Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fifteen Minutes


“Only fifteen minutes, Samuel.”
I stared at my big hands and picked at the callous on my left index finger.
“Is it that late, Peter? You don’t mind if I call you Peter, do you?” I asked as I looked up and saw Peter’s shadow on the wall. His voice seemed far away.
“It is my name,” he answered. “Are you ready?”
Stupid question.
“Can anyone ever be ready for the end, Peter?” Peter. I liked calling out a real name. I had always called everyone “sir” or “boss” before, never a first name. Now that the end was near it seemed perfectly natural to be more familiar.
“We both knew this day would come,” Peter said, his monotone voice sounded like he was in another room. “Are you ready?”
“You don’t have to keep asking me. Of course, I’m not ready. Even though I’ve known this time would arrive, can one ever prepare for the inevitable? Think about it. People die every day. Death comes in so many forms: disease or violence or accidents. But, how many people know the exact time? Even those suffering horribly with cancer or some other terminal disease never know the precise moment to the second. Yet, you and I, we know that at 10:58 and twelve seconds it will be over. That’s only…” I looked at my watch, “twelve minutes and twenty eight seconds from now.”
“We’ve done everything to stop it. Checked every detail, contacted everyone we could contact. Nothing can be done, there can be no reprieve,” Peter replied, his voice seemed even farther away.
“I wish there was some way to stop it. Some way to make time stop. Maybe this is all just a dream. Maybe, when the time comes, I’ll wake up and be in my own bed, but not just any bed; It would be the bottom bunk in the big room at the end of the hall, with my brother Michael asleep in the top bunk. Did I ever tell you about him?”
I saw the shadow of Peter’s head sway back and forth signaling no.
“We shared a room growing up. There were two sets of bunk beds and he slept on the top one. I remember waking up one night and there he was on the floor. He had fallen out. I think it was the ‘thump’ of him landing on the floor next to me that woke me. But he wasn’t hurt, at least not physically. But, after that I slept on the top bunk.” I told the story in a hushed voice as if I were revealing all the secrets of the universe.
“Where is he now?” the even more distant Peter asked.
“I haven’t seen or heard from him in years. He got married and moved away. I think he has a few kids now…and a dog,” I said, my voice betraying my weariness. I gave a long sigh. “The dog’s probably dead now, it’s been so many years. It was a Shih Tzu, stupidest dog you’ve ever seen. But, I won’t miss him; I don’t even know where he is, Michael that is.”
What’s wrong with me? Ten minutes left on this God foresaken world and I’m babbling on about a stupid Shih Tzu.
“You know what I really miss,” I added, “having sex. Oh, not just having sex with anyone. I mean having sex with her. She’s the only person I ever loved and when we were together it was pure ecstasy. I don’t mean just the act. It was the closeness, the way she sat and caressed my hair. Her soft lips, smooth, silky skin. The incredible intimacy of those moments, that’s what I miss. I think those moments of true intimacy are what make humans what they are, sets us apart from apes and birds. Listen to me, a philosopher.” I looked up again and saw Peter’s shadow.
“I wish I could hold her one more time; completely immerse myself in her and carry her, what would you call it, her womanliness with me.”
I closed my eyes and I could almost touch her. The image of her loveliness filled the dark recesses of my brain, while her sweet fragrance, a mixture of lilac and the slightly musty perfume that comes with those intimate moments was all too real.
“How much time?” I asked.
“Nine minutes four seconds,” replied the distant voice, it was little more than a whisper.
“Maybe if I fall asleep and dream I can make the time last forever. You know how sometimes you dream and it seems like you’re in another place and you have an adventure that goes on for days and days. Then, at the crucial moment you wake up and look at the clock and realize that it was only ten minutes. I think I’ll try that now. If I do it right, time truly will stop and the end will never come.”
I closed my eyes and waited. I thought about younger days, school days, travels, friends and lovers. And, I saw her, I saw her come into my life,  I heard her laughter and her sweet voice and then I saw her slip away from me forever. Tears filled my eyes. I opened them and saw only the faint light and shadow, now grown larger.
“IT’S NOT FAIR,” I screamed, jumping up from my chair. “I didn’t ask for this, this shouldn’t be happening. Suppose I get up and leave. What could happen?  Run away from it all, hide, let it all blow over.”
“You can’t get away; there’s no place to go,” Peter answered, his voice an annoying, soft, monotonous drone.
“WHAT ABOUT YOU? You stand back there as if this whole mess is a small bump in the road. It’s the end, not just the end for me, but for everything and you, Peter, you act like it’s just a stroll in the park.”
“Only five more minutes,” he murmured. “Let’s start to walk; it will calm you.”
“I don’t want to be calm. How can you be so calm at such a time?”
He didn’t say anything and, like some sort of robot, I did as he said, got up from my chair and walked into the hallway. There were only dim lights and the windows were open allowing a hot breeze to blow through the corridor. Apart from the faint whistling created by the wind there was silence.
“If this were a movie, I’d be lighting up a cigarette, coolly smoking as I walk bravely down this final pathway. But, I don’t smoke,” I let out a little chuckle as we reached the end of hall.
“Sit down. I think you’ll be more comfortable,” Peter advised.
Comfortable…Comfortable, what does comfort matter at a moment like this.
I saw Peter’s tall shadow opposite me and then I felt his hand on my shoulder, felt his hot breath on my neck as he whispered in my ear.
“Just a brief flash and it will be over. You probably won’t even hear the boom. And, I promise, no pain.”
“How much time now?”
“Only thirty seconds…twenty nine…twenty eight…”
“Don’t …don’t count,” I tried to scream but my mouth was too dry as I could only muster a faint rasp. I still felt Peter’s hand on my shoulder and turned to look at his face.
“Oh, my God…”
Then there was a bright flash…