The ‘IF’ Factor
Fifteen minutes left. Time was laughing in his face, in autocratic control of the situation. He was subject to the intervals. The sunlight beckoned through the window, but he was afraid to rush to it and find everything as it should be. Ten. Five. One. Floodgates. He felt the poke of a ballpoint pen in his arm. Probably an accident, he thought. Then again. As he turned he saw her standing close, a look of misplaced awe upon her alabaster face. She looked smaller out of her chair, almost petite, and cast the first stone;
“How did you study for the test?”
“I don’t know, I kinda just thought about it.”
“Did you read the manuscripts?”
Can I just leave, please?
“The what? Oh, no. Not really, no.”
She didn’t accept it.
“You didn’t read them?”
She turned away with a blinking disposition and a neglected answer. But before she did, she placed the pen between her molars and he thought he saw her squeeze it tight for a second. Her movements were more sure of themselves than the others, but still not confident. With a shrug he cleared his mind of her mouth, packed up his rucksack and fled outside into the autumn sun. Out of dodge.
The air was cold and fresh, begging to be polluted by a cigarette. Plus, his asthma hadn’t been tested in a while. He sat by a tree and prepared the proper materials. He laughed at the phony packaging, blurting out in bright colors. “You got me”, he whispered to himself. Between drags he searched through the crowds, both taking in the moments and waiting for one refusing to be taken. Red light, green light. Honk, honk. Black boots with leather strap. Leather boots with black strap. The clouds, minding their own business as usual. Ne’er a mystery to be found. Maybe he had missed it. Funny, he thought. As soon as one moment proves itself anomalistic, it blends in with the rest. How cruel a ruse is Time, indeed. And by the Time he stopped thinking to enjoy the cigarette, it was gone.
Every morning started like this. Some kind of lackadaisical interaction caressed and then nullified by criticism of something around him. The conversations were so seesaw. The music was so FM. The style was so yearning. He sauntered by a café and wished a madman, drunk at the wheel, would come crashing through the restaurant. He would leap over his table and save the woman in the red dress, sitting alone in the corner. Or maybe he wouldn’t move at all, enjoying a flash of something truly cinematic. Then he would have something to talk about.
The day evaporated in waves. The afternoon was a lazy tide, indecisive as to how far it wanted to lap and stretch into the night. It made for quite the blurry transition. One thing stood out. A bird approached him as he lay somehow comfortably sprawled on the steps of the courthouse. It pecked at the sporadic leftovers of his lamb Gyro, looked up for a moment in gratitude, and flapped towards the…he wasn’t going to pretend like he knew where the bird was going. He laid his head to rest on his folded hands, rolled his eyes back slightly and stared upside down at the suited infantry trudging in and out of the building. He liked to guess which ones had undeservedly yet chauvinistically scraped through law school, which ones had their minds made up for them long ago, and which ones cared about their children.
He prepared the same dinner as last night’s and got a laugh or two out of the sitcom, nowhere close to where the studio audience deemed appropriate. He thought of the bird as he lay on the couch, and actually fell asleep without much protest from himself.
Fifteen minutes left. The Honorable Clock presiding. The pen prodded his arm. Miss Alabaster. Questions, trying to understand who he is. He tried to back out quickly. She bit the pen in her mouth, but this time with force.
BLUE INK SPILLED all over her mouth and crept down her chin, the splash stained his shirt. She smiled and tossed the pen to the garbage. He followed its trajectory and glanced at the Autocratic Ticker.
IT STOOD STILL. Laid to rest. He looked back at her, her smile constant.
BRONNK! BRONNK! BRONNK! He JOLTED awake to the Alarming Notifier.
As he sat up straight, his chest flexing with each deep breath, he realized that he could not wait to get to class.