The backwards calendar is one of my personal quirks and it is damn hard to put into words. It makes sense to me because I created it, but trying to explain it to other people is kinda weird. I’ll try, anyway, and if it gets past you I apologize in advance, but just try to keep up with the story in general, which is life running backwards instead of life creeping forwards, even though they’re going at the same speed. See, I confused you already, and really, once you wrap your mind around time as something that can be measured in more than one way, it isn’t very hard at all.
I can’t retire from the job I have right now until November the ninth, 2020. That is three thousand, two hundred, and thirty-three days away from today, which is the third of January, 2012. That’s an easy concept is it not? Okay, now to put it in units less perverse. If you started out walking and you knew you were going to walk one hundred miles, suppose you were sixty-three miles out, and had only thirty-seven more to go. Now, if you were walking that one hundred miles, and you had just thirty-seven more to go, could you remember where you were when you were at mile thirty-seven of your walk? As you contemplated your former destination and headed towards mile sixty-four, you realize that you are also thinking about where you were at mile thirty-six, and instead of thinking forwards you are also thinking backwards. The backwards calendar works the same way. When you are thirty-seven miles from the end, on the backwards calendar you are thirty-seven miles from the beginning.
My first day at work was on the sixteenth of March, 1992. That is the starting point. I have three thousand, two hundred, and thirty-three days left, so add that number of days to the starting point and you arrive on January the 20th, in the year 2001. It is a Saturday, and believe it or not, I remember that day fairly well. That’s why we’re having this conversation. Oh, I forgot to tell you; I have an Excel program that keeps up with the backwards date. That’s why I know what backwards day it is, and because that day meant something to me. I remember it. It was one of the first days in my new house. The house I live in now. That was nearly eleven years ago.
We had bought the house on a Friday and we spent that weekend moving. Saturday, the 20th, was our first full day in the house. I was still married, Bert was still a puppy, and neither Sam nor Lucas had been born, yet. The paint in the house still smelled fresh. The house was new territory and there were boxes everywhere. I hadn’t even gone to work in my new location in Valdosta and that would come Monday.
The marriage was just over a year old and even though I didn’t know it, the end of the marriage was twenty months away. Bert would find Sam in eight months. But right now, the experience of the new house overshadowed everything. There were boxes everywhere, did I mention that? A week later, I would dump everything out of all the boxes and burn them all in a pile in the yard. That forced us to put stuff away, somewhere, anywhere, just not in the damn boxes anymore, okay? My wife hadn’t worked in a couple of months and wouldn’t ever hold down a real job while she lived there. We were desperately poor at that point in time and it never really got any better as time went on, and time did go on.
That was the last time I moved, you know, and had just moved four years before that, and had moved three times in the last four years before that move. I hate moving, but I love the feel of the new place once the boxes are all empty. It rained a couple of days later and the sound of rain on the roof was comforting. My last house, which had been the first house I ever bought, was drafty and the heat pump didn’t work well but the new house was a warm one, and it still is. I remember how exciting it was to discover the ancient Oak that lives in the corner of the property and I still get that feeling whenever I stop beside it and think about how much history it has survived. The backwards calendar of the Oak might see a time before the invasion of this continent was assured. We humans might think a house is old or new, or warm or cold, but the Mighty Oak has seen a time before the houses, and has seen houses rise and fall before. The old metal and shattered glass in the yard testifies that a home was once here, and someone once moved in, just as I did, but longer ago than anyone but the Oak knows.
The backwards calendar from here will reach points in my history that I remember poorly. In fourteen months I will be single again, and in a couple of years I will buy my first house, and a couple of years past that I will live in an apartment for the last time (I hope) and a few months before that I will become a fledgling writer. My personal history will finally reach a point when the calendar ends, Mayan-like, and what lies beyond that no one knows, not even the Oak. My snapshot into the past will begin its journey towards a beginning it cannot reach, for my future will not reach that far into my past.
If I have lost you here, fear not, for the past isn’t nearly as important as it seems or as interesting as we make it sound sometimes. But do the math and look back at your life at a time when what was happening consumed you, and then that fire went out. Was it ever really burning?