The Story of Time

By: Sabrina binti Mohd Yusof

’’Tick, tock, tick, tock”

The clocks decorating the walls of workshop tick and tock in sync, each second hand moving precisely at the same time. My workshop is basically the basement of my home. It is dimly lit and quiet - save for the tic and toc of my clocks – perfect for me to concentrate on my art. I sit behind my worktable, polishing a brass pendulum until my reflection gleams back at me. Every 15 minutes, I check my wristwatch to make sure I don’t lose track of time; though that has never happened before. As I finish crafting the body of a large grandfather clock, I notice the second hand of my watch pass 12 making it exactly 10am. I quickly clear my workspace and make my way upstairs.

The aroma of bacon and eggs fill the room as I walk into the kitchen. As usual, I am the first to be seated at the dining table, my wife, Karen busy with morning chores and my only daughter not too keen with punctuality. I survey the spread before me and settle on toast and bacon. By the time I finish my breakfast, my daughter, Skylar is just about to slip into a chair with a glass of orange juice. She is 8 minutes late but I decide against commenting on her tardiness given she is only 10. “Mornin’ dad! How’s the grandfather clock going?” Skylar greets with a mouthful of scrambled eggs. “Almost done honey, I might even finish it earlier than scheduled.” She instantly perks up to my reply. “Sooo does that mean you can make some time to come to my talent show today after all?” I pause to consider the possibility before giving an apologetic smile, “Well, we all have 24 hours a day so there’s no such thing as making more time. But I think I can drop by the concert hall on my way from work. I might be able to spare 23 minutes.”Skylar droops her shoulders and mumbles a “Never mind.” as she sips her orange juice with reduced enthusiasm.

According to the invitation given out to all parents, the talent show is 2 hours and as much as I would love to go and support my daughter, 2 hours is much too long to sit in the audience doing nothing. I’d rather stay in my workshop or the store so I can at least generate income for the future of my family. Yeah. Call me a workaholic, I’m just selective with how I use my time.

The rest of the day goes on according to schedule. Spending the whole day at the shop selling my clocks, a 20 minute lunch break at 1:30pm, return home at 6:48pm (allocating 12 minutes for traffic) and later continuing work at the workshop after dinner. But as I place my right foot through the door and my watch strikes 7:00pm, I get a sudden phone call, my wife’s familiar voice sobbing through the phone, “Come over to the hospital, right now.” I am just about to object this abrupt change to my schedule perfectly organized to the millisecond when she cuts me off, “Skylar is dying.”

In an instant my world came tumbling down on me.

I ignore the red lights and furious drivers shouting swears and flipping middle fingers as I recklessly speed my car to the hospital. Upon arriving, I tumble out, leaving my car horrendously parked at the side of the road; illegal but I didn’t care anymore. A nurse takes notice of my flustered state as I walk through the doors of the hospital, the air-conditioning chilling the sweat on my back. She manages to calm me down enough for me to croak out where I need to be and takes me outside the emergency room. Karen embraces me and we break into uncontrollable sobs. Skylar is our only daughter. She is our everything.

A doctor comes out of the emergency room and tells us their progress. “Sir, Ma’am, your daughter was involved in a road accident as she was crossing a busy street on her way home from the concert hall. After further examination, we’ve discovered she has Leber congenital amaurosis; an eye disorderwhere the patient slowly loses her eyesight until she is completely blind. The accident caused severe head trauma. Her chances of surviving this is very slim but we are doing the best we can.” The doctor urges us to rest, ushering us back into the corner of sofas and anxiety before briskly walking away to tend to his patient.

I stare at the clock mounted on the wall in front of me and count the seconds that pass by. After 2040 seconds, my wife starts snoring, head leaning on the armrest and fingers mid-fidget on her lap. I stand up and head outside for some fresh air. The cool night breeze greets me as I walk around the compound of the hospital, nodding at old men in wheelchairs and mothers carrying little infants.

I stop at the bench and sit with my arms propped up on my knees, burying my head in my hands. I see a pair of black shoes stop in front of me, then sit down beside me. “You seem to be distressed, son.” A frail old voice tenderly addresses me. Without lifting my head, I grunt back an “I’m fine.” Suddenly the pair of black shoes disappear, only for me to realize they’ve been shrunk and attached onto the short legs of a child that barely touch the ground. “You sure mister? You don’t look so fine,” a young voice sang.

