Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Moment

Today, while washing my hands, just for fun I laid my thumb and forefinger together and drew them apart until just my fingertips were touching. The film thus encircled by my thumbs and fingers fascinated me for over a full minute. Which is quite a long time, if you were to contemplate simply standing there with the water running.

I marveled at it. So much chaos! So much swirling, turbulent complexity! So unpredictable, so unrepeatable, so unique and strange. And yet a moment of beauty. I saw bands and hurricanes of color, fuchsia and teal; oxblood and goldenrod; cobalt and argent and emerald.

I mused over how such transcendent complexity emerged from such simple elements: The interaction of water and detergent, whose properties are so simple and even naturally occurring. The movement of liquids confined in two dimensions. The wavelengths of light captured from the fluorescent tubes overhead. Even as I watched, even as I held my hands at a slight angle to catch the light, I saw order emerging, after a fashion. The swirling colors differentiated, organizing themselves into bands which, though storms and vortexes troubled their borders, were nevertheless distinct. Near my thumbs, chartreuse and ruby currents danced around each other. Above them, an almost-crimson in a shade I'd never seen and didn't know existed. Above that a deep blue, and above that, a triangle of straw-colored light nestled under my forefingers.

Reluctantly, I slowly opened my fingertips. I watched the film pull on the foam that held its rim, sliding the tiny bubbles aside until they parted. And then it was gone, as though it had never been. It never needed to have been there in the first place. Its unique beauty would never be captured or seen again, and no part of it remains except the memory of a moment.

Any further implication is left as an exercise for the reader.

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