Time Again

Happy belated New Year one and all. What did the editor do to ring in 2012? He slept. Why did he sleep? Because he forgot it was New Years Eve. True story. I had recently returned from a vacation – a rare enough occurrence for me – and time had not yet acquired its reliable Seattle pace, and so I was out of sorts. No matter. That holiday has never had much resonance with me. When I was 20 I read The Sound and the Fury and commenced to memorize the first three paragraphs of Part 2 – the Quentin portion, if you’re keeping track. In the first paragraph, Quentin, whom we will follow around Cambridge on the last day of his life, finds his father’s watch. “I give it to you,” his father told him, “not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now, and for a moment, and not spend the rest of your life trying to conquer it.”

Conquer it. I thought Falkner had written those words just for me. It was about this age, you see, that I first noticed time was progressing ever forward and that my allotment of it on earth was finite. Yet time was so unreal. I would attend a New Year’s Eve party that year and when the clock struck midnight and everyone whooped, all I could think was, “What is the difference between this second, the first second of 1986, and the one that preceded it? What am I cheering for?”

I was not the life of the party in those days. On my recent vacation I had the pleasure of attending several parties. Whether I was the life of those parties or not I cannot say, but I did enjoy them, and largely because I took Quentin Compson III’s father’s advice. One must surrender to do so. As someone who grew up wanting to win all he could, surrender can feel like loss until I remember Time was never the opponent but the field built to let me run as far as I desire.

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