I am in the line, or on line, if you’re a New Yorker. All human beings are in this line, some ahead of me, some behind. Some younger; some older. There are separate lines for animals and plants. They may not know they are in a line. But I know I’m in the line. My place in the line may change, but I cannot leave the line. Some of the other people know they’re in the line; others do not. Most do not want to talk about the line, which stretches many times over, around the globe. We are 7.8 billion, according to the most recent count. Some day, I will reach the head of the line. Others may be there at the same time. We will hand in our tickets and that will be that. What matters is what we do while we’re waiting. We can bargain with those behind us to move up and take our place. Those in the know will be doing the same thing. We can hop up and down thinking that exercise will extend the waiting time. We can move laterally to the side of the line to do a good deed. We can give speeches or write letters to the editor. We can present our sincere apologies to those we have wronged. We can eat for better or for worse and enjoy our rum raisin or chocolate almond ice cream or French fries with ketchup and salt. We can wear our masks, hug our loved ones, read the unread books, fantasize about the future, regret or revel in the past. We can even bury our heads in the sand, but that is a false escape. We cannot escape the line. As we get closer to the head of the line, our awareness of being in the line may increase. We may even do a life review, or one will come to us unbidden. We do not know how, where, or when we will arrive at the front of the line. What’s next? Where will the line take us? Somewhere? Nowhere? Ideas about the mystery fill many minds. Will we end up in Radio City Music Hall enjoying the leg lifting synchronicity of the Rockettes? Will we be back in 1963, when my husband took the afternoon off work to stand in line to see the movie Tom Jones? Perhaps we will be lifted up, up, and up on one of the many escalators leading to the nosebleed section at Madison Square Garden to see Carol King perform. Will we be in the line at MOMA, to see I can’t remember what film, where we first met Julie and Marvin, with whom we became close friends? Julie and I got pregnant at the same time. Julie was way ahead of me in the line, taking her own life many years ago. I do think about all of those who were in front of me in the line. Ancestors, friends, colleagues, martyrs for the cause of justice. Will I meet them when it’s my turn? The mystery shall remain a mystery until my time comes. Oblivion? A meeting with kindred souls? A rebirth? Or an eternity of nothingness? We can have our theories, our hopes, or our suppositions. Whatever ideas bring comfort. Meanwhile, we simply go about our business. Sometimes we live generously, sometimes stingily; grateful or complaining; forgiving or angry, resentful; prayerful or disconnected, separated. We ask forgiveness, and we try to forgive ourselves and others. We blunder, forgetting who we are, who we strive to be. We return. We live as best we can in whatever moment is ours now, staying aware that we are in line.
Blaze (formerly Perri) Ardman started writing for the sleaziest of pulp magazines, where her claim to fame was a tabloid story titled “Girl Gives Birth to Puppies.” She eventually went legit editing trades, then graduated to Scholastic. She wrote and ghostwrote how-to books for Doubleday and founded an alternative greeting card company that published cards by women for women. Now she wrestles themes of aging, health, and death into poems and bits of memoir. Blaze has a jumble of pieces for three different books. If only she could get organized! It’s a big job – can she finish before she gets to the front of the line?