“Be absolute for death; either death or life shall thereby be the sweeter.”
Why that? Why now? Why Shakespeare after all these years? That play, so long ago. What was it called? Measure for Measure. Yes. He had been the disguised Duke. A fix-it man who was too kind hearted to punish others as he ought.
He leaned back in his chair and loosened his tie. His brief case thumped above him. So familiar and so constant a companion that he could feel the sticky warmth of the leather handle in his hand and its comfortable weight by his side, even though it was not there.
“Reason thus with life: If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing that none but fools would keep: a breath thou art”
How did he even remember that speech? But now he was back. Back in college, when all the world was possibility and every friend might become a life-long one. Shannon, Kyle, Jason. Where were they now? Were they married? Did they have children? Were they even alive? Jason had always smoked too much. Maybe it had killed him. Or maybe he had stopped. Who knew? To him they would always be as they were back in college. Young, like he. Full of jokes and big thoughts. Back in college. When all the world was his stage.
“A breath thou art.”
Yes, life was a breath.
“thou art death’s fool; for him thou labour’st by thy flight to shun and yet runn’st toward him still”
A fool. Yes, he was a fool in those days. He threw himself with passion into everything. Wore himself to the bone with little sleep. Drama and sports and exams and pranks. But he had been young and able to do that.
“Thou art not thyself; for thou exist’st on many a thousand grains that issue out of dust.”
Who did he belong to? He never would have planned this life. Never expected it in college. The long lonely hours on planes. The familiar silence of the hotel room. The shiny masked faces of colleagues, one replacing another till they were but an endless stream of faces.
He had not thought of her for a long time. A very long time. Her straight dark hair and shy smile were fixed in his mind like a photograph. And like a photo graph they were void of life and warmth. Empty memories. Why had he been so shy back then? Why hadn’t he pursued her? And after her there were others he would have liked. One of them might have married him. But always the career. Always that briefcase beside him. Holding down the cords of his heart—propelling him forward…and away.
“And when thou art old and rich, thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty, to make thy riches pleasant.”
Old and rich. His fingers tapped nervously on his expensive gold watch. It always kept perfect time. Now his time was running out. And none of the past thirty years mattered. No business breakthrough. No victory over the market. None of it. He was back in college. The rest was a waste. A meaningless waste. Why hadn’t he seen it before? Why hadn’t he changed it while he could? He had never understood that speech of Shakespeare’s. Now he did. It was not about death but about life. About wasting life.
“Yet in this life lie hid moe thousand deaths: yet death we fear, that makes these odds all even.”