A Minute Times Thirty

She’d lain there for half an hour, an inanimate object. Restraint and patience and waiting in the semi-darkness of a dim lamp and the shadow of her eye-lids. Breathing slowly, quickly, counting each sigh and sound that rose from her lips. Filling in the emptiness that reigned with an iron brass band in the nothingness of only time.

On the hospital bed she remembered. There was a little girl somewhere in a snippet of the past, lying on a summer bed, pretending she was not ticklish. Being obstinate and annoying herself and a woman on the bed who was sleeping. As the hands ticked off each second, she reminded herself that as she was dying, she’d remember these moments of forced silence and stillness. She’d wish for this half hour of living, perhaps half-heartedly through pain or with a vague recall or with a desperate passion.

“What are you doing?” Her mother asked.

“When I collapse on the floor and wait for death, I’ll remember this half of an hour. And I’ll want it. But I can’t have it.”

People laughed and she wondered how ridiculous it might sound in her old age, but now she lived that time. And it was all she could do to raise her legs and lie on her back, as the Scout’s Handbook dictates ‘when in quicksand’.

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