A mushy, brown peach is lifted from the garbage and placed on the table to pinken. It pinkens, it turns hard, it is carried in a shopping sack to the grocer's, put on a shelf, removed and crated, returned to the tree with pink blossoms. In this world, time flows backwards.
Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams
* * *
If you have never read Einstein's Dreams, I strongly urge you to do so. It is a narrative of the imagined dreams of Albert Einstein as he wends his way to his Theory of Relativity. Each dream is a different telling of time, of the various possible natures of time. The one I quoted above is one that has haunted me since I first came upon it.
It is a sweet, sweet telling of death undone.
It is also the fevered dream of the fucked.
* * *
Regret, the "if only I had..." reflex of having lived at all, is one of those emotional, psychological, spiritual nesting dolls that can always reveal one more layer of over the shoulder thinking. You begin with one thought that your life would have been better, or at least very different, if you had turned left instead of right that day, if you had been five minutes earlier, or later to catch that train, or an infinitude of minor decisions that somehow would have saved you from the life you re living.
A hundred thousand hundred thousand choices made, or unmade and your unhappiness is located at one of those decisions in the sequence. If you could unwind time, if you could reverse the flow of time you might be able to stop your fate.
Except it isn't your fate. You chose it.
The fucked can't see forward. Their eyes are in the back of their head. They can only see where they have been and spend inordinate amounts of (more) time trying to riddle out a way to go back.
Heraclitus said: "You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing on."
We fuck ourselves when we try to find the same river twice. The question begs itself: why do we do this, why the desire to go back and not forward? In a word: fear. Our past is known, even if it is unpleasant. The future is fraught with potential mistakes and a further fucking of an already fucked up life. We recoil from the one and bind ourselves to the other and the unfucking never arrives.
* * *
In Einstein's Dreams, in the story I quoted above we see an old woman alone in her apartment. Slowly she loses some lines in her face. Her hair loses its whiteness and is streaked with darker brown and her husband in carried into her home, cold and dead. In a few hours he rises and they have dinner together. They go for walks and she loses all signs of aging. He is no longer stooped, but youthful and strong. They make love for the first time. They meet each other for the first time. She is a school girl dreaming of love. She is a baby being nursed. And then... she is gone.
Even if one could reverse the river of time. It still only flows in one direction.