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The Tinkered Mind
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April 5th, 2020
Lucilius was a boy staring up at the sky. He was lost in thought, wondering how the sky was sometimes deep and rich with blue, and then other times it seemed to have a thin, nearly invisible film laid over it, as though the faintest brush stroke of white paint had been swept from horizon to horizon. The boy shook himself from the reverie, realizing he had no idea why it was this blue or that blue, and that there must be so much about it that remained invisible. He looked once more, squinting, just to check if there were some clue he was missing. He looked around. He’d forgotten that he was walking home, and his heart sunk, remembering, knowing the day was coming to an end. It had passed so quickly. He’d done so much with friends, and now, already it was all over.
He continued walking home, slowly mourning the good day now come to a close.
After dinner, he laid in bed nervous and worried. Now he stared at the popcorn ceiling, a dimly speckled firmament, the texture traced by the weak nightlight on the other side of the room. The boy was choking up with a nervousness as he concentrated on the moment, feeling how fast it was moving, even there, in the bedroom, while doing nothing but waiting for sleep.
In a flash Lucilius could see his entire life, over in an instant, as though the whole thing had slipped past him without notice. The boy grew terrified. No matter how hard he concentrated, the moment kept falling away, crumbling, leaving a fresh new moment there to again die off like the rest.
He turned over to face the wall, as though he might somehow turn away from the thought, as if he might some how forget how quickly time was leaving his young life. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly as though to bring on sleep and hopefully forget this terrible realization.
But when he opened his eyes to the morning sun streaming in through his window, the worry was there waiting for him. And now, with sleep, hours and hours had slipped away. Time was an enemy to him now. One bent on taking his life from him. He pushed back the covers and sat up on the edge of the bed. He stared blankly at the carpet, wondering what he might do to reign in this awful streaming terror.
After a few fruitless moments he felt the habitual urge to get up, to go brush his teeth, but he stopped, and simply watched the moment. If he went to brush his teeth, and then went for breakfast and then went to play with his friends, the day would slip past him again, just like it had before so many times. The idea filled him with horror – that time would steal from him while he was distracted with fun, and then the idea came to him.
Lucilius decided that he would not do anything. He would not brush his teeth, he would not go to breakfast, and most importantly, he would not go have fun with his friends. Like anyone else, he knew how time dragged slowly along when things are boring, and he realized that was the key. It wasn’t a total victory, but it was a way to make things difficult for time. To make that ethereal riddle work for it’s thievery. If he could have the most boring life possible, then he would get as much time out of it as possible.
So for the entire day, he sat in his room, doing absolutely nothing, stubbornly watching time steal from him in drips instead of the usual giant gulps. But when the sun was finally finishing it’s arc, and Lucilius refused also dinner, Lucilius looked back on the day and saw that it too had passed so quickly. The moments, as he’d witnessed them seemed slow enough. Certainly slower than if he’d been outside having fun with his friends, but still now the day was done. Panic rose up in his throat as he again felt trapped, shackled to this torturing movement of the moment.
Again he laid in bed worrying, wondering what he might do. And again when he opened his eyes to another fresh day, the worry was there again. He sat on the edge of his bed, deep in thought.
Boredom was not enough. But what was worse than boredom? What could he use to stretch the time out further? If fun was the thing that sped it up, and boredom was not enough, then perhaps he could use the opposite of fun.
But what was the opposite of fun?
The young boy Lucilius looked up, realizing the answer.
Pain, he said softly to himself. Pain more than boredom makes time last even longer. So Lucilius refused breakfast again and decided to sit against a wall without a chair, holding himself in the precarious position to light up pain in his legs.
He sat there for minutes, feeling the lactic acid build up in the muscles. He watched his hands tempt to place themselves on his knees to relieve the pressure, but pulled them back, and closed his eyes, trying to concentrate on the moment, to feel each tiny unit of time grind past slowly, so slow, he felt as though he might be able to some how reach out and grab it, and pull on it, as the past tried to swallow it. The pain brought him back to the moment and he realized that he’d been busy thinking about time and that it had distracted him from the impossible task. His muscles burned on until finally, the boy collapsed, slumping down against the wall, tears now streaming down his face, the pain in his legs throbbing. But it was nothing compared to the pain he felt knowing that time would not stop for him, not heed his plea, even for a moment, but would pass him by as though pushing him forward, forcing him to leave something he felt he loved so much.
By the end of the day, Lucilius was exhausted, and sleep wove it’s way into his mind quickly and deeply.
When he awoke, he found dread waiting for him. He thought back over the last two days. Already they were over, gone, done and dead. He’d done all he could to stretch out each and every little moment, but now looking back, the days seemed shorter than ever. All the moments of each day were so much the same, that they seemed to collapse in his memory, making each day seem like just a moment unto themselves.
Then realization flooded him, and his eyes snapped up to the bright day streaming through the blinds. He ran to the window and looked out. He had to get out there. He had to do as much as possible. The trick, he realized, wasn’t to try and grab the moment and hold on to it, but to fill it, stuff it, and weigh it down so that when he looked back on it, each and every moment would be different. None of them would be the same, and so they wouldn’t be able to collapse into each other. It wasn’t so much catching and holding the moment, but doing everything he could to make sure that moment, and every moment, wasn’t like the rest, to keep them separated, to make the days literally full.
He ran into the bathroom, smiling, knowing what he had to do. He squirted toothpaste onto the brush and after dousing it with water, he feverishly began brushing. He had to have fun. He had to have as much fun as possible. This, he realized would fill the moments just right, making them stick around instead of disappearing into one another.
Lucilius froze then, watching himself motionless in the mirror. If he had to have as much fun as possible to outwit time, then it meant that each moment would pass by quicker, just as he’d realized in the beginning. There was no way out. If he made each moment drag on as long as possible, then the days seemed short afterwards, but if he had fun, and let each moment fly past, then the days seems full.
Lucilius contemplated this for a moment before looking at himself in the mirror again, as though to confirm the decision, the path he knew he had to take.
It was final, there was no way around it: life simply had to be an amazing adventure.