The time delay in human vision is 180 milliseconds. It can be tested with a light switch. Stand up. Turn it off. Turn it on. Count the milliseconds. Wardle did. Wardle does. Wardle is a professor, well-represented by his name. I imagine he wobbles. Wardle wobbles. He’s an ecologist who teaches physics in New Zealand with LED lights and the kind drinking straws that bend. His findings are detailed on page 442 of volume 36 of the 1998 edition of The Physics Teacher textbook on an abandoned side note entitled “The Time Delay in Human Vision.” It’s an elaborate study about exactly what it sounds like. Wobbling Wardle holds no surprises. It’s boring. Don’t read it.
The Time Delay in Human Vision is 180 milliseconds. It’s the space between your eyes and head, and the distance of a photon’s pilgrimage. It’s the space of a compensated ignorance and biological necessity. It’s the space of choice and daydreams and the worst memories. It’s between action and reaction. It’s alive. It’s dead. It’s where we lie. It’s where we live. Lights out.
Let’s talk about 2AM. Let’s talk about the cold wind that tastes of tin.
The red glow of broken Christmas lights and the ashes in the neighbor’s fire pit. The constant barking of dogs still living, and breathing. Unfortunately. The grass, ready for travel-delayed morning dew. Let’s talk about drinking. It makes it easier to turn bad stories to good ones. Or the opposite. Let’s talk about bad choices. Let’s talk about your drinking problem. My drinking problem? I’d rather not.
Let’s talk about the morning after. You know the one. When birds don’t care and sunshine sneaks in the blinds as you sneak out the door. Was it locked before? Are they still asleep? “It’s 6AM, do you know where your lover is?” Or maybe that’s just me. But I’d rather not talk alone.
Let’s talk about their distant scent of living flowers and timber. Or maybe not?
What did they smell like?
For you? Were they like crisp bits of ocean mist trapped in trampled lavender? Or maybe wood smoke that sticks to your skin and daylight? Do you remember? Does it make you laugh? Or cry? Is the hatchet buried or bleeding? Do you remember why you hate them? I do. But I’d rather not sleep alone.
Let’s talk about my best friend’s dead dog. Before. Picture a black poodle, beautiful. Not dead yet. Picture her as a puppy, vigorously fighting for rights to a dog treat. She always fought. Don’t picture her dying. I’d rather not talk about that. Dead or alive. No dying. Unless you want to? Really? Jesus. Seventeen years of epilepsy and dog AIDS and she kicked it in the corner: cold, anemic and twitching on the kitchen floor. Hey, you asked.
No really, you did.
Let’s talk about the night before. It’s still cold. Tin. Let’s talk about their hair. Their eyes. Do you remember? Were they brown? Were they blue? Were they drunk? Were you? You hold hands on a moonlit street and flip up collars to avoid the rain. There’s city in blurry corners of vision, wiped away when you see their face. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The city right? You thought I meant…? HA. No, they were ugly as hell. But I’d rather not drink alone.
Let’s talk about something else.
How do you feel about politics? We could talk about that? The details of the last great debate I missed? Tell me who’s running and who has a shot at the title. Or office. It should be both. Debates would be more entertaining that way. Rand Paul vs. Hillary “Rod Iron” Clinton. Fight of the century. Pay-per-view. I like my politics like I like my steak. Bloody. Commentary would get better.
“His foreign policy is great, but frankly Chaz, if his ground game doesn’t see some improvement, this candidate could be going down real fast. No pun intended.”
“No pun taken, Wolf. I’ve seen the guy’s Muay Thai and his reach is excellent. He just needs to play to his strengths and stick to high knees and military spending.”
We can stop talking about it now.
Let’s talk about lying. I didn’t exactly mean to. Might be the first honest thing I’ve said all night. Not by choice, I’m a very honest person. But we all have a little web of white lies and half-truths and unmitigated horseshit that we all work very hard to maintain. We all deserve medals. Or maybe that’s just me. Do you remember the first lie you ever told? I don’t. I lie all the time. I’ve lied four times already. I did mean to. I’m not an honest person. Let’s talk about trust. Actually, scratch that.
