Updated: Dec 24, 2021
Well into the pandemic I noticed the countdown. Inside my left eyelid.
A faint image, like a digital timer flickering. I couldn’t make out distinct digits in the rolling blur of numbers so there was no real way of knowing if it was counting up or down. But my gut knew. Immediately. Things were headed down.
It was impossible to say at what number the countdown had started. No way of knowing when it would end. But the numbers kept spinning. Floating somewhere in my left eye.
A ghost in the machine. In my mind.
That’s not something you tell anyone. Especially when folks are so uptight already. Besides, everyone was counting the days, hours, minutes, seconds until life as we knew it could resume.
Which is bogus. Life as we knew it. That’s gone. You can’t unknow a pandemic. Can’t unknow how fast everything changes.
Maybe that’s what I’m experiencing when I close my left eye. Maybe my internal clock has gone haywire. Or maybe I’m beginning to see what was always out there: the time left.
To me. To us. To the notion of humanity. To the notion of time.
When the pandemic first shut us in our homes, when its covidian rhythms first disrupted our circadian ones, the thought of going off-clock, off calendar, messed with me. Totally disoriented my days.
Then it didn’t. I reoriented. That’s when I confronted the construct we’d lived with long before the virus and all its variants made us vulnerable to our very primitive concept of being.
Past. Present. Future. These are merely conventions humans adopted long, long ago to dodge a dire truth. We’re time bound. Shackled by yesterday, today, tomorrow. Our temporal framework is not an existential cornerstone, it is a cage.
We’ve become perilously time bound.
And we’re all counting down.
I don’t think that’s a startling or brave realization. We’re all on the clock. That’s not a surprise. What spooked me was when the numbers on my left eyelid became sharper, and I could plainly see the countdown clock was actually counting up.
So when does counting up equal counting down?
Think zero. Zero us.
The count under my left eyelid was in sync with the number of worldwide pandemic deaths. And the daily numbers were spinning faster and faster, ripping upwards.
It made me blink.