by Natasha Burge
In the beginning we were mad for time; there was never enough of it. Every night went too quickly, fleeing in a tangle of sheets and bruised lips, and we were left desperate for more. Such is the way of lovers.
Sasha, Emiko said to me, I will always love you.
But we started with a deficit of time, Emiko and I. During the rare silences in our conversations I could hear it trickling away, like the tick of a clock, shearing off the seconds we would never get back.
When the cancer returned we knew the sand in our hourglass had run out.
Sasha, Emiko said to me, not even death will keep us apart.
I sat with her body for hours. If I didn’t say goodbye, I could hold her death, my solitude, the end of all things, at bay. I could pretend my life still held some meaning.
Emiko, I cried, please don’t leave me.
Our experience of time is subjective. When we learn new things or when we have new experiences – rough kisses and soft cries, like the mewl of a kitten – experiential time goes by very quickly. But in retrospect, in our memory of that time, it seems like it lasted forever.
When nothing new happens, when routine follows routine – waking up alone, eating alone, sleeping alone, alone in totality – experiential time drags and stagnates. It goes so slowly we feel we could drown in its accumulated excretions. But in retrospect, in our memory of that time, it seems to have flown by.
Three days without Emiko, already? A week? A month?
Emiko returned to me in the darkness of the new moon, awed by what she had done. When I saw her, my cry tore the night and I learned joy could be as sharp as pain. Her soul was as nebulous as spider silk and in her eyes there was a quiet desperation.
Sasha, Emiko said to me, I told you I would never leave you.
Emiko did not know how much time she would have in this liminal state and she wanted to make it last as long as it possibly could. And she wanted it to feel even longer.
I agreed, of course I agreed.
Anything for you, Emiko, anything.
And so we were still. We carved out our days in the barest orchestrations of movement. A single conversation spanned months. A kiss took weeks to accomplish. We moved toward one another like great airships navigating the stars, gliding through an eternity of nothingness until our lips finally came together.
Emiko had been my world before her death and now, after her return, we became a binary star system and let the rest of the galaxy drift away. The only meaning was what we held between us. Such is the way of lovers.
And Emiko was pleased. During a conversation that sprawled across the whole of a winter, she said we had found a way to slip through the cracks in our hourglass.
We were time travellers, Emiko and I.
minutes last for hours
hours last for days
days last for weeks
last for lifetimes.
And in this way a lifetime passed.
I have learned that souls are affected by entropy; just like everything else they lose cohesion and degenerate. I have become the center around which the remnants of Emiko coalesce; she clings to me like fog to a cliff face and I move more slowly than ever. There is only one thought that remains for her:
Sasha, she says, I will never leave you. We will never be apart.
Sometimes I catch sight of myself in the mirror when our stately processions drift in that direction, and I am astounded by what I see. Greying hair, sinking jowls, eyes that have collapsed into their sockets. I have somehow grown old.
The life we created, Emiko and I, moved so slowly it felt like eons in the passing, like we would never traverse its vast expanse. But in retrospect, I struggle to remember how it was we filled so many years. In exchange for the days that lasted months, our slowness has left me with the memory of a life that seems to have begun and ended in the same breath. I stand here now with empty hands wondering where it all went.
Once again I hear the ticking of a clock and, Emiko, I’m not ready to say goodbye.
Natasha Burge is a writer living on the shores of the Arabian Gulf. A pyschogeographer by day, a poet by night, she is pursuing a master’s degree in creative writing, working on her first novel, and drinking all the karak chai she can get her hands on. Her writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Establishment, Jersey Devil Press, Zetetic: a Record of Unusual Inquiry, Vagabond City, and Crack the Spine, among others.