It's Thursday evening, and I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.
I received a puzzle for Christmas, one of those Rubik 360 contraptions. Perhaps you've seen it advertised by fast moving, exciteable, hip kid on TV? It looked cool, but I didn't find time to check it out over the holidays, despite living alone*. I was somehow always busy; you know how it is.
[* King lives here too , obviously, but having a lion about the place tends to double the chores rather than halve them.]
But tonight I made some time. I have a hospital appointment in the morning, and I'm not allowed to eat. TV lost its charm with the prospect of zero snackage, so I picked up my new puzzle. It's an intruiging beast. It has three weighted, interconnected spheres, half-a-dozen tiny coloured balls in the core, and just three seemingly-inaccessible holes opposite the weights for them to pass through to the coloured receptacles on the outermost sphere.
It is, unsurprisingly, a puzzler.
I've just spent three hours fiddling with it. Just one of these was spent working out the method needed, the trick of the thing. The other two hours were largely spent cursing my dismal lack of manual dexterity. The kid in the advert was a red herring; being fast moving and exciteable are counter-productive to this puzzle; slow, fine motor skills are required. My fistfuls of pork sausages and pizza-addled brain were a poor substitute.
But now, I'm all puffed with pride having solved it without needing to resort to a cheat sheet or the internet.
You can call it tenacity, you can call it determination. You might even call it sheer bloody-mindedness, and you'd probably be onto something; a slow, steady approach and a whole lot of swearing will win the day every time.
However, pride comes before a fall, and this is only half the tale.
I decide to go for The Double, and dig out a Rubik's Cube from a box. I'm sure you've seen these of late, or perhaps even remember them from their heyday in the early Eighties? I tell you, I used to be quite the Cuber. Even before I hit my teens, I could solve one of these in under a minute; 33 seconds was my record time.
So, this should be a piece of cake, right?
Wrong. This is what mine currently looks like.
Hmmm, I can only do a single layer. When I remember my childhood skills, this is laughable. I had a dog once that could do that much. Good grief, I can't even get the second layer done; the shame of it.
I consider calling iDifficult for advice, but think better of it. I bought him one of these a few Christmasses ago. He stared at it for a few moments, and a manic grin slowly came over his face. Perfect! he cried, and went off to his lab to integrate it into a machine he was working on. He later went on to conquer Peru with it.
So, I'm on my own. But it's late, and I'm tired. I have to be at the hospital at 7am, so I toss the puzzle into my bag, and hit the sack without my usual hot milk drink; this annoys me unreasonably.
It is Friday morning, and I'm a private room at the hospital. I'm wearing one of those bare-arsed hospital gowns, and one of their one-size-fits-none dressing gowns, having forgotten again to bring my own. I sit in a comfy chair and fiddle with the Rubik's Cube to no avail; the second layer still eludes me.
A suited fella breezes through; he asks me some trivial questions about false teeth and spectacles, offers broad and swift assurances that all will be well, and vanishes. I recognise this behaviour as that of an Anaesthetist. He almost bumps into my surgeon on his way out.
Now, this guy is the real deal. An affable old boy, probably way past retirement age, but with a passion for his work. He's thoughtful, incisive, and open to modern techniques, which he tempers with old-fashioned thoroughness. He also doesn't dismiss evidence that is a poor fit for his ongoing diagnosis.
In my experience, these are rare qualities.
He puts me at my ease about the procedure. And then, out of the blue he indicates the Cube and exclaims, My word! I've not seen one of those in years! He then adds in a whispering theatrical tone, Getting anywhere with it?
I shrug and say I'm struggling to remember the technique. He smiles indulgently and says that I should persevere, and that it'll come back to me eventually.
He informs me grandly that they're ready for me. For the second time, I toss the Cube aside and wander through to the operating theatre in my bare feet, accompanied by a nurse. I don't remember anything after the injection and being asked to turn onto my side to save them doing it. Was I asked to count backwards? Perhaps.
I am back at my old school. It is 1981. I stand in the corner of a sunlit room at lunchtime, watching a uniformed, gangly youth solving a Rubik's Cube. There's a mess of kids around him. Most are watching, a few are timing his attempt, while others sit with their Cubes, waiting for their turn to be solved. The lad's hands are lightning and confident, though clearly his social skills are lacking. He doesn't say much, and blushes a lot, especially when a girl talks to him. He looks something like this.
He is so wrapped up in his obsession, he doesn't notice half of what is going on around him. He doesn't notice the hangers on, dining out on his skills. He's cool, they enthuse to others, emptily. He doesn't notice the grudging respect of the tough lads. He's smart, they say, adding sourly, the little dork. He doesn't notice the admiration of the girls, and won't for another couple of years. He so clever, they say. He also doesn't notice the teacher frowning, undecided if she should put a stop to these antics. He's a show off, she thinks, but at least he's out of his shell for once.
I try to shout, to tell him to look around him, to take it all in, but he just smiles and seems not to hear me. So I watch his hypnotic hands, the deft sequences of twists and turns, and find something familiar there. They have resonance. I remember them, these old friends. I remember them, just as it's time to go.
It's Friday lunchtime, and I am back in my room at the hospital. A nurse is fussing over me. She tells me that the surgeon will be in to check on me soon, and that I should sit quietly. My limbs feel leaden, so I choose to obey her instructions. Just this once, mind.
Time passes. It's slow and relaxing, dilated almost. I like it.
When the surgeon returns, he gives me plenty of good news, and a clean bill of health. I take this in, but say little, smiling and nodding where required. He tells me that I can go home in an hour, and asks me to confirm that someone will be driving here to pick me up.
I nod and hope quietly to myself that it's not Bear.
By the way, he says as he stands to go, Congratulations! You must ready to go home now if you can finish that! And with a cheery backward wave he is gone.
Bemused, I realise I am holding something. I lift the hand slowly into my line of sight.
My mind flits back to the obsessed, introspective lad in the classroom, and I thank him back through the years, even though he's in the room.
And smiling, I drift off to sleep again.
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2009