There was a grandfather clock in the front room of our apartment, right across from the entrance as one opened the front door. It was a family heirloom from my mom’s side, passed down from generation to generation, acquiring cracks, nicks, and scratches, but retaining its regal grace. It was made from the finest cherry, the wood a soft reddish-brown, complementing the art you hung up throughout the home. The clock face had golden decoration, art nouveau trappings emblazoned on the piece, a dancing nymph impaled by the axis of the turning hands. Visitors used to stop and stare at it as they cast their shoes to the side and made themselves comfortable. Often, they would realize they’d spent excessive time admiring its beauty and apologized for their rudeness. Of course, you would always laugh and insist that it was no trouble at all.
I sold the clock today, against the wishes of my mother. She called in a furious tirade this morning, insisting that I should’ve offered it to her first before getting rid of it, but I knew I couldn’t do that. She lived three hours away, and I couldn’t stand having the thing in our house for another minute. Besides, if the grandfather clock adorned her living room, I know I’d never visit. She doesn’t know it, but the absence of that clock is a blessing. When I left it in the pawn shop on Center Street, I felt a weight come off my shoulders that I’d been carrying for weeks. Then I noticed the radio, the numbers reading 3:33. I had to pull over to the shoulder, chest heaving, eyes shut, unable to breathe until the minute passed.
Getting rid of the rest of the clocks was a much easier task. Yesterday, I finally made the decision. I wandered through the house, the pile of timekeeping devices growing ever higher in my grasp, not discriminating between analogs in hallways or digitals on dressers. I threw them in a garbage sack, tossed it in the dumpster, and didn’t look back. I threw out all those clocks because of you. You see, it started with our first kiss in Times Square. The ridiculous pomp, the falling confetti, the crowds counting down to one and then your lips on mine. It was stereotypical, done by thousands of other couples around us, but I never minded blending in with the crowd. I can still feel the soft touch of your lips, the winter wind blowing through populated streets, layers of skin and coats all becoming one. Ever since that day, whenever I thought of midnight, of the clock turning from one day to the next, I thought of you.
That simple, picturesque memory sparked a habit in me. In all our happy moments, I would glance at my watch, promising myself that I’d remember it forever, that I’d forever associate that time with that feeling. It became my favorite obsession, besides loving you, of course. Dozens of memories were assigned to different hours on the clock, precious laughter and kisses being summoned by the hands. I cut out all the bad ones, all the mundanity, leaving only the best, like I was sculpting a new version of our love. I created an exquisite picture to sit and admire in the museum of my mind, forged a version of you as stunning as any grandfather clock, with perfect flaws that only made you more endearing. And that’s why I had to get rid of those clocks. Every hour, every minute, every second reminds me of you.
✪ ✪ ✪
9:32 is when we met. My roommates dragged me along to the party, despite the fact that I’d just broken up with MaKenna and wasn’t in the mood to celebrate. However, they insisted, and I begrudgingly tagged along, staying in a corner and avoiding conversation. You caught my eye after a drink or two, and even now, all of the details are fuzzy, but there’s certain things I’ll always remember. How you were shaking your hips to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, hands waving in the air. If you cared about the myriads of people watching you in amazement, you didn’t show it. Your eyes met mine, selecting me as the one you most hoped to embarass. I tried to hide behind disinterest by staring at my phone’s clock, wondering when I’d finally be able to go home, but that hardly deterred you. You grabbed my arm, pulling me onto the dance floor, summoning thumbs up from my roommates to whom I only gave death glares. I could only shuffle awkwardly to the booming bass, unsure of where to put my hands. You put me to shame, tossing your hair back and forth, screaming along to the lyrics. We made quite a pair, your flailing, gyrating body next to my stiff, uncomfortable one. For whatever reason, my complete lack of enthusiasm interested you, and before the night was over I had lipstick on my cheek and your number in my phone. I hadn’t even managed to catch your name, the blaring of poorly aged hits had covered up the sound of you telling me, but I had a hunch it was Hailey… or maybe Meghan.
