in the fade

  1. spills.

    You sweep your hand across the table to reach for the pepper. You hit a plastic cup of ice water, send it spinning on its axis. It turns and turns and the ice clinks and the water swishes and as you stare at this turning cup you fast forward to the future, where the cup stops spinning and falls on its side, spilling water and ice all over the table and onto the floor. The waitress runs over with some paper towels and you grab the napkins on the table while stuttering an embarrassed apology as a seemingly impossible amount of water cascades off the table, seeps into the rug and rises into the waitress’s Reeboks. In that instant you’re transported to grade school when you spilled a glass of Hi-C during a classroom Halloween party and your face went hot and red underneath your plastic witch mask. Your teacher ran over with paper towels and a couple of your classmates laughed and pointed and called you a clumsy witch and you took the mask off and ran out of the classroom, red Hi-C soaking through your costume. Then you’re somewhere in the 80s in a night club. New Order’s Temptation is playing when you drop the beer bottle on the floor. You’re drunk and lean down to clean it up with the edge of your shirt and then there’s glass in your hand and you’re bleeding and everyone’s singing “up down turn around” when you run into the bathroom with blood dripping from your hand and beer dripping from your shirt. And then it’s 1995 and you’ve spilled a measuring cup of milk on the floor and the yelling and the name calling is loud and clear and you laugh a little as you cry because you’re not supposed to cry over spilled milk, right?

    A second. Maybe two seconds. That’s all it takes for all that to pass through your brain which is telling your hand to react and you reach out, grab the glass before it stops spinning, before it can fall to the floor with a splash and crash.

    There’s just a little bit of water on the table. You wipe it up with your napkin, reach again for the pepper and get on with your lunch.

    You’ll remember this one not for the mess, but for having the reflex to stop the spill before it happened.