Time was my Mother
Once upon a Time, and all good stories begin with Once upon a Time, there is a man living in a prison cell. This prison doesn't have walls or boundaries. The sentence is a lifetime of punishment.
I guess you could say I have built a few fortresses around a couple ghosts, in my day. Not that it matters to you, but I have a story to tell, even if there is Nobody to hear it. This isn't a fairy tale, so don't plan on a happily ever after. In the Real World, there are no happy endings, just noisy intermissions. There is so much more to tell than Time will allow. Take for granted my benevolence, it won't last for long, so if you feel an allegiance with Time, abandon this endeavor, now!
"Guard!" This prison may not have walls, but I can't help but to feel a little bit imprisoned by Silence. "Guard!" My screaming awakens Nobody. I am receiving a very unexpected visitor. She takes a seat at the foot of my bed, tucking gorgeous legs underneath her. Even though the light in my cell is poor, I can make out her distinct features. The years have treated her very well. She smiles at my recognition. I have been dreaming.
"May I offer you something to drink?" I begin to take possession of my senses, after the initial shock of her presence wears off. It is cold, and smells of rain.
Up until this moment, Time has kept to her friendship with Silence. She blinks, scratches her head, and debates her words. I wait patiently for her reply.
"I have come a great distance to see you."
"Funny, I always thought Time to be omnipotent." I pour myself a very large dose of tequila, which quickly disappears, with a cough.
"You have torn Midnight from me!" she says suddenly, "My only daughter, and you have taken her heart, her soul, for all I know, her virginity! I demand that you stop seeing her, this moment. Where is she? I must speak with her!"
Pouring myself another tequila with shaking hands, I wonder how I could have become involved with this crazy family of immortals. The firewater's warm effect stifles my urge to scream in Time's face. I could never explain how my life felt so empty, without Midnight.
We had a pretty good thing going, until Time stuck her dirty fingers into our affairs. Time had promised Midnight's hand to Death, just to get back at Dawn, I suppose. Time and Dawn have never gotten along. Ask anybody. Time is horribly jealous of Dawn. I mean, who could blame her? Dawn is far more beautiful than Time, by a long shot. Time is so used to getting her own way, she comes off rather bitchy. Dawn and Time couldn't really be sisters, could they? Like opposing sides of the moon, wouldn't you say? The stars smile in agreement.
"I love her, you know." I really didn't know what to say, even though I had been over this conversation in my head, on several different occasions.
"Of course, you love her, and why shouldn't you? She is the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and you, and everybody else. Midnight is one of a kind. And you, a mere mortal with shining eyes and polished words, comes along and kidnaps her. I have friends in some pretty high places. If I have any say in the matter, you won't be sitting here in this comfortable hole, wallowing away the years. Remember, little boy, someday, you too, are going to have to die."
She is right, of course, more right than I am willing to admit.
Midnight is the most exciting thing that has ever come into my life. I couldn't give her up, even if I had a choice, which I didn't.
The one thing that Time is overlooking is Midnight's stubborn disposition. When she makes up her mind, there is nothing, mortal or deity, that can detour her course. My destiny has already been delicately placed within her hands, making her mother's temper tantrum seem all the more ridiculous.
"This is no way for future-in-laws to talk, is it?" I wish Midnight was here to protect me.
"To answer your question, I will have a fruit juice, any fruit juice, you do have fruit juice, don't you?"
I start to make a rather hilarious remark about Time's taste for strange nectar, but hold my tongue, instead. Time has this incredible reputation for being easily offended. The whole situation becomes one great big psychodramatic scene after another. Midnight running out the door, always in a hurry, never staying longer than an hour, and promising to return with a kiss.
And now this! Her mother stalking up and down my pitiful cell, glaring unspeakable insinuations. I can easily see where Midnight has acquired her beauty and her stubborn temper. Time is a very enchanting woman, with flowing hair that seemed to change color, depending on the light. For a hesitant breath, I become enticed with the similarities, both in the face, and in their walk. I am reminded of my first encounter with Midnight.
It was much earlier than when this story first began, I was traveling by bus from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, though the horrible Purgatory depths of desert, right around the middle of July. It was 110 boiling degrees, no matter if you were standing in the shade, or pitch black, so I was keeping to the darkness as much as possible, just so I didn't have to watch myself sweat.
We had just passed through Barstow, that Nowhere Man's island of a truck stop and post office, when we came upon an accident in the middle of the highway. I could tell it was a pretty ugly mess, because were several blanket-covered bodies strewn across the road.
I had become very acquainted with Death. He visited quite regularly. I like to watch people meeting Death for the first time. They always seem so surprised that they recognize him, on the first glance. Over one almost endless winter, Death had coerced my parents, pet rabbit, and three best friends to join his mailing list.
So this night in the desert wasn't that shocking. Death was one of my closest companions. We had become very attached to each other's company. As soon as Midnight appeared, I knew something had to change. You see, Death and Midnight were meant to be married. A real match made in heaven, if you know what I mean. Time had made some kind of deal, long before Midnight was ever conceived, to marry her off to Death. Time and Death have been partners-in-crime, friends, lovers, and acquaintances, for as long as anyone could remember.
It was on that long and dusty trip through the desert that Death introduced me to Midnight. I fell in love with her upon first sight. Death became angry at our obviously mutual attraction. I could not take my eyes off of her for an instant without feeling hopelessly lonely. Somehow, I knew that I had been enchanted by a goddess.
This appearance by Time, in the middle of my night, comes at a very strange place in my life. Midnight is beginning to wander further and further away from me. We weren't quite seeing eye to eye, Midnight and I. In fact, I am seeing less and less of her. Time seems to be winning, in her attempts to terrorize our private heaven. I could not for the life of me figure out what to do with Midnight.
Having prepared Time her juice, I resume my posture on the bed. We stare at one another for a day or two. She doesn't say anything. I don't want to disturb sleeping Silence, but Time begins again.
"I have bigger and better intentions for Midnight than you can ever imagine. She has much higher expectations than you can fulfill. You ought to know that. I'm surprised you haven't realized how demanding she can be, when she wants to."
"There aren't any disguises between Midnight and I. She has told me a great deal about you, and the reasons why it is impossible that we remain together. She even told me to be prepared for this visit."
"My daughter has no idea how much self-control it is taking me not to have you turned to ash, right here. You are a very unfavorable influence on her. There are so many ways that I can make your life into a living hell."
"I'm sure you didn't come here to maim threats. Why are you gracing my humble space with your presence? What's the deal? Come on, show me your cards so we can get down to business."
The tequila is reversing its coarse. My mood changes into a raging intoxicated boldness. I am feverish. Hot to the touch. Scared.
Time is very selective with her words. I have trouble understanding her, at first.
"I insist that you stop seeing my daughter."
"Insist all that you would like. Midnight can always find me, and I can always find her."
"Not if I get to her, first."
"You obviously don't know where she is, if you come storming in here, demanding to see her. This isn't a contest over her affections. You seem to be very jealous of the attention she has been receiving. Please, don't threaten me. I have enough on you to publish a great book of stories about you. How would you like that? A grand expose on the affairs of Time!"
"You wouldn't dare." Time is looking a little uncomfortable. I can see that she is upset with what I have said. Silence begins one of his slow dances through the room. We measure one another's words, and stares. Uneasy, I move to the floor, and begin to pace. Time spreads herself out fully on my cot. She looks tired. I watch her for a long while, until she begins to fade away into the shadows of this cell.
"Midnight, won't you come back to me, where you belong?"
It is almost that Time of night, my sweet Midnight.
(3 October 93)