Monday, December 15, 2003

Mome Raths

Graduate school subtracts ten years from your financial and emotional maturity. Or so a fellow grad school traveler once told me, as he and I marveled at the surge of college friends marrying and breeding without us. So am I a decade younger than my peers? Or a decade behind?

A hairdresser's magazine had the answer. Turns out a divorce adds ten years to your life. So, like Alice and the queen, I made the sprint, yet stayed in place.

Time slips, stutters, bends. Every time you turn around, or stand long enough in a supermarket check-out, you’ll find the tests to discern your "real age." 'Fess up your naughty habits. Try not to stretch your virtues. And maybe it turns out that, although you’re a chronological 31, your love of kale and propensity for washing your hands has kept you a biological 27. Or else—alas!—your job as a coalminer and your weakness for cheese curds make you a biological 49. Do you prefer dark chocolate and lift weights? Younger! Do you hate your job and drive a wee car? Older! Now send us your address and $29.95 and we’ll send you a complete nutritional analysis…

Time twists, lunges, hides its face.

Last week, I went “home,” which is to say that I went to my parents’ house. And that home is a good place, although I do have a hard time finding my “real age” within it. Home time is a teaser. The hours of the day creep, then race. One moment I’m a child, her high-floating voice full of question marks. And the next, I’ve darted ahead of all our moments. From the other side of our looking glass, I double-see all present interactions with elegiac ache.

I was stuck “home” on account of a snow storm. And that’s only fitting, since snow storms were, once upon a time, a happy phenomenon that could derail time out of time. A worthy snow storm would toss out the quotidian rhythms of school and practices and merrily lump you in. You could linger all afternoon in pajamas and drink a book by the window and not even be aware—until another’s exclamation about ruined eyes—that early winter shadows had sneaked in and killed the day.

Time rubs its eyes. Time’s belly growls.

Through four hours and perhaps forty radio stations I drove north toward a different home, in Central New York. The earth slid from white to whiter and deeper and, oh, to have just a moment’s sleep in all that snow.

I walked back through our door and all seems too perfectly remembered here, so harmoniously outside-of-time. You are real but you are not real. Because, if you are real, my love, what happens to them? But there is this mottled brown kitchen floor. And there are these cats, and the familiar scent in his skin. There is no stereoscope to make these two homes, two selves blend to one. No stereoscope. No cross-eyed clock. No galumphing forward or back, just home.


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