Life is long. How can someone fill up all the time? Sure, a third goes to the sandman, and smaller fractions devote themselves to eating and bathing and arguments and other forms of general maintenance, but still, you’re left with long thick swaths of rolling time, like the wrinkled bedclothes on your grandparents’ bed. The far edge of the sheet is barely visible from where you’re jumping, up by the pillows, never mind the shoes set formal, attentive and parallel, far below, on the floor.
Clearly, when I say “you” and “your” and “you’re”, I mean “I” and “my” and “I’m”, and the bed is the bed of my parents’ parents, one set or the other; in this sense, grandparents are interchangable. Of course their bed was expansive. The grandparents were expansive. They had to be. After all, they produced my parents, and look how large they are! At least to start. As is the case with almost all forms of matter, grandparents start out large, and shrink. See also: parents. And amusement parks. And kitchen tables. And museum exhibits. And gallons of milk and family dogs and cars and trees (though trees can be tricky) and anything else you can think of.
Such is the nature of the world.
I am not setting out to deny the principle of growth, because that would be madness. Obviously I am larger than I was (sometimes in unflattering ways). Obviously my shape has changed to accomodate my added mass. But at the same time, I am a finite thing, with a clear and well-documented beginning. My mother took many pictures of me, some of them in the bath. I was very small then. And –as if to prove my point for me – some of these pictures show me with one or another of my grandparents. Comparison is easy, and the conclusion is irrefutable: my grandparents were much bigger than me. Possibly as much as eight or nine times my size. Sometimes I am surprised I wasn’t eaten or inhaled by mistake.
Of course I was treated with, if not always the utmost care, at least a passing regard. “Mind the baby,” the adults might say to each other, as they swallowed beasts whole and drained rivers to slake their thirsts. I think, as a toddler, I hid in the tread of one of my grandfather’s boots for a day and a half. I don’t put much stock in that particular memory though, as it seems a bit outlandish. Of course my mother claims that at about the same time, I loved sugar beets. I have no memory of this, and my supposed love of sugar beets seems as incredible as hiding in the grooves of my grandfather’s giant shoe. I can only assume that the early years of my (and by extension, anyone’s) life are somewhat malleable and prone to misremembrance by people of all sizes.
Whatever dangers I endured as a tiny child, I grew. And the only concurrent conclusion that can be drawn is that grandparents shrank. Not uniformly or in some clear and quantifiable pattern, but in some entropic arc that would mock attempts to plot its points. They definitely don’t have the size advantage they did when I was small. How could they? Exactly.
Perhaps perspective plays a role. Perhaps I was a giant baby and some combination of atmospheric conditions, parallax and belief-science caused the distorted photos that are the only record of my diminutive childhood. I had some haircuts that can only be explained by way of camera trickery, that’s to be sure. I guess in the end, the physical nature of the problem doesn’t really matter. The universe contains mechanisms for alleviating the effects of the disparity. All sides of the equation are balanced. And here I am now, larger than my mother’s mother but smaller than an elephant. Smaller even than a baby elephant. This is the way of things, and I know my place.
The only thing that stays big is time. Even when I have fun, and the time is flying as they say, it is large: I’m surprised by how much of it I’ve used up while distracted. And it’s large when I wish I could burn through it. Like when I’m writing training rubrics for the junior associates and the hands of my clock (yes, my work clock still has hands, because my line of work treasures unnecessary motion) creak under the strain of pushing those gigantic seconds around the face. Clocks are perpetually chagrined by the ease of moving time when we don’t notice, and the difficulty of moving time when they are being watched. A sort of performance anxiety, I suppose, or a physical law that proves out my whole “shrinking and growing” hypothesis. Time must have some very strange mass.
Consider also that heavy time is slow and long. Maybe the dark matter of the universe is all that slow long heavy time, all those boring lectures and bank lines, traffic jams and Friday afternoons spreading out to fill the deepest spaces, pushing the stars apart, weighing down the universe. Time cannot be very dense, because space is very big, and the amount of time appears to be inexhaustible. More time arrives every second, from wherever it originates, and yet the universe doesn’t collapse in on itself. Eventually the universe could implode; I think I’ve read articles to that effect. But no one (as yet) has attributed the death of everything to the weight of time, and when they speak of time accumulating and killing by sheer quantity, they are speaking of time in a different way, using different scales. And still there is so much of it. So much of it left. So much of it left over and wasted.
I guess I’m saying that crossword puzzles are not enough. Stamp collecting is not enough. Building ships in bottles is a step in the right direction, a valiant effort, but again: not enough. Watchmaking would seem to exacerbate the problem, at least on the metaphorical level. Existing as we do, saturated with time, we need an activity that will act as a sponge and soak up the excess, put it to good use. Someone will find the answer. I am certain of it.