Countdown

Reads: 179  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
He thought it absurd, how people could wait decades for that infinitesimal window of time when the watch radiated subtle hues of azure, marking the end of the countdown.

Submitted: August 18, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 18, 2019

A A A

A A A


He thought it absurd, how people could wait decades for that infinitesimal window of time when the watch radiated subtle hues of azure, marking the end of the countdown.

He watched them, strangers released from destiny and thrown together almost randomly in mere seconds – their conviction that it was meant to be stemming solely from an accessory engineered to read zero when its owner came face to face with their soulmate.

Some never took it off, glancing at it every now and then; others kept it locked up for reasons that were theirs alone to disclose. Hours dwindling to mere seconds, counting down to a manufactured serendipity – he found it almost laughable, but some part of him had believed.

 

“I’m not good enough.”

For a long time, the only sounds in the café were muted voices lamenting about work over swirling lattes, the hum accentuated by the clink of cups scattered across the room.

Downing the rest of his coffee in one swift gulp, he slid his mug to the side with the back of his hand and sighed, resting his chin on the bridge of his intertwined fingers.

Softly, he asked, “What if we had never met? Maybe if you had just waited until -”

He trailed off, and the other stared back at him with an inscrutable expression.

Thump…thump…thump…he envisioned his heartbeats, fated to follow one after the other until the end.

“Auden … what am I to you?”

Lifting his chin, his mouth shaped the words then wrapped around his widening grin.

The other laughed a little and leaned in, bridging the gap between fluttering hearts, gently pressing their foreheads together. Almost instinctively, he closed his eyes and let his chest rise and fall in pace with the soft breaths that fell on his lips.

“Then that’s good enough for me.”

 

When time stopped, he started measuring the length of moments in heartbeats.

Now he counts - three for the sudden proposal, ten for the lingering stillness, one for the answer he whispered back, and none as his lover walked away.

Alone at a table for two, his fingers absentmindedly circled the metallic band around his wrist, as the murmur in the candle-lit dining room became cacophonous and he squeezed his eyes shut.

It was for the best, he repeated like a mantra. He wondered numbly if anything would have changed if he had called out to the retreating back rather than collapse into stricken silence. He saw his beautiful fantasy – deep-set eyes slit to accentuate the resentful sneer distorting thin lips – mock the hollow words cocooning the rejection and swallowed.

Trapped in a moment, they had been, clumsy hands grasping at the teasing warmth of an unclaimed body hidden in slender waists and broad shoulders as they danced, danced in darkness. He was a substitute as long as the other's watch kept ticking, but when he closed his eyes to the trembling uncertainty, he saw their hands shrouded in an azure glow and thought to himself that it was alright for him to stay a little longer.

Biting his bottom lip, he hesitated as a waiter wandered to his table with an apologetic smile, then reached for the small velvet box forsaken amidst unfinished dishes and pocketed it.

 

At a quarter past midnight, he stumbled over the threshold of his empty apartment. Minutes later, he sat down on the tattered couch with a heavy sigh.

Reaching for the remote, he flipped through channels aimlessly before settling on reruns of a washed-up show from his adolescence. Watching the characters strut across their rectangular domain, he smiled a little as a freckled teenager yanked his giggling companion into an awkward embrace.

Adjusting his cushions, he suddenly felt something dig painfully into his thigh. Rummaging through his pockets, he brought out crumpled receipts, four quarters, and the small box from before. He hesitated, before gingerly opening its lid.

Frowning slightly, he carefully extracted a watch and held it up to the dim light emitting from the television, taking in the small scratches etched along its length. Gently, he touched the spiderweb of cracks spun across the lifeless face, rough edges that jutted into his skin to blunt over time.

He slowly turned it over and fixed his gaze onto jagged initials crudely engraved near the bottom. In the background, an old clip began to play.

 

“Darling, please. Not right now.”

“But mother, it’s been so long since I’ve last seen him and – and…”

A child padded over to a dolled-up woman, looking forlorn.

“I miss him,” he whispered.

Adjusting the fit of her dress around her bosom, his mother let out a bark of laughter as she reached for her purse on the kitchen countertop.

“Mother, won’t you let him come home?” he persisted.

When she didn’t speak, he stared at her hunched shoulders and tentatively reached for her bare wrist, since the left hand was clenched into a fist. But then she suddenly turned to kneel in front of him with a tight-lipped smile, and he guiltily jerked back.

“Okay, how about we play a fun little game? All you have to do is start by counting all the things you like the most – can you do that for me?”

Obediently, the child gave it some thought. Eventually, he held up eight fingers triumphantly and, taking a hold of his outstretched hands, his mother went on.

“What I’m going to do now is count down and, each time I subtract one, imagine you’re giving up one thing you like. So, when I reach zero, there will only be one thing left - the thing you like, that you need, more than anything else.”

Counting, she folded one finger into his palm at a time as his eyes grew to the size of saucers. When the thumb disappeared into the tight curl and all ten fingers were balled up tightly, she asked him if he was ready.

As he stared dazedly at his hands, she stood up, went to a drawer, and took out a watch.

It was then that the doorbell sounded.

“Mother,” he said, watching as she kneeled once more to carefully strap the watch onto his slender wrist, “it’s not easy to let go of things that matter.”

He followed her to the door, resting his head on the wall while his mother put on her heels, leaning on an unfamiliar man whose arm was wrapped around her thin waist.

“Perhaps not right now,” she said, “but soon you’ll grow up. And the key to growing up, darling, is making it so that it is.”

 

Staring numbly at the shattered watch, he thought about the child’s tinny words, strung together like confused headlines.

It’s not easy to let go, people cried when the world told them to in lines of bold print.

“…the developer was found dead this morning from drug overdose…”

“…there have been some reports that the invention of the century has failed…”

“…so far, no solutions have been found…”

But they still waited – outsiders to a snow-globe world sitting tight until someone made them their second choice.

It’s not easy to let go.

Sometimes, in the searing loneliness of his dreams, a figure cloaked in darkness feverishly pulled him closer with an urgency he never did quite understand. Chapped, carmine lips parted slightly and whispered to him…

Squeezing his eyes shut, he grappled with his memories. He couldn’t remember, this small thing from his past.

Yet even in his dreams, it was a love that made him whole.

 

Tiredly, he hauled himself up from the couch, still clutching the fractured watch. Fumbling for his phone in the left pocket of his jacket, he dialed a number he knew by heart, listened to the sharp beep punctuating the silence.

He waited.

It’s late, I know. Maybe too late - but tomorrow I was thinking we could bake blueberry pancakes in my kitchen

three

and binge-watch all those movies you love-slash-hate

two

and we’ll get pizza for dinner and talk about us for real, so



 

” - Hello?”

Squeezing his eyes shut, he took a deep breath.

one


© Copyright 2020 atian. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments: