TIME TO TAKE STOCK
‘Your time is brief. A single stone’s enough. And a thousand splinters now glitter in a well against whose grey-stone sides there soon play flickering reflections. Which are time. The only time we understand. We see in splinters.’
(From: ‘Sestina’, Lars Gustafsson)
I have an intimate, almost symbiotic, relationship with my wristwatch, worn day and night ever since the last century. It behaves like a cat. When batteries have to be changed, it reacts by a sullen refusal to keep proper time, stopping whenever it feels like it, letting me know I am worse than completely lost. Not without time, but without any reliable time. After a couple of months, having made me aware of my transgression, it seems to have forgiven me, but I can never, ever, be completely sure.
And now the strap has broken. My white left wrist, unaccustomed to the light, blinks. When I wash my hands, I instinctively move my wrist away, so the non-existent watch will not get wet. The strap broke when I started re-reading Brideshead Revisited for the umpteenth time. This was singularly malicious. The book always gets me helter-skeltering through time anyway, and now the signposts have no names on them.
In the Sestina, there is a T.S. Eliot sort of line: ‘All time is eaten up by thoughts of time that was, or something that will happen soon.’ Seize the nettle, grasp the moment is the underlying message. But the moment, freed from time, is a splinter of searing light, a shard. My old eyes cannot endure it – I have to look down. Further down than the flickering.
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