, middle-aged women with a touch of mid-life crisis to peruse through; for frazzled men in rumpled business suits to pick up after work before rushing out for dinner and a movie; for cloying couples who radiate a sickly sweet effluvia, all rosy cheeks and bundled up, gigging intermittently with frequent glances at their other true love, their shiny iPhones.
God. What a day.
At some point, he and the Button-Pusher had been somewhere along the continuum of the R-word. When and where? He hadn’t the faintest. Nor did he have the slightest interest in finding out. It had been what it was, and now it was. .nothing.
Now, there were but the remnants that remained after The Moment Of.
To be honest, The Moment Of was a rather fuzzy phenomenon. It wasn’t all sharp edges and crisp colors; it was more like dim curves set against a washed-out palette. But The Moment Of was an undeniably powerful moment, wherein things (namely, that which was colloquially known as the R-word) were shattered, and people (namely, the Button-Pusher and he) went separate paths.
By God, was it powerful.
The Button-Pusher is now nine minutes and twelve seconds late.
He drums his finger in a steady pattern: rat-a-tat-TAT, rat-a-tat-TAT, ad infinitum. This is a constant, whereas so much is not. That which is colloquially known as the R-word is a false constant, perhaps one of the greatest faux constants there is. It is, and then it is not.
In a moment, the button is pushed. Then, things happen. Thereafter, more things happen. And finally, you wade through the ennui of the new equilibrium.
This is the new equilibrium. Hell, it could even be a title of a Friends episode: “The One About the Valentine’s Dinner with the Ex.”
But maybe the new equilibrium involves more than assigning labels like the aforementioned Button-Pusher. Maybe it’s something a little more . . . vague than that. It’s nothing warranting a Eureka-like, mome but it is enough to make him stop the steady pattern he has been drumming out, destroying yet another constant in the process. But that’s all right, because it is what it is: the shattering of things, the rebuilding of other things, and the tearing down of . . . more things. It is realizing that sometimes it takes two to fully depress the big, red button. It is waiting for twelve minutes and fifty-two seconds and resisting the urge to crumple one’s napkin. It is accepting the new equilibrium.
Maybe the new equilibrium is this: fucking irony.