He would never understand how time developed a flexibility that defied the laws of physics. An hour, a minute, a second, they were all standard measures. Each the same as every other. Yet lately they had changed, flexed. For the most part they had gotten shorter, shrunken. He knew that wasn’t possible until he remembered Einstein’s famous quote.* But perhaps that Einsteinian law applied only to those of a certain growing age, like his.
*Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.
Time has no role to play in any of this.
Time isn’t pleased by the prospect,
it prefers to be ever present, ever
escaping, even as it is arriving.
It is quirky that way.
It is constant yet it loves
to give the impression of being variable.
Einstein noted this, and anyone
returning from a long drive is
aware the return is always the shorter trip.
Unless, of course, you suffer
from a bad back, then time
really has the last laugh.
My mother was a firm believer In lecturing, offering vast bits of knowledge, culled from here and there. One of her favorites was Edison’s 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, and she leaned toward quantity, “It’s all about hard work, go clean your room, clutter will get you nowhere.” Sitting here today amid what I prefer to think of as eclectically arranged items of potentially great importance, I see her picture, before the chemo took her bottled red hair looking disapprovingly at me, saying, “You are killing your genius, Edison would agree with me.” I want to say to her, “But I’m with Einstein and if a cluttered desk is evidence of a cluttered mind, why was hers always empty.
He says “the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line.” She says, “you will miss seeing of the amazing sights if you follow that inane rule, and by the way Einstein made it quite clear space is curved, and the line you think straight is not at all, so why not follow a more varied curve and see what there is to see along the way. It might surprise you.” He says, “I have to follow the road and the interstates are the most direct routes.” She says, “there are an infinite number ways to get from point A to B.” She wants to try several of them and if he doesn’t like it, well there is always the back seat.
In dreams I write letters to dead heroes beginning each Dear __________: I apologize for the intrusion but in your next life will you do the same, give up the desk in the patent office for dreams of brothers twins, one moving one fixed, stand before a jury, no testament to the Lower East Side. I carefully fold each letter and put on proper postage but delivery across the curtain of mortality is slow and your responses have not been forthcoming but I will continue to write for there are always more with whom to correspond.
I suspect that I am not alone in wondering if there is a corner of literary hell set aside for those who foist clichés on the world and at the head of that table should sit the fellow who first said “time marches on.” Even Einstein realized that time is relative, and as one who served in the military I can assure you that time does not march, does not follow a neat, tidy cadence, and all to often doesn’t know where it is going. Time does many things, it can meander like an early morning walk along the shore, it can rush forward like the youth discovering what he is sure is love, it can even plod, when the pain is growing and the doctor is ever so slow to respond. Oh, and sitting next to our marching friend I nominate the fool who thought that time might actually fly, maybe hell will be fun for him.
If Einstein was correct relatively speaking, the arrow of time, rusted in place, indomitable, can be freed, torn from its mooring and set adrift defying its natural inclination.
As the lights of Seoul were engulfed by a blanket of clouds which in turn ebbed, revealing a universe spread out, and I settled slowly into sleep, Thursday faded into dreams.
First sun sliced through the interstices of the shades as fog dissipated from San Francisco Bay. Like Jonah, having atoned, I crawled from the belly of a great beast,
metallic Sheol, and stepped
into a Ninevah of glass and steel, rubbing eyes, rejecting day. Stumbling the corridors and down a ramp I slid into my seat. As gravity was again defied, Thursday unfolded, inviting but having learned nothing I faded into dreams.
Sirius, you arise each evening. Your braying washes the night sky, as though to daunt us. There was a time we stood in simple awe having no idea how far away you skulked or of your immenseness, a cold dark point that could barely illumine our occasional thought. Hawking sits pressed into his chair held in a gravity with a force of a thousand suns, all pulling toward a singular focus and witnesses your slow death collapsing inward, downward into your seat on the heavenly chariot until the moment when nothing can escape. Hubble knew you all too well, chasing you across the sky as you dodged flitting just out of grasp. You are the coyote, hiding by day to avoid the hunter, knowing his steps across the mesa, hearing his footfall reverberating through the void. Einstein knew you all too well, although he rarely glanced upward preferring to stare through his mind’s eye, dissecting you, cutting you into neat slices then reassembling you and placing you back on the mantle of his limitless imagination. We no longer fear you, or for that matter, much care your color fades into whiteness and you are lost like another grain of sand on the beach of time.