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    15 MIN READ

    Until Time is Done with Us

    “O plunge your hands in water, Plunge them in up to the wrist; Stare, stare at the basin, And wonder what you’ve missed”- As I Walked Out One Evening, W.H Auden 1907-1973

    Time is the dagger wedged between your shoulder blades. Our days are filled with chores and accessories, we ponder and wrestle with reason and get married. When we have a spare moment, we zoom out and realise that we are living on a rock, floating in space, forever held in the stronghold of a clock. We use Time like a measuring dish, keeping track of the changes in our reality. I wonder, what kind of feeling does the concept of Time stir in you?

    I think I will love the man I met at the local club forever. His sleek black hair, kind eyes, soft laugh, love for the ocean. I think when I am eighty I will look back at that man who peered into my heart when I was twenty-two and I will recall how fast the street was spinning that one time we caught the train home after spending hours drinking at the Easter Show, even though I will never catch the train with him again. A ghost on my shoulder gifted by Time, a piercing moment imprinted onto something deeper than my conscious mind.

    Forever is a revolver. Forever is a whisper. Forever is a question with no answer. If I were, perhaps, to love that man forever, would it diminish any other love my heart curates? Is forever from now until I am eighty or is forever alive even when my flesh is dust? If our organs were once a star and one day our meat suit will be buried in dirt, what residue does Time leave on our heart and how much does it matter?

    The layers of the self are built on the back of Time. Today, tomorrow, never. Who I have not become is just as important as who I have become, and who I have become has taken the saddle from the person who rode before. A self is like this: we are born and we are someone, we grow up and we are someone else, we grow old and we are another entirely. The selves stitch together but they also smother one another. The person I was at twenty-two, who fell for a man made of the ocean, is not the person who sits and writes these words. I can recall her, I can summon her memories and make them live again through this body today, but in every other sense, she is gone. The layers don’t look like an onion so much as they look like soil. Each new self buries the layer before. We can dig and retrieve, but the soil will always keep slipping and covering like a landslide until Time is done with us.

    Within the womb of Time, there is chance. Life spins on this axis of chance. Sometimes, things happen that keep us trapped, suffocated, forever withering within moments that should have long since faded into the rearview mirror. There are tiny, single minutes across the Time continuum that separate our existences from each other; tiny, single minutes that are held as important markers to distinguish material matters and social hierarchy. There is little separating us from being behind our neighbour’s fence, only whispering Time and its subtle repercussions.

    Often, Time shouts and decides who ends up on which side of the fence. We hear it’s call and in panic, we grip onto what Time has made of us. We build our fences higher, construst them strong, shield what we have with all our might. We do our best to stop what we have built from being stripped from us and plant boulders between one another. All the while ignoring the whisper that asks us why there are fences between us at all. Borders and politics and reasons: all fences that we craft from steel. Is it because it is the same way that the younger self remembers the first heartbreak and does not want to risk a repeat shattering? Is it because we are afraid that Time is coming for us all? Because we know, deep down, that everything we hold onto too tight – including Time – will be taken from us in the end?

    Who I have not become is just as important as who I have become, and who I have become has taken the saddle from the person who rode before.

    Some know Time more than others. Some can feel its ricocheting heartbeat, the way it either thrashes you around or lets you float along its shoreline.

    The student laughs and it’s more of a dry chuckle. His arms are wrapped in prison green fleece. It keeps him warm, in order. “You think we have locks on our doors?” He looks out the window, seeing something others cannot, and contemplates how he spends his Time outside of the barbed wire. “They don’t care about us enough to give us locks on our doors.”

    Some selves have battled with Time and cannot outrun it, and do not want to. Some moments happen and we do not know, in the moment, that they are amounting to our demise. Not all of them are choices, many are chances, decided by which side of the fence we reside on. Some odds are stacked against Time.

    Another day in another classroom with a different boy a different sentence is uttered. Not to me, to one of his fellow classmates. “I do my Time easy.” his lips curve up to the right but his eyes do not glimmer.

    The other boy is listening. He had been talking of the future, talking of his niece’s first birthday party that he missed last month, the landscaping job he has waiting for him upon his release: the pieces of himself that sit idle while Time does its laps.


    I type a question into Google and the ink on my flesh stands out to me. There is a tattoo on my left hand reading Memento Mori. Though my skin is an inky patchwork, those two words are the ones that get the most attention. Google tells me that Time can be defined as, “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.” In an era when moral and political progress seems redundant and wars are being waged without regard for the lifetime of a single individual, should we not use our own days to remember how mortal we are, and how swiftly Time teaches?


    It does not always take steel bars for us to sit on the sidelines while Time scores a goal. Life spins and Time chases. Each minute we inch closer to our expiration and we continue to fold the laundry. We have rules and structure and we mustn’t stray from our strict schedule that we should adhere to: learn the alphabet, find a lover, make a family. Any deviation could cause us serious harm.

    “You can’t think like that,” the first boy responds, “You forget about everything else and you can do your Time easy, like me.”