✪ ✪ ✪
2:13 is the bar on Oakland Avenue we loved to go to. You liked to call it our greatest compromise. While you liked dives of questionable cleanliness and an uncouth atmosphere, I preferred more sophisticated establishments. We’d settled on that bar after months of arguing as to where to spend our Friday nights. It was the perfect in between, not too rough around the edges, but not too stuffy either. I enjoyed listening to the live jazz music, humming along to the brash, bright saxophone. While you’d rather be playing pool and mouthing off to the biker gangs that catcalled you, you toned it down for my sake. Instead, you’d point at the license plates hanging on the walls, musing about what car they must’ve been screwed to, who drove it, and why. You couldn’t help but find innuendos in the letters and numbers, and I’d nudge your arm and tell you to get your mind out of the gutter. This particular night, though, you talked less than usual. You seemed thoughtful, turning your glass in small increments. I asked you if anything was wrong, and you looked up and smiled.
“Oh, nothing’s wrong. I was just thinking about the one time we took shots of whiskey. Remember how you passed out, and then threw up for hours? Wasn’t that hilarious?” I giggled, embarrassed at the memory, and you belched in response, sending us into a burst of ridiculous laughter. The chic couple sitting next to us at the bar gave us glares, and moved over to a private booth.
At 2:33, I went to go to the bathroom, and you said you’d pay for our drinks. Normally, we went dutch, and so I raised my eyebrows. “Don’t get any ideas, dude, this won’t be a regular arrangement. Go pee, I’ll take care of it.” I rolled my eyes and went to the bathroom.
Say what you will about the beauty of the jazz or the aesthetic of the license plates, there is no bar that can hide the sheer horror of smells and sights within their restroom. I had to hold my nose the entire time at the urinal, and mastered the art of turning sink knobs with my elbows. Seeing no other way, I had to grasp the sweaty handle to the door, returning to the counter where you were in deep conversation with the bartender. The two of you were laughing, but as I approached, the conversation died out and you turned to me.
“What was so funny?” I asked.
“Oh, just Rhonda being Rhonda,” you replied.
“Do you know each other?”
“As of ten minutes ago. That was a long piss.”
“Sorry for not wanting to get cholera,” I said. “You know I can’t touch… well… you know.”
Your face fell slightly, and you reached into your purse. “I have hand sanitizer.”
“Thanks,” I replied.
I smiled at you, trying to assuage any of your fears, but I could tell that even in your drunken state you knew.
“Really, I’m better. Just sometimes bathrooms are gross, okay?”
“Okay…” you said, and opened the sanitizer cap. You squeezed it out, your intoxication resulting in two accidental squirts onto the wooden counter before you corrected your trajectory onto my outstretched hand. “Here you go, mister bathroom-phobe.” I stuck out my tongue, and you gave me the middle finger. We sat there grinning at each other, my hands rubbing the sanitizer onto each other for precisely fifteen seconds.
✪ ✪ ✪
11:30 was our first real fight. We had been screaming at each other for so many minutes that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it started or ended.
“Why do you care so much about what goes on inside my head! It doesn’t affect you!”
“Look,” you said, raising your hands in the air. You always made broad, sweeping gestures when you were arguing, as if it added credibility to your claims. “We just want what’s best for you. Your mom thinks it’s OCD, and I’ve done my own research... and it really sounds like these habits of yours—”
“Oh, so you’re a psychologist now?”
“—you’re obsessed with being clean! You’re anxious in unfamiliar situations! And all these little rituals you do! You know, like the tapping of the nightstand whenever you go to bed!”
“You thought that tapping was cute,” I said, betrayal filling every muscle in my body. “What changed?"
“What changed is now I know it’s all part of a mental disorder!”
“So? Why the hell does that matter? Who cares if I have quirks every now and then? It’s not like it hurts anybody.”
“What about your teeth? You brush them until you bleed! Don’t pretend I haven’t noticed your fingernails. It could be genetic, too! I read an article by a scientist that said—”
“Oh, how illuminating!” I retorted. “The girl who hasn’t declared her major after six years of college is suddenly an expert on everything!”
“Don’t turn this back on me!” you yelled, finger pointing, tears brimming at the corners of your eyes. “I’m just trying to help you! This therapy, whatever it’s called—”
“Exposure therapy, I know you and my Mom talked about it.”
