I was tired, being how it is, the day after daylight savings hits, when you have to get up in the dark and go to work in the gloom. Once you’re tired it’s hard to recover, you know, and maybe you go to bed earlier to compensate, but then can’t sleep becauseyou’ve gone to bed so early, and you might in fact stay awake longer than you would have if you had gone at normal time, and that’s how it gets you. Let’s say that daylight savings was my day zero, and based on that, it was day twenty-six that my mother called. Day one was the Monday, when I started my protest about daylight savings starting two weeks earlier than it had the year before, which meant it had started about eighteen seconds after the last bout of daylight savings had ended. It’s some sort of mass agreement, or arrangement that I am not part of, I said to my mother on the phone, some global brainwashing. She said no, she liked daylight savings, and I told her, no she didn’t, and I told her about this girl I knew, this girl I worked with, who said her favourite food was sushi, and how I had calmly, for her own benefit, told her no it wasn’t. And she had said, naively, yes it was. And I had said, what you like is the ideaof sushi, the idea of a convenient and healthy food, that you can eat just like the people in the magazines, and she had said, no, she actually liked the taste, and I had said, no you don’t, not really, because you can’t, it’s just rice and fish, when it comes down to it, when we’re honest, and if you had come across it by accident and without the media-approved frenzy for raw food, you would have ground it up in the insinkerator, and that’s when she’d said that she always had the teriyaki chicken one, and then I had said well that’s not sushi that’s just chicken and rice, and then I had said that white rice isn’t any good anyway because as soon as it hits your stomach it is enzymatically and chemically rendered into its constituent sugars, so you might as well have two litres of coke and a packet of minties. That girl didn’t really ever talk to me again. So, what I then said to my mother was, what you actually like is summer, and daylight savings is just a proxy indicator, a surrogate marker of summer, and however you fiddle around with the clocks you can’t change the way the earth orbits the sun or how it tilts on its axis, and besides, if you love it so much, I said, why not just get up an hour earlier all year around? Who’s stopping you? Throw your clocks away and get up at dawn. Then she said why are you being like this, and I said, hey I don’t know, maybe I am just some idiot who thinks that when noon strikes it should be noon rather than 1pm, and maybe I am just one of those two-percenters, you know, those people who are the idiot minority who everyone worries just might be right about something that you hope like hell they aren’t. I asked her if she knew who invented daylight savings. It was Benjamin Franklin, I told her. Benjamin Franklin was a puritanical prick, and just wanted people to be early to bed and early to rise, just like him, and she didn’t say anything for a second but then said, hang on, with daylight savings you go to bed later, and I said no, you don’t. Actually I think I yelled it, and she said, yes, I do, I go to bed later because it’s always lighter later and I said, no! Why doesn’t anyone see it? Benjamin Franklin, it’s his bloody fault, all of this, shitting on my life from back there in the eighteenth century, I said. He wrote about it in an essay called “Turkey versus Eagle, McCauley is my Beagle”, can you believe that title? Then I should have stopped, I can see that now, but I couldn’t, because she just kept on going on, and I said, look, leave me alone okay because don’t you know that Jardie has left me and taken the kids? She left me, I told my mother, it happened last night, which just happened to be one of those spring nights that are weirdly hot that make me hate the sun and worry about how I will live through summer, and when she drove away it was still bloody light outside and just gone eight. I think it might have gone different if she’d driven away just after seven rather than just after eight. Actually she couldn’t have, because the kids would still have been in the bath most likely. It probably all started on day three, because that’s when I had started to get really grumpy about having to get up in the dark, and why I had made this half joke to my manager about wanting to change my hours at work, so that I could start at 10am. I’d made a big deal of it, and it ended up going to HR and everything. I invoked the new company values of integrity and personal choice. The HR Director said that this arrangement might prove useful, because since daylight savings had started the company had a reduced time-window for dealing with Asia, on account of everyone in the office going home an hour earlier, relative to people in that geography, and in fact this was probably a win-win. And because they took it so seriously and put it in bold face, it sort of meant I had had no choice, even though by day twenty or so, 10am seemed rather late to be starting work and I ended up prowling around the house for too long in the morning and weirding out Jardie and the kids. Jardie said, on that morning of day four, that that sort