I have issues with time. Not the laid-back, “I’ll get there when I get there” variety that seems to afflict so many here in San Diego. My time issues are more Swiss-German.
I was standing at my computer, applying makeup while scanning email, when I decided to double check the time on my Cirque du Soleil tickets. When I’d first received them, I’d noted “7:30 p.m.” and assumed that was when the outside tents would be opened — the area where people perused merchandise and the concession stands prior to taking their seats.
“Oh, shit. Shitshitshit,” I said, dropping my compact mirror and shoving items (phone, lipstick) into my purse.
David entered the room while putting on his jacket. “What is it?”
“This says 6:30. The grounds open at 6:30. It’s 6:38 right now. Oh my God, we’re not going to make it — the actual show starts at 7:30.”
“Relax, it’s okay if we don’t mill around, we have time,” David said.
“You don’t get it. We should be there by now, and we haven’t even left. Sorry, I don’t mean to snap. You’re right, I just want to be sure we have time to pee and find our seats before the show starts, and then there’s parking, and fuck. Okay, no, I’m good, you’re right, let’s go.”
As I drove (fast, frantic), David continued to reassure me, but I wasn’t hearing him. My inner monologue was deafening: Why didn’t you check the tickets? You’re never going to make it. You’re going to miss the beginning, and they don’t seat you until the next break, you fuck-up. Why didn’t you check?
“It’s just a show,” David said.
“One I really want to see,” I shot back. But I was beginning to calm down. It was 6:48, and we were only a few miles from the exit. We were going to make it; everything was going to be okay.
“Oh, no, No, NO, what’s this?” Traffic to the exit was backed up by at least half a mile. I brought the car to a stop. I was so close, I could see the tents set up at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. “This is not happening,” I said. “You know when we have a tight flight connection? How when there’s plenty of time I’m relaxed, and how when I know I’ve missed it I’m relaxed, but how I am when there’s still a chance of making it based on when we land and how far we have to run to the next gate?” David nodded. “I can’t handle that limbo,” I said.
I took a deep breath. David was already showing signs of irritation — rolling his eyes, making comments along the lines of, “Let’s just forget about it, then;” things that told me I needed to stave off the freak-out that was building inside of me with each passing minute. I glared at the clock as if trying to telekinetically set it on fire.
I tried to not talk, but the words just came. “This is all my fault. I should have checked. I can’t believe this. We were just hanging out, it’s not like I even have a good reason, and if we miss the beginning...” I sensed I was further angering David, which only made me feel like more of a fuck-up, so I stopped talking. My car inched forward. “I can see it. This is torture. So close and yet so far away, knowing we’re right here and going to miss it,” I said, mentally slapping myself for not holding it in.
“First of all, you need to learn to discern the consequential from the inconsequential. This is not consequential,” David said in his last-resort, drill-sergeant tone. “It’s not like we’re rushing somebody to a hospital and can’t get there — this is just the fucking circus.”
“Cirque du Soleil,” I said quietly. “It’s better than the circus.”
David sighed so hard I could smell the mint in his mouth. “If we get there late, they’ll seat us when they’re able to seat us. Worst-case scenario, we miss the first half but we’ll be able to watch it on the big-screen monitors while we sip champagne.” He looked at my face, which was pulled tight into a wide-eyed grimace. “Look, if it means this much, we’ll just buy tickets for another night. None of this is worth being self-destructive over.”
“What do you mean by that?” David looked pointedly at my arms, or, more specifically, to the fingernails I was digging into them — methodically, evenly, so that no spot was missed. “I can’t...” I forced my nails away from my arms, squinted my eyes, and bit my bottom lip so hard I could feel it turning white beneath the red lipstick. My eyes started to water. It was 7:15, and we were nowhere near the light at the end of the exit.
David didn’t get it — it wasn’t the show, or at least it wasn’t only the show. It was the principle. I have never attended an event I wasn’t at least 30 minutes early for. We don’t go to the movies anymore, mostly because David is sick of arriving up to two hours before showtime. When going to any theater, I need time to adjust — to relax, to buy a drink, to find a seat, to pee. I spurn those who arrive “on time,” which is late in my world. Everyone knows if the show begins at 7:30, you need to be in your seat before then. I closed my left hand into a fist and pounded my forehead.
“I’m going to get out of this car and get a cab home if you don’t stop it,” David said.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just... I can’t accept it. I can’t let go of it. I keep chiding myself for not looking at the damn ticket better.”
“You need to get over it. Because I can’t be around you like this.”
“And now I’m feeling more anxious because I’m upsetting you, on top of being able to see the place I’m trying to get to, but can’t reach.” I wouldn’t find out how hard I was gripping the steering wheel until we almost needed to cut off one of my fingers to remove a deformed ring later that night. I still maintain it was from the clapping during the show and not my death grip on the wheel.
“I hate feeling like I don’t have any control,” I said. “Of this traffic, of the way I’m reacting to it. I just... I hate it.”
“I know,” David said, softening his tone for a moment. “I know.”