I lift my head in confusion to see the owner of the voice only to be met with a mischievous grin of middle aged man. He winks at me before transforming into an old man and then into a child and back into the middle-aged man. I gape in astonishment and utter confusion, words stuttering, unable to comprehend what is happening. “I am the past, the present and the future.” He says with a voice laced with wisdom and a hint of divinity. “You are Time?” I squeak out in revelation. Time nods, “I am called many names. Time being the most common.”

Time lifts his index finger and all time stops. The people around us freeze in place, falling leaves pause mid-air and everything is silent. “I am here because of your daughter. Skylar has such little Time. There is much that you must see.” Time doesn’t give me a second to collect my thoughts, because the next thing I know, his pinky wraps around mine and he lowers his index finger.

We are at home. The clock on the wall reads 9:50a.m. and I can hear myself tinkering in the basement. I realize I am re-watching the events of this exact morning. Time and I walk – or more accurately, float (we are quite translucent and ghostly) – up the stairs and we ‘phase’ through the door of Skylar’s room. In her room, she is quietly humming to Taylor Swift’s Love Story as she grabs her school books and throws them into her bag. I notice she picks up two blue books and puts them back repeatedly as if she is unsure which book is which. I watch as she shrugs and places both in her bag. She reaches for her watch but changes her mind and puts on a bright rainbow bracelet instead. Suddenly, she stops and stares at the wall clock, squinting her eyes and heaving an exasperated sigh. She gives up trying to read the clock and closes her eyes instead, focusing intently. Intrigued, I join her and close my eyes. As I let my vision go black, I find my mind focusing on sounds more and hear myself crunching toast in the dining room.

Skylar skips to the kitchen and pours herself a glass of orange juice. I watch the conversation between us and only now realize the disappointment on her face as I tell her I can’t come to her talent show. Time places a heavy hand on my shoulder and gently pushes me to follow Skylar out the door to the concert hall. The realization that this might be the last time I get to see my daughter alive and well hits me and I spend the rest of this Time trying to memorize her and take in the little things about her that I have failed to notice. I observe how she is with her friends and teachers. Always bubbly and full of happiness. She has a way of alleviating the environment around her bringing instant joy to everyone she comes across. I see the way she smiles to strangers on the streets and the way she hollers a ‘good morning’ as she sees a neighbor watering their garden or picking up the mail. She is a ball of sunshine that lit up the world around her. I don’t know why I was always too busy to see that.

Now Time and I are at the backstage of the concert hall. I see Skylar practicing alone and I suddenly I am uncomfortably conscious of the fact that I don’t even know what she will be performing. When her name is announced on stage. She forces out a nervous smile and stands center stage.

“My daddy says,

There are twenty four hours,

So we shouldn’t be stopping,

To smell the flowers,

My daddy says,

That life is a race,

We have to hurry,

To match time’s pace,

But I think time is moments,

And love and good friends,

Not something with a beginning,

A middle and end,

So maybe if I write daddy a poem,

And say it out loud,

We will share more moments,

And he’ll be there in the crowd.”

Skylar takes a moment to breathe in the atmosphere of the hall and scan the audience in search of me. I run to the stage and hug Skylar, desperately hoping she can sense my presence and know that I am here with her. But she does not and I watch a hint of a frown on her beautiful face as she walks off stage, failing to find me among the audience. Time taps me on the shoulder telling me it is time to return to my present. I wrap my pinky around Time’s and we travel forward in time.

“I have many names, but your daughter is the only one to call me Moments. That is why I am so fond of her. Fond enough to grant her wish to let her father be in the crowd of her talent show.” Time gives me one final reassuring pat on the shoulder and walks away, slowly disappearing.

I run back into the hospital and find my wife sitting on the side of Skylar’s bed, The doctor is relieved to see me and I know Skylar’s time is almost over. So, I kiss her forehead and whisper into her ear.

“Honey, you may not have much Time here but you have had so many Moments, touching the souls of people around you with everything you do. All I have left to say is I’m sorry I was not a part of them.” I hold my wife’s hand as we listen to our daughter’s faint heartbeat slow down, and finally stop.

Tick, Tick, Tock, Tock, Tick, Tick, Tock,

Two years later I am at my workshop. The clocks decorating the walls of workshop tick and tock in sync, each second hand moving precisely uniformly except for one. The wristwatch I wear does not have numbers. Just a single second hand, ticking and toking out of sync with the rest of the clocks. This is because it ticks and tocks to the sound of my daughter’s heartbeat. I made it especially for her. To remind me that life does not revolve around Time. It should revolve around the people we love and the Moments we have with them.