Time Is Magic
...proved once again in the time it takes to watch a thin piece of plastic go through rotations fluctuating between 33 1/3 and 45 RPM.
The red strobe light that picked up the dots on the side of the turntable platter danced in a suggestive fashion, neither settling between upper and lower speeds that have been determined to be the correct ones since forever.
Prostrate on the recliner it was then (not then…. nor then…. but THEN) that he saw his future and past in his fleeting present. In the wild sounding deviations from the static rotations per minute on his turntable he entered a world in which memory and imagination overlapped. Like tracing paper on top of an old picture he was recasting his future using the outline of his past as a guide.
Lying there in an almost catatonic state on a lonely Saturday evening he realized that not only was his turntable quite damaged (second hand) but that between the static fixtures of his past and future there was also no possibility in his present.
You might say… surely not? Isn’t it common knowledge that possibilities are endless in the present and the future? That only the past is a determined non-malleable factor?
Well, you might say wrong, buddy.
As sure as the next letter I type will by an A, so to does that become a part of the past. Something fixed in time. Both the concept and the utterance.
With each stroke of the key, with each thought, we are consigned to the past. No words or thoughts can be in the present or the future for as soon as you have thought and uttered them they instantly get filed PAST.
"Really?" he thought, slightly pleased with himself but ultimately rendered completely depressed regarding all that this entails.
"what is the present but only a recent past?"
He often found himself musing on topics such as this when watching a record spin, after the debilitating sugar/carbohydrate low following a Fry’s Peppermint Cream and a bag of Frazzles.
As Bert Jansch circled on the turntable at an unstable 45rpm it started slowing down, the fluctuations distorting and modifying the notes. Slowing further and further it felt to him that it was moving closer to the present. Slower still, the voice now a long drone, the record almost coming to a standstill.
To him this was time catching up; reaching a point in the present when the record would stop, the final note die down until the last millimetre, fraction of a millimetre, fraction of a fraction of a millimetre of vinyl would sound and be present with him then. The red dots slowed their dance until they were crawling round the circle.
The record almost static on the platter now, his excitement growing, he would finally see the sound for what it is (not what it was), slow and detailed enough to exist alongside rather than instantly disappearing into thin air at 45rpm.
He thought of a racing car. The scream of the engine in the distance, approaching you, here, in the present.
Closer and closer, you see the past catching up with the present until it is level with you. You can hear the engine at its full growl, level, a 180-degree line of time from car to you.
But how long does that last? 0.00001 seconds perhaps? The sum total of you in the present, before life quickly accelerates from the past to the future, straight passed as your head spins, watching it go.
He felt his past catching up then, shifting the outline of the tracing paper to match the memory underneath, his present was at hand.
The record stopped dead.
He entered the bedroom where she lay. His father sitting at the bedside holding her hand. Swollen and bloated and quite a distance from the women in his memory. He walked to the bedside and took her other hand. She opened her eyes and looked at him. He could see her again, the sharing of seeing each other and recognition rendering any timeline mute.
“My Darling..” she said weakly.
The moment passed, the present now past. The record began again, the future.
The memory gone.
Time as magic as cancer, a wrinkle, mould, a cough, other bodily functions, rot, an odd smell, a pencil, a chisel, a fingernail clipping, fluff in the corner, a cloud, an over-full bin, a half-worm, a rat’s tail.
I see you again
It would be the same.
But time is like chess:
to avoid submitting you
A. Put something in the way
B. Advance and conquer
C. String it out for a stalemate
There were things in the way
when I saw you again:
I was pregnant, I was married,
I had moved to the country.
Tongue-tied, I only told you
the latter. Stilted, we tripped
up, and two days later I
flew home from my trip to
the pouring rain
where I parked alone
at the end of a lane
in a carpark of stone.
Looking out at the mist
I wrote of that time
when things felt like
magic but we were just
pawns in someone
‘Windy today, isn’t it?’ I said.
My Grandma looked up from her tea and cast a reproachful glance at the window.
