“Stop the clock” he says softly, lifting a finger to touch the inside of my wrist, “we have time.”
I jerk away from his hold, because we have none. We have none, and we will not have any time left—every grain of sand in our hourglass has trickled down to the lower-half of the container, and I will not taste his smile against mine ever again.
“Stop the clock”, she says, teary-eyed, wrists wrung and mascara running, “I swear to God—no, this can’t be, we had all the time in the world—stop it, stop it!” It comes out as a plea. I flinch at the harsh desperation seeping into her tone; she grabs the only thing by her side—a blue umbrella, with a nicely-carved wooden handle—and lunges at me, the thing that used to be at her side. I step away, just in time, and as the time ticks away, I think of how my collar will be clean from her powdery foundation. Not sure if that’s the best thing for me, though.
“Stop the clock”, he lifts up the comforter; it cocoons our bodies, fully-clothed, clothes rumpled. With quick flicks of his wrists and jerky movements from his legs, we are untangled. Our limbs are no longer sharing warmth, and his heart—I can no longer feel it expound whatever feeling we shared, against my chest. This time it is not me who accepts that time’s run out, someone else does it for me.
I smile as I go, shaking out my hair and thinking of how I’ll have to get a proper comb now that time’s run out, and his fingers won’t be there to card through my tresses.
“Stop the clock”, he crushes me against a wall, dry lips moving up my neck to my jaw and my face. There’s a knife in my hand, blade glinting eerily but pleasantly in the dark of night; he knows what I know. He knows that time is up on us, and time is up for him, too. I let his hunger consume me for a split second, imagining that the prickly five o’clock shadow is the mane of a lion, and his coarse lips are the dry tongue of an animal needing prey. Desperately. He makes a sound, it unfurls from the back of his throat and snakes into my bloodstream, merging with cells inside of me, becoming part of me.
It’s too bad that I have to kill him. Too bad for me, not for him—I can survive, time and time again, without him. So I don’t hesitate to thrust the knife in him, a place on his chest where we had marked out with several lipsticked kisses the night before—“It’s a team decision”, I say brightly, swiping blood from the blade off with the hem of his shirt.
He groans. Manages to steal a final kiss from my lips. Dies, a man in the alley.
“Stop the clock”, she says, and stops arranging the flowers for one second to look at me. One second was all she needed, and I rob another two seconds from my clock, in order to run my hands through her blonde hair one more time. It’s as soft as the silky shirts my mom used to buy me, and I know my fingers will remember her, if not my heart. “Hey, good-bye”, she says, detaching herself from my hold.
She goes back to arranging flowers, like nothing ever happened.
“Stop the clock”, he says, and hands a package to me. I rip it open now, in front of him, because there is no time to waste later on. There will be no extra time, even though I want it—the clock rules all. It’s a Polaroid camera. He’s grinning sheepishly, rubbing a hand on the nape of his neck, “Maybe you could start taking pictures of them. Recording the faces.”
Instead of turning on my heel and leaving, I just stare at the photo-taking device in my hands. He’d put film in it; black and white film. I have a million questions, how did he know being the one I should ask, but instead I blurt out,
“Why black and white?”
He’s already twenty steps in front of me, but he turns around and yells, “Because they’re the only colours you need.”
“Stop the clock”, I say. I’ve been playing around for too long; dripping saturated yellows and cyans all over the place, messing around with splotches of white and black on my painter’s overalls, getting acrylics onto canvases I shouldn’t be touching. Littering the rainbow on my lips, tattooing red all over my body.
I strip, and stand in front of a mirror. For the first time on the clock, I stare at myself. Take in the red that spills across my right hipbone, touch the red lining the lines of my lips, try to scrub off the slashes of red hemming my ears and the hollow of my neck.
Something is wrong. I shouldn’t be getting this much time to myself.
I close my eyes, and soon enough, I’m whisked off, naked and in another hotel room. Someone is in the shower, and there’s red all over my thighs and ribboning down my legs.
I sigh. Should’ve known that the clock wouldn’t listen to me, either. No matter how much I wanted time to stop.
“Stop the clock”, he says, and slings an arm across my shoulder. Time isn’t even up yet. “What’s your name? I wanna know before you…before you go.”
Startled, I pull back from the warmth of his arm. No-one’s ever asked me that before.
Before I tell him my name, I make sure to whisper an apology. “Sorry, I can’t stop myself.”
“My name is Titus.”
note: titus means Time
alternative title: I can’t stop myself.