Art Literature and the Law: Hump Day & The Arc of Time

Hump Day
by Areti Georgopoulos

That Wednesday, that notorious hump day, they decide to talk about living. Are you living or just alive? the host of the podcast asks as Helen drives to work. Living, the host says, is remaining curious, seeking growth, mystery, and adventure in life. Just alive means you are simply not dead.

Her office is cold yet bright. The faint blue walls, meant to evoke a breezy coastal vibe when she picked the color years ago, now make her think of the frozen surface of water. She works until she tires of concentrating.

She finds Elizabeth down the hall in her beige office. The color makes her think of desert, the Las Vegas kind she once visited. She liked that it was bare and unapologetic. There was a toughness to it, an endurance factor. Elizabeth smiles at her.

“Are you coming in on Wednesdays now? It is Wednesday, isn’t it?” Elizabeth asks.

There was a time, before the Pandemic, when Helen came in every weekday, when work was synonymous with going into the office. In those days, a force drove her through the week, like a fire at her feet. Now, she has to exert heroic effort to get to the office at all. It is as if the fire goes out daily and she has to relight it, with two hard pieces of flint, every morning. It doesn’t always ignite.

Now, she has to exert heroic effort to get to the office at all. It is as if the fire goes out daily and she has to relight it, with two hard pieces of flint, every morning. It doesn’t always ignite.

“Yes, it is Wednesday. I am coming in on Wednesdays now.”

They both know this is an aspiration, subject to change, that nothing is certain anymore. If Helen’s mother is back in the hospital, if her daughters must quarantine, if she cannot get herself ready and out the door in the span of an hour, she works from home. On those days, the office feels like another country that she intends to visit again someday.

“Have you heard Bonobo’s new album?” asks Elizabeth. Helen has never heard of Bonobo. “It’s phenomenal. Check out the song ‘Rosewood.’ It will take you to a new state of mind.” Elizabeth’s taste in music is wide and varied, for which Helen is grateful. She has discovered a whole host of artists this way. Elizabeth studies Helen. “How’s your mother doing?”

“She is much better,” Helen replies. “My dad is certain that she dodged a bullet. The infection is completely gone.” Helen’s mother has been home from the hospital for a couple of weeks. During Helen’s visit the previous Saturday, she was peaceful, and rosy, vibrant in her own way. Her eyes sparkled. She did not look like a person who had spent long days in the ICU, connected to a ventilator, hovering between this world and the next. On Saturday, she looked as if she were herself again. She told the physical therapist that her goal was to walk up the stairs to the bedroom, even though she has not walked since her last hospital stay a year and a half ago. Helen marvels at her mother’s resolve, always a beacon in the storm, and wonders if this means that her mother is living, not just being alive.

“Wonderful,” says Elizabeth.

Helen leaves the office early to go to Max’s house to check on things. She has not been there since he left. Its proximity to her office makes it more accessible today. She walks gingerly up the front steps sheathed in ice, figuring she has a twenty-five percent chance of opening the old door on the first try. She slips the key in the lock, turns it, grabs hold of the handle, and throws her weight forward forcefully. To her surprise, the door gives way, and she falls into the house.

The living room is flooded with sunlight. Every object sits still, undisturbed, where Max left it. Helen holds her breath for a moment.

No one comes to greet her. She is flooded by memories of Max, of his embrace, of the warmth and comfort she feels immediately upon entering his home. She recalls the clip of his dog’s nails on the hardwood floor as he would turn the corner, welcoming her enthusiastically.

Helen moves around the space, disturbing the air molecules. Dust motes float chaotically in the air. She checks to see that the heat is working, gathers the letters on the floor by the mail slot, and opens the refrigerator to make sure nothing has rotted there. She returns to the living room and stands looking at the park across the street. Children glide along the ice, some sporting hockey sticks, and she can hear their clipped voices. She is overwhelmed by a desire to stay, to lay on the couch and daydream of Max, of his return, of their next homemade feast, of their summer travel plans. An impulse to leave tugs her in the other direction, toward the door, toward her house, toward her evening responsibilities of helping kids with homework and preparing the evening meal.

Her phone rings suddenly, like an alarm. It whistles like a train, playing the ringtone assigned to her sister. A second before answering, Helen thinks it is unusual for her sister to be calling at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

“I think she’s dying,” her sister says in a panicked and agitated voice, as if she is trying to escape a room with a slippery door handle. “It’s something with her heart. I don’t know if they revived her. I am on my way. It may be too late.” Before Helen can respond, the call drops.

Like an ominous wave cresting, Helen glimpses calamity a moment before it swallows her. Violently, she is dragged under water. Her heart pounds in her ears. She feels like her brain is waterlogged, unable to form coherent thoughts. Her whole body is under pressure, her feet scrambling to find their footing but unable to reach the ground.


When she reaches her parents’ house, Helen’s father explains that her mother died suddenly, her heart stopping. A blessing, he says, that she did not suffer long. Can there be a blessing, Helen wonders, in the midst of a tragedy?

Can there be a blessing, Helen wonders, in the midst of a tragedy?

Helen is surprised at how, in death, her mother looks alive. She wears a peaceful expression, as if she is resting her eyes and daydreaming about something pleasant.


After her mother’s death, every day feels like hump day to Helen. She has the sensation that she is swimming a great distance, exhausted by the struggle to breathe properly. Grief pulls at her like a rip tide. Her body resists as if fighting a great force. Tears overcome her randomly, their saltiness reminding her of the sea.

One night, Helen is visited by a younger version of her mother. This mother floats through Helen’s dreams flashing a gorgeous, slightly mischievous smile. An intense joyfulness emanates from her. She moves gracefully, as if dancing, her arms extended softly at her sides. She laughs easily, playfully, her eyes glittering. Helen feels magnetized by her presence, drawn to her by an alluring force. She longs to reach her, but cannot, observing her instead across an invisible barrier. Helen wakes feeling like her toes have brushed the sandy bottom of the ocean.


On a Wednesday a month later, when Helen is coming into the office two days a week and Max is back in town, Helen thinks that she wants to be living, not just alive. It occurs to her that even in death, her mother wants to be living, too.

The Arc of Time

We say goodnight across desert and snowy plain.
Each difficult day
I bury longing, my cup cold and sorrowful.
I think of how you blossom returning to your roots.
I remember, on the shores of my childhood
running barefoot over burning stones
the sea brilliantly glinting
electrified by sunlight
swaying, like a giant net ready to catch me.
Many rotations of the earth later
on the other side of the world
I feel as if a tidal wave lifted me on its swell
then receded, beaching me in a land-locked place.
Even as time stretches forward
I know it will wind back around
as if bending in space
bringing us to a common point.
And there, I hope we can stay.


Areti Georgopoulos 
is a published poet who represents employees and the occasional employer at Harmony Law Firm, which she founded in 2012. She focuses on unemployment insurance law, disability accommodations in the workplace, wrongful termination and discrimination claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, among others.
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