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15 Minutes

15 Minutes


The unforgiving sun blares down on the cement sidewalk outside of the Grand Awakening Apt. Buildings, and the clock reads 7:45. The heat is fit to kill, and the expressions on passerby reveal troubled minds and short tempers. My wife is filing her divorce papers today, my step-daughter won't even look at me. My boss told me yesterday I've got shorter hours, and its going to storm today. And for a moment anxiety begins to rise up within me, but then it just calmly recedes like an idle wave.


Because in 15 minutes, none of this will matter.

I walk to work from my modest dwelling, as I have every day for the past five years. The same people pass me by, and we're past the point of giving nods of acknowledgment. We both know the other is there, that's enough for us. Looking up, I see a billboard predicting the end of the world. You know, I've never really understood why everyone gets so worked up about Armageddon. Everyone's going to die at some point, why exactly does it matter if everyone else goes with you? Each death is everyone's own little personal apocalypse. Nature juxtaposes against the thought, as park tree leaves fall with serenity and cardinals fill the air with birdsong. Its actually enough to improve my mood, only looking down at my watch again, I see the time.


I notice that in 12 minutes none of this will matter.

I think, as I often do in the mornings, that I have awoken to infinite possibilities, but only an infinitesimal amount of them will come into fruition. For instance, every single day, one could meet the love of their life, write the next great American novel, make a world-changing scientific discovery, cure diseases, and the like. And each day it seems like our lives are just that much closer to changing and that it's so easy and we'll do it. But it's not and we don't.

I pass the bookstore and I see that I'm not far from the office building of my employment. The store's windows reveal rows of novels, tomes, and lore, none of it with my name on it. I silently lament that fact as I think back to another time, a better time, one where the line between what I wanted and what I believed I could do had yet to be drawn. When there were no crushing debts or pending obligations to hold me back from happiness. When the rustic bagpipes of the St. Appollonia fair drowned out any murmuring whispers of calamity in a cheery, stunning overture. I think back to my first time there, notes reaching a crescendo as I sat perched on the Pegasus of the merry-go-round, star-crossed loving eyes on the girl next door. Of course I was only seven years old then and my stomach was filled with cotton candy, while my sensory was filled with monster movies and sunshine pop. I waved to her, and she waved back, neither of us realizing that we were waving our last goodbye. That was my very first experience with adolescent romance, but it certain as hell wouldn't be my last. I was a bright kid. Exceptional grades, I could spell sarcophagus when I was five. There was this local mansion that my old man would always joke about me owning when I was older and became a millionaire. Poor bastard that I was, I believed him.


But in 10 minutes, none of that will matter.

Before I know it, I'm walking through the front door of the Yom Tov Zeitlyn
office building, headquarters for a billion dollar chemical industry. I'm their chief accountant. By the look of things, I'm making terrific time. The chrome-plated lobby is as densely populated as a Chinese prison, with an array of businessmen and assorted suits filing through the plethora of stairways, ramps and elevators. Luckily for me, I've got a private elevator, one of the perks of being a business' trusted monetary confidant. I turn the key allowing my entrance and press the necessary buttons to reach the top floor. Its one of those new-age type of elevators that has a clear glass door, which lets you soar up above all else while reaching your desired destination. Head turned down at all the people, now the size of ants from my warped perspective, I think a rather new thought. Everyone of them comes from somewhere. They all each of them have a bloodline and are descended from someone else. Out of all of the possible outcomes that the fates duel with, the scattered rains of random chance ordered their birth. But what does any of that really mean if they die without leaving posterity behind, if the blood line just stops? Every thought, action, and reproduction of the dinosaurs lead to nothing. Where will we lead?


But in 8 minutes, none of that will matter.

The elevator's intercom broadcasts a breaking news announcement.

“-and this terrorist entity responsible for the attacks on the Guteau candy company is known only by the ominous name 'The Beast With 21,000 Faces.' While their motives are mired in mystery, their M.O. has become apparent. They target large, well-to-do industries and use home-made time-bombs and poisons as their instruments of destruction. We now return to one-hit wonder weekend, you just heard 'Green Tambourine' by The Lemon Pipers, up next is '96 Tears' by Question Mark and the Mysterians.”

The radio's promise is fulfilled as the song plays. The elevator doors slide open and the music continues to fade in and out as I walk by each cubicle, some with the office's radio station, and some not. I walk by Stacy's desk and she gives me a look with those expressive eyes of hers and I can't determine what it means. I think of why my wife's leaving me. Too many sleepless nights, she says. Not enough stability. She had tears in her eyes last month after I came home at three, her giving me a look that I knew was a cross between pity and anger usually directed at others, but this time there was no mistaking it was at herself and at me. We'd been through this a little bit before, but when she said the word 'divorce' I knew she meant what she said.

I hate to see her like that, really I do, but at this point we can't go back to the way things were. When we'd just met and the world around us evaporated around our elation. Her eyes sparkling majestically beneath the glow of the moon. The world's problems, debts, famine, drought, crime, destitution, all idle tapestry in the background of our love. Now, back in reality, I'm desperately searching, groping for the memories of another time as a wave of nostalgia washes over me. Maybe its my impending divorce. Maybe its the Mysterians.

