Maybe that hour in which we all fell back, and darkness crept in ever earlier, is a sign. The calendar is crumbling, like all our markings of the passage of time.
Maybe we haven’t changed our sweatpants for three days, or four. Doesn’t matter. Maybe rush hour no longer exists. Maybe a business is closed for the night, or maybe it’s closed forever, or maybe it’s boarded up against riots. Maybe all of those.
Maybe we’re not breaking out our nice sweaters for autumn. Maybe that it’s November matters less than that it’s 2020.
What season it is might well be overshadowed by the local natural disaster. It would be boots weather, if things were not on fire.
Even for those working regular hours in the regular place, the things that normally mark the passage of time have been canceled or so modified that they no longer feel familiar: Holidays, school ending, school restarting. Parties, vacations, happy hours. Reunions. Memorial services.
Mail arrives on Sundays and at night but might be weeks late. We knew for months that we didn’t know what Halloween would look like, and Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is recommending that nobody Thanksgive.
The Plague was supposed to be over by Easter, and it might still be, depending on whether Easter really happened. A (prerecorded) “Saturday Night Live” told us in April that it is “sometime between March and August.” Maybe it still is. There is perpetual candy, perpetual feast, perpetual episodes of sitcoms, perpetual vigil. There were two tropical storms before tropical storm season began.
The calendar was never accurate, even in the Before Times, which is okay because people in charge fixed it. They tucked in extra days or seconds to keep it correct — or shared, at least? — while the universe slid into entropy with every tock.
The calendar always subtly lied to us. The ninth month has the Latin root word for “seven” in it, and the tenth month has “eight.” It only worked because we all believed.
The whole idea is fragile: that the future unspools in a grid, that things can be planned in advance, that day follows night, that each week we will all honor the sun, the moon and the Norse god Woden.
The approach of Election Day brings its own vertigo, as four years of anticipation boil down with each hour, promising to condense into something. Except that in some places Election Day started in September, and no one knows when it will actually resolve. The president — who might rename the days of the week after himself if he thought of it — has indicated he might not respect the outcome anyway unless he likes the results.
But perhaps the year’s most insidious betrayal is the very notion of 2020. The year is so convenient a unit for hatred and absurdity. Ha ha, look what chaos 2020 has wrought! It’s easy to think: Twenty-twenty, another two months and you’ll be powerless! Watch us count you down!
But nobody promised it would be a crazy year. The last norm 2020 busts might well be itself: that it is a discrete unit whose bonkers will end on a schedule. Soon, we’ll see 2020 in hindsight. But it’s already clear that 2021, at least for a while, won’t be pretty.
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