Time

“Harrison” and “Moritz” both put some money on my commissary account today. THANKS SO MUCH! It’s a good feeling to know I’m not forgotten or abandoned. Thank you.

     Today I was sitting in my cell reading a book and sipping coffee when I noticed that the lip of my plastic cup was dirty right where I put my lip. It looked like maybe I had taken a sip with chapstick on, and left a smudge. With a cloth I wiped the dirty spot. But it didn’t go away. So I rubbed it with my thumb, thinking maybe it was some sort of stubborn residue. To my amazement, when I ran my thumb over it, I found that it wasn’t a residue at all, but in fact an indentation in the plastic, perfectly in the shape of my lower lip. Puzzled, I thought to myself; “My lips are softer than plastic. How on earth could they wear it down. I know I’ve been sipping coffee from this cup for 7 years, but this still shouldn’t happen.”

     I investigated. It’s funny how once you are paying attention, it becomes harder to do the things you typically do without thinking. My mind mused: “What do my lips normally do when I take a sip of coffee? How can I know? Now that I’m concentrating on it, my lips are acting different. They have stage fright. I’m going to have to catch them when they think I’m not looking. That’s the only way I will figure out how they behave and how they have worn down this hard plastic.”

     Sure enough, a few paragraphs later I took another sip of coffee and solved the mystery. It wasn’t my lips that had worn down the rim of the cup. It was the stubble of my goatee on my lower lip. After I sip, I purse my lips to make a seal, and as I do, the stubble scrapes the rim on the dismount. Mystery solved! That scratchy stubble was like a wire brush. And it had polished a deep indentation in the cup. Though it took 7 years.

     Why had I never done this to any other cups when I was out in the free world? Because out in the free world, cups are subject to other forms of wear. They get lost or broken. You use different cups, or get a new favorite. The routine of your life is constantly in flux out there. But in here, the waters of life get pretty still. Still enough that you can sit in one place sipping coffee from the same cup for 7 years, and it passes like an afternoon because there was no accumulation of new memories during that period — just the same unbroken stillness, forever.

     What is time, after all? If there was no decay, would time lose its identity? Can time really be the same for a stone floating in outer space as it is for a stone in a riverbed? One experiences wear, the other does not. Can time really mean the same thing to each stone? I kind of don’t think so. Sitting in my cell, the only clue to the time that has elapsed is the wear on this cup. But it is a startling clue that foretells the drastic and shocking changes I will encounter when I walk out of here. If enough time has passed to wear this dent into my coffee cup, what kinds of dents have been worn into the world I once knew?

~Schaeffer

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