“Getting Closer” by Steven Millhauser
Millhauser lets us touch the excitement of anticipation. Speaking from the voice of a young boy Jimmy who has waited all year for the pleasure of a day at the lake, Millhauser shows us the tiny miniscule sensations which make up a day we have been waiting for. Anticipation works like memory, where you can taste feel and see the way the grass moves, the way your loved one smells, the way the cars whizz by of what you are waiting for. Just as we don´t want to let go of our memories when time passes, we don´t want to let go of our anticipation when the awaited event begins.
Jimmy and his sister play two extremes of this experience. We can stand hesitantly on the edge of experience holding on with all our strength to the ledge of anticipation, or we can jump without noticing smelling observing experiencing the edge and the view from this high ledge. Millhauser takes us to two extremes, which helps me notice how my experience of experiences moves between the two.
In some ways the boy was in love, in love with what this day could bring. He was holding on with all his might to an ideal, as opposed to thoughtlessly experiencing the day. I have recently missed the ruffles of shirts, the small wrinkles in smiles, because of the anxiety of expectation of loss, as he experiences towards the end of the story. The author reminds us that “he loves this day” and that is the root cause of his brief but frozen pause before he joins the day.
“….he feels a scream rising in his chest, he’s going to fall down onto the sandy orange earth, ´Ahoy, matey!´ shouts Julia, and with a wild cry that tears through his throat he steps over the line and begins his day.”