Time is a canvas upon which we create lashings of muddied colours that we try to call life.
‘Look at this,’ he said and tapped her with his foot. ‘Scientists believe that the traditional five senses are an outdated way of viewing human senses. Other senses include thermoception, being able to sense heat and cold, and chronoception, being able to tell the passage of time.’
He scrolled his iPad on the bed beside her. He liked to read to her sometimes, before they slept.
‘Mm’ She didn’t turn to him. ‘Turn off the lamp. I want to sleep.’
‘You mess up my senses because time always flies when I’m with you.’ He pinched the flab on her arm.
She butted him with her heel.
She didn’t see him smile, but could sense it. The way the air changes from the corners of his mouth. He flicked the switch and sidled against her, skin against skin, and put his arm around her shoulder.
After a while she could hear his soft wheezing. It was the trip before the fall. He would be snoring soon.
She disengaged herself from his arm and wriggled to her side of the bed. She turned to her left, then lay on her back. Eventually she turned around to stare at him. Against the grey light seeping through the blinds, his profile was soft, handsome even. Long drooping lashes, thin lips.
‘Hain, are you awake?’ she whispered.
He half-snorted, and the snort became his first snore. She turned around again and closed her eyes. There was a dull buzzing in her left ear that wouldn’t be silenced. She could feel the springs in the mattress pressing against her back. The more she tried not to think about it, the more they dug into her.
Some time later, she found herself staring at the ceiling. Hain’s snoring had taken up all the air in their bedroom. It was a stifling restfulness that suffocated her.
She got up and went to the fridge to pour herself a glass of milk. But when she shuffled there, she forgot what she came for. The fridge gaped at her while she stared into its empty belly.
A yellowed, plastic clock hung on their kitchen wall. It was already in the apartment when they moved in, and even after the battery ran flat they forgot to take it down. It was always 2:45 in the kitchen. Sometimes the longest hand would suddenly flicker to life and attempt to move forward, as if remembering its duty to actuate the flow of time.
Perhaps if she had the ability to tell time, her body would allow her to sleep. But time wormed around as an agonizing, static continuum – refusing to flow forward, impossible to wind back. She turned on the TV and tipped a bowl of cornflakes, without milk. The white noise comforted her, saved her from suffocating.
She sat there for so long that when she stirred herself to check the clock, it was still 2.45. But the grey light in the room was no longer from the TV. Outside, dawn began to break. She remembered watching the sun rise many times in her life, but never in her memory had it been so bleak and drained of colour.
As she parted the blinds to watch the lifeless dawn begin, she remembered she had pills in the bedroom. Hain had bought them for her two weeks ago when she had passed out just outside their door. Fatigue, he thought.
If only he knew that she saw him outside his office that evening, intertwined with another.
The buzzing in her left ear had migrated to her entire cranium. She stumbled back in the bedroom to look for the pills or to get back into bed, she couldn’t remember.
Hain had sprawled out across their bed. His right leg was on her side, his left arm falling off the edge. In the new light she couldn’t recognize him anymore. His face was suddenly garish against the white light. A streak of dried saliva cut across his face and his mouth gaped open, lopsided.
She couldn’t believe it. Married to him for seven years, mother of his two sons. Oh, she resented him, but in a way she could never tell anyone, not even herself. She took the pills, one by one, swallowing without water. If time was static, then oblivion was the only solution.
In the brightening room, she raised her hand above his face. She grinned. The buzzing in her head had stopped.
‘Hain, wake up. Wake up. Wake up now!’ She slapped him, once, then twice. ‘Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!’