Have you ever felt that there is no venture in life more important than the quest to assemble the perfect Saturday? (I say “assemble, because that is the only way, isn’t it? Putting it together, piece-by-carefully-chosen-piece, like a miniature, silver-plated model of the Eiffel Tower, or a beautifully crafted, hand-painted German jigsaw puzzle.) Have you ever set aside your daily cares and woes, and gone searching for its elusive essence from place-to-place all across the town?
Have you met your friends early in the morning at your favorite café, its air redolent with the smell of baking and roasted coffee? Have you laughed with your friends about past disasters, shared present fears, unearthed evidence of heartbreak, dissected mysterious dreams, admitted to secrets and to hopes and plans for future days?
Have you then taken the trolley bus to Chinatown, surrounded by random strangers who all seem unaccountably beautiful, their faces apparently lit from within, transformed by the early afternoon light streaming through the trolley’s steamed up windows? Have you walked through Chinese gardens glazed with rain, and run your hand across the heads and backs of fu dogs and ancient winged dragons carved from jade? Have you wound your way down a crowded Saturday sidewalk, stopping in shops to buy curry buns, incense sticks, a paper lantern, a Moleskine sketchbook, a paper fan decorated with flowers and birds?
Have you sat on a park bench and smoked a cigarette in the shadow of a cathedral, admiring the stained-glass windows, watching starlings eating wild berries from a bush in the copse across the street, and listening to a man play a song you’ve never heard before on a bright silver saxophone? Have you slipped into an art gallery, and looked in awe at oil paintings of a renaissance queen with pearl white skin and a maiden with raven black hair and a neck as lovely as a swan’s? Afterwards, have you ducked into a movie theatre on a whim, and sat by yourself in the dark, watching a double bill of Casablanca and Blue Velvet?
After this, have you traveled home and spent the rest of the afternoon on the bench in your backyard, filling some pages of your new sketchbook with pen-and-ink drawings of weird angels and foxes with wings, before meeting the one you love at the Greek taverna around the corner? Have you dined on dolmades and moussaka, washed down with glasses of retsina and more coffee, this time pungent and thick, served in tiny China cups?
After dinner, have you gone back across town to a blues bar, and played a game of pool where it seemed like you couldn’t miss a shot? Then, did you dance to a four-piece band featuring a man whose voice sounded as if his vocal cords had been cured in a whiskey barrel, his fingers flashing across the strings of a National steel guitar? Finally, have you walked back home in the early morning hours, still a little bit drunk, across the bridge that spans a deep river that’s like a long black mirror, and looked at the moon hanging like a golden ball above the glittering city skyline?
Have you thought, then, suspended between water that this was one moment in time, one day in time, to justify existence? Did you promise yourself right then that you would never forget it? And did you keep that promise? Did you?