    I do my time easy

    Sometimes it feels impossible to forget everything else and do your Time easy, and sometimes it is not wise to do so. There is a certain cadence to remembering every single moment that has brought you to your knees, worth to be found in every stupid decision, and a holiness to every sin we’ve committed. It is worth it to let anger rumble at the injustices we see, to never forget the lessons our history books taught us. 

    You forget what Time has brought you and Time does not gift you with its grace. Instead, it chases you, because Time is hungry for you. Time does not care that you cannot live with your shame or your guilt or your sadness. Time does not stop if you do not forgive yourself. Time will make sure your life keeps spinning and that your moments fly by. Time does not want you to wipe the slate clean, Time knows better than that. Time wants you to remember everything so that you grab each day by the throat. 

    Time gives us lessons even when we are living out the consequences of our errors, and Time is less concerned with which side of the fence you were born on.

    I wonder, what kind of feeling does the concept of Time stir in you? Almost everyone I asked disclosed some sort of apprehension. Time passing is a source of anxiety. It is fleeting and abrupt and we do not notice its passage until we inspect the wrinkles it has conjured around our laugh lines. Time passing is a golden noose to be feared. It is momentum swinging its fist and years slipping by while torpid hours make us whine. We are helpless victims to a concept of our own making, and endlessly shudder at the fear of never having enough of it. 

    Time fills me with a sense of curiosity, and an urging rush to get everything done as soon as possible. It is a pocket of dread that sits in my ribcage, and a surge of regret at how much of it I have relinquished to melancholy and worry. Time whips my head around, begs me to spend it wiser, and then murmurs in my ear that nothing is ever wasted. Time asks me to slow down and notice it all unfolding before it forces my hand. 

    I have a new group of students and they are sitting around the table while I try to innocently glean as much as I can about their lives. These are the moments I can use to witness who they are and what Time has made of them. They ask me what memento mori means, and then shiver when I tell them it means remember death. They ask me if I’m a witch, if I’m depressed. I laugh and tell them that it reminds me to value my life. When they are still unconvinced, I tell them that they do not value their lives. They are confused and ask me how. I tell them, “Because you do not value your own Time. You waste it here and give up your freedom.” They are quiet for a moment until one of them says, “It’s kind of better for us in here,” and then I realise that contemplating Time is a luxury. Some only spend it looking for their next meal and a safe place to sleep. I think about how in the novel Boy Swallows Universe, an ex-criminal teaches the young narrator that he must “do your Time, before Time does you.”

    What kind of feeling does the concept of Time stir in you? One friend says that when looking back, all she can feel is disbelief. Even though she is one of the bravest people I know, she tells me that hope walks side by side with dread when she allows herself to think about her future. Another friend tells me that she is excited for Time now that she is in love. One tells me to listen to a Pink Floyd song, and that he does believe for the most part our wounds are healed by our unfolding days. And someone else tells me that considering the question brings their attention back to the present moment. To now. To the hours that feel so long and empty but are filled with so much that we will one day look back on.

    I can always feel the sharp claws of Time digging into my flesh, but I will never forget how in Sonnet 19 Shakespeare wrote “Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws, And make the earth devour her own sweet brood… do thy worst, old Time! Despite thy wrong, My love shall in my verse ever live young”.

    I wonder what it is that makes our lifetimes worth it and how we continue to live despite the fear that nips at our ankles, but I do not have to wonder long, because in its brutality is its beauty. We are both what we do with Time, and what Time does with us. We live with its pinch in our shoulderblade. Each self dies but is not dead. Every person we did not become gets its own spot at the altar. We reminisce and we wince and we dance even though our past selves have stumbled. When we are eighty, we may look back at the love lost and gained and squandered, at the mistakes made and the lessons learned, and realise we have been fortunate enough to bear witness to the expedition of our own passage of Time: at the love we allowed ourselves to feel and the freedoms we never stopped fighting for; the grocery store trips with children who grow up too fast; the time we dunked our head beneath the ocean waves; the reality shows we binged; the Christmas dinners with our grandparents; our voice croaking at the protest; the tireless hours at a desk; the mundane moments that eased the ghosts on our peripheral. Time conquers all, but if our organs were once a star and one day our meat suit will be buried in dirt, then the unremarkable things we do everyday will soon become the flowers that grow from the ground our great-grandchildren plant.

    If we are not lucky, we live within the cage of Time, forever stuck in its revolver just waiting for the fatal blow. Living as if the sand slipping in the hour-glass is a bomb instead of a blessing. I think of the Pink Floyd lyrics, “No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking” and I think about the people on all sides of every fence who can do nothing with Time except survive. I think about how luck has so much to do with it, and how if we are granted the chance, if we choose to learn and grow and let the soil nourish what once was, Time washes away our sins until they are only soft spokes of wisdom.

    Courtney Zerafa is a freelance writer who lives just outside of Sydney, Australia. When she isn’t living out the consequences of her gilded desire, she is tending to her multiple fur babies and human baby. You can spill your heart out to her via Instagram, or you can let her spill her heart out to you on her blog