No matter how early I get up, I cannot stay ahead of three pm. No matter how early. I can get started two hours before sunrise and still three pm will catch up with me even when I have been running flat out needles pegged westward since jumping out of bed and into my shoes. Three pm never approaches any faster or any slower than it has before or will again but always with just enough hurry to overtake me with relentless unconcern almost exactly like so much boring clockwork. Resolute and implacable and without a trace of regret for my alleged peace of mind: three pm neglects even to pause in the face of the shining virtue into which I arose with the first birdsong of the day.
The exercise. The daily gallon of water. The plant-based protein. The modest bedtime and the washing of the hands every single time you visit the toilet. Three pm respects none of these and nothing you can promise it will keep it at a distance. Deep sleep: three pm does not care. Sorting the plastic into recyclable and not: three pm is not impressed. Scooping the cat box daily: three pm never looks at the cat box and expects you to have scooped it twice yesterday without anyone having to ask.
I have experimented with studied patience. Watching. Listening. Taking no action other than that required to remain conscious. Three pm arrives and then three pm is here or rather three pm is whatever three pm is and then without a beat three pm continues on and three pm oh one arrives having approached also for some time and also continuing to stay for no time and all the time I may have left would not be sufficient to chronicle all this passing exactly as it passes as it does so without notable features so from there you will have to imagine how it goes. How three pm goes and then three pm oh one how that goes and whatever might be said to go next or after or then or now. If outrunning three pm is not possible neither is waiting for it whether with patience or resignation or some imagined immune response to the repeated exposures any earth-borne creature must undergo to that which three pm denotes. It passes, leaving nothing, taking nothing, saying nothing, and changing almost nothing almost as to not change even to the eye fully-clothed watching for half a century now.
I have tried taking three pm apart and I have tried to take apart its passing or any other passing for that matter–and if it makes it easier to understand what passing means use time instead although to do that is fairly circular and non-explanatory but it may be more comfortable which is often all anyone really needs at three pm to be made comfortable or to become comfortable or somehow otherwise prone to comfort. Passing falls apart all by itself with only the touch of a glance into the possibility of change and then change as change and then the consequences of change and the memory of the possibilities and the realizations and the consequences and also some tendency or other to measure how slowly or quickly change occurs as though there were a fixed and unchanging backdrop against which we could line up and compare the different rates at which change goes from one somehow inferable moment to the next.
That we have never found such a backdrop has not stopped us from devising clocks and sundials and water wheels and hourglasses and various opaque structures fashioned around some space or another sometimes two spaces and a surface for the reflection of light or shadow and upon which the sun will shine at a predictable angle for a single moment out of all the other moments. There are other sorts of mechanisms and procedures that do more or less the same sorts of things that is make of the acceleration and slowing down of change a quasi-entity that can be measured using a single scale no matter where one applies that scale that is no matter where one is able to locate or stipulate the entity by separating it from the change it is supposed both to enable and contain and then apply the scale to it–or enumerate it as consistently quantifiable while also independent of change.
Otherwise how would we know it was enumerated consistently if that could change at any time.
When I am done with all that three pm although theorized into practical nonexistence remains insistently. This three pm and all the other three pms are not anythings I can describe. They are side effects of one or several desires to measure or to parse or to record or to predict or to regularize other desires and other forces and other impulses without discernible origin all of whom might otherwise wreak change without warning or at least without consistency that is the warning may be always in effect but the exact order of change unknown and unknowable until after the change or changes in question have already occurred and the dead and wounded sorted and counted and sent for repair to a place where appropriate practices are practiced or for return to the elements through one or more of several conceivable routes.
If in the wake of this three pm–this one always approaching–lies every other three pm that had already passed when this three pm did so, this three pm does not notice or care. If this three pm were to have the power to do so this three pm would disclaim any relation to the other three pms even as they follow quickly and emphatically in all persistence despite the other three pm’s once having been followed by this three pm.
Spatial metaphors can only go so far before they drop off the edge of the world or something.
Not that I can speak or disclaim for this or any other three pm I would not even be able to guess how to go about imagining how a side effect of a tendency would begin to speak much less what it would say so when I write that three pm would disclaim any relation to the other three pms what I might mean might be more accurately stated that this three pm is as far as I can make out nothing if not indifferent. So indifferent it is that I can only see it or notice it or remark it after I have myself posited it there in that approximate place–for lack of a better way to clear out room for it–where I then find it.
The one three pm and the other three pm and the other other three pm all run together. That glare in the middle: a dispassionate sun hangs from an uncertain meridian where it unloads everything it possibly can without mercy for us or relief for itself over and over and over and over and over.
Three pm was never my idea. I was handed three pm already fully formed. From there it has solidified in several directions and begun to decompose in several other directions and in several directions besides these it has broken down into unrecognizable components or rather other ideas that are nothing like three pm or noon even or midnight or anything I can think of that has anything in common with three pm or noon or midnight or anything.
As difficult as it is to pick out three pm from some of these angles and as noiselessly as three pm approaches at some of these times it remains as unmistakably three pm as it ever has. It bursts through the blinds no matter how tightly drawn its disingenuously pleading voice well aware that it can continue to plead for at least one moment longer than you can continue to refuse it admission. The plea is its alibi its cover for the nearly absolute power at its disposal should its plea falter but it never does or that is it never did I always gave in at least one second before it had had enough.
I have tried sleeping through three pm with some success insofar as success might consist of not noticing three pm as it approaches and passes and approaches and passes but you will note or I have noted that sleeping does not fend it off.
Sleeping does not prevent its passing nor its receding into the folds of remembered and forgotten three pms or thereabouts.
Nor does sleeping prevent any of them then from reverberating with the boredom of headaches and motion sickness and diesel exhaust and the ride home where hats were hung and heads above the hats were hung and swords above the heads were hung and still hang today despite protestations that no sword has ever been brought into the house.
Which is why nobody goes home anymore.
But three pm will pass whether or not anyone is home and three pm will pass whether I try to pretend I do not see it when I am at the store or when I am at the park or when I am at the library or when I am at the doctors office or when I am in my room which is not the same as being at home my room is much less far less dangerous than is home. My room is the familiar collection of rocks and sticks and needles and dirt and old hair and cast off skins all worn smooth and dry and painless to touch. It is the modulation of heat and noise and light down to amplitudes that do not blare. It is the coincidence of mammalian rhythms and temperate latitudes. It is the stamina of wood and metal and mineral against casual intrusion. It is a modest supply of tools and instruments that can be used to do things or initiate processes that have no utility and no exchange value on any of the most pressing markets neither those by now compulsory nor those remaining optional and so in most modern senses of the phrase none of them follow from honest labor. If the things made or processes initiated have any effect on anything it would be to act on time and space and materials and forces in such a way as to deflect if only at the very most oblique angle such other times and spaces and materials and forces as three pm and heat so deep it piles up in great waves all the way to the sky asserting its persistence: a persistence just as infinite as it has to be to obtain your resignation to its inexhaustibility.
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I am up early today.
I will outrun three pm with the enthusiasm of six am resurrect and reanimate.
Nothing is impossible until at least noon.