My clock stopped this morning.
It is 6:14 and 21 seconds forever. I always use analog clocks; something about circles makes me happy. They’re simple, beautiful, and, in my eyes, perfect.
At first, I leap out of bed, convinced I’ll miss my 6:20 a.m. bus. It’s only when I read the red digital numbers on the oven in my mom’s shiny, new kitchen that I realize I still have half an hour to get ready.
I catch my bus with time to spare and arrive for -first period calculus class. The teacher is saying something about infinite numbers, but I zone out. I don’t really think there is such thing as infinity. Everything comes to an end at some point.
Next is our senior assembly. The guidance counselors talk about how they’ll never forget us. Bullcrap. I bet they can’t name a quarter of last year’s graduating class. Our graduation, they say, will be June 14. All must be present.
Me: That’s three days before my birthday.
Bo is even more apathetic about school than I am, and that’s saying something. I’ve been accepted to NYU; Bo is going to a community college. He’s smart, maybe even smarter than me, he’s just lazy and doesn’t care.
Bo: So, Rachael, wanna come over my house tonight? 6:15?
I’m not sure where Bo and I stand on the friendship-relationship scale. He’s constantly inviting me over to his house, where we watch old movies and see who’s better at catching popcorn in their mouths when thrown from across the room. It’s almost a ritual. We sit on the ratty, beige couch, and when the movie starts, there’s a good foot of space between us. I won’t move for the entire time, but if I look down halfway through, I’ll notice that Bo’s thigh is so close to mine I can feel static electricity jumping between us.
I walk to his house and glance at my watch as I climb the porch steps. 6:14 and 21 seconds; the numbers sound vaguely familiar, but I can’t place them until an ear-splitting crack rips apart the sky. It ends as quickly and suddenly as it arrived, and no one else on the street seems to have noticed, leaving me to think I imagined the whole thing. I look down to see that my watch has stopped, and it reads 6:14 and 21 seconds. For infinity.
I hesitate at Bo’s door, shaking off the weird feeling. I knock, and an old, decrepit woman answers. Her features remind me of Bo’s mom, except she’s at least 10 years older.
Me: Is Bo here?
The woman says nothing, and stares at me, until I realize there are twin streams of water running down her cheeks. I take a step back, nervous, staring at her.
Me: I’m sorry; it’s just that Bo invited me over tonight, and…
Woman: Why are you torturing me like this?
She’s crying. Angry, desperate crying that makes me recoil, and reverberates the sound of ultimate suffering within my eardrums.
Me: …What do you mean?
Woman: Coming here and asking about Bo…stirring up terrible memories… Who are you, anyway?
By this point, I’m simply bewildered. Clearly, something about Bo is making this woman extremely distressed. I peer around the lady into the house, hoping to see Bo descending the stairs to sort out this mess. No such luck.
Me: I’m Rachael. I’m very sorry; I just want to talk to Bo.
Woman: Bo isn’t here! Bo is gone!
Me: When will he be back? Can you tell him I was here?
Woman: He’s never coming back! He’s dead!
She flings her hands in the air, sobbing. I stumble backwards, head reeling, grabbing at my temples in a futile attempt to quiet the roaring sounds emitted by my brain. Denial, anger, it all flows through my head at once. The woman is delusional. The woman is playing a cruel joke. My legs feel weak, and I grab the handrail on the porch for support.
Woman: It was 10 years ago today. Nine o’clock at night, after his high school graduation. He got drunk, and he and his friend were driving in his brand new red Spyder. They wrapped the car around a telephone pole, and both of them died instantly.
Thoughts are racing through my head so quickly I can hardly keep track of them. Surely this woman is crazy, absolutely nuts. Or maybe I’m hallucinating. Or dreaming. But how would she know about Bo’s red Spyder, which he had just bought, after saving his money since he was eight? And one detail from her story kept bothering me.
Woman: Yes, a lovely girl named Rachael. What did you say your name was, again?
She peers at me closely. I cringe under her puzzled gaze and my voice trembles.
Me: I’ve…I’ve got to go.
I turn and stumble down the steps clutching my head. What is going on here? My watch still says 6:14 and 21 seconds. She said they crashed on graduation night. Graduation is on June 14. 6/14. They crashed the car at 9:00 o’clock at night. 21 hours on 6/14. I close my eyes and scream, emptying my lungs into the dusky sky.
