WINCHESTER, MA—Spellbound by his own thoughts as the words “Classroom Essentials” appeared on screen and washed over him in a cold tide of sudden awareness, incoming third-grader Harrison Jacobs was struck Friday by a sudden recognition of his own mortality brought on by another year of back-to-school commercials. “Every fall, the same Target ad—oh, God, the steps of the Reaper echo in the inexorable turning of the seasons, and it comes for me as it comes for us all,” said 9-year-old boy, who found himself transfixed by the same child actors who, he is dimly aware, will model low-cost backpacks and raincoats year after year after year, trapped digitally in time like insects in amber, never aging, impervious to the cruel lockstep of the passing years, which, like rain on stone, will slowly erode Jacobs’ precious youth before inevitably—but not gently, no, never gently—claiming his being and returning it to the universe, as it must with all that lives. “Their carefree smiles may see eternity, captured while taking $4.99 and $6.99 composition notebooks from their lockers, and yet one day the children who smiled those smiles will perish, their flesh returned into the Earth, and their thoughts, their loves, their pain will vanish, to where none know, subsumed into nothingness or eternity, as will the essences everyone they’ve ever held dear. And what of me? For the moment in third grade, but next year it’s fourth, and then fifth, and then ninth, and then college, and then middle age, and then, in time’s fullness, I’ll altogether cease. Oh, my life. What am I doing with my life?” Jacobs has since taken his mind off the subject by trying to find school binders that don’t have totally stupid graphics on them.

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