The clock ticks. I take another breath.
Another tick. Another second goes by.
I close my eyes, staring at nothing but the ceiling. My hands hold a blanket, but do not feel the comfort, the warmth in it. In fact, everything feels cold. Everything is slipping. And a breath is held.
The ticks are gone.
I open my eyes.
I’m no longer at the hospital. Instead, I’m in a bedroom. The walls are painted blue, decorated with pictures of a family. Most of them feature a wedding of a happy couple. Others feature photos of the couple with other family members. I observe the photos, taking in the moments that were captured, the memories that were held. A large bed is pushed against the wall. Across the room, a large clock ticks loudly. A young man sits on the edge of the bed, clutching a phone in his hand. His hair is uncombed, and he sits tensely, as if ready to get up any minute.
The clock ticks.
He’s the man in much of the photos, appearing to be the groom of the happy couple. Unlike the photos, the expression on his face paints concern, and worry. He doesn’t take any notice of me and continues talking as I take a seat next to him. The man speaks quietly into the phone, asking questions until they are answered, and he is told that his father is dead.
His breath shakes, but he continues talking. After a few minutes, he hangs up the phone, and sighs. I want to put my hand on his shoulder, to speak a few comforting words to him, but I remain silent. All I can do is watch.
The young man puts his head in his hands. His body shakes. He grieves for his loss, and the only thing I can do is watch in silence. I want to hold him, to give him comfort. To tell him to move on. I want to stay with him.
However, time has other plans for me.
I close my eyes.
I open my eyes again to find myself outside.
There are cheers of laughter, singing, and wishes being made. I am outside. It’s sunny, and there are people dancing all over the grass. There are tables blanketed in white cloth, served with food and drinks. Children run around the trees, playing a game of hide and seek. My eyes travel to an elderly couple, sitting at one of the tables. They are alone, but there are tears in their eyes, watching their son get married. The father is an older version of the young man, but there is happiness in his eyes. He turns to his wife, who cries while watching her son.
The wife cries, watching her son grow up. She cries because she knows that she won’t be able to see him after this. She cries because she won’t be able to see his children, her grandchildren. She cries because this is the moment she will always remember, seeing her son for one last time.
I know this story well. I know what happens, and it makes me want to reach out my hand to take hers, to find a way to change her fate. I hate the fact that I can’t do anything but watch time unfold itself.
I close my eyes.
I walk away and leave.
It’s snowing, and I watch as a young man runs across the street. He’s filled with excitement and happiness. A woman wearing a red scarf stares down at her phone. She looks up, and seeing the man, a smile spreads on her face. She calls the man’s name, and runs to him. The two embrace each other, smiling and laughing. As they let go, they tell each other of their winter vacations, holding each other’s hands as they walk into a coffee shop. I listen as the man apologises for being late, and as the woman laughs. She whispers in his ear, telling him that she would always be waiting for him. They smile at one another, holding hands as they walk inside.
I follow them into the shop, watching as the couple is seated at a table and take their orders. A clock hangs in the corner of the shop, ticking of time that goes unnoticed. The couple chat, and talk about their lives. Hours pass as I watch the couple spend time together, happily, but to me it feels like a second. The man fidgets in his seat excitedly, and stands up from his chair. The woman seems confused, and her face changes into a shocked expression as the man gets on one knee, and takes a small box from his pocket.
I want to watch. I want to stay.
I know what happens. I know that she says yes. I know that they would be married, and have three children. I know that they would be happy.
I also know that time doesn’t wait for anyone.
I close my eyes.
I open my eyes.
In front of me is a teenage couple. I’m still in the same exact coffee shop, but in front of me is a much younger version of the couple. The clock in the corner still ticks, still counts the seconds that go unnoticed. The girl sits at the same table, but her face is fixed in a frown. The boy however, stands in front of the table nervously.
“I’m sorry. I had to help my little brother with something.”
The man apologizes profusely. After a few moments, the girl smiles at him. “I understand. I always have to help with my sister too. Don’t make me wait next time though.”
I watch as the man nervously seats himself across from her, and they begin to carry a conversation. I watch as the hours pass, and the couple begins to know more about each other. I watch as they grow feelings for each other, feelings that became real, that became permanent. I watch the past unfold, and I realize it’s time.
I don’t close my eyes this time.
I’m looking at a pair of hands holding mine.
I look at her face, and she smiles. Her smile brings back memories; it brings back every moment I had with her until this moment. It brings back the first day I met her, the last day when she had to leave. It brings back every second, minute and hour that I would never regret. It brings back every moment that I always wanted to keep, always wanted to save. I smile.
I know she’s always waiting. I know that time doesn’t have to move for me anymore, and that I’m not going anywhere. This time, this is where I’ll stay. I should apologize, like all the times I did before. Except this is for the last time.
“Sorry for being late.”