07 February 2009

Five Months, A Circle

Five more months. That's how many days? 150, exactly.

I'm thinking about my mother again, as I often do. I wonder what she felt like when she was five months away from giving birth to me, or to any of my brothers. Because my birthday on the Fourth of July, my countdown to surgery (on 7 July) very closely parallels her timetable to my birth. Of course, her experiences are different from mine in so many other ways, for any number of reasons: I was the first of four children she would have; she gave birth to me a month before she turned twenty and, well, she had more of an excuse for gaining weight during that time than I have now! Still, I can't help to wonder what she was experiencing at this chronological point in her pregnancy, when she had 150 days to go.

They say that we can live life only one day at a time. Of course that's true, even though it never seems that way.

When I look back at the previous 215 days-- seven months; when I recall the five and a half years I've lived as Justine and the forty-five I lived as Nick/Nicholas; when I recollect the decades of depression and loneliness, I am startled at how quickly it has gone by. I am not the first person to have said that about her past. But I am also surprised, and sometimes exasperated, at how slowly the present--or more precisely, the moments just ahead of this one--approaches me. I am like one of those kids who whines, "Are we there yet?," as soon as he gets into the family car for a vacation.

So...I look at my past in the way adults see it. ("Where did the years go?") On the other hand, I am looking at my present--that ephemeral moment as elusive yet as concrete as an eel one might encounter in a dream--as a child might.

Now I think I understand what Dominick meant when he thought he saw my story in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. As implausible as the plot seemed, I liked it--both the Fitzgerald story and the movie. Now it's actually starting to make sense. Not only do I now see myself in it; I now see how it shows the ways in which we perceive time. It occurs to me now that Fitzgerald's story came, if I recall correctly, not long after Einstein did his work that changed the ways we define time and space. (Jacobo Timerman described a pamphlet circulated in Peronist Argentina that said Einstein "destroyed" the "Christian" concept of space and time, just as Freud "destroyed" the "Christian" concept of the family and Marx "destroyed" the "Christian" concept of society. All of this was part of a rationale for anti-Semitism.) Why do we perceive time as we do?

All right. If I come up with the answer, I won't have to worry about a 20 percent, or any other percent, increase in the cost of the surgery. So I'll get to work on it.

And I probably won't come up with a better answer than the Lakota chief who said that the life of a person is a circle from childhood to childhood.

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