“It might work! It could help you stop doing all these impulsions—”
“Compulsions, damn it! You know what I meant!” The tears were streaming down your face. “Stop being such a douchebag, we’re just trying to help!” You gave me a look that indicated any retorts would result in a thrown object, and whipped your head away from me, walking out the front door. I crept towards it, placing my ear against the wood. I heard you sobbing on the other side, hysterical breaths between each outburst of weeping. I turned away, hoping that leaving you alone for a while would let the whole mess blow over, and walked up the stairs to our room, counting every step.
✪ ✪ ✪
By 2:47, we figured out that our car had been towed. After several minutes of unsuccessful searching and racking our drunk brains for the location of our vehicle, we eventually realized we’d parked in a handicapped parking space, the paint having faded so long ago that there was barely any trace of its nature. You cursed several times, looking on your phone to see who to call and verbally abuse, eventually realizing any attempts to locate our 2007 Corolla would be fruitless until morning. I was ready to call my old roommate to see if he’d be able to pick us up, but you suggested we walk home. I begrudgingly agreed, despite the fact that it was cold out and neither of us had coats. The smog blanketing the city was invisible, save for the halos surrounding street lamps, and if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have been able to keep my mind off of carcinogens. We wandered the streets, getting lost several times, and then debating whether Google or Apple would be better suited to lead us home. You won out, and Siri’s voice guided us through the abandoned streets. As we walked, you started humming that Katy Perry song.
“Feeling nostalgic tonight, hmm?”
You nodded, not stopping.
“You know, to be honest, there are far better songs we could use to symbolize our relationship.”
“C’mon, you don’t think Katy’s romantic?”
“I’m more of a Michael Bublé kind of guy, personally.”
“He’s boring as hell. Couldn’t you think of anybody cooler?”
I shrugged, and we continued down the sidewalk, bathed in the street light’s glow.
✪ ✪ ✪
Our first date started at 5:00. I arrived at your apartment twenty minutes early, my palms getting sweat all over the steering wheel. I checked my breath fifteen times, and kept unbuttoning and buttoning my top button. I hoped punctuality would impress you, as I had already made one ridiculous faux pas. As it turned out, your name most definitely was not Meghan and when I unwittingly called you it on the phone, you dissolved into hysterical laughter. Embarrassed, I demanded to know what your real name was, but you wouldn’t tell.
“Just pick me up on time, alright?” you said, before hanging up.
I was determined to follow those instructions. The moment I saw the radio turn to the proper time, I jumped out of the car, racing to your front door. Your roommate answered it, looked me up and down, and grimaced.
“Are you sure this is the guy you were talking about?” she said, unimpressed.
“Shut up, Darcy,” you said, your face appearing in the frame, slipping on your high heels. “Just because he’s not your type doesn’t mean he’s nobody’s.”
“Whatever,” Darcy said, waltzing off. You stood in the doorway, showing yourself off. You were stunning in a black dress, your hair done up in a stylish bun, deep blue mascara embracing your eyes. You gave me an appraising look, and I glanced down at my outfit, suddenly embarrassed that I seemed underdressed by comparison.
“A pink button-up? Bold choice.”
I shrugged, mortified. “I don’t know, it just seemed nice.”
You laughed, walking down the steps and pulling up my chin. “Don’t feel bad… you’re cute.”
We made our way to the arcade, and the closer we got the more I realized that you were the one who was improperly dressed. That was one of my first tastes of your craving for nonconformity. Who else would dress up for a night at the arcade? You attracted stares the moment you walked in. Even while handing me the tokens, the cashier’s eyes were fixed on you.
Playing at the arcade with you was a completely different experience. You raced from game to game, machine to machine, with a zeal I could barely keep up with. You were competitive, determined to get the highest scores on a Galaga knockoff and to viciously beat every rodent at Whack-a-mole. I could only watch in stunned awe. You never noticed that I didn’t touch anything. Thinking of the number of hands that had touched those joysticks and buttons sickened me. However, I couldn’t help but admire the way you refused to back down at the smallest challenge. By closing time, you’d gathered nearly two-thousand tickets, and got yourself a giant purple teddy-bear as a reward for all your hard work. Standing at the front of the arcade, grinning with satisfaction, breathtaking in that dress, the massive stuffed animal at your waist, I first realized I was falling in love with you.
