Mission time: D+14,471

Solitude is an inescapable quality of the serious endeavor of writing, something I realize now that I simultaneously missed and did not miss in the slightest.

In order to get anything done, I find that I have to lever myself up and out of my usual routines and rededicate myself to the mission, solely. This generally means trooping off to the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room, one of the city’s greatest spaces, and a splendid aid to contemplation in and of itself. And there I sit, immersed in nothing but the job and its paraphernalia, for as long as I can stand it.

“Stand it,” because I don’t, by nature, have amazing powers of concentration. This is ordinarily something I self-medicate with massive doses of caffeine. But coffee isn’t an option in the Library. And since a limited attention span is a pretty implacable thing, and given that there’s not a whole hell of a lot to distract me from the screen in front of me, I inevitably get a lot of unfocused thinking done, too.

Mostly this is of the staring-off-into-space variety. If there’s any theme at all to this musing, it’s time, time and its passage. And this is how I come to realize that I’m coming up on fifteen thousand days in.

There’s no particular significance to this number, mind you. It’s just that the image of a master lifeclock is kind of an idée fixe for me. (In the shitty, never-to-be-published SF novel I wrote in the early 90s, one of the characters had a glowing ELAPSED LIFE TIME tattoo on her bicep, subdermal LEDs powered by turbines in the arteries beneath.) And running such calculations is an ideal way to burn cycles while I’m waiting to bank up enough patience to again deal with Lefebvre, or whatever.

Digit counters falling. (Accompanied in the imagination by a flat, muffled click, as if the operations of the universe ran on a circa-’72 woodtone Sony clock radio.) Time and aloneness. Unreturned messages and the cavernous space of the Reading Room. When you finally get your hands on this book, that’s what will be lying underneath every word on the page.

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