The Varieties Of Temporal Experience
By Allan Eastman
Hanging In The Time Bubble
The moment when I truly began to suspect that Time didn’t really exist at all was when I was hanging suspended in midair, bare as a baby - everything frozen in suspended animation – about to suffer the worst fall of my life.
Sixteen solar orbits ago my beloved Ex, my daughter and I had flown down to Jamaica for a few weeks to escape the deep freeze of a particularly cruel Canadian Winter. We had rented a beach house in a funky little town called Runaway Bay from a Jamaican Doctor living in Toronto. It was great - a white 2 story stone home in the middle of the long crescent of the bay - with a private freshwater pool on a terrace overlooking the golden beach and azure waters of the Caribbean.
My daughter, Sybil had just turned 8 and like any kid that age, she was capable of staying in the pool from breakfast until dinner. We had to force her to come out from time to time only when her extremities started to turn blue. She would stand there shivering in the hot Jamaican sun saying, “I’m not cold, Daddy.” Then, she had the habit of finding every dry towel in the house and wrapping herself up in them until she was warm enough to return to the water.
The vacation was going great – lots of sun, plenty of Jerk Chicken, fine reggae music on IRIE-FM, the fragrant tropical air caressing your skin as you took the time to read a book or have a little snooze in the hammock under the beach umbrella. Perfect. I used to like to go for a long snorkel every morning on the ridges of coral reef out in the bay. There was a cornucopia of colorful marine life and even the wreckage of a large Banana Boat broken up on the reef during a hurricane a few years back to explore. Occasionally, I would even spear a crab to bring home for the stew pot.
This particular morning, I had returned from a prolonged dive and had gone up to the bathroom on the 2nd floor by the master bedroom for a long, hot shower to warm up and to sluice the salt off. When I stepped out of the shower, the towel rack was empty. I looked out the window at the pool. Yes, Sybil had 7 or 8 towels stockpiled there to wrap up in. I started to hurry down to steal one back from her.
The stairs were made of polished white stone, 8 or 9 steps down to a small landing, a left turn and then, another 8 or 9. I was moving quickly. On the first step down, my foot – still wet from the shower – skidded away like I had slipped on a cartoon banana peel, my body launched forward and rotated through 90 degrees and I was instantly up in the air a meter or more above the sharp edged steps.
And Time stopped.
I hung up there for the longest period. There was a curious peacefulness to it, everything frozen and quiet and calm. My first conscious thought was “This is going to be really bad!” I visualized my spine cracking against the edge of one of the steps or even worse, the back of my skull. I wondered about anything I could do to help myself in this situation and realized that there was nothing. I convinced myself to relax my body as much as possible but tried to hunch my head up and away from danger. This all seemed to take a long time – some minutes anyway - but nothing else had changed. I was still hanging in exactly the same spot in mid air.
In some strange way I started to really enjoy the experience. How extraordinary this Time Stop was. I had been in a bad car crash a few decades before and had had a similar experience of Time Dilation but had been knocked unconscious by the collision so I was never really sure whether it had been real or a dream. This, on the other hand, was definitely very real.
I wasn’t moving at all in Space or Time. The sunlight illuminating the smooth white stone of the staircase wall was truly beautiful. I could see every bead of water on my skin refracting light through them like an Escher engraving. Out the window in front of me, the palm fronds were frozen in the breeze and a huge white gull hung motionless in the cloudless sapphire sky. I remember thinking, “This is really cool!”
Then, Time unlocked.
In an instant, I was hurtling through the air at terrifying speed, crashing down. My lower body slammed into the edges of the staircase, then my back. I cried out in pain as I bounced off several steps and came to a stop lying in a crumpled heap on the landing, the breath knocked out of me.
Cynthia heard what she said was a “terrible noise” and came running. She told me later that when she heard the sound, her first thought was “The vacation is over.” She pictured an emergency medical evacuation flight. Even outside, Sybil had heard the crash and came running too. I lay there on the landing, trying to assess the damage. Amazingly, I hadn’t landed on any bony body part at all but had apparently taken the full impact of the violent first hit on my somewhat fleshy butt. Still, I was in horrible pain and very shaken up from the fall.
After a while, I managed to say “I’m OK” and eventually Cynthia helped me up and put me to bed for the rest of the day. In the long run, I had no ill effects from this terrible fall except for an incredible purple, black, green and yellow bruise, about 18 cm x 8 cm (7 x 3 in ) in the dead center of my right buttock – and exactly in the shape of the outline of the map of Jamaica.