Let’s talk about hands. Yours. Calloused where life comes at you fast, and you catch it. Except when you don’t. Whoops.
Let’s talk about the swoops and dives of each little indent, and the track of time across your knuckles and palms. Let’s talk about the scar you got when you were a child, long since covered with new skin that doesn’t feel right. Or fit right. Weird, right? Let’s talk about nails. The day is buried underneath them. Are yours painted? Mine aren’t. Except for this one time. I have a little sister. When she was three it made her laugh.
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? Don’t ask questions, just answer.
Let’s talk about when you lost your virginity. Because that’s a normal thing normal people talk about normally, right? Me first? Shit. I lost my virginity in the backseat of a 2010 Toyota Corolla with a girl who thought she loved me. Her name was Maddie. It was her car. She was three years older and my first ex-girlfriend. She was a blonde with vibrant blue eyes that could only hide fear, not innocence. She loved camping. She loved musicals. She loved me. Or maybe she loved the idea of a boyfriend. Or maybe she only loved. Just loved. It doesn’t matter if she did. Because I didn’t. But I said I did.
That was a little much. Pretend I didn’t say that.
252 licks average, for adults. 144 for middle schoolers. 411 for the customized licking machine built by a graduate chemist at the University of Michigan. The numbers vary. We may never know for sure. Somebody spent money on this shit.
There’s a delineation in perception between what’s processed through instinct, and what’s processed through conscious thought. You put your hands up to stop the fall and don’t think about why you’re doing it. In the late hours, while your mind dusts off dead memories, your body paralyzes itself. A stimulated brain perceives faster than a bored one. But nothing affects time. Except for gravity. Is that why you put your hands up? Your body remembers before you register the fall. Your arms break before you feel it.
Let’s talk about the afternoon. The heat is gone behind clouds and the leaves play vagabonds and vagrants and tunes of Simon and Garfunkel are fucking stuck in the brain and won’t goddamn leave. Christ. I hate them, personally. But I didn’t say that. Rule number one on the first date, don’t talk about what you hate. Or maybe rule number one is split the check. Or deodorant. Someone always forgets one. We’ll split the check here. I’ll pay for the entrée I bought. It was cheapest. You’ll pay for your appetizer, filet, and tiramisu. Buy low. That’s the second rule of the first date. Either that or deodorant. Where were we? The afternoon. It’s a beautiful afternoon. Freezing. And all that implies. Simon and Garfunkel? Love them, they’re the best.
Let’s talk about hate. Where did you bury yours? Is it in the backyard? Is it covered in layers of well-sorted sediment and clay? Is it inside a steel foot locker coated in band stickers and half-remembered poems? Or is it inside a padlocked chest of wet mahogany and brass. Do you have a key? Do you play Buried Treasure and dig it up on lonely weekends? A friend once told me the virtues of forgiveness. Everyone deserves it. What’s inside? Notes? Pictures? A hatchet. Violent. But you’d rather not hate alone.
It’s still 2:15AM and I’m drunk. Bad decisions made good stories. I must have some really good stories. I wish I remembered them.
Let’s talk about the truth. Not lying. If I’m not honest it’ll eat me. Lies eat you. You know? Okay. Here it goes. The truth. All of it.
Of course I forgot our one month anniversary bullshit, are you kidding me?
Crazy, Stupid, Love is a shitty movie.
I fucking hate Build-A-Bear Workshop. I’m sixteen. What the hell?
Also I never loved you.
Studies show people blink when they lie. I don’t remember where I read that. Life shows people blink when their eyes are dry. Or when dust scrapes the pupil. Or when the weather is too cold. Or when the weather is too hot.
It’s 2:30AM. Still drunk.
Lights on. Did you count?