“Come on, let’s get ice cream,” you said. And we did. It was late, and they were about to close down shop, but you didn’t care. You demanded a sample of at least half their flavors, nearly getting us thrown out, whereas I immediately ordered vanilla. We sat outside the shop with our ice cream, the workers giving us dirty looks as they locked the door and swept the floors.
“So… Do you ever talk?” you said, eyebrows raised, an amused expression painted on your face.
“When I want to,” I responded, choosing my words carefully. “It’s just… when I’m around you, I’m not sure what to say. I don’t want to do anything stupid.”
“The only stupid thing you can do is not talk to me,” you responded, spilling a little of your caramel-fudge on the teddy bear. “Trust me, I’ve heard some really bad flirting in my time. You can’t do worse than my ex.”
I raised my eyebrows and you burst into your horrifying first date story, and by the end, we were racking with laughter, trying not to spill our ice cream on the sidewalk. I told you the story of how MaKenna dumped me over text message, and then you confessed that you’d broken up with your first boyfriend because you found out you were second cousins. We went back and forth, swapping stories as I drove you home, endlessly entertained by more than our fair share of romantic misfortune. As I stopped in front of your apartment, grinned broadly, and then kissed me on the cheek. Before you pulled away, you whispered your name in my ear, and then quickly slipped out of the car, running to the door, waving your teddy bear at your roommates who were waiting eagerly at the front window. I felt my skin flush where your lips had been, and I kept repeating your name to myself as I drove home, saying it two-hundred and twenty-five times.
✪ ✪ ✪
At 3:20, We broke onto Juliet Parkway. By then, you’d noticed how often I’d been checking my watch, and asked me about it. If I’d told you the truth, that I was hoarding memories of this beautiful night to save for later, we would’ve fallen into our old argument about how I needed to stop entertaining my obsessions. Then I’d insist that some obsessions could be positive, and then you’d quote my mother, and then we’d fall into a whole other argument about my relationship with her. I had no desire to ruin our perfect night, so even when you pressed the subject I shrugged it off, insisting I was just tired and ready to be home.
Juliet Parkway was one of the busiest streets in the city, three lanes on either side and a continuous rush of vehicles all going from one place to another. It was in the heart of downtown, high rises on either side, brash billboards advertising everything from chapstick to lasik eye surgery. Alone, surrounded by the tall apartment buildings and business offices was an old church, its white spire stark against the sea of grey around it. It was surrounded on every side by a metal fence, an overgrown cemetery beyond, worn headstones proclaiming the names of those long dead. You ran your fingers along the rusty bars of the fence, looking up at it as we passed. You stopped for a moment, and I walked ahead. After fifteen steps, I looked back, raising an eyebrow.
“The church lights are on,” you mused, leaning forward into the railing, your left leg popping up, black purse swaying back and forth. I took a moment to admire your grace. You hadn’t done much to accentuate your appearance, which was rare for you, but you remained as beautiful as ever. Your delicate face was aglow in the street light, your hair flowing down to your white t-shirt in chaotic elegance, and even your bright teal sweatpants couldn’t distract me. I sighed to myself before realizing I wasn’t hearing what you were saying.
“What?” I asked.
“Oh, you never listen,” you said. “I was just saying that the preacher might be in. Or priest, I’m not sure if this place is Catholic.”
I gave you a bemused smile. “Why would the preacher-slash-priest need to be in?”
You looked at me slyly, unsure of what to say next. “Well… it just got me thinking…”
“I don’t know. If we were feeling impulsive,” you gave me another one of your looks. “Which you never do, but say you were, we could just waltz over to the county clerk’s office, get a license, and then come back here…”
I chuckled. “And get married? In sweatpants? In the middle of the night? You’re not thinking straight.”
You flipped me off for the second time that night. “Shut up! You know it’d be romantic. Just a spur of the moment thing, something we could joke with our kids about.”
I practically reeled. You definitely weren’t thinking straight. Talking about marriage and kids? That was something I was hardly prepared for. I nervously laughed. “You’re drunk, keep dreaming.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” You said, and relief washed over me. I hoped the moment had passed, and we wouldn’t have to talk about such terrifying commitments for a moment longer. You backed away from the fence, walking towards me, a small hint of sadness on your face. I felt slightly guilty about crushing your fantasy, but neither of us were ready. It was simply the practical thing to do. I took your hand as you approached, giving it a squeeze and kissing your forehead. You smiled halfheartedly.
