…were not there. He stopped wearing them when he stopped teaching high school kids, before he wrote the wild paper that got him the begrudged doctorate, before he was Herr Doktor Einstein, before he turned twenty-six. Wore high boots to hide his ankles. Loved getting away with the flout. Imagine Einstein teaching geometry, trigonometry, never thinking of asking the kids to show their work. Remember why the Technical Institute held off granting his doctorate? No, nothing wrong with his work. Merely that he had efficiently offended all the proud physics profs, innocently taking over their classes, asking why they hadn’t read Lorenz’s latest paper or understood the implications of Michelson’s measurements of the speed of light, why they hadn’t applied the findings across disciplines to their own stalled projects.
Always, he thought past the box. Proud to ignore the pointless. He cultivated his little ways until no one even expected him to take the time to conform. Saving seconds and minutes, thrifty as any Swiss banker, secreting time away for those insistent daydreams, like music in no one’s key.
Princeton was never as cold as Switzerland, certainly never as cold as Germany. Besides, he simply never got cold feet. Therefore, the solution: if he needed 42 seconds to work socks over his feet, another 74 seconds to stretch suspenders over his calves and wrangle the tops through the grips, then, 34 seconds more to divest himself at night, all that time might be freed. And he needed longer still if his extravagant big toe had poked through the sock, as it did at least once a week. Toe readers tell us, Sign of creativity! Someone who thinks outside the toe box! A minimum of 150 seconds, an hour and a half a month, eighteen hours a year. Why squander this time relieving the pressures imposed on his feet? Add sock-time to the time he did not spend combing his moustache or taming his hair, at least five minutes, and you can find more than six days, a week’s holiday every year. Time to be less interrupted. Time he could let his focus float out to infinite. Time to watch his thought experiments unfurl, to listen to the inner music unfolding, sometimes inevitable as Mozart, never as turbulent as Beethoven.
The music of his epoch was already going atonal, Schönberg over Schubert. It was clever music but imprisoning, denying the body’s satisfaction, denying the deep physical relief that comes with resolution, all the threads showing their flowing meaning. Not merely pinpoints or single chords, but shapes brocaded into the fabric of space-time. He eavesdropped on the vibrations, on their overtones, until the variations revealed the one great theme, an unseen sound too bright to view directly, the shining silence of the music playing him.
Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, German major, two-time Pushcart nominee and occasional photographer, is getting by. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies including B O D Y, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Comstock Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Otoliths, Naugatuck Poetry Review, and, Measure. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song and Eggs Satori. Kelsay Books publishes her book-length collection, The Book of Knots and their Untying. She co-hosts Fourth Sundays, a poetry series in Claremont, California. Find links to her work on-line at: www.cloudslikemountains.blogspot.com/.