Today I experienced a disassociation. It was fleeting, but for the moment I had it, I felt it intensely. I was at the library working as usual, but today, while I sat behind the circulation counter, I stared at Jesse, my co-worker. Particularly the cuff of her blouse against her wrist. As I did this—and it didn’t last more than 3 seconds—reality faded. I didn’t know who I was, where I was, or what I was doing there. My hand, I remember, was on my face at the time, but it no longer made sense to me that I could have such a thing as a hand, or that it could be touching such a thing as a face. The feeling was jolting. I snapped out of it, thankfully, almost immediately.
I don’t know what brought this on. It may be my sense of rootlessness here. I am leaving soon. Leaving the library, leaving Naperville. My time here is short: two weeks. And so the liminal nature of the places I’m used to being, the people (Jesse!) I’m used to seeing, is weighing heavily on me. I can count on my fingers how many more times I will see this building, these people, and then they will fade into the ether.
It reminds me of the period when time stopped making sense to me. I had a period of time off work. It was a remodeling period at this sandwich shop I worked at while I was an undergrad. I must have been 20 then. Because of my financial condition, I mostly stayed near to my apartment. Because of the monotony of my days, and the lack of anything to do, the days stopped meaning anything to me. Saturday was the same as Wednesday was the same as Friday. I stopped understanding what a second was, or why it was, or how I interacted with it. I had a short, manic burst of fear (the fear that I was going mad, I should say), which subsided quickly, but it wasn’t until later when I learned that time moves in the direction that disorder increases that I began to feel that time made sense.
But my thoughts on time really began one day at a rest area on a US Interstate. I was driving downstate—heading to Memphis, actually—and stopped for a break. I realized when I got out of the car and saw a lake surrounded by a white fence directly behind the restroom building, that I had been to the rest area once before with my family, when I was a child. I stood on the same spot where I had stood when I was younger and for me, at that moment, I felt like no time had passed. That time had somehow folded and those two points in time became connected, and the ten to fifteen years between the two times I had stood next to that lake never existed. I felt I may as well have never left.
I don’t know how to end this, or if this will make any sense to you, but I will share a question from a song by Mickey Newbury: “Did God make time to keep it all from happening at once?”