The Passing Time

A few friends of mine were half-drunkenly talking about time the other night. 

Come to think of it, the conversation was about time travel, and I might have been the only one drunk…

I would attempt to recount it, but suffice to say the mixture of euphoric pizza and drowsy-inducing wine made that conversation a blur. Still, something about it stood out to me.

Lately, it has felt as if time has moved differently. “Seasons of our lives” yata yata, and what have you. I think it comes down to your state of being: whether you are happy and content and thriving or sad and suppressed and suffering. Lately, to my own surprise, I’ve been the former.

I’ve seen days pass into one another without ever seeing dusk. I’ve heard a multitude of conversations flow and mend and transpose regardless of place or time, or the voices shaping them. I’ve found myself living—thriving within this small and growing community of Sacramento; this city I’ve never given the time of day until now. I’ve been social. I’ve been busied. I’ve been happy. Time has felt different. 

A few months ago, December seemed as if this unattainable, distant dream. Might I live to see it pass? I had no incentive to. I felt as if it never would. Time was slow then: I counted it by each falling grain of sand.

One

Two

Three—

…but lately, I’ve lost count. 

I’ve spent more time away from home, which has left me feeling uprooted in the best of ways. I feel as if a house plant finally taken outside to feel the wind; there is a potentiality here that was not before. 

The people of my life have added, not detracted. The days of my week have blended, not harshly stood out. My body has felt tired—not from restlessness, but from exhaustion. Time has passed, is passing; and I am watching as it goes, watching these grains of sand fall and tumble away, with a smile on my face. 

I know I’ll have to frown sometime.

But not this time.

How are you measuring time? Is it by the number of smiles or frowns in your day? The number of times you think of quitting your job? The number of movies you’ve watched this week? The times you’ve gone to sleep sad?

I hope you’ve afforded yourself the time needed to consider time, because it’s not a waste of time to consider how you’re spending and counting yours.

Contrary to what society tells us, I think it matters. I think time is an individual experience, subjective in nature. How we measure it affects how we see and feel it.

But maybe we shouldn’t measure it. Maybe, instead, we should toss out our clocks, the phones we carry with us everywhere, and do away with it all. And what then?

What if you didn’t have to clock in at that precise time? You’re running in from the rain after driving through traffic. Your manager, a grubby, grumbly sort of man named Steven, whose balding head is hidden by an atrocious combover, glares at you as you do so. “You’re late,” he says, with a scowl whose lines are so deep they’re like valleys.

“I’m sorry,” you mutter, rushing over to clock yourself in.

“This is the third time this week,” he mutters bitterly. “On Monday you were five minutes late; on Wednesday, ten minutes; and now it’s Friday, and you’re—”

You wait in anxious anticipation, crumpling your face up like a discarded piece of paper as you wait to take the blow. But nothing more comes. You look up to see Steven staring dumbfounded at you. A new fear sets in.

“What?” you ask. “What is it?”

But Steven is lost, staring down at the watch on his wrist. Quickly he removes his phone and stares at the screen in puzzlement. An unnerved silence passes through the office, as the sound of clicking keyboards ceases. He looks up, past the whiteboard on which is written “IF YOU CAME LATE YOU STAY LATE; TIME IS MONEY” (a favorite mantra of his) and to the clock on the wall, which has stopped ticking, is in fact nothing but a blank white surface like the whiteboard beneath it. Nothing moves for a moment, in that moment; not a sound can break the spell. That is, until Paige from accounting emerges from her cubicle and shuffles past. Steven says nothing as her clicking heels grow distant. A sudden rush of shuffled paper, murmuring voices, and footsteps sounds as people begin filing out from the office, leaving behind their bitter coffee and claustrophobic cubicles. You look to see Steven, mouth ajar, watching them as they leave.

Another moment passes.

“So, can I go?” you say, unsure whether to comfort the man responsible for your three years of stress and sleepless nights. Suddenly manager Steven looks less like a manager and more like an upset schoolboy, put on timeout for being naughty.

“I-I sup-pose,” he mumbles, fiddling with the watch on his wrist.

You take a step forward, more sorry than bitter, and remove the name tag that says “Steven” from his shirt’s breast.

“How about a beer?” you ask.

The distant look disappears from Steven’s eyes. “A beer,” he says, and smiles, and nods.

“Steven?” you ask.

“Just Steve,” he says, and smiles.

You two walk out of the empty office, hearing not the sound of ticking in the silence, but instead that of your own walking feet.

“I’ve got some weed in my car,” Steve says happily, as if just discovering it for himself.

You pat him on the shoulder, and leave the time you spent there—three years in January—behind you, forgotten like the rest of it.

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