The Hourglass

A forgetful smile lost in the sea of mindless oblivion, familiar faces passing by and sitting still, you sit there contemplating the beauty and absurdity of it all. But there’s a numbness that keeps you floating through it, turning day into night and the only thing the clocks tell are anti-time and anti-matter. You lose yourself to a death-like state of reawakening, when it seems like the most incomprehesible things are brought to light, and the trivialities of everyday nostalgia swim into a hazy puddle of the real and surreal. It’s peaceful here, especially in the moments that I pull myself out of the dimly lit cave which I label home and sanctuary just long enough to peer up at the gnashing colours in the sky. Movements bleeding so slowly that the eyes can barely see, dying or being born again, sunrise or sunset, I’m not quite sure… All the clocks in the house have stopped ticking.

Candlelight, neon blacklight rays glowing and briefly being interrupted by bodies moving back and forth, back and forth again. Music playing softly in the background, or is the music what’s the forefront and everything’s behind it? Their faces cast shadows every time the stillness is broken in some passively orchestrated plot to find a new perspective of reality, and I grinned solemnly when you cried out that “The world keeps moving even when we’re standing still.” On and on the time flows, even when we find the minutes seem like hours and an hour seem like ten the hourglass will always be a ghost in the swamp… Out of reach to humanity.

All these movements, writing history, doomed to be forgotten anti-recollection or lucky to stay alive. What irony in how a single moment can judge the fate of eternity when billions put together can wither past with little relevance. I’ve been here before, I’ve lived here for days, so the rooms are familiar but destined to change. Six of us lay awake in one large room with windows covered by fabric and nail, locking the madness away on the outside and creating a world within worlds. Sustaining sanity or preparing for the inevitable attack? Black couches, white chairs and blankets scattered top and ground. We’ve found comfort in chaos and a cozy place to seize some newborn comprehension of our mortality.

You looked up and whispered that when you saw your reflection in the bathroom mirror late last afternoon (because you had a watch then, and you were gone from this place) you found yourself overcome with puzzlement and awe, something about the mind being detached from the body and a need to let go of these strange confinements. “Consider it a ghost ship,” I said, “your body is the vehicle to move through time, and your soul is the vehicle to move through space. Your mind is just what connects the two. So, darling, please don’t lose your mind.”

Anna offered her thoughts to the conversation, drearily lifting her head from the armrest of the sofa and blinking her eyes a few times as though to make sure that everything was still set the way she last recalled. “They say that everyone is lost just waiting to be found, we’re all floating here in what still has yet to be determined as a controlled or uncontrollable chaos. Reality, as we see it, is what allows our consciousness to operate in an environment of controlled chaos and our bodies are more or less a safety harness. And like everything else, has to break sooner or later.”

My eye caught sight of a flickering candle in the corner of the room, lit just below a Salvador Dali print and now casting waves of darkness and light upon it. “You know,” I told them, “My mother died a few months back… or maybe it was weeks. She lived out in the country, about two hours from here, and my aunt had gone to visit her. Being that my aunt was more a night person than my mother, she retired early in the morning and didn’t wake until later on in the afternoon. She had just said she wanted to escape the disenchanting motion of the city for awhile and take some time to relax and finish her artwork.

“Anyway, the room that she was staying in had a bay window with a good view to the east end of the house, which was the valley that stretched out a few kilometers. My mother always liked to go pick flowers once a day to place around the house, just the little yellow and white ones with a few stocks of grass… She said the scent of them had something to do with the life force of nature, but she explained it a lot better than I can. So my aunt thought nothing of it when she awoke one afternoon and looked out the window to see my mother wandering into the field. She said she lit a cigarette and went to sit by the window because the shape of the trees in the distance looked something like a black and white portrait she wanted to paint, and commented on how my mother’s figure moving toward the end of the valley and a strangely morbid peacefulness to it, and she also wanted to include that image in the painting.

“My mother died shortly after she had that thought. My aunt saw her collapse and at first wondered if she had only knelt to pick something up, but soon realized she was motionless. When she finally got to her she had no pulse, and she was just laying there in her long white dress, in the middle of this valley of white and yellow flowers. The autopsy later concluded that she died of a massive brain hemorrhage as she had a tumor, but her death was painless and she had just fallen faint to a spell of dizziness.

“People talk about irony and the horror of dying, the fear they have and all the negativity that surrounds it. But I think what the world needs to realize is that sometimes death can be beautiful, and with the bittersweet inevitability of it, we can either learn to accept what we have to deal with or waste our time building up some horrifying phobia. My mother’s death was beautiful, she knew she didn’t have long to live and I’m sure would much rather have died painlessly in her favourite place in the world rather than in a hospital bed doped up on medication.”

The energy in the room had shifted to a restful state of melancholy contemplation, after the music had died off and the collective thought process of curious existentialism braided together and then slipped apart again. Minds and souls and bodies aligned, temporarily lost in the tones of my voice, then left to find their own again. The death of one – well, one with largely positive and minutely evil intentions – is always thought to be a tragedy, but when millions die we always find it easier to acquaint ourselves with the statistic rather than the individuality. Perhaps the only real tragedy in life can be found in the moment we’re first born, when the clock begins to tick.

Your gaze shifted between my eyes, my lips and the piece of tinfoil you were fiddling with in your right hand. “How did that affect you, when your mother died? What did it make you think of?”

I sighed and looked at the broken pieces of glass and sand in the jar on the mantle. “Time; and irony.”

“How so?” you questioned.

“I thought mostly of my childhood, the time I spent with my mother and the life she had given me. I wondered what ideas she contemplated when she was pregnant with me, what expectations she had and of how I’ll never relive such things again. Because time keeps moving forward, and there’s nothing you can do to take it back. But it was ironic though, because the day she died I awoke alone in the afternoon to find the hourglass she had given me for my tenth birthday had fallen on the floor and shattered. Fallen, despite the fact it had always been kept in the keepsake box underneath my bed.”

(c) Tala de Sade