“We’ve got to go,” you said. “After all, you won’t stop complaining about how tired you are.”
We started to stroll down the sidewalk again, the occasional car rushing by us, the distant roar of engines and rolling tires echoing through the city.
✪ ✪ ✪
7:15 is the pharmacy at the supermarket in the suburbs just outside town, and the two of us sitting silently in line, surrounded by soccer moms with hyperactive children. You kept sending clandestine glances my way, but I noticed them. You were watching my facial expressions, my lips, the endless darting of my eyes. I knew you were trying to analyze me, to see what horrors my mind was producing. Of course, I tried to hide the fact that I was counting how often the impatient man in front of us tapped his foot (four-hundred and twenty-eight times before he got to the front of the line). I tried to hide that I could notice every misplaced item in the pharmacy. Of course, I refused to show that I couldn’t stop thinking about all the dangers of the chemicals around me. What if I took that entire bottle of Tylenol at once? What would happen to my body? I bet my kidneys would explode. Don’t think about exploding kidneys. What if I’m allergic to the medicines my psychiatrist gave me? Exploding kidneys. What if they got the prescription wrong? What if I’m taking opioids instead? Would I get addicted? Exploding kidneys. What if—
“You alright, soldier?”
I looked down at you, the continuous stream of thoughts ceasing for a moment. Trying to look calm and collected, I nodded. “Just a little nervous.”
“There’s nothing to be nervous about. Dr. Nuñez knows what he’s doing.”
“But what if they make me even more depressed?” I asked, invoking one of my greatest fears. “Or I start to act… weird?”
“First off, you’re already a weirdo. Second, this is the trial and error stage. Third, the moment I see you heading south, I’m calling Nuñez and demanding we change up the meds.”
“Alright…” I said, feeling the slightest bit of comfort.
You were always watching out for me. You called my mom when it seemed things were taking a turn for the worst. You threw open the door right as I pulled out the razor, grabbing it from my hands and screaming at me. You apologized for all the screaming, but then took back your apology and made me promise to never scare you like that again. You made the appointments as I laid on the couch, shaking, the thoughts so strong I couldn’t form a coherent sentence. You always dragged me into the car to see the psychiatrist, and the one who held my hand as I tried my best to regurgitate every horrible, intrusive thought so he could give me a diagnosis. And now, you were in line with me waiting to get my medication.
"What would I do without you?” I said. You looked up into my eyes, pensive, and then looked away. We made it to the front of the line, getting a bag of medication from the pharmacist. As we walked out of the supermarket, you slipped the orange bottles into your purse. I stretched out my hand.
“I can take those.”
“No, really,” you said, badly faking a casual tone. “I can keep track of them for you. You know, give you your doses when you need them.”
“They’re mine,” I said, still holding out my hand. “I should probably have them.”
You shook your head. “Really, I don’t mind.”
“No,” I said, growing impatient. “They’re mine. I’m going to keep them.”
Your casual façade began to crack. “You’re forgetful! I can help you remember to take them!”
I stepped forward, grabbing your purse. “I am not forgetful. You know that. Give them to me!”
You pulled your purse away, slapping my hand. “No, you’re not getting them! Not when you’re like this! Look at how you’re acting!” You ran your hand through your hair, eyes misty. “I was so scared that night. You almost… If I hadn’t stopped you… I can’t let it happen again. Not with razors, not with pills, not with anything. That’s why I’m keeping these, alright? I can’t lose you.”
I stood there, dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. You clutched your purse close to your chest, your teary eyes pleading. It struck me that the thought had already crossed my mind that I could swallow the whole bottle of antidepressants if things didn’t get better, but I hadn’t thought of you. Of how you’d be the one to find me, the one to scream and call the police. I turned it over in my mind, filled with shame that I hadn’t for a moment considered what it would do to you. What it would feel like for me to find you breathless next to a pile of empty pill bottles? I knew that losing you would break me… and losing me would break you. In that moment, I made the decision. Leaving wasn’t an option. I couldn’t betray you like that.
