This I believe: A deadline is a black hole. A singularity around which time slows down, everything else speeds up, and the impossible becomes inevitable. I haven’t missed a deadline since the sixth grade, and no star in the universe, once beckoned by gravity, has ever missed a black hole.
I can’t work on anything more than three hours before it is due. The intervening distance between the present and the deadline is just too great. Too much lies between. Too many opportunities to get distracted and lost.
Outside the event horizon of a black hole, the doomed star moves sluggishly towards it at first. It meanders along its orbital trajectory, barely noticing the monster gobbling dust and light and logic a few trillion miles away. But as it is inevitably pulled closer, the poor star is forced to confront its fate. It moves faster and faster, its orbit distorted into a grotesque spaghetti string, noodling inexorably toward the slurping black hole. Finally, at the speed of light, it is chewed into its subatomic elements and disappears irretrievably into the senseless maw of the universe.
But the kicker is this: For the star, in that last split second before it blinks out of existence, or travels to another dimension, or whatever happens on the other side of a black hole, time stops completely. That last second never ends for the doomed star: it is stretched across an eternity, afforded endless time to ponder an execution that never comes. In that eternal second, the star is infinitely concentrated, infinitely hot, infinitely bright, infinitely small. It is nothing but energy.
So too with me in those last few hours before a deadline. In that three-hour eon of misery, the impossible takes place. A minute becomes a thesis statement, an hour becomes a central argument and five sources. A course packet is opened for the first time, devoured in a flurry of page-flipping, processed, and born anew through an inkjet printer. The hour before the deadline is the hour of creation, of eternity. If I’m worth anything as a writer, it’s only in that hour.
Don’t tell me black holes aren’t magical. They’re magical by definition. They are the places where all the rules of reality disintegrate and time and light themselves, those twin commanders of the universe, freeze dead in their tracks. And don’t tell me deadlines aren’t magical. Dostoevsky saw God in a glint of sunlight in the hour before his mock-execution. And at the point of falling through a deadline, I have written entire papers on subjects about which I knew nothing then and know nothing to this day. Good papers. B papers. Papers I do not remember, and whose creation will always remain at least partially inexplicable.
At the cusp of destruction, stars and students alike become capable of the infinite. This I believe, at 5:44 in the morning, three hours before this is due.