“Is that your favourite thing to do now?”
He smiled, his eyes closed in the dark of his room, listening to her talk. Her voice was musical, a sultry tone that drew colourful images in his mind when she whispered nothings to him. A long while had passed since they’ve been talking, the sun having set hours ago but never banking their fires. She toyed with his words, making him stutter and double-back, only to hear her giggle at his frustration. She was random, changing topics like a curtain dancing in the wind, making him run miles in his mind to keep up. He ran all day, never tiring.
“Do what?” he asked, knowing the answer already. He could almost feel her smile through the phone call, the way he knew she’d be running her fingers through her hair as she answered, “Counting the minutes. Is that your only job now?” He hummed an affirmative, but she pressed on, “But why though, what made me worth all your time?” Her question cut through the thin lacy sheets of subtle flirtation and clear intentions, cutting to the core of it all, but he kept his answer hidden.
“Would you like to video call?” he ventured, fingers crossed. She said yes, why not? making him catch his breath in his throat. He had seen her on still images, and having been smitten already, he already had high expectations. Propping up onto his elbows, he got his laptop out and placed it on his legs, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, brushing his hair with his fingers. When he was ready, he pressed the button on the screen.
Later that night, he couldn’t sleep. A chance encounter on a virtual realm, a few conversations over text and call, and now he didn’t know where he was headed. He turned over for the sixth time in ten minutes, his breath short and his minutes long. Images kept flashing in his mind unbidden, accompanied by her laughter every time he said anything even remotely funny. He couldn’t believe what the universe around him had conspired to do, to get him into a dialogue with one of the most beautiful people he’d ever seen. Images of her cheeky smile, the way she’d look right through his soul, how she brushed her hair back, the sharp angles of her face… He couldn’t stop them.
He didn’t want to either.
Thoughts spiralled in his mind as he checked the clock on his phone every few seconds, calculating the moments left until her name would like up the screen again. She promised she’d call when she woke up in the morning, and as much as he trusted her to keep her word, he couldn’t help but hate the sun for taking its damn time.
Time; the great trickster that twisted his existence into being measured in years rather than in accomplishments. Every year, he knew, things would repeat themselves and find him wanting a break in the routine. Time; the great planner of all things coincidental, weaving together threads of lives miles apart and pulling them together in patterns undecipherable by a sleepless night’s thoughts alone. Every person he met, he knew, would play a substantial part in his life, shaping him to be someone new whenever his 6 am alarm went off. Time; that faithful hound that would fetch bone in mouth but take its own sweet comfort in bringing the promise to him. Every second that passed he knew, he’d spend the rest of his life counting, sometimes in years, sometimes in months, sometimes in days, sometimes in hours, sometimes in—
“Still counting minutes?”
The message lit up his face as he unlocked the phone to reply. “Yeah, why do you ask?” he typed in response, smiling ruefully as insecurities tried to drown out what little joy he found in his day. There was always a chance that all this may amount to nought, a short trip on a cable car as he gazed over the world he craved to be part of. Seconds ticked away as he sleepily put down the phone, trying hard to stay alert for a reply he knew was coming. Seconds threatened to turn into a minute before the tone sounded again.
As he talked to her about the next day, what he planned to do and what he planned to achieve, she let the distraction pass. They both knew one day soon, a lot of questions would be answered, reshaping the landscape upon they went adventuring. Was it fear, that sensation in his stomach that made it knot and squirm whenever he thought about where this was going? For now, he didn’t care. There was something young, fulfilling and honest about where he found himself, a sort of innocent wonder he had shed years ago reforming again. For now, he smiled.
Until the sun heralded a new day, he continued on, counting minutes.