I slowly nodded, and your tense body relaxed. And then, as if nothing happened, you started to walk back to the car, and I followed. “I have some Arby’s coupons,” you said, hand still clutching the purse. “Want to go there for dinner?”
“Ah, yes, a meal of kings.” I said sarcastically.
“Oh, hush. You know they’ve got some phenomenal sandwiches.”
“Yeah, that might actually be made of real meat.”
You shook your head and we walked through the parking lot, your hand in mine.
✪ ✪ ✪
It’s strange, how people describe tragedies. Some can remember every miniscule detail, every tiny aspect of the event. Like how when my sister got mugged, she identified the burglar to the police by the color of his shoelaces. Or how my Mom remembers exactly what she was drinking when she found out her brother had died of cancer (“my favorite chai latte,” she always said). But for others, it’s as if the whole thing is a blur, the details lost in a haze of adrenaline and fear, massive gaps in their memory. When my grandpa talked about the war in Vietnam, he couldn’t remember most of the details. He’d just say, “I was so afraid. There were trees, and gunfire, and blood…” It’s like a brain is either hardwired to remember everything with exactness or to forget as much as it can.
For me, it was like both happened simultaneously. There are plenty of gaps. I can’t remember what we talked about as we approached the intersection on Juliet Parkway. I don’t recall pressing the crosswalk button, or waiting for the cars to slow to a stop. I don’t remember what happened after, I just remember curling up into a ball, biting down on my tongue again and again until it was a bloody pulp, counting up to one hundred in my mind and back down again. I don’t remember the questions the police asked me, or who it was that drove me home that night. I don’t remember if I slept or not. There’s so much I don’t remember.
But some things remain vivid. The way you walked through the crosswalk, the casual way your arms swung. One of your stray hairs rising and falling in the breeze, and how it bothered me. As we reached the other side, your shoe hit the side of the curb, and you lost your balance. There was an awkward grace to the way you fell, your arms outstretched like a skydiver, your purse soaring from your arm. I reached to catch you, but could only grab a handful of your shirt’s fabric. We both fell into a flurry of laughter and soreness.
The orange pill bottles rolled out of your purse and onto the road. After we’d both recovered for a moment, you stood up, walking out to grab them. I’m sure you thought it was safe, there were still a few seconds left on the crosswalk light. I’m sure you didn’t want those bottles to get crushed under a car; it would be inconvenient, having to go to the pharmacy twice in a week. I’m sure as you bent over, picked up the bottles, and turned back to me, you were about to comment on concrete curbs and how they should be banned.
I hope you didn’t notice the panic in my eyes, or the sound of screeching tires. I hope that when you turned to the left, you didn’t have enough time to process the sight of a white pickup speeding through the intersection. I hope that you didn’t feel a thing when it slammed into your body.
Of course, that’s all wishful thinking. It’s impossible to know what you saw, what you felt. I only know that I was frozen on the street corner, the world before me in slow motion, your name screamed from my lips. You rolled up onto the hood of the truck, your limbs flying about you in broken motions. I still remember the sound of your head smashing into the windshield, the spiderweb of cracks spreading across the glass. The car carried you for a few yards before it sped to a stop and your shattered body flung off onto the road.
I remember how many running strides it took to reach you (seven), and how many times the driver of the pickup said “Oh my God!” (twelve). I remember saying your name over and over, trying to make sense of the gory mess of crushed bones and blood spilling onto the asphalt. I remember how I couldn’t look at your face, once stunning but now disfigured by glass. I remember how your mouth was still open, still about to speak, still about to make a sarcastic quip. I remember turning away from you, looking upwards, trying to regain some semblance of sanity. I remember how full the moon was, how brightly it shined, it’s glow stark against the pitch black of the night sky. I stared at it for seventy-four seconds before police lights and the screams of the crowd pulled me back into the chaos.
Most of all, though, I remember looking at my watch, seeing 3:33 spelled out on the screen. I cursed the bitter irony of it, the complete depravity of fate, the cruel machinations of the universe that allowed this to happen.
✪ ✪ ✪
3:33 was sitting in your car. We’d just driven back from our vacation in New York, and you’d already dropped off all of our other friends. They had been harassing us the entire drive back about how we’d kissed, demanding to know if we were officially a couple or not. Naturally, you just told them to screw off, but you were smiling nevertheless. As if to subtly confirm their suspicions, we held hands just behind the gear shift. I was tired, and had a headache, and was ready to be home, but for whatever reason, sitting there outside of my apartment, I didn’t want to leave.
