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Archive for May 19th, 2008

I have a neighbor who always seems to have time on his hands. On the weekends or summer evenings, he’s usually busy with some sort of project, landscaping the area around his townhouse or washing his car as carefully as a cat licking its only kitten. When his invention fails, he pulls up a deck chair for a few companionable beers and cigarettes. On his days off, he says, he keeps thinking of what he would be doing if he was at work.

To say the least, we are not close. But when our paths cross, I observe him with a wary speculation as I try to understand him.

In contrast to our neighbor, I can’t recall the last time I had nothing to do. I suspect, though, that I must have been under ten. Any boredom probably lasted all of five minutes.

Since then, I have occasionally not known what I wanted to do next. At times I’ve been too tired to sleep. But boredom is a feeling I associate with polite social duties. Mostly, my problem has been trying to squeeze in the time for everything I want to do.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had several projects on the go. The current active roster includes the background to a fantasy world, fiction set in that world, and a collection of letters between the American fantasist Fritz Leiber and his oldest friend. If that palls, I have the translation of the Old English poem “The Seafarer” that I’ve worked on intermittedly for more years than I care to think. I have minor cleaning and repair jobs to do around the house. Worst case scenario, I’ve got stacks of books ranging from light fiction to primary historical sources, and DVDs to watch and music to hear, and a few Internet research projects I mean to get around to at some point. And, so long as I’ve got running shoes and a road, I can always go for a run.

It’s not that I have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. I can work for fourteen hours straight on a project without any problem, and I do finish many of the projects I have going – maybe later than sooner, but I finish them. It’s just that I have all the curiosity of a newly-fledged parrot, so something new is always catching my attention.

The reason my neighbor intrigues me is that I can’t imagine wandering as lost as he so often seems to be. I’ve seen him at 8:30 in the morning in his white bathrobe, drifting around with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, already looking like he’s wondering how to fill his day. And I’ve always thought: What sort of inner life does he have? What sort can he have?
I can hardly begin to imagine. All I can do is to be thankful for what accident of circumstances or genetics spared me a similar fate – and hope that, whatever happened to him, it never happens to me.

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