Twenty-Four

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Click. With the press of the button, the timer began ticking down. I had twenty-four hours. I sat up thinking. There were so many things I’d never done. I never stuck to an exercise routine. I never wrote that book. I never made friends with the quiet boy in the back of my 10th grade science class. I could think of such a long list, but there wasn’t time to waste. I pulled myself up and walked out of my front door. I fumbled with the keys in the dim light that comes with 7pm. I only had twenty-four hours. There was no way I would be sleeping tonight. There would be time for that later.

I drove without any clear direction. Most of the stores in my sleepy little town were just about to close for the night. I was sure all of my friends would have plans tonight. I would spend these last hours on my own. I glanced at the timer I carried with me. 22 hours. 30 minutes.

Driving was bliss in itself. When I drove, windows down, radio up, I felt happy. There was a certain connection between the wind and myself. As if the wind, as it blew through my hair, knew all of my secrets. All of my mistakes. I wasn’t aware of how far I had driven until I realized I recognized nothing. I pulled into the parking lot of an old, empty 24 hour diner and sat down on a stool.
“What can I getcha?” The tired waitress feigned pep she wished she still had.
“Oh. Um. A chocolate milk?” If there was any time to relive my childhood, it was now.
“Sure thing. Anything else?” I thought for a quick moment.
“French fries, please.” The waitress nodded and turned to go into the kitchen. She looked to be in her late twenties, but the way she walked suggested years of experience. When she returned with my order I decided it wouldn’t hurt to make small chat with a stranger.
“So how long have you been working here?”
“Oh. ‘Bout five years. It pays the bills. It pays for the diapers.”
“You have a child?” I hoped I wasn’t being too nosy. It just struck me as odd.
“Yeah.” She gave a tired laugh. “Bennett. Love of my life.” It seemed as though the conversation was dead, so I finished my meal quietly. I reached in my wallet to pay the bill and left a generous tip. She deserved it.

As I was just approaching the door she came up to me and gently touched my arm. I could tell it wasn’t something she usually did.
“Thank you.” She smiled with appreciation in her eyes. I smiled back, nodded and walked out of the restaurant. I had left my timer in the car. The time passed so slowly, yet so fast.
17 hours. 43 minutes.

I assumed I should head back home. I needed to do some preparations and the drive home would take a while.

As I pulled into my driveway it was 3:30 in the morning. I decided I could wait to prepare for the end, seeing as I had about 15 hours left. I went to the library on the third floor of my house and stared at all the books I had never read. I picked one up and leafed through it. I can’t take them with me.

I spent the about next two hours reading the last page of every book I owned. At least I would know how things ended. It’s always nice to see how others’ lives pan out.
13 hours. 7pm was quickly approaching.

As much as I wanted to fight it, sleep came over me. I dreamed of beautiful things. Love, family, all of my favorite things. I woke with a start, my timer the first thing I saw.
6 hours. 3 minutes.

I got out of bed, cleaned myself up and made an elaborate breakfast for which I had no appetite. I gave the eggs to the dog. Someone else would have to take care of her now.

I should look my best. After a wonderfully warm shower, I blow dried my hair straight and put makeup on. I decided the purple eyeshadow would be best for this. I slipped into my previously picked-out white dress and slipped my sandals on.
30 minutes.

As 7pm drew nearer I could feel myself being pulled away. There was an outside force leading me toward my next phase.
20 minutes.
Hands coddled, tears were shed. Hopeful goodbyes were shared.
10 minutes.
From the corner of my eye I could see a light. It was beckoning me. I turned and walked gracefully toward it.
2 minutes.

Within the light there was an arch. What was beyond that, though, I had no idea. It was too bright. But it was warm. I was comfortable. I was ready to be free.

My timer goes off. It is 7 o’clock. It’s time.

I walk through the arch to greet my destiny. As I step through, I gasp at the sea of people waiting to welcome me. They stand, clapping as I walk through, with proud smiles on their faces.

A man I recognize makes a sweeping gesture. He speaks into a microphone.
“Please welcome, the class of 2013!”
I had made it.





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