It’s not right away.
Not first thing.
First is the awakening and the accepting of a new day.
I blink and decide that yes, it’s time to get up.
Covers off, I sit up, and my gaze falls on the Timex on the nightstand.
“You’ve slept too late,” a voice says. (Mind you, this is a voice in the head. Oh, there are so many. But this one is particularly virulent).
Another voice hops into the scene: “You got extra sleep! That’s good. You need as much sleep as you can get.” This voice belongs to my cheerleader. She’s got a pair of pom poms clutched in her young hands.
“Good job,” she likes to say. And, “You’ve got this.”
A young cheerleader in a short skirt and a tight sweater with a squeaky clean American face is a good friend to have for the long journey of life. This perky little number; blond, terminally upbeat, blue eyed, and hopelessly young, gets me standing, and pulling on my robe.
Feed the dog.
Turn on the kettle.
Get mug off the shelf.
Type a text to my daughter off in college, “Morning, luv bug!”
“Hi,” she writes back.
Back and forth banter about how she slept, and what the day will bring and my own update about “plenty of sleep.”
Off I go to make the bed. And in these daily acts that open every day, I note that twenty minutes have passed.
The cheerleader must be off to something else—cheerleaders, by their nature, are easily distracted—because she’s not there anymore but the first voice is there again, “You are out of time, wasting time, misusing time, confusing time.” On and on it goes.
If I accept this voice as one of authority, I know one thing will be true: I will be miserable all day long. The same, ironically, will be true if I drag the cheerleader back as advocate because she will drift away again and again. Cheerleaders are only peppy for a while and then they are looking at their nails, thinking about what color polish they need, and oh, how about some french fries? Ignoring the voice is not going to work either. This is the equivalent of pressing my hands over my ears, like a willful child, while saying, “I’m not listening! I’m not listening!” But who am I kidding? I am listening and now I’m four years old.
The only solution is to turn toward the voice of time and have a little chat.
“Hello Time Keeper,” I say. “Or is it is Time Master?”
The question puts form to voice and there he stands before me (not a huge surprise the gender is male). He grips a watch in his paw of a hand, and several others dangle around his thick neck. Behind him, a tinkers wagon with more clocks swinging from hooks attached to the outside. Inside clocks of every size and shape are crammed onto the shelves. They all tick-tock together with a mechanical sound.
“Or is it Time Lord?” I continue. “Time Emperor? Time Führer?”
He startles as if direct address is not allowed, or rarely happens. He peers back at his wagon, at me, at the watch he clutches.
What a strange little fellow in a tight three piece suit made of nubby material I cannot place.
“What is that?” I ask. “Wool?”
“What?” he says. His voice holds a sense of amazement.
“Your suit. It’s too tight and looks itchy. You cannot be comfortable in that.”
He opens the flap of his jacket, but then lets it go and blinks at me again. He has small black eyes that shine. Mouse eyes. In fact, he is a mouse. Time is a tiny mouse in a tight suit! He has huge ears too. Translucent and veined. His whiskers, grown quite long next to his pointed nose, are almost transparent.
“Your shoes too,” I say. “They are no good.”
“My shoes?” he asks, incredulous, and bends to look but only for a moment. “Look here,” he says, regaining himself. A knot of worry furrows his tiny forehead. “This is highly irregular. This is no good. You must, must, absolutely must pay more attention to time.” He waggles the watch he holds toward me. “Fifteen never-to-be-recovered minutes have passed in all this addressing of me and then describing me on paper as you go.” He looks at the watch and shakes his head. “Now sixteen, oh no, SEVENTEEN minutes have ticked past with all this typing about whiskers and ears. It taking too much time! Don’t you see. Can’t you understand you’ll never get a second of it back?”
He’s so earnest. I have to give him that, but the shoes are odd. “Leather? Or naugahyde?” I ask. “Or plastic? And why does a mouse need shoes? Your poor feet must hurt and why not? You’re only using two and you have four. You must be so unhappy on your hind legs that way, stuffed into suit of sandpaper, and wearing shoes three sizes too small…”
“STOP!” the mouse says. Bless this little creature. It raises its voice as if to roar but mouses don’t really roar, do they? That’s more the work of a lion, or a bear. A dinosaur could roar but they are extinct. A tiger could roar if he wanted.
“Listen to me NOW,” the mouse says, demands, but his voice is as tiny as he is and goes “Squeak, squeak, squeak.” And then there is no voice making words, or telling me to watch over time. It’s all gone; The watches. The clocks. The wagon. The suit. The shoes.
The mouse is just a mouse again and does what mice do. He titters and hurries and skitters along the edges of the wall, sniffing for a bit of crumb to take back to the nest, and now it is very quiet in my house, and in my head.