Friday, March 5, 2010

Turned Against Time

When the sun shone on his back it was hard to imagine the rain cutting into his flesh and thick beard, but it had happened in the past and it would happen again. Nonetheless, he sat on the wall with his shades over his eyes and a fisherman’s hat to protect his face and felt as though this were the only day that he would ever have to live, this afternoon of sun.
Behind him the clock tower of the ferry building rose high and aloof, a reminder of the passage of time, a master so certain of its hold over its subjects that it had no need for chains of steel. It did its binding by merely showing them this moon white face scarred with roman numerals. It was enough to send the ant-like people below scurrying across the streets and in and out of the buildings and onto buses or into cars, or down to underground trains.
Only a handful of black sheep were beyond the reach of this invisible tether, among them this bearded man sitting on the wall under his hat and shades. He had a red suitcase, and some money gotten by skilled begging. Maybe he would take a Greyhound to Santa Barbara soon and lay around on the green grass and stare at the ocean, but these plans were not foremost on his mind.
Like a goose that has made itself fat on the local fish, the tick tock of seconds or even the passage of days did not move him. It was the passage of seasons that dictated his migration, a feeling that would grow in him slowly, germinating under the sun and withering as the days grew shorter and darker. Eventually that withering would manifest in him as an urge to flee southward, away from the chill.
Today, however, was a warm day, an eternal moment of sublime heat and light. He could not have told you whether it was August or June or Tuesday or Wednesday, nor would he sink so low as to invoke any of the numbers, the date or time, even with that towering devil looking over his shoulder. If you had asked him the time of day he would merely have shook his head, never sparing the clock a backward glance, but then again, you, with your wrist bound in a watchband and your eye trained on that grand clock tower, would never need to ask. He would not even presume to know what season you thought it was, you with your calendar announcing the first days of each turn of the year.
His seasons were measured in his bones and they hadn’t names like summer and winter and fall, they were only now and another now and then another. And now he was here and it was warm and he could not even imagine the icy sting of rain, sitting as he was on this wall with his back turned against time.

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