I am loathe to set my alarm. Not just because I’m a notoriously horrible person in the morning, but because it feels so mechanical, such an affront the natural cycles of the sun and my sleep. I’d honestly rather give a speech to a thousand strangers than wake up to a dissonant sound that rips me from the blissful silence of slumber.
But I punch the pre-dawn hours into my phone anyway, knowing that part of my existence right now is tied to getting to certain buildings at certain times, smiling through the fog of fatigue, mimicking professionalism as accurately as possible to fit in with the other mimes. Time is structure, structure is order, and order is peace. Or so I’ve been told.
My father used to tell me about his watch. It was shiny and expensive, probably of Swiss make; his lifeline to the corporate world, keeping him on-time and in-check no matter what country he landed in. He never talked of it fondly though. When it entered conversation, it was rusted with a bit of disdain, like he hadn’t owned the watch, but vice versa.
He told me of how one day in his late 20s, sitting on a train in Germany, he had realized he’d looked down at his watch six times in one minute. He undid the latch, stuck it in his bag, and never put it back on. In the 27 years I knew him, I never saw a watch on his wrist. He was rarely concerned with being late or being early. I think he knew how he’d grown obsessed with time – the whens, tick by tick, becoming more important than the whos and the whats – and decided that wasn’t a very fun way to live.
I’m not quite at that point, but with many stresses with just as many deadlines, I often feel my heart syncing up with the second hand. I feel guilty when I do something that isn’t productive. I am unable to relax sometimes, knowing that work needs to be done, and that time keeps going whether I do it or not.
But last Saturday night, I sat in the chilly Philadelphia air with one of the best friends I have in the world, sipping sweet stouty raisin and fig from a stemless glass, puffing creamy cherry and red wine from a fat cigar. We celebrated love, life, and love of life, while simultaneously mourning the unfairness of time.
Daylight saving crept in on us as we reclined on that stoop. The clocks lurched across the country in one disharmonious chronological displacement as humans tried their best to control Sol. Something dislodged, came free, from the cogs of our infernal machine.
An hour that didn’t exist, that floated in between the other hours like a ghostly, forgotten thing. A lost hour. A gained hour. An hour where we could just drink, talk, be, the rest of responsibility be damned.
It was the thirteenth hour. And it was so, so good.