Work was boring today, as it has been on so many days. Killing time. That’s what we call it when we just do anything, waiting for something more extraordinary to occur. The humdrum spaces we fill with meaningless activities. Staring out the window, watching the clouds go by. Watching the motionless one stand statue stiff, staring at nothing. I have watched him for weeks, as people walk right past as if he were not even there. Sure, they stepped around him, sometimes eyed darted his way, then quickly averted. However, from my office window, I noticed him, because he was almost always there. In the exact same place, but not always. He would be gone for a couple days, then back for four or more. There was one other thing. He turned. I can’t be certain, but over the last couple weeks, without moving, his poison shifted just a couple degrees clockwise. Security footage had confirmed my nagging suspicion. He turned one full revolution in exactly one solar year. Not the adjusted calendar year, but the exact time the earth traveled around the sun.
Watching a man do nothing can only waste so much time. On my desk sat a mahogany and shiny brass nameplate, “John Hammond payroll processing” . Its shine gave me an opportunity to inspect my teeth for remnants of the stuffed grape leaves I had for lunch, and to waste a few more seconds. Scattered around that were the typical array of ‘executive toys’ the clacking balls, that clack clack clack away the minutes between few and far between interruptions. You see as a payroll processor there is really only a busy time around payday. The rest of the time I sat around waiting for someone to complain about something. Hoping someone would burst through the door angry about a mistake, just to break up the monotony. Out there on the sidewalk, this clearly homeless man, seemed like a guru, a baba, a shaman that mastered the art of patience. He did not kill time, he measured it in near immobility. It was one thirty. One thirty seven and forty two seconds, not that accuracy mattered. At five, I would talk to him. I had nothing better to do. Odd how I would mistakenly assume a homeless man who stood still for days on end, would himself have nothing better to do then talk to me.
The day passed slowly, somehow, actually having something to do when the workday ended made time pass much slower. The next several hours were broken up by just two or three calls I answered on autopilot, barely aware of the robotic trained responses I gave to questions I barely heard. Then there were two or three trips to get coffee, expecting that to help make the passage of time more bearable, and the resultant walk down the hall past other quiet or empty offices, past the water cooler where a few coworkers gathered wasting time talking about what they watched on tv while wasting time between getting home from work, and going to bed early enough to be up again for work, to my destination, to relieve my overflowing bladder. That act was the first thing I had done since eating lunch that wasn’t a waste of time.
Feeling relieved, with a new bounce to my step, I headed back towards my office. A glance at my watch told me I had only forty five minutes left. Opening my office door something felt wrong. My eyes darted around the room from filing cabinets to desk drawers, to all the objects on the desk trying to figure out what was amiss. Then it became clear. He was moving. There had been days when he was just not there, only to reappear, but I had never seen him come or go. Now, he had chosen to go. His left foot had reached the curb, and his right was lifting on its way towards the pavement and crossing the street. Suddenly there was not enough time. Without even entering my office to grab my briefcase or phone, I ran towards the elevator and stairs. It was urgent to take the quickest route. The execs from upstairs would be scurrying from floor to floor tying up the elevator, stopping at every floor. The stairs, adrenaline made a full out run seem the quickest of options. Four stories down, and taking them two steps at a time. One final flight and time running out, I threw myself over the banister to slide the rest of the way down. This was faster than expected, as was my recovery from the tumble after impact with the ground. Breathless I reached the door, flung it open, revealing an empty street. He was nowhere to be seen. Dodging traffic I raced towards the corner, where he had been crossing. The street was empty. Only the Greek eatery where I got the stuffed grape leaves was open, beyond it the alleyway, some dumpsters, and the overpass. He had to have gone that way. There was nowhere else to go.
I was running past the alley when I heard an unmistakable sound. Every liquid flow, from rain to waves crashing on the beach, to babbling brook has its own unique sound. A stream of urine splashing on a wall is no different. Stopping from a full run threw me off balance slamming me into a parked car. “Sorry, sorry, you have no idea how long I needed to do that,” he said. “How long?” I asked, realizing I had watched him all day, and he never took a bathroom, or any other break. I had never seen him stop to eat, or even shift his weight to prevent stiffness or cramping. “Forever, but you wouldn’t understand forever,” he responded blankly, staring. I asked, “excuse me, but I have seen you there on the corner, doing nothing, do you have the time for a few questions?” He looked around, and I mean, he looked all around, scanning every direction, even where there was nothing but blank urine wetted walls, then said the oddest thing. “Sure time is ok for now, we got it under control.” Suddenly I realized I may be standing in an empty alley with a possibly crazy person, who still stood there with his penis out.
