'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes

I remember, in no particular order: – a shiny inner wrist; – steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it; – gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house; – a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams; – another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface; – bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door. This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.

We live in time – it holds us and moulds us – but I’ve never felt I understood it very well. And I’m not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing – until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.

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