“What Are We Gonna Do Yesterday?”
Yesterday is the day after this; tomorrow is gonna be yesterday
Some days feel divorced, entirely, from the days that preceded them—where tomorrow and yesterday diverge so sharply that life loses its continuity: births, deaths, tragedies, fortune, arrayed like orthogonal planes in time. You never see those fractures coming, but you know in an instant that they have arrived, because you feel the gap that has opened up behind you, and you know that it can’t be crossed. For me, at least, these days have included: September 11th (on which the our role in the unfolding chaos in Afghanistan was built), the day of Trump’s election, Kina’s birth (not long after), and the lockdowns that shortly preceded the first edition of this newspaper. I’ve acclimated to all of these things, for better and for worse, but they’ve all left their subtle marks.
For the most part, I’m lucky to live the kind of life where my memories of yesterday can mostly inform my plans for tomorrow. Kina is also that sort of lucky, even if she gets her yesterdays and her tomorrows all mixed up. Wednesday is today and yesterday is Tuesday and tomorrow is Thursday, and so on and so on. I don’t know what it must be like to live in the kind of place in which you cannot assume that Thursday will come, let alone know if it will be bear any similarity to Wednesday. I sometimes close my eyes tight and hope, with real desperation, that Kina never has to feel that way. I sometimes feel complicit in how others do feel that way—this week, in particular.
What are we going to do yesterday? What could we have done differently? Would it have changed anything at all?
I have no idea what Kina actually means by this, for what it’s worth. I tried to pick at it, to find out if “yesterday” was actually tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or just later today; she just stormed out of the room after a while. Kina has still has not really sorted out time, though she’s trying to make sense of its little patterns and cycles. So am I, really, trying to remember that things pass and recur, that moments matter—I forgot my own parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary last week (Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!)—and that the sense of relief that comes with the arrival of the weekend marks the passage of week you can’t reclaim. We lament the routine passage of time, because it feels like we’ve taken that time for granted, that we haven’t used it wisely, and that we don’t know how we could have done any better. We should pay closer attention.
Kina doesn’t know what will happen tomorrow, or even what to call it. She just has an instinct that tomorrow shouldn’t be wasted. We shouldn’t waste our yesterdays, either, and we should remember what they’ve added up to—so that we can make better decisions on the paths we choose (as individuals, societies, and nations) and mark these days with greater care.