‘Terrible’ she replied.
Tell them. Even if they recoil at least it would be honest. Time isn’t so magic as to halt prejudice itself. People have to help it along. Brave people. Gore Vidal. Harvey Milk. Allen Ginsberg. Heroes.
'Well, do you have a girlfriend yet?’ barked my Grandmother, her jewellery clanging against the teacup she held in a garishly painted hand. She was not a woman of subtlety.
‘No’ I grinned. ‘Not yet Grandma’.
She had asked this before, but not for a while. Such a long time, in fact, that I had almost forgotten the need to be watchful. I’m a terrible liar – well, I think I’m a terrible liar but one can’t judge that skill independently – so whenever required to lie quickly I always seem to falter. Not that she paid enough attention to me to notice when I was lying. As could be assumed by the various brash adornments my Grandmother was so fond of wearing – bright lipstick, heavy earrings – she was not one for paying too much attention to the appearances of anyone other than herself.
‘There’s plenty of time. No need to worry, son’ said my Granddad, mollifying as always.
He had to be, I suppose, to marry my Grandmother. They both sat in the dining room of my family home, drinking tea and attempting to take a sincere interest in my life. It wasn’t that they didn’t care. Rather, when I told them I was going to study Classics they seemed to decide that, from then on, they would restrict our topics of discussion to things they actually understood. This, unfortunately, didn’t leave a great many things to talk about.
I do not see my Grandparents very often; so little that I apparently completely forget the familial necessity of hiding my sexuality from them. My visits to them, or they to me, are punctuated with long, forgetful periods of absence without, might I add, any other communication. No letters. No phone calls. Silence and then, thrust together once again, idle chatter. This was our current situation.
Not that it was awkward. They never changed, my grandparents. That, I think, was the problem. I’m always changing: new interests, new clothes, new...boyfriends. Whereas my Granddad has worn the same flat cap for thirty years and drunk at the same pub for forty. The idea that a person could develop a new interest or style or liking for an exotic drink was, to them, quite foreign. With them I drank only tea – milk, two sugars. To do anything else would be to incite a flurry of questioning from my Grandmother, a fate I would do almost anything to avoid. I don’t even like tea.
Still, it was a little troubling, hiding one of the only facets of my life they might actually take an interest in. Homosexuals at almost any point in history, excepting only the past fifteen or twenty years, would find my trouble at concealment quite laughable. Though I don’t like to admit it, I am probably far more obvious than I would like. Since high school I haven’t seen much point in masking my more…theatrical tendencies. Nothing horrific like wearing neon or liking pop music. Just certain mannerisms which, in the company of men who might find attraction from someone of the same sex a personal affront rather than a compliment, aren’t terribly advisable to display. It wasn’t anything restrictive. Persecution hasn’t haunted my life, as it would have thirty years ago. For that, I know I am very lucky.
Clearly I couldn’t be completely honest. It’s in our blood, prejudice: that unfortunate generational facility to pass on our errors of judgement to our children, and they to theirs. It is odd, though, how with time even the most strictly enforced parental rules can come to seem draconian. Time slowly grinding down our collective mistrust like erosion to a cliff-face. I looked at the clock: a quarter to three. It takes a while though, the grinding. It seemed unlikely that by this afternoon my Grandparents' inherited distrust of gay people would fade enough for me to be honest with them, sadly.
‘Anyway, I best be going. I told my friends I’d meet them in town’
She smiled. For a moment she looked almost youthful, as if I could tell her anything and it would be met with a cool indifference. But then her face changed, wrinkles puckered around her lips and all the youth went out of her.
‘We’ll come visit you, won’t we Derek?’
My Granddad nodded. He was already putting his cap on.
‘It was good to see you’ she said.
‘You too Grandma’
The apple tree in the garden brushed its coarse limbs against the house causing a strange, trembling groan to pulse through the room. Tell them. Tell them now.
‘Goodbye!’ I said, closing the door.