I feel perfectly alive and well. I sprint home, panting, just to prove to myself that my lungs are working. Clearly, I am not dead, because here I am panting and breathing and running and doing things that dead people cannot do, especially someone who has been dead for 10 years. It occurs to me that the woman must have been Bo’s mom, except 10 years older. I went to the door and asked to see her dead son. But I’m not dead!
I lift up the doormat at my porch, feeling around for the spare key. I can’t find it, and I assume my mom forgot to replace it. I ring the door, waiting for my mom to come and open it. I’ll tell her about the incident, and we’ll both laugh at the great practical joke that Bo and his mom played on me.
The door opens. My hope wilts when the person at the door is not my mom but a 30-something guy wearing a Target employee shirt. His name tag reads “Jerry” and he’s clutching a screaming toddler.
Jerry: Can I help you?
Me: I’m…I’m looking for the Joneses?
Jerry scratches his head.
Jerry: You mean the people who lived here before us? They moved out a good 10 years ago. Something about an accident.
I must have left my mouth open, because Jerry hastens to apologize for the inconvenience. His words fade away because I’m already gone, walking away from my home–my home!–with tears in my eyes.
I wander into my backyard and climb into my tree house. It’s Jerry’s backyard now, Jerry’s tree house, but I can’t bring myself to acknowledge that. I’m still hoping Bo and my parents will pop out of nowhere and we’ll all have a good laugh at my gullibility.
I sit in the tree house, legs tucked up to my chest, hands wrapped around my knees. This whole thing is a nightmare; my own personal Groundhog Day. Then, I start thinking about the time Bo and I watched that movie together and he spilled soda on the beige couch, staining it an ugly mud color. I wonder if the stain is still there. Then I start thinking about how a Dr. Pepper stain outlasted Bo and me, forcing me into a fit of sobs.
In the fading daylight, I see a shimmer of something in the mess of leaves below. Could it be? I climb down the tree and retrieve my analog clock from the clutches of the forest.
It certainly looks 10 years old. It’s caked with dirt and scratched almost beyond recognition. It looks like it got attacked by a coyote. Squinting through the glass, I can make out the numbers, and realize it’s still stopped at 6:14 and 21 seconds.
I think back to calculus class just this morning, and what the teacher was saying about infinity. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. There are an infinite amount of numbers between zero and one, and an even greater infinity between zero and two. I laugh bitterly, recalling how I thought infinity wasn’t possible.
Strangely, my infinity doesn’t feel like an unfathomable amount of numbers; it’s only three. Funny how an infinity can be just 6, 14, and 21.
I still don’t know what time it is, but I carry the clock with me anyways. I walk around the neighborhood, noting the slight differences. An addition here. That neighbor repainted their house, that one repaved their driveway. Eventually, I come upon a big change: a memorial. Flowers and stone benches and two white crosses, right next to a telephone pole.
I plop on the ground and trace my finger over the letters of my name, carved next to Bo’s into the solid granite. Silent tears fall down my cheeks. I don’t know how long I sit there, but I would have stayed forever if I wasn’t disturbed by the headlights of a car pointing directly at me. I leap up to see the red convertible careening down the neighborhood road out of control. I leap to my feet, but have no time to do anything more before the front bumper slams into my body. I faintly hear a crack overhead, and all is silent. I can’t feel anything. I can’t feel myself.
I open my eyes, and look up at Bo’s front door. My watch reads 6:14 and 22 seconds. When I ring the doorbell, Bo’s mom answers. She smiles at me and ushers me downstairs, where Bo waits on the ratty, beige couch, popcorn in hand, The Sound of Music already in the DVD player.
The next day, we read in the newspaper about two teenagers, a boy and a girl, driving drunk in my neighborhood. They almost hit a telephone pole, but somehow, miraculously, swerved to the side and ran the car off the road. Neither was mortally injured.
I go to visit them in the hospital. The doctors tell me that they’re going to be alright. I already knew they would be. I know now about the circle of life; how it goes on no matter what. A perfect, timeless circle; perfect infinity.
1 Responses »
Leave a Response