“Um, I am sorry,” I stammered, “I think I made a mistake, if you need money I can get you food, but I think I should go now.” He laughed, zipping his filthy pants, he wore a suit and tie, but one that was worn, filthy, and clearly had been slept in for years. “You waited all day, impatiently to talk to me, then the instant I stepped away you raced with such urgency, did you not feel the shift in the pace of time?”
Time was always on my mind ever since the day the doctors told me how much was left. One to three years. It’s a race between the tumor in my brain, and the metastatic pancreatic cancer spreading from lymph node to bone to stomach and lung. I had no idea what to do with the time I had left, except to do what I always did. Go to work, go home, go to work, go home. At each end of the cycle, home or work, simply try to get through the time mindlessly. Stare at the tv, stare at the wall, stare at the phone wishing it would ring, staring at the clock wishing the hands would swing. I continued the endless cycle of repetitive waiting for the end. When we reach the end do we even realize what we were waiting for?
“Who, who are you? What? Why? Please tell me, why are you always standing there?” He licked his sun-fried dried and cracked lips and responded in a hush whisper, “You don’t have enough time for all the answers you want to know, but I have the answer to all the times in all the worlds.” He drew nearer so I could smell the rot on his breath. “To start with who, I am professor I forget. Some meaningless name. Nobody will ever know me by it anyways. The what and the why, well, you learned that between your last cup of coffee and your race down the stairs. Perception. Time is warped by your perception of how much or little remains from event to event. By my sudden transition from immobile to mobilized, your perception of time shifted, did it not? Where minutes dragged on, before, two minutes were the difference between knowing and not knowing.” I was stunned. “Wait, what the fuck? How the hell do you know all that? Who are you? What’s going on?” I was getting a bit freaked out. “Calm down my friend. As I said, I am, will be, and/or was a professor of experimental physics and neuroscience I was, am, and/or will be performing experiments on what you just experienced. The perceptions of time altering the flow of time. When you perceive time from every possible perspective, you can simultaneously perceive all events that are, have been, or will be, from every possible position. Time, place, space, pace. Don’t you see they are all constructs of the mind’s perception. Our brains are, or were, incapable of conceiving of all time being one time, now, only modified by perception. Now never becomes then, just a now closer to then. And so we perceive time as linear, a progression of now’s headed towards, and away from thens simultaneously. I unlocked, or will unlock the mind’s ability to perceive time as it is. All now’s, all thens, are one single moment.” He glanced back towards the eatery. “I see I have confused you. Can we get a bite to eat and talk?” His stomach was grumbling, and the smell of strong urine was getting to me anyways, so I agreed. Besides, I was still unsure of this man’s sanity.
“You say you unlocked the ability to perceive time as it is? What do you mean by that? And the whole, am, will be and/or was thing? What is it you are trying to tell me?” I asked as we walked towards the little family run take out place that recently added 2 small sidewalk tables earning them the neon flashing ‘eatery’ sign in the window. “What when are you stuck in? Well there once was or will be, or perhaps is in your now a man named Elon? Ah okay I can see you think you are at a time he is known. Well he was, is and/or will be working on microchips in human brains to control all sorts of things from artificial limbs to cars and planes and more ordinary things. As fascinating as that is was and/or will be, it was no use to me until he came to, will come, and/or is presently here with me. We have had and/or will have an idea, if a chip in the brain could make you feel what an artificial limb feels, why couldn’t a chip let you experience time as it is?” He tapped my skull twice with his finger. “You are, will be, and/or had been my patient and subject. One now you will, have, and/or are now find yourself staring at a crazy homeless man’s penis, who had, is, and or will be giving you an option of time.”
