Alan Riquelmy: Not today

The section leader raised his head, stood straight, and began his march to the enemy line.

We had ranks in high school band. Justin actually was section leader of the saxophones and band adjutant. Or whatever they called themselves. He, and at least two others, used a steady, ingrained gait as they marched to our arch rivals for a formal introduction between section leaders and adjutants.

They were the Axis to our Allies. Which must have made it strange for those watching when Justin began joking with his counterpart. Laughing. Making inside references.

You know, acting like 16 year olds.

We all knew each other, socialized outside of our strict regiment of stuffy band uniforms. Blane, the Axis’ main leftenant, always had a joke prepared, a sly reference to the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Creature of the night. High comedy for teenagers.

Or so I’ve been told.

Days passed slowly back then, interspersed with weekends that held more importance than they do now. But what did the passage of time matter? We were all going to live forever anyway.

Even now, obviously older, that lie can still sound convincing. We’ve all been going this long, why not longer? We repeat the same phrases, day after day, like it’ll go on forever (“This better be good, Frank, you died last week”).

But then, not too long ago, a call. We’d chat on Facebook, but it was rare to hear from Blane on the phone. It had to be big. Big C. What were the chances? We’re all still young, right? This doesn’t happen to us.

The revelation that it does was sobering. Sure, I think about it — who doesn’t — but it’s always this far away event, something that can be put off, even.

Like how attorneys will joke about defendants going to trial. You’ve heard this one, right? Going to trial is like going to heaven — everyone wants to go, just not today.

Suddenly, today was staring at you. Today was moving very quickly in your direction.

It may have been sobering for me and his other friends, his family. I wonder what it was like for him. Sitting in some doctor’s office, hearing the news. Serious as a heart attack. Worse.

Then comes the sad bureaucracy of life. Update the will, ensure the 401K beneficiary is set.

That kid in the band uniform is far away from where we stand now. I can barely see him.

What’s next? You wait, and hope for the best. You undergo the treatments the experts recommend. You steal glances at the calendar, morbidly curious.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeping in at a steady pace. Like a march. Left, right, left, right.

And then, one day, that phone call. Hope enters the bloodstream like a drug. Racing to the hospital for surgery, the dark of ether, and on the other side — daylight.

Clear the calendar. Clear the rest of the year, and fill the days with new plans.

Nothing is certain, except, well, you know. But everyone’s breathing a little easier now.

We’re making plans, marking our own calendars. The rest of this year, and the next, and the one after that — a whole host of tomorrows that, if not promised to us, are at least on the shelf, waiting.

So we keep marching toward them, a little more thoughtful than before, a bit slower.

We’ll get to our destination eventually.

Just not today.

Alan Riquelmy is the editor-in-chief of the Sierra Sun and editor of The Union. He can be reached at or at 530-477-4249

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