Kage Baker regulated her emotional life like clockwork – a carefully maintained series of gears and weights and counterweights and cunning escapements. Those aren’t ways of getting away; they are clever little devices that make toothed gears … pause … for a fraction of time.
That stops the inevitable progress of the unwinding of the clockwork, and makes it possible for a clock to keep time at an even rate. Instead of erratically winding down all its energy at once, or freezing for random periods of time, the entire process is regulated: one moment at a time, each one the same, which we arbitrarily call “seconds”. And thus feral Time is portioned into tame minutes, hours, days, weeks, months.
Mind you, clockwork is not all that precise: even with escapements as fine as a butterfly’s antennae, gears as minutely detailed as lace. The actual discrete pieces of Time are something we all agree on, as a polite fiction. And it doesn’t matter whether those discrete pieces are seconds calculated by master horologists or the level of the day’s sunlight sliding down that crooked tree where old Uncle passed out after that one party …. it’s agreed on by our entire society, and that’s all most of us consider.
Kage, however, expected her personal time to flow precisely the way she wanted it. She had a profound disinterest in that polite societal fiction. Good times were supposed to last; bad times were expected to have the good grace to speed past. She didn’t want Time to fly while she was having a good time – she wanted it to sit still and last. And, amazingly – or not, if you knew Kage – she managed to make Time actually do that a lot of the – well, time.
Faire was the most obvious example. While we did Faire, the weekends appeared to last about 8 days – endless mornings and afternoons under the changing shadows of the oaks, endless nights under stars, by lantern-light. The weekdays between, conversely, zipped by so fast one barely had time to do the laundry. We never really unpacked, during a Faire; we lived out of variously furnished luggage,
Time spent writing went on forever, too: many more than 24 hours in a day. Or in a night, when Kage absolutely had to sleep; rest, too, went on forever, as rejuvenating as a river fed from a bottomless spring.
It’s why she never paid attention to the face of a clock. I don’t know what she actually saw, but it wasn’t 5 or 10 or 43 minutes. It was however much time she needed to accomplish what she wanted to do. It was my problem, usually, to make that time fit into the amount of real time it took to get to work, or finish a novel, or do three loads of laundry … I gave up on the entire thing in our 30’s, and lied to her about what time it was and how long it took to get somewhere. And yet, Time still stretched and contracted like a rubber band on acid in her vicinity; I just went along with it.
It still goes on. In fact, I have come to rely on it for many things. Fair still lasts for days every weekend, while the intervening days flash by – I wouldn’t change that, because I’d rather spend more time in Dickens’ London and Extreme Christmas instead of 21st century America. Little Nell and Tiny Tim are alive and well there; while famous and beloved people are dropping like flies around here.
This weekend was Opening Weekend of the Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party. Snow and tinsel! Colored lights and stained glass! The dance party in Fezziwig’s warehouse, all of Scrooge’s ghosts in his terrified nightmares! Roast chestnuts, roast beef, roast coffee beans scenting the air, along with all the spices and perfumes of Araby! Dancers, singers, sailors, soldiers, costermongers and kids rolling hoops and sulking thugs and really very friendly and not-too-respectable ladies! Cheery people of all classes and descriptions going about wishing happily confused Americans “Happy Christmas!” And Charles Dickens himself pacing through the crowd in his enormous top hat, while Queen Victoria might be processing by on any afternoon, followed by royal children and German princes.
Anyone would want it to last for days. And oh, it was glorious!
At the same time, though … there is the constant absence of Kage herself. I am always turning to speak to her, and finding myself talking to memory and cinnamon-scented air. She always seems to be just behind my right shoulder, never saying anything but just about to …
And yesterday – just about the time we opened, I found out later – an old friend, dear to me as a son, died. He was dying, we knew it, but – there was supposed to be time. There was supposed to be a warning, when I could have gone North to Seattle to be with him; he wanted to throw his own wake, so he’d have a chance to enjoy it. He was supposed to outlive the Winter. But, like Kage, the time promised was not the time given – it all fled past at triple pace, and I didn’t even know he was gone until the next morning.
A mercy to me, really; or at least, not as much of a loss as to his wife and children. I got another endless day of thinking he was alive, planning my trip to see him, to say goodbye. But in the meantime, Time went on at its own pace, and fooled me once again.
Half full, half-empty – who cares how full the glass is, as long as you can share it with the ones you love? It doesn’t matter if a day lasts 3 hours or 42, if you can just spend one more with your beloveds.
And there will never be any more of those than we are dealt. No, not though we cry ever so much … Tick. Tock. Tick.