The History of Obsession

When I was eight years old, my parents went on vacation. I do not remember where they went, or how long they were gone, only that it was more then a weekend. My brother Max and I were left with a babysitter. I remember many babysitters from my youth. Angel, who made me obey every word my brother said, who told me time and time again, that women were less then men, until my parents found out. Roxanne, who took great care of us one weekend, only for me to fall ill and have to be hospitalized under unexplained circumstances. Monique, who I can’t talk about, but who I still miss. I do not remember the babysitter they left us with this particular time, only that she was not one of the above. For the sake of convenience I will call her Anna.

It was a Monday morning and still dark out when Anna woke us. My brother and I dressed for school quickly. Anna was sure we would be late. We raced quickly through the streets, running down one block and up another, until suddenly we were at the school. It seemed strange that we had seen so few people on the streets, but once we reached the school the absence of anyone else was overwhelming. There were no cars in the teachers parking lot. There were no children shuffling up the steps. We went to the front door, it was locked. There was no sign on it warning us of a national holiday or a strike. We still saw no one. Anna checked her watch again. It was the right time but no one was there.

We wandered around the playground for a while, before a man rushed through on his way to work. Anna stopped him and asked him what the time was. He told her it had just turned 6. It was two hours before school. It was the first weekday after daylight savings time took effect. My mother had changed the clocks before leaving without telling my father, then my father had changed the clocks without telling Anna. She ended up changing the clocks as well.

We were two hours early for school. That was all that happened, no asteroid had hit the earth, hundreds of people had not mysteriously vanished. We had just changed the clocks too many times. I don’t know what happened next. I assume we went home before school.

I forgot about this story for many years until recently I woke up with it in my mind, much like a dream. I knew then, even though it had been such a minor event, that it had changed me. It had made me aware at a very young age, of what the city was like with fewer people in it. What the world would be like if the rules changed, subtly, not through a huge reported disaster but through unexplained circumstances. This is what my poems have been about lately, not just the Apocalypse but the mysteries of daily life, some mundane, some clearly influenced by magic realism.

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