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Friday, April 1, 2016

=one-minute theater=

What would you say if you had only one minute to say it?

One minute before the trap door springs open beneath your feet and the rope around your throat snaps taut?

One minute before the train leaves the station forever, your child behind the rain-streaked window. One minute before the bomb to end all bombs falls.

One minute and no more.

One minute is what a lover who's through with you for good is willing to spare you when you beg to explain, to say "one last thing" that you know beforehand won't matter anyhow. One minute. That's if you're lucky. Often they say, "I don't want to hear anymore. It's over." But sometimes, before hanging up or walking out the door, they might linger, god knows why, but they might. They might say, "Go ahead. You've got one minute."

Invariably they give you one minute.

Why one minute? Where does that last minute come from?

More importantly, how do you use it?

What do you say in one minute?

There are so many things that you want to say and they are all crowding behind your front teeth, a raging mob of words, all of them scrambling over each other like a Black Friday big box store riot in the making, all trying to rush out at once, so anarchic an assortment of vowels and consonants and diphthongs that they won't fit through your mouth no matter how wide you throw it open. You can't bring your speech to order, can't convince the verbal chaos, the neural glossolalia, that this is no way to communicate, that you're in danger, during this one last precious minute, of being completely inarticulate. Of babbling. Of spewing a word salad. Of saying nothing at all. 

You stand there, helpless, mouth hanging open.

And the stranger—because he or she is looking at you now from the open door as if they're looking at you for the first time and not liking what they see—this ex-lover at the door says, "Well. I'm waiting. What is that you wanted so badly to say to me?"

And their tone is dripping with sarcasm, as if they know already: What can you possibly say?

It's the same with the trap door beneath your feet. The rope is around your neck, your wrists tied behind your back.

They ask, customarily, "Any last words?"

You've already been condemned. You've already said everything in your defense. What more could you possibly say? And if you could say more, if, improbably, there were something you hadn't thought of until this moment, what could mere words possibly change now that the verdict is in? Are they even listening? Who are you speaking to if they aren't? Posterity? Is speaking to posterity like that riddle about the tree falling in the forest? You talk now, no one hears, but the sound hangs around for…how long…until an ear comes along in the long course of evolution?

What did you want to say so badly, anyway? Do you even know? Or is it just that you've always wanted to say something…something essential. You just haven't figured it out yet and you always thought that you'd have the time to formulate the words to match your truth, whatever it is, but now you only have one minute and how many seconds of that one minute are already gone?

You can see the impatience and disgust on your interlocutor's face already. What can you possibly say in the face of that look? That look. We've all seen it. The look that says, they don't hear you anymore. They don't see you. They're already in love with someone else.

"I love you?" you say helplessly. They are the only words that manage to stumble out from between the broken security gates of your teeth. Bloodied, limping, dazed. In the form of a question, "I love you?"

There it is at last: these words accelerate the expression you saw spreading, like a stain on the wallpaper in a horror film, over the face of your beloved. It's as if you wanted to hand them a bouquet of eloquence and instead shit a fresh wet turd from between your lips. 

"That's it?" They shake their head, disbelievingly, and you can already picture as clearly as if you were present in the future—in another time and place—how they will tell the story of this moment to everyone they know as conclusive, damning evidence of your cluelessness.

And yet you ask for it, beg for it.

One minute

That's all you have. All you get. You're entitled to no more and not even to that.

You could call it your one minute of grace.

Before the secret police burst through the door. Before they release the drip of the lethal injection. 

What will you say?

"I'm innocent." 

That's the best you can do?

"I'm innocent."

It doesn't matter, of course. You've already been judged. For the record, you're guilty and will always be guilty no matter what you say. But are you?

Yes. No. Yes...

Innocent...with extenuating circumstances, of course. But there's no time for extenuating circumstances when you only have one minute left.

There's no time but to make a choice, yes or no, a choice that leaves so much behind. Yes or no, both a lie. 

You're standing in the window of a building burning to ashes behind you. The World Trade Center, for instance. The floors are collapsing. The smoke is thick as moonless starless midnight. You're face and hands have disappeared. You are one with the eternal night. You are outer space. There is no oxygen left. You barely have time to cry "I'm innocent!" "I love you!"

The rest…you need time for the rest. 

Here is how much time is left: One minute.

That's all you've got.

Time yourself.

One minute. 

Your last minute.

See what you can say.

See how well you do.

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