I lived in a world of digital time and when they cut the line I woke up in silence. When I was a kid it was wired like instinct: I'd wake sinking and know I'd passed the alarm, slept late, slept through the showers, the corn flakes and busses. I'd have to wake my father and beg: a ride, get up, c'mon, I gotta go.
...and then wait the hour or two (he worked late), seven o'clock, eight, he took his time and all I hoped was no more than an hour late. Missing a class meant detention, you see, two hours, two days of begging a ride after school in the other direction.
At twenty-three I woke when I wanted. I still felt the occasional panic of natural waking, no on-and-off buzzing shaking down the nervous system, no five-thirty, six o'clock mornings, no respectable life. I worked nights. Wake up at four, five, six in the P.M., depending. Plug in the phone and make breakfast.
It was August, and in August my three fans ran forever. I always slept better with the sound of machinery, like a kitten with a clock-tick wrapped in a blanket, emulating the mother's heartbeat. Three fans and one computer, uncased, blowing its own air, wheezing at its internal layer of dust. The sound, you get used to.
But wake up some Tuesday in silence, you know right away. It's unnatural hearing the birds, wind, even voices, all of them faint and outside your partition, your apartment or home. You first check the fridge, which feels dead without light or any biting cold, just cool and damp and warming. You rescue something simple—fruit, lunch meat, whatever requires no cooking because the stove, as well, has died. You begin to wonder about time, and since you wear no watch—you bought that Ginsberg line about a world outside of time— and since you got three clocks in the place, all them feeding off the Municipal Power line, you tell the time by the Sun. Well, it's before nine, you think, and at least after five.
I lay on my back thinking, paycheck comes on Friday. And, should I read while there's still light? And, fuck oh fuck oh fuck. Around sunset, whenever that passes, I drew a bath of cool water and sat, the colored light squeezing through the short corridor perpendicular to the open bathroom door. I sat completely still. An hour later I dried in darkness, and dressed.
For a week I stalked past store windows, seeking a glance at a clock as I walked toward work (warehouse lifting and sorting). I had no excuse to turn up early, or late. I can tell you there's a barber shop on thirty-second and third with one of those oversized, white, circular jobs, big black hands, right inside the window. I can tell you, to pass time if you estimate wrong, carry a book in your pocket, there's a bench with adequate lighting roughly every four blocks. I can tell you the time will pass slowly—sometimes I suspect it's wound different the times you can see it and those that you can't.
A week later the juice kicked back in, six P.M. sharp: the whir woke me, the 12:00 flashing and the air shifting. Time caught up with me then, fifteen-minute showers and the ten o'clock news. I sat up in bed, naked, listening to all the mechanical necessities of life, wondering, wondering.
My watch now has four hands if you count the alarm. Shit, shower, and shave, take off in the morning on suburban time. Whatever you say, it passes and passes and every day I go on with the life.