My life is made of seconds.
It’s so funny to think about.
Seconds, as a unit of time.
Second, as number of chances.
I stare out into the open sky and the setting sun, both so grey, and I think about my life. I think about the freedom that I’ve lost.
I look over. It’s Nicky Lombardi, climbing up into his old tree house. Nicky, my best friend.
“What are you doing up here, bro? We gotta be at the school in twenty minutes and you’re still in your pyjamas.” It’s a nice observation, an accurate one, if nothing else.
He pulls himself into the tree house and stares at me. “What’s wrong? You lose your diary, so you can’t get your daily emotional puke out?”
You’re so funny, Nicky.
“McCloud? Milo?” He’s frowning now and waving his hand in my face. “You okay, man?”
Weeks, days, hours. Time ticking by before I answer.
“Milo!” His voice makes me jump this time. “Jesus Christ man, you’re freaking me out.”
The time it takes for him to dust himself off and sit next to me is so long, it’s disorienting to think about. “What’s going on, bro?”
Sensitive Nicky Lombardi. If only his hoards of girls ever saw him like this.
“Milo, you’re doing it again. Talk to me man, what’s happening?”
“I’m not going to school.”
He laughs. “It’s a little late to decide you want to skip. We’re graduating.”
He taps my face and frowns again. “I think I’m gonna call your dad.”
That gets my attention. I turn to face him, staring into his wide eyes. They, Maya, Zoe, Scarlette, any girl who comes across us really, they tell me that his eyes are blue, blue like the sky we love to fly in, the same shade, with the same openness. I wish I could see that. All I’ve ever been able to see is grey.
“Dude.” His voice is really quiet. He lifts his arm, then shakes his head. “Your eyes are red.”
“Really? Tell me what that’s like. Maybe I can pretend to know. Maybe I can pretend and then get good enough to fool the government.”
He closes his eyes. I picture the time passing by, weathering his face. I try to imagine the times his face was young and the time it’ll be old.
“You found out about that, huh?” Nicky sighs.
“No.” I look back out into the horizon. “They wouldn’t certify me even before I could take the tests. Achromatopsia is a flight hazard, they said.”
“They don’t turn you away just because you’re colour blind,” Nicky tells me. “My dad said-”
“They will if your own father recommends withholding your license. They’ll listen to him because he’s a decorated war hero and has been flying for almost as long as he’s alive and is still a respected member of the Air Force. They’ll listen to him even if he refuses to talk to you.”
“Dude, that’s really s***ty, but come on. The Air Force… flying, flying isn’t everything.”
I let the time drag. It will take a millennia for that to make sense to me.
“Dude, come on. It’s not worth skipping graduation over,” he says, trying again.
“I’d feel the same way, if I had my pilot license like you do,” I say.
“Dude…” There’s more that he says after that, but I let the time roll on. He’s wasting my time. My precious moments left. Hours, minutes, and seconds. That’s where it all begins.