Dear Linear Time by Bruce Bauman
August 20, 2019
To celebrate SLICE’s Issue 24: Time, we’re featuring an excerpt of a work in progress by acclaimed author Bruce Bauman: “Dear Linear Time.”
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“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
Dear Linear Time,
In another era I would’ve addressed you as God, but your silence throughout the history of humanity renders me incapable of making Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” and has made you, God, at best, irrelevant, and most certainly nonexistent in the form of Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah. So I address you as Linear Time—my adversary in this process called life. Time may bend in Einstein’s universe, but I’m too dim to see that concept, and in my universe it is I who refuse to kneel down in the pew of time’s altar.
Time, I have feared you since childhood. Like so many insomniacs, I fight to stay awake, afraid I’ll suffer sleep suffocation and never awaken or become brain-dead.
In the nonlinear timelessness of sleep and dreams, the past, present, and future are one, and when I arise this sleep dimension collides with my waking life and I must form a new reality. I spent years as a slovenly flaneur, nearly paralyzed by the duality of troubled sleep and painful waking hours. I lived in a rent-controlled apartment. If you knew the right spots, you could eat well and cheaply. New York was its own live theater. I took jobs that I could quit—if I didn’t get fired first—so as soon as I saved enough money, I bounded off to foreign lands or imaginary unnamed places inside my head. I wielded Gregory Corso’s idea that “standing on the street corner waiting for no one is power.” I thought it would be a shield against or a denial of time’s power. It took decades to see Corso was wrong, at least for me. Prolonged idleness sapped me of power. I needed to walk across the street, needed someone to meet. For years I’d told myself: I’m thinking, observing, preparing for Life. Suddenly, one morning, the new reality declared that my life was half over.
I claimed, with more pretension than irony, that I was a professional loafer—like Larry Darrell in Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, hinting at a deeper quest. I was both truthful and full of shit. When I reread my diaries I see that fear was my best friend and my crutch. Fear of succeeding. Fear of failing. Fear of living and fear of dying. Fear of loving. I was free to wander physically yet paralyzed internally as I searched for something indefinable. And then the ultimate epiphany: time, you are my enemy and my best friend. I can’t live without you.
I accept that time is undefeated, yet I will go down fighting. Ever searching for ways to escape your mind trap.
Time, I defy your linearity with every page I write. I recall pasts that I remember and create pasts that I don’t; I careen into futures not yet lived. Time, you cannot be recaptured—but as long as I can put words to paper, you can be reimagined and are not yet lost.
I stare into your vacuum, knowing one day I will be sucked into your nothingness, but, I swear, our duel is not yet over.
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- “Dear Linear Time” is an excerpt from The True Story of My Fictional Life, a work in progress by Bruce Bauman. Bauman is the author of the novels Broken Sleep and And The Word Was.