What are you doing tomorrow? Wilma asks me that question as we prepare to leave the studio after a loooooong taping day.
Nothing, I answer. And with that one word breathed out, already, I feel rested.
Oh, the promise of a fluid day, a day as flexible as my yoga teacher. My brand of nothing is just lovely, and sounds so good especially after working for three days straight. It is right up there along with “I have a handwritten note for you” and “one day I will build a big basement for you.” Like those two — the former because it is already an endangered pleasure and the latter simply because I need it more and more — the thought of nothing makes me smile. Unlike these two though, my nothing is stretched out before me immediately, and as such does not have the power to keep me waiting in suspense, like a little girl of 12 counting the days breathlessly until she becomes a teen.
The drive going home is uneventful, save for the intermittent chuckles I try quite hard to suppress lest the driver thinks I am going crazy. The memory of Wilma’s antics the whole day at work, even at day’s end, still makes my tears fall with mirth. She is always a happy riot, bless her brazen craziness, and would make for many funny stories for many other days. But I would have to get her permission first before I share her with you, so until then…
My nothing starts as soon as I have removed my makeup and taken a shower. My body is tired, my mind, too, but I know sleep will not find me just yet. I have been doing this long enough to know it will take a couple of hours still before I really settle down. So I go to my desk, and work on putting together very pretty little packages. I shop in my gift closet — a complete set of makeup products for the lead singer of the band who sings for us in the show, two books, a lipstick, and many accessories I bought in Australia for my brother’s girlfriend based in Guam, who I really hope will be my sister-in-law one day.
I take my time, crumpling delicate tissue around the lovely things, tucking some in decoupaged, gilded boxes I had especially made last year, or slipping the others in crisp plastic bags, sparkling in their newness. I choose the right ribbons from the many spools I have, slipping pretend flowers and leaves here and there around the loops.
This ritual makes me happy, my fingers move and my mind is so relaxed it wanders aimlessly, one minute appreciating the activity directly before me, other times joining memories I have from a faraway place and time. I write a handwritten note; I imagine the smiles the prettiness of the packages will eventually bring to its recipients. The thought makes me happy, and I sleep a long, restful, dreamless sleep.
The next day I go shopping for a special birthday gift for a very special person. I already know where to go to find what I want for the birthday celebrant, and I see it the first minute after I enter the shop.
Perched on a shelf is the loveliest crystal pitcher my eyes have ever seen — a delicate, sweeping pattern etched on its surface like fine embroidery. With robust weight, it tinkles a happy childlike sound when I tap on it. This absolutely beautiful thing has the name of the celebrant written all over it, and it almost begs to belong in a house as perfect as his. I am itching to wrap it myself but I can’t, and I won’t, because it already comes in its own box, to be wrapped in its own special paper.
The lady says it will take some time so I head off to dance rehearsals. It is my happy place, my playground. I really enjoy rehearsals because it does not make my stomach turn the way on-cam performances always do. At rehearsals, nerves do not attack me. There it is — just hours of playing, throwing the hips, rippling the torso, moving the body and stretching it beyond what it thinks it can do.
I work with a really talented, really nice bunch of dancers I consider friends. I am comfortable with them, I like them. We try to do a belly-dancing number, upon my request. I do not like the prepared music, I find the beat too fast and it sounds like the background of some movie where humans are being chased by monkeys in some wild forest. We all laugh at the absurd picture I have made up, but really, it is true. That is how it made me feel. They shyly say, yes, the music could be so much better. So I ask the production assistant to have the music changed and to make wise use of time we decide to just practice the steps with no music.
Half an hour into the instructional I realize I am not absorbing anything. I have done the steps countless times in the past, for other dance numbers, but this time, this very day, my body refuses to cooperate. Nothing I do feels right, it does not look quite right either, as my reflection on the huge mirror told me. It was hard to even remember the sequence of steps, try as I did. Still, pushed myself. I finally gave up after one frustrated phone call to my husband who simply said, “You’re tired. Just record the dance and take the day off.” Oh the practical wisdom of men, they do make better sense sometimes. I packed up my things, and left. Next time will be better, the dancers cheerily told me. I believe them.
I pass by for the pitcher again in the shop, now all ready and wrapped in nice, red paper. I enjoyed a nice, long dinner at home, with friends and family, where food merged seamlessly with stories to cap the remains of the day. I go to my desk, take out a pretty blank note card from my box of stationery, and write out carefully our birthday greeting. I tuck the note in its matching envelope and drip metallic green wax on the closed flap.
I notice belatedly how the wax stick is carved on the surface with a graceful design, loops and twirls curling here and there like calligraphy, and even if this frail pattern naturally disappears the moment it starts melting, the fact that I know it once was there heightens the pleasure of this old-world ritual, this thing that I am doing right here and right now. I’m thinking this feels very much like a good kiss, where even after the lips have unlocked the delightful feeling stays for a just a little bit more. I press the seal down in the middle of the green spot with a bold letter G, and the plain envelope suddenly looks so charming and royal, and so totally out of place in the modern mess of my desk. I attach it to the red package and send it off to be delivered with a lot of warm thoughts and good wishes.
In many ways my nothing plays out like a day off, random and welcome, and even if sometimes a part of it is off (as my unproductive dance rehearsals may have proven). I also already know that a lot of absolutely beautiful little somethings always gets thrown in somewhere along the way.
That alone makes me look forward to my next nothing.