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Robert Burke Warren is a writer-performer-musician, author of novel Perfectly Broken and coming-of-age song cycle Redheaded Friend. He's written for Salon, Paste, AARP, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Woodstock Times, and others. His songwriting appears on releases by RuPaul, Rosanne Cash, and Rockabilly Queen Wanda Jackson. The Roots used his song, "The Elephant in the Room" as John McCain's entrance theme on Fallon. He lives in Phoenicia, NY.

No Time Like the Present

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Robert Burke Warren | Longreads | April 2020 | 5 minutes (1,174 words)

What day is it?

In pre-pandemic days, I said those words, or heard them, most often when traveling. Now, I say and hear them (or read them) every day, while social distancing at home with my wife and son. Like Billy Pilgrim of Slaughterhouse Five, I am “unstuck in time.” Surely, many days have passed, but no, it’s been only one or two. A week seems a month, a month a season. Last week? No. Yesterday.

I know I’m not alone. “March was the shittiest year ever,” goes the meme.

Whereas once we lamented “Where does the time go?” meaning it’s racing too fast, now we move through denser space, longer minutes filled with yesterdays for which we pine, and tomorrows we either fear, or fixate on with rapacious longing. Or both. Routines — job, school, shopping, socializing — are disrupted, crippled, or gone. In this strange, new “now,” we fill space with worry and/or desperate hope, visiting a conjured future and/or hazy yesterdays, all out of our control. Unstuck in time. “The past is never dead,” Faulkner famously wrote. “It’s not even past.” Too true, Bill.

And we don’t know what day it is.
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