My first semester of college was a wild one, for many reasons, but one of the big things about it was that it brought about a sense of freedom. For many sheltered kids entering a situation like that for the first time it would have been a crazy run of party after party, and for me it was the same. But, because it was me, my “wild” times included reading certain kinds of books I hadn’t had the pleasure of getting to read before.
One of the first books that captured my attention was a new one called The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker. It was about this young man who discovered he could stop time, and the things he got up to with all that, eh hem, time on his hands. I’ll just say that if it was a movie it would have been rated R, for “adult situations,” and “nudity.” For a teenager in the mid-90s that wasn’t to be taken lightly, and words have always been my primary source of information, so finding that book on the shelf in the Temple University library was a true gift.
It made me think about what I would do if I could make time stop, even for just a few moments, or like the young man in the book, for as long as I wanted. Would I do what he did and take advantage of situations, or would I just sit around and catch up on my reading with no clock to judge me? I remember Zack Morris was able to pause his own world in order to deliver sage advice to his audience. Maybe that would be me as well, and in the time between time I would learn something important about the world around me and my place in it.
But after reading the book multiple times I finally settled on what I would really do if I could make time stop. I would probably be afraid I would lose the power, so I figured I would just keep time suspended. That way I would never be able to feel pain again, no one would be talking about me, and I could have solitude to do whatever I wanted anytime I wanted. I would be able to walk through a world populated with people who were in effect statues, frozen in whatever grotesque poses they were in when I stopped time.
That turned out to be the problem, though, because along with my solitude would come an eventual emptiness, a feeling that I was the last person left on earth. I would miss the sound of laughter in the distance, of people talking to each other in hushed tones, of even the shuffle of feet on the concrete. I would miss the fraternization of people, of friends and acquaintances, the concert of their voices raised high in anger, in fear, in joy, or in excitation. Even music would lose its luster, its tones flat without someone to share the power and subtlety in the notes.
So, I would stop time when I needed a breath of air, not for all time. I would take a moment outside of time when faced with a difficult decision. I would make time stop to savor a moment of utter joy for as long as I wanted to, or needed to savor it. But I wouldn’t abuse the power, preferring for the most part to just let time go on as it has always gone on. At least I think I wouldn’t abuse it. I think the only real way to know is for it to happen, and as much as I wish it could be true, I very much doubt it.
And maybe that’s for the best.