Time She Stopped

The days are hot and the air, impossibly wet. The tropical humidity feels as encompassing as a full-body slap of churning, green seawater. Retreating indoors to escape the onset of summer weather, she nonetheless feels its attraction acting on her like a physical need. At noon, she looks out with sleepy eyes from her window into the depths of the green and yellow backyard: a quick glance, but long with desire.

The world is a drawer of patterned cherry wood with tidy, detailed carvings etched into its borders. She believes she can reach blindly into it, giggling at the childlike pleasure, and withdraw an endless series of palm-sized prizes, all worthy of her touch and attention, all arriving fortuitously, like symbolic totems suggestive of grander life plans, precisely at the right time for her to capitalize on their message. She is bright and full of potential. She thinks that this fact entitles her to something.

She’s not picky; she’ll settle for success, joy, or love. She needs only one of these to justify the roiling boil of days lived at high-speed, at high tempo, at high cost. She just needs to pass one exam, to run one race, to finish one creative project, to get one chance to hold her head high, to feel the blood-red, rushing pulse of trust in herself, radiating from her body in the resonant wave that could finally still the anxious, anticipatory trembling she’s been feeling—somewhere between her skin and muscle, somewhere between her eyes and brain—ever since her earliest memories as an ocean-sized dream cocooned in the protoplasmic shape of a quiet and flighty child.

Turning back to her desk, she flips idly to the end of the chapter she’s reading, trying to gauge how many pages are left before she can allow herself to abandon the book for the day and wander outside. Even her hobbies now are dogged by pressures of completion, of success measured in achievements like “read Thomas Pynchon”. Her heart circumnavigates the globe as she reads. Outside, the shadows lengthen, and she watches as darkness descends like something winged and betaloned: a lengthy glance, but short on patience.


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