There was no way I could get away with not writing a Pax chapter for today, right?
“July eighteenth, twenty-seventeen.”
Pax saw Nate start to sigh and then think better of it, because he was a good boyfriend. Denver, though, looked confused. “What about it?” he asked. “Is there a shipment from that day, or…”
“No,” Nate told him, patting Denver’s knee. “It’s time for Pax’s quadrennial leap year lecture.”
“You’ve never heard the quadrennial leap year lecture before, so don’t pretend you have,” Pax told Nate, pointing sharply. “If we didn’t have leap years, today would be July the eighteenth, twenty-seventeen. The earth’s gravity-fuelled journey around the sun takes three hundred sixty-five days, five hours, forty-eight minutes and roughly forty-five seconds, but the Gregorian calendar only makes an allowance for the three hundred sixty-five days, which is why we have to have a whole extra day in the calendar every fourth year, because Gregory XIII didn’t understand time, which is fair because whoever invented time was obviously an idiot who didn’t know what they were doing and couldn’t make it even or in a straight line.”
“I…I know why we have leap years, Pax,” Denver said, seeming alarmed.
“He knows,” Nate said, settling in.
Pax used their interrupting as an excuse to take a breath. “This is one of many ways in which we know that time isn’t real, because if we didn’t have leap years, it would still be thirty and a half months ago and it would still be summer rather than being February, which it’s not really because it’s March. Except you see, it would actually be winter, because without the leap year, the seasons wouldn’t be anchored and we’d have winter in July, which seems like a waste of a perfectly good July to me, though admittedly I have always thought it was kind of foolish that we don’t get winters off school instead of summers, since it’s a pain to get to school in the winter and driving is hazardous and it’s dark all the time. But the real issue here is that a day shouldn’t be an anchor because a day is an idea and an anchor is a big piece of metal, and they don’t really fulfill the same function and nor should they. The point of all this is that the Gregorian calendar is silly and we shouldn’t have it because it necessitates July and February and March being at the same time, which is really a weakness of solar calendars generally.”
“Your lunar calendar requires you to add an extra month every few years,” Denver reminded him, like a fool.
Pax, who was not a fool, nodded. “You’re right, which is a huge, glaring weakness in lunar calendars as well, which is why you could argue that the solar calendar is better because it only adds an extra day as opposed to an extra month, which is of course a valid point and you’re completely right. The main weakness in your argument is that I don’t use a lunar calendar except for religious obligations, and religious time is different from secular time anyway. The fact that there are different varieties of time further elucidates the main point, which is, I will remind you, that time is fake. You see, religious time is oriented around different events and feelings than secular time, though remind me to tell you about why secularism isn’t real if we ever live to see March, which might have already happened. In addition to religious time, there’s also queer time, crip time, indigenous time, colonial time, and they all work differently and often at the same time.”
“I’m…extremely confused,” Denver said.
“Me too,” admitted Nate. “But let’s just keep listening.”
“But can’t he theoretically keep talking about this forever?”
“Maybe, but forever probably doesn’t exist either.”
“The fact that time operates so differently for so many different people,” Pax went on, standing up to pace now and wishing he had a lectern or a laser pointer or a briefcase or something, “is proof that time is a fabrication. Now I want you to understand that when I say—accurately—that time is fake, I don’t mean to suggest that events don’t happen in an order and that entropy and decay don’t happen and that clocks don’t work, but rather that time as an observable phenomenon is a scientific fiction that was invented to explain things like cellular decay and male pattern baldness. It’s not a real thing that you can scoop up and put in a test tube and look at, but we treat it like it is because we don’t like abstractions much as a society. And that’s fine, because a lot of things can’t be put in test tubes, but it’s part of a whole problem in science where we think that having invented the ability to measure something means that we didn’t also invent that thing, when in reality it means that we definitely invented that thing. Which brings me back to time.”
“About time,” Denver said. Pax glared at him. Denver looked away contritely.
“Time,” said Pax, looking around the living room and wishing Natalie had a blackboard in her house. “is a made-up concept. And it’s a somewhat useful one, but we’re subject to it to far too great a degree and we’ve naturalized it in such a way that it lets us do horrible things like invent progress.”
“Progress is bad now?”
“No, the progress narrative has always been bad and also racist, which reminds me that time is racist because it serves to valorize the experiences of certain people over others and those people are usually white European people and the others are usually other people who aren’t those things.”
Denver held up his hand. “How is not having leap years going to stop racism, exactly?”
“It’s not. Leap years are just symptoms of a larger problem with the way that we conceptualize the world, and that’s why I feel it’s very important to point out that today is the twenty-ninth of February in twenty-twenty, and it’s also the eighteenth of July in twenty-seventeen. And you know why?”
“Because time is fake?” Denver asked.
Nate smiled. “See, I knew you’d get there eventually.” The doorbell rang and he got up to get it.
Denver shook his head. “I guess that makes sense, sort of. I feel like you’re not allowed to be doing this much work on a Saturday.”
“It’s a fake Saturday, and this isn’t work for me.”
“Oh no, did I miss the lecture on time and leap years?”
Pax looked up, saw Alec leaning on the doorframe to the living room. “Hi,” he said, waving. Denver didn’t seem as upset as he usually did at Alec’s presence, which was good. It was nice to see Alec. “I was just explaining to Nate and Denver that time is fake. Louis is coming over later and I’m going to explain it to him too, but I want Nate and Denver on my side first, because he drives a motorcycle, no offence, Denver.”
Denver shrugged. “I mean, he does.”
“I drive a motorcycle,” Alec said, taking a sea. “Sometimes. Time is also racist, did you tell them that?”
Pax nodded. “I’d just finished introducing that concept. I was about to explain further how European time was imposed on colonized countries that were forced to subordinate their own ways of thinking about the progression of events in the service to a larger colonial narrative of progress, which invariably didn’t actually include them.” He paused. “But I recognize that I should first ask how you’re doing and why you came here, but politely.”
Alec snorted, coming in the room properly and taking a seat. “I just came to see my fellow time-denier on our least favourite holiday.”
Pax brightened. “Really? It was leap day so you came to see me?”
“Who else am I going to talk to about the inherent folly of our collective chronological structuring of shared human experience?” Alec asked.
“Good point!” Pax leaned forward. “In honour of the day, we can start by talking about why we’re so obsessed with equinoxes being at the same time every year, which I know doesn’t seem like a straight connection, but of course I don’t need to explain to you why it is.”
“It’s because the Julian calendar was even more a piece of shit than the Gregorian calendar,” Alec agreed. “And we’re obsessed with things happening in order generally. It throws us when they don’t.”
“That’s why we invented time in the first place,” Pax said. “It’s all part of our obsession with sorting. You’d think that would preclude us from sometimes having an extra day in the year, but it just goes to show how malleable our systems are.”
“The real rub. Shared delusions can count as systematic if we imagine hard enough.”
“They’re not going to stop, are they?” Denver asked.
“Doubt it. I’m going to go get them some drinks.”
Pax smiled at Nate as he left, engrossed in his conversation. He was grateful to have someone, and especially his teacher, to talk to about this harrowing and complex concept on this, the leapiest of all days.
At least there was someone who really understood that time was fake.