BACK DATE

At 8:30 in the morning, every other morning, I report for a standing meeting with the department. The fact that it is a meeting, in which we stand, around a little white board, is a matter of some amusement to me alone. We stand around a little white board and explain the timing of our projects. We back date the projects – 2 days till creative, 4 days for printing, 1 day for fulfillment, two weeks for mailing. We assign resources based on those dates. It is important to have foresight in this line of work. It is essential and expected of us, to take the time to talk about time so the timing on our projects coalesce and whir like the separate gears of a giant clock.

I remember in the shadow of your room there were no clocks. There was one on the VCR in the living room, and although it was an hour slow it was the only connection I had with knowing when my classes would begin, whether or not I deemed to attend them.

I remember your room had a door one-third too small for the opening, so we were in danger of passer bys peering through and seeing us even in the compromises of some spontaneous passion. I remember it had no ceiling. You had a parachute tacked up above to keep visitors from the rafters descending on us unwanted as we slept on transparent grappling lines like unwanted dreams. The parachute caught them.

Your bed was on the floor. It was a 6 inch piece of industrial foam cut roughly the width of your own body, so lying next to you, as I did for two years, meant sleeping half on your person and half on the straw mat next to your bed. I became surprisingly used to this inconvenience, this lack of comfort. If the accommodations were not plush, you were. In the brashness of my youth I took to holding your breast in one hand. The prod of your nipple in my palm the smell of your neck and the brush of your hair were all that I needed in the way of worldly comfort. There were no reliable clocks. I had fallen into a fairy ring and could sleep all day next to you and immune to the world outside your small cranking window.

I primarily check my phone now for time. I have never cared for watches—I can’t stand the binding around my wrist. After losing many serviceable options of varying attractiveness based on my tendency to cast them off and throw them on any clean surface I gave up the wearing of a watch as a bad job. Now I have my phone, and if the battery is dead my computer, and if that’s closed, the department clock, or if I have no inclination to stand up and look at it, I fancy I can measure times passage by the regular clicking of keys, lifting and falling of telephone receivers from the workers on all sides of my cube. Like insects in a hive we sit unnaturally close but do not as a rule talk to each other. There are deadlines to meet, and we are all deadly serious.

I remember snaking my arm around your waist and holding fast to your bosom, as I did, somewhat crudely for over two years lying on the rough straw mat next to you. It became so you couldn’t sleep without my groping you. It was a strange pact between us. I knew you were unfaithful to me at every possible opportunity, but in your dreams you were mine. I held you, and you wanted to be held, in that space where there is no motion of planets, no regular secession of moments. It was one interminable moment when you were mine, looking into your soul while sleeping, knowing that this time would pass too.

By 11AM I’ve enjoyed four meetings this past Monday. I sit dully taking in what I can. The important part is that I spring on the correct information, grab deftly by the nape of the neck, and go for the kill. All else falls beneath my notice. I am still as an insolent jungle predator, for hours in the midday heat, motionless waiting for the right moment to exert my power. I do what they cannot. I can create. I can make decisions, distinctions, life, project, time out of time. They know this. But for all that my esteemed peers would as a whole rather see me gone. It’s 11AM and it’s time for me to discuss again with my manager my time management skills, or rather lack thereof.

You were an unreal creature to me. Your skin was impossibly supple, every angle turned up to catch the light most favorably. There was a dweomer about you of a changeling princess—a girl touched by sadness so young, that in your defense you learned to change from day to day, moment to moment. As a child you could become invisible; as a young lady you could become the incarnation of the desires of men, dark lips, dark eyes, dark hair, and a smile that killed willing prey. I felt sure I would die to touch you, and that I would die if I ever did.

I couldn’t stand the changes, so I kept hold of you firmly. All day and all night, if I stayed with you, with one hand around your waist and one around your breast, I could keep you in human form. Not a series of moments but one elongated moment. I remember you woke up early and tried to sneak out of the room before dawn, leave me slumbering in your house with your family who hated me, so you could run to the city to meet your estranged lady friend. You had so many “friends.” It was never a question of “if,” it was a question of the circumstances arising with the same certain answer. Every new situation called for a new lover, or a series of new lovers. My teachers, my bosses, my friends, my counselors, my enemies, all rivals for your desire, and I accepted it. I had a single spell at my disposal, one to hold you still in thrall for the run of the night. You would come back to me after being with them and cry and I would hate you but you were mine and I would hold you, hold you still long enough to sleep.

I don’t remember when the spell was broken. We had traveled a hundred thousand miles; changed addresses six times, made our home everywhere, and sometimes had no home except my car. Time passed, I was a stranger to everyone that used to know me, but I had not changed since the day I met you. Not grown up, though grown older. I was in the woods of Western Pennsylvania, having gained enough lucidity to quit my night job and try to finish school. You had moved out, fallen in love with some lawyer from D.C. twice our age. Predictably, you were back, looking for the spell again, the soporific mixture I could give you to help you sleep. You didn’t want me during the day, but you needed me at night, and you couldn’t stay away long.

You found me on campus, took me back to your new place where you were living with some woman (were you sleeping with her? It didn’t matter at that point.) We cried. We talked. We had sex, and I selfishly turned on the chameleon in you, made you the fulfillment of my desire. And I turned to go.

“You win,” you said. “You’re cooler than me now.” I knew it was meant to sting but it didn’t matter. I had no more medicinal elixers for you; I couldn’t accept your pain any longer. I walked away, long shadows trailing from house to campus, and your adventure had to continue without me as your apothecary and mendicant.

There was a new intern today. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark lips, skin impossibly supple. I met you as I have in one hundred other people, doppelgangers haunting me with shadows. This you called me “sir”. I am no longer the brooding Heathcliff. No longer the Faustian hero, lean and dark. My time has past. I smile at you and you have no idea why.

It’s nearly the end of the day. I’m well past deadline. I need to back date my projects, keep them on schedule, make every step click into the next in a continuous motion that takes me from here to there. My room has clocks now, many of them. But in the shadow there is a room with no clocks, and no time means no definitive beginning or end. Perhaps I am still sleeping next to you. Perhaps I always will be.

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2 Responses to “BACK DATE”

  1. I do not tear up easily…this made me tear up.

    Like

  2. wow…it’s been a while since I’ve read this… thank you. (it really was exactly like it reads. any embellishments are from time and memory, not from me)

    Like

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