At a family picnic, I was talking to my aunt and I told her that I was thinking about getting a big clock face tattooed in the middle of my back. I told her that there was a special ink that they could use for the hands so that they could be set for the right time and then they would move and tick along like a normal clock. The hands could only be set once, and the setting would be as permanent as the tattoo itself, but once set right, the clock would always keep accurate time. It would never lose a second here or there over the years. And I would always know what time it was, because I would be able to feel it on my back. If I was working with someone and they said, “Man, it sure feels like it should be noon already,” I could just stand up straight, arch my back to get a sense of the position of the hands, and say, “Nope. It feels exactly like it’s a quarter to ten.”
My aunt responded to this with a wry smile and a roll of her eyes. She pointed out that there were some cases where you might not always want to know the time. I had to admit that that was true. Sometimes, on a long shift, the worst thing you could do was to keep looking at the clock. The minutes would just crawl by. Other times you just wanted to stay in a moment, not caring when and if it would ever end. I thought about having that clock on my back, feeling every minute portioned out equally, every moment of my life punctuated with that slow inky tick. I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling like there was an itch I couldn’t reach.