A young chronophobiac and new-born adult quivers on the brink of The Real World, feeling less like a buzzing particle about to be flung out into the universe and more like something that has been chewed up by childhood and not quite spat back out, still slick with time’s saliva; half-digested, unformed.
Twenty-one and still lacking in planetary experience. About to emerge into something strange and sparkly – a career – but just looking down for the brakes, trying to exist. A quarter-life crisis? All groan up.
Each orbit of the sun, each lap of the clock face is quicker than the last. We wish each other “many happy returns”, but you feel the circle getting tighter, constricting each time. Until you realise it has collapsed. Although it has ceased to be vicious, it moves inwards now, towards the centre, a spiral sucking us towards the plughole at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour.
You feel it in the shortening days, in the fading light. We carry it in our eyes, in our dried and withered voices. Striking reminders hang from walls and wrists.
You move as a rower moves – you can’t see where you are going, only where you have come from. Memories snap at your heels, eating at the present, hungry for the future. Even in the moment you feel it start to fade, slipping out from underneath you, endlessly receding into the distance, as you reverse blindly on into the haze of your horizon.
So we try to cling to the moment, hoping that a click of the shutter will make it last longer than just a flash. Trying to pause it all. Folding up and tucking away a brighter and flatter version of the world. But you can’t stop it; we’re here for the ride.
Even now, right now, as your eyes assimilate these words, all that you have just read has already melted into memory.
Hold on. There’s still time.