“I had a really fun time,” I said.
“Yeah, me too.” you responded, and we fell back into silence.
I was worried you’d think I was weird, but you didn’t ask me to get out. You didn’t say anything, you were just staring at me, an intent look in your eye. I met your gaze, watching you breathe in and out, both of us shivering in the mid-January cold. Your heater was broken. At first, I tried to search for words, but they didn’t come, and you seemed comfortable with the silence. The windows slowly fogged up from our breath, as if our lungs themselves were trying to cocoon us from the outside world, blocking out any distraction. The moon shone like a fuzzy halo behind you, illuminating you in its magnificent glow.
All I could think about was you. The subtle curves of your lips, your ceaseless stare. I knew then that you were the only one I could ever give my heart to. There were others who had taken my emotions and tossed them away like a toy they’d grown out of, but you never would. I felt it in the way you kissed me.
The car radio’s clock turned from 3:32 to 3:33.
“Make a wish,” you said, shattering the stillness.
“It’s a thing in our family. You make wishes. You know, at 11:11, 2:22. It’s like magic. Whatever you wish for will happen.”
“Whatever you want to believe in, I guess.”
You rolled your eyes, and I leaned forward and kissed you. In the moonlight, your body close to mine, the stark cold surrounding us, I made that wish. You told me later that you’d wished for your car heater to be repaired, but I never told you what I’d wished for. I think you already knew, though. That I hoped that moment would never end. That we could stay like that forever, simply being in each other’s presence, not even needing to speak to understand. I wished I would never have to let you go.
✪ ✪ ✪
Last night, I woke up in a cold sweat, echoes of my dream still taunting me in waking. You were there, of course, and we were running down Juliet Parkway. We stopped in front of the church, a white balloon hanging from the fence. You started to untie it, and I tried to stop you.
“Why?” you asked.
“I don’t know. I just don’t want you to.”
But, determined, you pulled the string of the balloon, severing it from the fence, and it began to rise, carrying you with it higher and higher. I remember calling out, desperate, as you rose above the skyline, getting smaller and smaller until you disappeared.
Tears still pooling in my eyes, I wiped them and sat up, the moon shining from outside my window. It was full, luminous and bright, just like the night when—
No. I’m not going to think of it.
Of course, that’s all I could think of. The intersection. The shattered limbs. The absence of life in your bloody eyes. I seized up, teeth biting down on my tongue. I felt a few stitches unravel, and blood pooled in my mouth. I stood up, walking to the bathroom. Your shampoos, conditioners, and hairspray were still all out on the counter, like a ghostly legion in the darkness. I fumbled for the sink, washing my mouth out, watching the dark liquid swirl around before sinking into the drain.
I took nine steps out of the bathroom, sliding back onto our bed, hoping that the thoughts would let me sleep for just an hour or two longer. Maybe, I thought, I should take a few more sleeping pills to get through the night. Or maybe the entire bottle.
As I laid my head down to rest, however, a slight ticking pulled me from my thoughts, sending a feeling of dread through my spine. I sat up, fists clenched, detecting the sound emanating from my bedside table. I threw open the drawer, and inside was my solitary watch, glinting in the moonlight. I was about to take the device and smash it or throw it, but something made me stop. I checked the time. 3:33.
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I let them fall. The memories came flooding back. Sitting in the car, the windows rolled up. The screeching of tires. Our breaths intermingling in the dark, the mist from my mouth and the mist from yours intertwining. The way your head turned just before the car collided with your body. Drawing doodles on the foggy windows, laughing at each other’s poor artistic skills. Your blood on the pavement. The moon’s halo around your head. The end. The beginning. The joy. The terror. All of it was before me, all of it tied to one minute of one day. It seemed only right that if things had to end, they’d end where they started.
I looked up at the moon, still shining resolutely. I lifted up the watch until it eclipsed the sphere, letting an orchestra of stars shine through, each twinkling gracefully in the night sky.
“Make a wish,” I whispered.
All poetry and prose © 2021 by Corey J. Boren