of thing was why I kept being overlooked for opportunities and promotions and what have you, and then I said the reason I didn’t get promotions is the double-dip recession and no bastard will leave their job, so how can I get promoted when there were no senior positions opening up to be filled? And I said, anyway, what’s wrong with liking it light in the morning rather than the evening, and she said it just makes everything so difficult and why do you have to be difficult, and I said is it so normal, anyway, for everyone to simultaneously agree to leap into the future? Why not just pick the whole country up and throw it a thousand kilometres to the east, and say, there you go, now you’ll be an hour ahead all the bloody time. Jardie left, I told my mother, the evening of day twenty-five, after I had driven home with the sun pounding the unseasonal shit out of me in the car with broken airconditioning. After I’d got home, we’d had this whole argument on the deck after the kids had gone to bed. Jardie kicked it off by complaining that, since I was getting to work late and had to come home late, she never got help at dinner time with the kids. And that was an issue because dinner time with the kids is a minor form of domestic purgatory that we sweat out in the hope of a major reward that no-one can describe or has experienced or even seen. I had to stay at work until six-thirty, because of my new arrangement with HR, and I knew I missed them at dinner, but hey I still got to see them for bath and bed, didn’t I, I said to Jardie, but turns out that didn’t count because by then they are all snuggly and quiet. No, to be an active part of the family, it turns out you have to be there for as many of the shit parts as possible, and I said that to Jardie, I said was that it, that I needed to be there for the shit parts? And she said, yes. Secondly, she said, to be part of the family you have to put your watch forward and get to work on time. This day twenty-five argument had come up before, a couple of weeks earlier on day eleven, because on that night the traffic had been bad and by the time I got home the kids were almost in bed. When I opened the front door Mika toddled down the hall, his legs all bowed out and walking with his arms up for balance, and Tiff ran down to hug me, then we put them to bed, and then Jardie headed off to bed and when I said, what’s up? She said, what do you think this is? When day twenty-five hit and we had the boomer of an argument out on the deck, she was already primed and cranked, and she said I had to change my watch, so I unstrapped it and threw it off the deck and it bounced once off the grass then settled under the passionfruit vine. I said I would keep my protest going because I was a man of principles and she knew that when she married me. Jardie had said she wanted a man of principles, I said to my mother on the phone, on day twenty-six, and had even said it in those vows that she wrote on the night before our wedding, she liked my principles and also the way I always wanted to talk and knew a lot about space. I guess she meant she loved a man of temporary principles but who was willing to fold in time, or fold over time, or fold for time in this case, and I said that to her, to Jardie, I said, you used to love my principles, and look I just am still that same guy, and then to illustrate it I quoted from some chain email I’d got at work, that a man marries and thinks his wife won’t change and she does, and a woman marries and thinks her husband will change and he doesn’t, and she said, grow up. I said this all to my mother on the phone, about how the kids were in bed and we were on the deck, arguing in the still-throbbing sun at seven-thirty in the evening. The neighbours were drinking beer on their lawn while Jardie yelled at me, and they went politely on with their evening lives but I knew they heard every word. But when Jardie said to me that I should grow up, over the whole making a stand over daylight savings, she actually meant it, because she didn’t just say it as a rhetorical point, she said it then explainedit, that, in fact, she already had two kids to look after and she didn’t need a third, and then she went to throw a beer bottle at me but stopped herself, maybe because of the neighbours or maybe because she figured that leaving me would cause me enough pain, because, yes, that’s when I found out Jardie was leaving me, right then, with her still gripping the unthrown beer bottle by its neck, because she said, this is all too much, and we have to go. She said we meaning her and the kids, as if they had all talked about it, like it was a sort of group decision or a mutually held worldview, formed through a convergent evolution process. And I said, what, you mean you and the kids, and are you leaving because I won’t change the time on my watch? And she said, Jesus you don’t even listen do you, and I said, if this is just about time, then I can change time, easy peasy, just wait there and I’ll go get the bloody watch and put it forward as many hours as you want, and she said, no, you can’t change like that, not just on your watch, you can’t change what’s happened or what is going to happen. And then we quite suddenly ran out of things to disagree on for a moment, and she looked at the