My name is Dexter. I am 27 years old, and I am drinking tea in the early afternoon on a wednesday in my living room. In this precise and unremarkable moment, I am holding a photograph in my mind of a young girl sleeping on a couch with a radio on the table next to her, I am typing this sentence, and I am listening to a record. Time is passing but I do not feel like time is passing and sometimes I could almost believe that it does not exist. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe I am still young, riding idly in the passenger seat of Eddie Hamels old Buick, smoking stale cigarettes when I was 15. Maybe all the love I’ve felt in my life exists as more than just a plume of smoke, slowly vanishing, leaving only its scent on my clothes. Maybe it’s a small stone, perfect and smooth and clutched in my tightened fist. Maybe it’s both of these things simultaneously and we all get to choose which reality we live inside.
Real time and perceived time couldn’t be less agreeable. Hold your breath for sixty seconds. Call someone you love and talk for sixty seconds. There is a difference, and we have language to describe this phenomenon - “Today flew by”, “Work dragged on forever today.” and for good reason. Time is malleable - a force like gravity, and though we have calibrated it to a standard, even that isn’t consistent outside of our planet. Time distorts, slows down, and eventually stops as you get closer to black holes, speeds up as you get further from gravitational pull, and inside of our minds can cease to exist entirely in moments of pure awareness.
Inside a room, a man sits with a piece of paper and a pencil. He takes one second and divides it in half. He splits it in half again, and again, and again, and this goes on forever in infinite divisibility. In this scenario one second could potentially hold an infinite amount of time inside of it.
Across the street, two teenagers sit in the back seat of a car at dusk, their fingers intertwined, their foreheads pressed together, tiny eternities passing with their every breath. The dawn will come, the sun will rise, the clock will continue to advance in its cold and resolute way, but until observed means very little.
So I am sitting in a chair, in my living room and I’ve finished my tea and started the record over again. I am still 27 years old, albeit several minutes older than I was when I began writing this and the sun is cutting through my drapes and the cats are asleep and I have since lost the photograph in my mind that I held before, and I am thinking of a time when I was younger and I fell asleep in the middle of the day in the bedroom where I grew up in Chicago. It was springtime and I was in high school and I had put on a Brian Eno album that I’d never heard before, and when I woke up there was a breeze and the light and I’d never woken up clean like that before. I walked downstairs and my father had made mussels and I ate them cold at the table with lemon and drank ice water. The memory is the same as the photograph, an instant that moves inside of itself, experienced fully in the blink of an eye just as vividly as if it were happening again right now. I can’t say that it isn’t, though I have observed it and am writing about it, and now it falls victim to interpretation over time and the whole scene changes. Maybe this is what we experience when we live. Maybe we are living in the memory of some perfect flash of light where we lived and died in an instant, set into motion, spinning like tops through a beautiful photograph, trying to keep our balance as long as we can. When we topple over, and surely we all will, maybe we return to a quiet place devoid of time, waiting for another perfect flash of light. A place we never really left.
A Roman philosopher named Lucretius once wrote, “Nature resolves everything into its component atoms, and never reduces anything to nothing.” If this is the case, then death is not the ending of any segment of time. It is only the changing of matter. A physical rearrangement of organic material in three dimensional space. Floating in a mist of atoms that divorce and remarry in constant flux.