Tuesday, 7:00 am. I find myself tapping my foot to the shaky but somehow steady rhythm of the antique clock hanging on the wall. It was a gift sent to my mother, sent back to me because who needs a physical clock in this day and age, she wrote in her accompanying text, almost apologetic. But the clock, or any clock really, is bound by its mechanism, and I find comfort in that. As I stare at the wall, the world around me sways, slowing down to match the clock’s individual ticks. I wait for the seconds to lead its hand towards the Roman numeral V. 6, 5, 4, … I take a deep breath. 3, 2, 1.
7:05 am. I get up from my seat, the chair scraping loudly against the wooden floor, interrupting the clock. It doesn’t take long to reach my closet. I open it, and pick a shirt with black stripes printed on each sleeve amongst a short row of equally grey ones. I don’t choose my clothes based on preference. I don’t think much about it. Maybe I just can’t care enough. 7:07 am. I’m done. I glance at the clock. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten up so early. I sit back in my chair. The waiting starts yet again.
7:10 am. I turn my phone on just to make sure. At this point, I don’t know how I find myself standing outside, walking towards the destination that hasn’t changed itself in three years. 7:15 am. The street stretches further and further until I don’t feel like walking anymore.
7:18 am. I see her. Today, we meet in front of our town’s only McDonald’s. Today, she wears a red blouse and skirt so small that I’m sure it only fits her.
Wednesday, 7:16 am. We cross paths just next to the gas station. It’s a bit earlier than expected. She lacks her usual earrings. Without so much of a glance, she runs past.
Thursday, 7:18 am. We get to look at each other. It’s an unspoken rule, a schedule, a habit: almost a friendship. But not quite. We don’t even know each other’s names. A quick exchange of recognition and she’s no longer in my sight. 7:19 am. I walk faster. 7:23 am. I’m here, a minute earlier than usual.
Friday, 7:08 am. The clock isn’t as loud as it used to be. I wonder what she’s doing. Is she doing her makeup? Will she choose her golden hoop earrings, or her small pink ones? I realize I’ve never stopped to consider where she’s headed every day. I wonder if she lives here or out of town. Maybe she just moved in the day before we started meeting each other. Maybe she’s a college student on her way to the bus station. Or maybe she goes to work, a plain old office or something flashier. I don’t know.
7:16 am. The clock no longer ticks in my ears. I look up, realize I’m late. In no time my hand is on the door handle and pushing its way out. Today, the street is devoid of the boredom that I usually hate but crave now. I start to run, picking up speed.
7:21 am. She’s not here. Maybe she walked past my house. That’s expected. But I’m late, so I run faster.
7:24 am. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I look up, irritated, then my jaw drops. It’s her. Her bright hazel eyes lock on mine. “My name is Tanya,” she says. Her voice reminds me of dark chocolate, the one that makes you doubt the authenticity of the rest. My name is—” I start. But no other sound comes out. She’s already walking away from me. I watch, my mouth still open. Soon she disappears round a corner.
Saturday, 7:18 am. She’s not here.
Sunday, 7:18 am. She’s… not here.