Time

By
“What time is it?”


I remember a time when my life was simple. When I looked at people and only saw the good and beauty in them. A time when everything in the world was a wonder: from the small honeysuckles that grew along our fence to the chirping bugs that serenaded me to sleep each night. I cannot recollect a single bad memory from my early childhood. I loved everything about my life. If I try hard enough, I can still smell the cookies my mom baked in our cramped, yellow kitchen. I can hear her contagious laughter as she realizes she has burnt those cookies yet again. Her long brown hair is pulled back in a tight bun, but one long curly strand has broken its bonds to rest gently on her cheek as she looks at me and asks, “Shall we try this again, Smalls?” It was a Sunday morning, and if you had asked me at that moment where I would be ten years later, I would have probably said standing in that same kitchen, baking another batch of cookies with the woman I then admired most in this world: my mama. I cannot believe how naive I was.

Time is the biggest evil in this world. It plays against you. Why is it that the moments we want to last forever go by so quickly, and the moments we want to get over drag on for eternities? Time is “the man.” Everything revolves around time. If you think about it, every bad thing in this world can be traced back to time. For example, a deadly car accident. If time had sped up only a few more seconds, that car accident wouldn’t have happened. Another example: a robbery. If time had slowed down, the authorities might have been able to catch those criminals. And that terrible night: if time had stopped, slowed, or skipped a moment, I could have kept living my happy existence, immune to all evils and unhappiness. If the world is Batman, then time is our Joker. It robs us of our happy moments, exaggerates our bad ones, and then has the audacity to look us in the face and say to us, “Why so serious?” Time has played me seriously; that is for sure.

I am now sixteen years old. It has been ten years since I baked cookies with my mom in that small, colorful kitchen. I now sit on a hard, cold plastic chair in what feels like an empty room though it is filled with furniture. Although my mom bought this house about a year ago, boxes are still piled high against the white plain wall, next to our new black refrigerator. Above it hangs a clock, relentlessly ticking. Everything in this house seems either black or white, and perhaps that suits our situation perfectly well. Our old house was full of bright colors and even brighter memories that still dance in my head. All of the joy in my life must have opted to stay at the old place, so I am left here, empty, with the black and white surroundings.

“Cheer up, Smalls.” I heard a voice call from behind a new stack of boxes. In walked my mother, the same woman I had once admired with all the fiber of my being. But if you looked at her now, you would never believe it. Her long brown hair has changed with the years that passed and left her now with brittle, unruly, unnatural, short blonde hair. I despised it, and everything it represented.
I was twelve when my father died in a car crash. He was hit by a bunch of criminals who had robbed a bank and were trying to make their getaway. My mother took the loss extremely hard. She cut off her long hair and disappeared for a while. Just when I needed her most, she abandoned me. I was sent to live with my Aunt Rachel, who hated my mom even before the death of my father. Though she never talked down about my mother directly to me, I was small, and my ear could easily fit through any crevice to overhear adults talking. From what I gather, Aunt Rachel and my mom had a big falling out in college and never resolved their differences.

By the way my aunt treated me during those three years I stayed with her, you would never believe that she hated the woman who brought me into this world. Rachel treated me as her own and raised me as best she could through the hardest time of my life, until one day my mother showed up on our doorstep and demanded I come home with her. She looked awful, drenched from the rain, but more worn out by time. We cleaned her up, and she started an endless apology speech. I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted to stay with my aunt, but I looked over at her and saw tears welling up in her eyes and it hit me-my aunt had never stopped loving her sister.

“Do you want to go with her?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Samantha, answer me honestly, Sweetheart. I think it would be good for you and your mother, but I will not force you to go if you do not want to.”
At that moment, I wanted to tell her the truth, to collapse in her arms and cry to her, telling her “No, I don’t want to go; please, don‘t make me”—but then I remembered who she was, and I stopped myself. For no matter how much they said they hated each other, a sister was a sister, and that came before niece, no matter what the circumstance.

“I’ll go,” I murmured.

So here I was, sitting on my cold plastic chair with the woman who once had been my life and my rock. I stared at her fragile stature and realized I could not possibly lean on the small, fragile woman that stood looking back at me. Worn down by years of guilt and anguish, her once youthful outlook on life had slowly faded into a black epitome of nothingness. In her heart, which once believed in love, there was now a hatred for all things lovely, a hatred so large one could see it burn in the corners of her eyes. The lack of love in her life swallowed her whole, and became her existence. At least, it had to have swallowed her, because I know that is exactly what happened to me.

“Can you not call me ‘Smalls’?” I retorted, surprised at my attitude.
She must have been surprised too because her face flashed white for a brief moment.

“Oh, um, sure,” she stammered, “nobody calls you that anymore?”

“No.” I lied. Everyone still called me Smalls; at 4 feet 11, there was no wonder why.

“Well then, what do you want to talk about?”
Of course, millions of topics raced through my head: Why did you leave? How could you do this to me? Where did you go? Didn’t you love me?

“What was that?”
Oops! Did I accidentally say that out loud? “Um, what time is it?”

“9:35,” she shrugged, “Samantha, what did you say? Of course, I loved you.”
I sat silently. I could see the color rushing to her face.

“I left you because I loved you. After your father died, I wasn’t well. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t look at you. I was depressed all the time, I neglected you. I knew I had to get help.”

“So you just walked out?” I wanted to stay quiet but I couldn’t. This was the moment I had been dreaming about from the day she left me. Tonight all my questions would be answered.

“I didn’t know what else to do.”
My mother was now crying and shaking a little. She had put the boxes down and was now walking to sit on the couch in the next room. I got up to leave.

“Don’t go!” she shouted as she tried to pull herself together.

“Funny, that’s what I said.”
Neither of us spoke or moved for what felt like an hour, but in all truth it was about a minute.

She started, “I dreamed that when I took you home you’d be so happy to see me; you’d almost forget about the past.”

“Well, I’m not five anymore Mom. You ruined my life.”
That confused her.

“My dad died and you left me alone to deal with that. You sent me to some strange woman’s house and then, randomly, three years later show up and expect everything to be fine?” Now I was shaking. All of the anger, hurt, and confusion I had been storing in my body for the past four years was coming alive at this moment. The black and white surrounding me was whirling around in my head making me dizzy, as I continued to shout, “How could you! I was your daughter! I was just as lost without dad as you were. We could have gotten through it together. But you just ran away. You don’t love me. You never loved me!” I was completely out of my head, and now words were spurting out faster than I could compose them in my mind. My knees felt weak. I saw childhood memories all playing before me in my head. I was still shouting; I don’t know what I was saying. “Time, time!” I cried, “We lost so much time! Look at me! I’m sixteen years old now. You don’t love me. So. Much. Time. Gone…”

And then, everything went dark.
I woke up in my mother’s arms. She smelled exactly as she had the last time I hugged her before she left.
“Breathe.”
I took a moment and breathed deep. Filling my lungs with her smell and with her warmth. Everything had stopped spinning around me, and when I opened my eyes I saw everything differently then I had just a few minutes ago. I wanted to hate her. I wanted to get back up and stare at her and scream at her some more. I didn’t want her to touch me and I never wanted to see her again.
And yet, I just laid there in her arms. Breathing her smell as she brushed my hair out of my face. I took advantage of the moment and grabbed it tight. Time may have stolen things from me before. But this was my moment with my mama, and I wasn’t going to let go.





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