I sat and stared at the clock.
The square, deeply dark, mahogany casing enveloped the circular cream coloured face that had become stained by time. The second hand silently jittered, in a perfectly circular motion, over the embossed black roman numerals, and the minute hand moved slowly and slightly as if it was pulling some great weight in its’ wake.
The chimes came every hour and had become the focus of my day.
The soft metallic melody has a strange cleanliness to it and acted as cool damp cloth cleansing my thoughts.
My thoughts were now my life, trapped within this inverted armour, but they were so rich as to fill any perceived shortfall of my life I might have imagined to be absent and unavailable to me.
Where previously, my thoughts and memories had started to fade as age became a burden rather than an aspiration, they had now started to became clearer than they had ever been. I know this to be true and not be a figment of my imagination, because my memories are now not only contained within my mind, but are physical to me. My body remembers how I felt when I recall these memories. My heart beats faster: my stomach turns as butterflies flutter there, and my eyes water with the beauty of what I see.
The clock chimes. It is six o’clock and I hold my breath as the tones emanate gracefully, not wishing to disturb this peak within my day in any way.
I can now only hold my breath for six chimes before a nauseous dizziness begins to overcome me. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I would hold my breath for all twelve chimes. I view it now as a measure of my deterioration, but not in a sad way, but as an acceptance of the reality of my circumstances. I thankfully discovered some time ago that acceptance severed the ropes which were the cause of my struggles. Once I had shed them, then my life became just that, once more, and I had regained at least some control, and with that, the most important thing of all to me: my dignity.
After the sixth chime, I exhaled slowly and closed my eyes.
It was a summer’s day.
The late afternoon sun was still high and it pasted our faces in its’ warmth.
Emily took my hand as we walked across the field that was awash with wild flowers, creating a kaleidoscope of natural flora; the scents of the flowers combining to form one scent we would come to know simply as the scent of summer.
She laughed aloud as I swung her around and then pulled her in tightly to me. I inhaled strongly and smelt her sweetness, as she wrapped her arms around my neck. I squeezed her tightly and vowed to myself that I would never let her go. Indeed, I would have happily stayed transfixed in that fragment of time, if such things were possible. She pulled her head back and smiled at me. Her smile had jumped straight out from her heart and had filled me with a euphoria that caused every nerve in my body to tingle slightly.
I returned her smile and kissed her tenderly on her lips; tasting her sweet scented breath.
We knelt down together before reclining on to our backs; the soft grass and scented flowers providing a cushion we both sank into, both of us almost overcome with peace and contentment as the cool grass tickled against our faces.
I awoke as the clocked chimed seven.
It surely could not have been an hour that I had been away. My time in the meadow seemed to be but a few minutes. Where else did I go, if indeed I went anywhere?
I moved my eye balls slowly to take in my surroundings, the periphery of my vision severely hampered by my still body.
The nurse came over and stood directly in front of me, searching curiously into my eyes and then removing a tissue from her pocket before wiping away the saliva that had dripped down my chin from my gaping mouth.
It was a caring gesture, which try as I might, I still could not learn to appreciate it for what it was, for such gestures only served to remind me of my circumstance, and pull me down heavily to the ground when I all I wanted was to soar higher and higher and away from my troubled body.
The seventh chime echoed and then faded away.
I was released once more.
I walked casually through the streets of the village. I hadn’t long arrived and was holidaying with my parents on the outskirts of the village.
They had sent me into the village to for bread and eggs.
She leaned out from the shop doorway as I crossed the cobbled road, as I took great care to avoid any collision with the horse and carts and the tractors which noisily cut through the streets.
It was the first time I had set eyes on Emily.
I swear I stopped to an abrupt halt in the middle of the street, and if it were not for the loud protestations of the tractor driver who scolded me for my stupidity, it would probably have been the last time I was to set eyes on her, also.
The noise caused Emily to look over in my direction, and when she did so, every sinew in my body melted. I stood breathless until further, sharper, protestations followed and I came to my senses and moved onto the pavement.
She smiled back at me and I instinctively waved pathetically; immediately regretting my actions. She laughed and waved back.
It was truly unforgettable and my heart raced. I had never been touched by such beauty. Composing myself, I nervously approached her and held out my hand to introduce myself. She took it gracefully, and the softness of her skin overpowered me even more causing my throat to dry. My nervous mumblings caused her to smile again, and she held my hand more tightly in an effort to reassure me.
In those few moments she had completely captured my heart to the point that if I never was to meet her again, I would still be eternally grateful for that one fleeting encounter that I hoped would stay with me for all eternity.
I opened my eyes once more to my inanimate companion staring silently back at me.
It was nine forty-five.
Again I was gone for longer than I had expected.
The latest memories filled with me the same intense euphoria I felt the first time. These memories are so much more than priceless. They are an entity in themselves. I do not own them. They are too precious for any ownership. They are more precious than life itself. They are above our understanding: beyond our mortal comprehension, yet a sheer joy to behold. I did not need to question its’ reason, but to embrace it and wonder at its’ beauty and joy.
The nurse appeared in front of me and placed a bib cloth around my neck.
The plate was placed underneath my chin, and try as I might, I still could not feel the cold porcelain against my skin. I could hear the scrape of the metal spoon on the bottom of the plate and this was followed by the food being gently poured into my mouth.
Taste had also long deserted me and I increasingly felt ever less inclined to undertake the tremendous effort involved in swallowing the mushed recipe.
I could hear her tut disapprovingly as she wiped away the drivelling mess from my chin.
She gave up after a while and removed my bib cloth before wiping my chin once more.
The clock began to chime and I held my breath until this time I could only reach four. I listened to the other five chimes before closing my eyes again to go back to a world that was real for me.
Emily held out her hand to me and I reached out and grabbed for it. This wasn’t the same. I had no recollection of this. I was in a place that was strange to me, yet, if it were possible, seemed to fill me with even greater pleasure. Was my memory now also deteriorating to be as one with my body? I didn’t recall this moment. It was wonderful. I surely could not have erased it from my treasure chest. It was as if a great weight had lifted and gave my body, as well as my soul, a new found freedom. I resisted slightly, but she led me away, constantly smiling as she gently skipped in front of me, constantly turning to face me, and offering me comfort as she skipped ahead, holding tightly to my outstretched hand. I gave up any resistance and skipped joyously behind her.
The clock chimed once more as the nurse placed his head softly back on the pillow. She gently wiped his face over with a dampened cloth. Returning his smile, she placed her fingers on his eye lids and guided them closed.
As she covered his face with the white sheet, the chime from the clock resonated around the small room for the twelfth time, before seeping away into the walls, as the room fell into silence.