They’re supposed to be magical numbers because they’re identical. You could fold the time onto itself and it would be exactly the same. You could even fold the time onto itself four times and it would be the same: all ones done over and over and over itself, an accordion of number one. Maybe that’s what makes the number so magical?
A friend—who was kind of a mystic because he had a shaved head and talked slowly—once whispered in my ear, “11:11 is the most magical time.” I had known this already. The friend-mystic wasn’t breaking any news to me: we all know 11:11 is magic time. AM or PM, it does not matter. It is equal opportunity for magic.
We all had our time with this time, too. You wanted someone to like you so you would wait until you saw the clock in class hit the quadruple one, trying to align evenly with the second and millisecond to get the little 11:11 within the 11:11. You’d stare at the microwave blinking a green 11:10 before bed and watch it switch to 11:11 and then get to wishing, a fake prayer that doesn’t involve any religion. “I want a hundred on my test tomorrow,” you ask the microwave instead of studying. It doesn’t nod or do anything but reflect your face because your mom had cleaned it earlier that day. You look at a phone or watch around 11:11. “I hope I get paid early,” you wish-ask it. Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if this wish-time was some sort of accountant intent on helping you pay your bills? We would all wear watches then, wouldn’t we?
Where did this magic idea come from? My friend-mystic didn’t make it up. Did it start in the year 11, by people who were hoping it would be the time that Jesus would come back? They didn’t have clocks then. They measured things by rooster howls and triangle shadows: they didn’t invent this. They barely had clothes on back then. Maybe it was in 1111, when calendars were probably a real thing and when time was more than animal sounds and people realized that Jesus had left them forever: it was probably then. This was a time that looked like Game Of Thrones so magic existed. No one understood how anything worked and sea monsters were still on maps. This is probably when 11:11 became magical.
Or maybe we all made it up. My friend-mystic told me that on days like today—on 11.11 at 11:11—you got the most magic. In 2011 he reiterated how important it was to employ the time. “This doesn’t happen very often,” he texted or called me or maybe I made it all up. “The 11:11 on November 11 of 2011 will be magical.” I heard about it all year. The magic time on the magical year. Probably not as magical as the year 1111 but magical nonetheless, the only year 11 I will ever live through unless the future means magic for our health. I thought about it any time I saw 11:11 on a clock, out of the corner of an eye or after intentionally waiting to make a wish. The following thought would wander to the most magical time on the most magical date on the most magical year of my maybe magical life. What will I wish for? It was probably money or fame or for someone to wave to me and acknowledge that I am a creative, attractive millennial worthy of attention because I am a cliché. I don’t even remember. Maybe I didn’t wish for anything.
Maybe the magic is the wish. By verbalizing a desire and backing it with positive reenforcement, maybe we are making magic just by putting it into the world. “I want a new dog,” you tell the time genie. “I want a vacation,” you whisper. “I want to win the lottery and go on vacation and bring the new dog,” you pile. The clocks just blink or tick or glide forward with or without your wish. Will it come true? Probably not but your wanting and willing is not for nothing. You said what you wanted so, in some way, it will probably come true.
Those identical numbers on the identical day. Maybe they aren’t much of anything but something my friend-mystic made up, something that I told myself about to replace god with: the time genie catches your requests and sends them into the future to come true…or the prayer gets caught in time, tangled in seconds. Maybe there was no magic there at all. Maybe today is only special if you are a veteran or work for the government. Maybe today—like every day—is what it is. Maybe the double date at the double time is just pleasing to look at. Maybe it’s all symmetry.
“11:11,” you ask. “Be my time magic, please.”