“What the hell man! What the hell? What are you saying? You are clearly homeless, you stink, you aren’t making sense. But you are telling me things you can’t possibly know.” I jumped up angry or scared or freaked out or panicked. Wasn’t I just in a boring mundane life of passing the time away? “Listen. Either you have a tumor or don’t have one yet, but you will, and there will be no had a tumor. Your tumors will never be removed, but can be, has been and/or is currently being changed. It is and/or will be in the perfect location to build a new part of the brain. The Neanderthal were most likely the earliest man to have a god nodule in their brains that allowed the conceptualization of divinity, your mind, your tumor, and the chip Elon and I will, have and/or are currently, creating has an/or will unlock the now nodule.”
I was beyond speaking at this point. I sat nibbling on Greek olives, finally I asked, “but, why are you homeless? Why do you stand nearly still? Why do you turn ever so slowly one revolution a year?” Before he spoke again, he waved over the waitress who was clearly familiar with his comings and goings. Without a word exchanged she brought stuffed grape leaves, French fries, and birch beer, the third order already. “I am not homeless, I have every home, in every age. As to why the standing motionless and slowly turning. We call it, and/or will call it calibrating. While I am, will be and/or have been living in a castle in the Middle Ages, and on floating man made islands in the future, past and/or present. When I am, or we are, or will be in any now, in any when, and anywhere at the only time that is. Now. Time becomes wobbly without an anchor. In order to not get lost in time and place, at the moment the chip operates the now nodule, you see all eternity as an instant. Now. All places and all times are one.”
“My, my, tumor?” What a stupid response to what was either brilliance or madness. “I will get to that, just explained that, and/or am telling you now. That, and the standing and the turning. Your tumor is or will be just the right size in just the right place. Cancer, a tumor, is an unusual growth.and an unusual growth in the brain is what was or will be needed. You had your tumor, I will have to, had to, or am currently in the process of the creation of an unusual growth in my own brain. We are, or will be and/or are in the process of becoming, not time travelers but time dwellers.living in every now and where of our choosing. However, when and where you activate the chip, you leave your calibrator. The you who stabilizes linear time for everyone. I hope when you activate yours, had activated it, or are activating it now. I wouldn’t recommend on a street where you have to live under a bridge to be nearby.”
“That, makes sense.?” It started as a statement but within the span of three spoken words transformed into a question. “But, but, I just met you. Remember? Five or maybe ten minutes ago? The penis incident? And now you’re saying you, a homeless man is going to do brain surgery on me? Not very likely buddy!” This time he rapped my skull harder with a knuckle. “Don’t you get it? Minutes are meaningless. I’m always standing there with you looking at my penis, just like I’m always operating on your brain. It is not me the homeless man spinning the years away that will be, had, and/or is currently operating on your brain. The me that is doing that, has done that and/or will be, is, was, and/or will be waiting at Saint Mary’s neurology center thirty blocks north.
“No time is wasted when all time is experienced always. There is never waiting to do anything or being in a rush to get something done. All that was false perception. You are always doing everything you ever did or wanted to do. Yes, when you want to do something, you do it, before the now nodule, almost everything we ever did, we never perceived as completed. We ran from then, we ran towards then, or experienced now as endless waiting. We think now we are living in the moment after jumping from a plane, but our perception remains waiting for the next moment. The chute release. Fleeing the moment of safety in the plane. Once your brain truly sees all time as now, from leap of faith, to relief of survival, the entire experience both, instance, and eternity. Time may be becoming wobbly again. I think I may be showing you my penis while operating on your brain while finishing this sentence. I think I better start to spin with the sun again.”
Without hesitation I stood and asked “so, which way was the hospital? If you are really there, and clean enough for surgery, I wouldn’t mind experiencing more time more fully. But if you’re not there, I am coming back, writing your story, and getting you off the street.” He jumped up in alarm and forcefully proclaimed, “no! No! You mustn’t take me off the street. I will be, I have been, and/or am currently either operating on your brain, and/or waiting to operate. That is why I am, was and/or will be there. I swear! If you take me, this me, off this street, now, or ever. Time will wobble uncontrollably, affecting everything and everyone.”
I stood. Staring at him I took a deep breath. Even waiting for the right moment to say “well there is no time like the present” and headed towards the hospital without delay.