sun, which hovered up there, slowly burning its hydrogen all up, and I said don’t look at the sun like that it will burn your eyes, and she said, I will look where I like. I said, you know, the sun will explode in eight billion years, so what does an hour or two matter amongst friends, and then she did actually throw the beer bottle at me but it missed and went sailing over the lawn and bounced off the fence with a thud, not too far from my watch and the passionfruit vine, and I was surprised that it didn’t break. The neighbours went inside. She said, why are you like this, about something so small? And she said it’s not just this, if it wasn’t daylight savings it’d be something else, and I said, no, it’s bloody time itself, time, there is nothing bigger than time, it’s the space-time continuum, what do you think holds all your atoms in place? And she said, those are the smallest things of all, it’s all the small stuff, I’m talking to you about your family and you’re talking to me about my atoms? Atoms don’t even exist, not to me, she said. And I had this urge to say actually atoms are not as small as it goes, there are those quarks and gluons and neutrinos and so on, but I didn’t. She said if you want to think about the little things, why not think about those little things that are asleep in the two rooms down the hall, and I knew that was rather sentimental and unfair and, I thought, quite a shitty thing to say to me right at that moment, because it did make me think of Tiff and Mika, asleep in their rooms. I thought of Tiff, on the night she was born, at 3am. Jardie had been sheared in two, more or less, giving birth to that girl. In the night, as I forced myself to stay awake, with Tiff’s head tucked into my elbow and her body weight almost nothing at all, I felt like I was holding a balloon. I talked to Tiff, only a few hours old, and I said it didn’t matter really, that she could cry as much as she wanted and I would keep holding her just the same. I told her she would always be a balloon. And it was extra shitty of Jardie because then all that made me think about Mika, and how a couple of weeks ago while I was getting him into his carseat, which is usually a re-enactment of the battle of Troy, him being Hector and me a Greek expendable, he had pushed his own arm through the strap, and how I had had a sudden blast of paternal relief, like releasing a lung-full of gulped air, and thought maybe one of those shit bits might stop being quite so shit because my son was a genius of upper-limb control. And I said I do, I think about them all the time, and that’s why I do this, because I think these things are important, and she said, why are you like this? And I didn’t say anything because that’s like asking why does the sun sometimes look orange and other times white and then other times still it can be yellow or even purple under a green sky, just before it sets, especially over the water or when you’re in a plane, and why is the sun eight light-minutes from the earth, and why does the earth tilt twenty-three point five degrees and not a degree more or less, and why does the polarity of its magnetic field reverse every ten-thousand years, and I don’t know but Jesus I want to be here when it happens next, and it’s all just because that is how things are. She left right then. She went and woke up the kids, which surprised me because those times when you have to wake sleeping kids are part of the purgatory, like the dinner chaos or the car-seat business, but she did it, and she bundled them up in their pyjamas and she told them they were going to visit Granny, and off they went. And while all this happened, I said to my mother, while all this happened I had to watch, and it took maybe ten minutes for Jardie to get them ready and leave, and whenever I tried to say something Jardie just said Neeeeeee in a really loud and high tone. They left and I went back out on the deck, sat in the buzzing dusk at eight at night, and I was scared, My mother and I had been on the phone for a long time, and day twenty-six was closing down, and I looked at my wrist to check the time but there was only a pale circle of skin where my watch used to be. I hung up the phone and sat outside, in the fading light, and imagined watching the earth from space, imagined it orbiting the sun in its elliptical way, like a reluctant dancer, circling, never at quite the right angle to engage, and I thought of the earth turning and tilting on its axis, the sway of its hips, rotating us into and out of the warmth, bringing darkness and light in equal portions, and I imagined its speed, thirty kilometres per second, and I had this sense that it was all too much, too much to be happening at once, and I got dizzy, and so I closed my eyes and thought of Tiff in her pink and blue pyjamas with elephants and giraffes, wide-eyed with tiredness and being pulled by her arm out the door, and I thought about Mika, still asleep and holding his bunny, slumped on Jardie’s shoulder, and I thought about day twenty-seven. Tomorrow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allan Drew is a PhD student at Victoria University, where he reads Paradise Lost all the time because it is the subject of his thesis and because he loves it, which makes him very fortunate and grateful.