there is a version of me trapped in each memory like a snowglobe. me, thirteen, long hair in a ponytail, running across the beach where the water is just an inch deep because I love the way it splashes. me, eight, staring out the car window and thinking how strange it is I’ve only been on the earth for eight years and yet I feel like I have always been here. me, eleven, in New Mexico, on Christmas, staring at the luminarias lining the sidewalks. me, sixteen, listening to my writing instructor’s voice break. memory isn’t a continuous and chronological line, not even a line at all, and I don’t know if that’s what time is, either. my life is a room with no walls that holds a hundred thousand memories suspended in water. I jump from moment to moment out of order and everything else is just the space between.
you want to envision the whole world
in the brief span of time that it gives you.
to be thrown from the heavens unfurled
cut away from indifference and seen through.
you are translucent illuminating pain
shot through to the hollow and aching
space between your temples. force the rain.
swallow whole every moment that time has taken
away from you. if others exist they are yours
they are yours because God granted you vision.
burn away death with feeling and fire and roar
up into the holy light from which you were risen.
you never asked for this but you’ll take it
whole and wanton and raw and never again
will you allow anything to cheat your spirit.
The present hurtles me forward
but when I close my eyes, I
and I can hear the past and
the future rush up behind me to
scream in my ear.
I can feel the simulation of my life
turning slowly toward reality.
Eternity never looks at me twice,
but I glance at it again and again,
obsessively, like I glance
at the clock during tests.
Is this why we’re mortal?
Because the disappearance of time
outlines us like a flash of double exposure?
Because being hurtled toward death
is what gives us the weightless sensation
like the last few seconds of Space Mountain?
I have chills, like time is
licking the back of my neck
in San Francisco wind.
I’m 18. I don’t want
to cast bets against my mind
over my remaining days,
but it’s what makes everything so
beautifully fragile. Without cold water
to wake me up, would peaceful sleep
feel so delicious?
And without eternal sleep,
would I fight so hard to stay awake?
I’m afraid this will get worse with age,
but I’m also afraid it’ll go away.
At school, I watched Azaria and Anthony and Karina and Floppy while we talked. Why is there always some division in presence? Like they’re not really there, and neither am I. We’ve always felt that tinge of loneliness.
The way time passes is surreal. If I close my eyes and focus, I can pretend I’m in my dorm room at CSSSA, just the way I so dreaded imagining home while I was there. I had nightmares of leaving, nightmares in which I was back home but I was freaking out because I was just there and had no memory of leaving CSSSA, and something in my head told me it was a dream, but that didn’t make it any less horrible because I knew that nightmare would come true, and I wouldn’t be there anymore.
I sometimes deal with exercising, or getting through a bad night of screaming parents, or getting through school. I’m here right now, I tell myself, but time is relative, and I’m going to be somewhere else, at home, watching Doctor Who, this assignment finished, this pain gone. I live in the future until the future comes to me. I lose interest in the present because I know the present is only here right fucking now and it just slips away and there’s no way at all to stop it. That’s shitty when I’m at CSSSA, but it’s great when my dad is screaming and breaking shit and acting like a complete fucking asshole lunatic.
Time is unpredictable, unknowable. I have no idea whether anyone even exists apart from me. I could be raving mad, or I could be on an intense hallucinogen, or I could be dead, or I could be… I don’t even know what I could be. Maybe I’m the only real thing in my world. Maybe the universe is just a product of my imagination and that’s all life is for anybody, their own universe of infinite narcissism, solitude, and ravaging depression.
Maybe I’m 16, but Azaria is 32. Maybe Karina is 20. Maybe Anthony is dead. How do I know all our timelines progress in exactly the same place, same time frame? Maybe this is a memory to them. Maybe they’ve already forgotten, and I’m alone here. I will never, ever know whether I’m just full of shit.
How do I know anything exists except for now? Maybe all my memories are fake and I’m stuck in a loop, and all I’m ever going to do is type this word over and over and over and over and over and over again, and never move on to anything more. How do I know? How do I fucking know?
I know absolutely nothing, and all I can do is just forget about it and keep moving so I know I can. And this is why I shouldn’t be sitting on my computer alone on a Friday night. My mind wanders into this sinkhole and all I can do is try to fathom existence but just come up short again and again because my mind is a fucking pinhole and I don’t even know whether I should blame God or the unseeable, unknowable force of a universe I don’t even know is real.
All I can do is distract myself. And lose myself in the mind of someone else so I don’t end up doing this forever.