Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seagulls Only Die Until 5pm

The moment you step outside of my office, you are immediately confronted by the sound of a thousand seagulls dying. They’re not seagulls, of course—we’re about 800 miles from the sea, give or take a handful. But still, there they are: the sound of the seagulls, cawing, flapping their wings amidst screeches as they plummet to the earth or to the water. At least this is how I picture them dying, falling out of the sky, still struggling all throughout their descent. I’ve never seen it happen. And I’m certainly not going to around here, 800 miles from the sea.

You can only hear them until 5pm, when the lights are turned off, when it’s time to go home from the factory.

I hear them if I happen to go outside on my lunch break, or on the days I go home early. Other days—the days when I don’t leave the building until 5 o’clock—I don’t hear the seagulls. I presume they’re still there throughout the day, dying, though there’s no way of knowing for certain. If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around…but how absurd. Of course seagulls die even when we’re not looking.

My son cries when I’m not looking, though his crying is not so clockwork as the sound of the seagulls. Here and there, now and again throughout the day he’ll cry, but of course that’s normal for a three-month-old boy.

But sometimes he smiles, and that’s when I remember that it’s all worth it. I don’t mean to say that it’s only worth it when he smiles—certainly it’s all worth it when he’s crying and frowning too. I just mean that it’s easier to see that it’s worth it when he’s happy.

And of course smiling doesn’t make a sound. Perhaps happiness is a quiet emotion, because we don’t necessarily feel the need to share it. I am happy, and that is enough. But when we decide to share our happiness, when we show someone else our smile, we realize that happiness should not be a private affair, that others need our happiness just as much as we ourselves need it.

Sometimes when I awaken, I see that my son is already awake, looking around in awe, smiling at anything and everything, and even at me. I wonder: how often does he smile, even when I’m not looking?

I think that one of the saddest things in life, rather than seeing tragedy, is not seeing happiness. Surely happiness is happening all around us, even when we’re not looking. It makes me sad to think about all of the smiles that I miss from my son or from my wife when I’m not around, all the symphonic laughter that I’m not a part of and that I’ll never know, because I’m asleep or at work or in the other room or somehow otherwise just away.

The seagulls have their beginning and their end. They are from 8 to 5, and they are a distraction. But happiness doesn’t have a clock. It is forever—or at least, it should be. And I hope that I always do my part to let it be.


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