And maybe its the fact that in 5 minutes, none of this will matter.



Still walking by, I hear a small group of workers talk about the new experimental
hydrogen-releasing chemical reactor that's going to be presented in room 505. I'm in a bit of a hurry, you see, so when employees start to greet me or ask how I'm doing, I simply pass through their words like an airplane through clouds. Nothing they have to say can possibly be as important as that to which my legs are propelling me. Through the plate glass top floor office window, I see the skyline, parallel with my gait. It seems to beckon me forward to room 505, ever closer and within the reach of my eyesight. Looking straight ahead with gleaming eyes and trembling hands, I approach the door. I hear the low murmur of an excitable man offering up a big speech regarding his new reactor. There's nothing for me to do now but stand outside the door and wait. You know, I haven't got much time left anymore, and so I laugh at the irony of stalling for it.

My eyes are still fixed on my watch, but now I close them and revel in the past for just a little while longer. With nothing to look at but the dark of my eyelids, my mind's eye takes over and the first thing I see is my mother's face. Her Catholic countenance wracked with Catholic guilt. My father next to her, sitting in the chair that was undeniably His chair. No one could bring themselves to sit in it after he died. Both of them are gone now. Neither of them left anything of themselves behind, which means no one will know who they were. They never got close to people, so at their funeral it was just the regular stock “they were good Christians loved by all” spiel. After that I prayed more diligently than I'd ever prayed for anything that wouldn't be me. Having to sit through that service, realizing that no one really knew my parents, thoughts, feelings, opinions, goals, eccentricities, etc. All of those things died with them. I twinge a little at the stark realization that I never wrote any of my thoughts down. So no one will ever know. No one will know that when I was fifteen years old I hit the home run that won my team the little league state championship. No one will know the exaltation I felt at my wedding, my blushing bride to be the centerpiece of triptych behind her, depicting Mary with baby Jesus in her arms. No one can ever induce the crooked smile on her face telling me that this was meant to happen, that every dream we've ever dreamt is being fulfilled. No one will be cognizant of the fact that the organ swelled up on our favorite childhood hymn, “Halleluiah, Halleluiah, Let The Holy Anthem Rise”, like an overture of our souls. It's not that I didn't try telling her how beautiful she was or what she meant to me, in words and in writing. It's just that I never got the hang of poetry, and after all, verse and lines could never sufficiently convey her effects on my sensory. Now she'll never know. No one has any idea who any one else really is. Such is the curse of the shy one who believes that somehow his sentiments will all become clear without him saying them. From the baptismal font to the grave, we're all a mystery. I've never built anything, never written anything of worth, never had a child to extend my bloodline just a little bit further. I haven't lead a full life. That's how we all are, I guess, we lead as far as we can lead.



But in 1 minute, none of that will matter.

My eyes open and my left hands slowly begins to coil around the gold colored
doorknob of room 505. My heart is beating fast, fast as the engine of the train I used to try to outrun when I was nine and lived out in the country. Lonesome hobos rode the rails and there was nothing for me to do but watch them, I was beaten up every day after school, and my dad lost his job that year, but through the obscured lens of retrospect I'd rather be there than where I am now. The man making his pitch for the reactor is only slightly audible through the wooden white door and I can't really hear what he's saying. That's all right, I think.



In 45 seconds, none of it will matter.

I open the door, my heart now a volitional cog in a wild machine, rays of sunlight shrouding my vision, and close the door behind me, locking it. I blink hard and when I look again I see a man with dark hair, in his thirties wearing a lab coat and making a sweeping motion to a small chemical reactor on a desk behind him. Standing across from him on my left side is a heavyset businessman whom I recognize as some sort of executive. Behind them both is a pretty, cheerful looking blonde-haired twenty-something woman getting coffee. Maybe she's working her way through college, maybe secretary is the best she'll ever hope for. Maybe this is her debut in my line of sight or maybe we've seen each other a thousand times and haven't noticed the other.



But in 20 seconds, that won't matter.

The triumvirate turn to face me, at first surprised, then expectant. Lab Coat asks me what I'm doing here, but I don't answer him. I just look straight ahead, rip open my shirt, and reveal the homemade explosive conveniently strapped to my chest. It bears the insignia of The Beast With 21,000 Faces, but from this angle, only they can see it, not me. The two men widen their eyes with terror, and the girl lets out a shriek. The bomb doesn't tick, it just keeps its own time, and I silently count down from 18 to 17 to 16 and so forth. My room-mates then look at the reactor and then the explosive. The girl screams again, louder this time, but the suits just give a look to each other that seemed akin to grim acceptance, but I'm not really sure.

My internal clock counts down to zero. I'm about a second off, but my impatience is rewarded with the explosive's sound that requires onomatopoeia to adequately convey. I was promised by my mother, my priest, and The Beast With 21,000 Faces leader that I would see my entire life flash before my eyes. Instead, I just see the shrieking girl, the passive suits and the reactor as 96 Tears reaches its organ-pounding, falsetto voiced apex. I try to think of the happiest thing I can possibly imagine and I at first see my mother smiling at me, then my wife on our wedding day, imagining that all the angels and saints are around us and wonder what will happen now that the timer's reached zero.



It doesn't matter.



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