The Clock Strikes

Pamela Goddard

She was trying to be more alert. For some time now she'd felt out of sorts. Numb even. There were moments when she'd come back to herself, and then she'd think, "If I don't do something, I might as well be quite dead. I'm walking around wooden and dead." She wasn't normally one to let things slid. And she certainly wasn't one to even contemplate just giving up and really getting dead. But she'd gone through a rough time, and now there was this time of numbness.

There were weeks together when she'd realize at the end of the day that she couldn't remember the faces of people she'd walked past on the street. She couldn't remember the headlines of the morning newspaper. She tried reading novels, but kept losing track of the plot. She'd even begun missing appointments. If she didn't write things down, she'd forget conversations within minutes.

She was trying to be more alert, to be awake to the present moment. She was not having an easy time of it. She tried taking walks, looking for the new and unseen things around her. A black cat and a white cat sitting on a brick wall side by side. A piece of trash that hadn't been there the day before. She'd have vivid moments, but they were lost like sunshine in fog. There would be an hour of awareness, and then the thick paleness of this quiet-desperation time would return.

It got worse is she tried to think about when and why this numbness had started. In the midst of despair she'd inch her mind back into the places where the old hurts were, and the walls of her mind would rise up protectively around her. It was as though some over protective guardian was putting her back to bed, saying "No, no. Don't revisit those days. It's too much for you. You're safer here. It's calm and quiet, and nothing will hurt you." Even that much awareness was was more than she could manage in day light. The safe seclusion offered by this presence came to her in the palace of darkness that was her sleep. As weeks went by it was more and more difficult to separate the darkness of sleep from the dull greyness of her days.

She was sitting in a library reading room, in a stiff wooden chair by a table looking out through a window. Looking at the sky and trees, not really seeing them, a clock struck six o'clock.

Bong. She was aware of the rippled glass distorting the bare tree branches outside.

Bong. She could feel the pressure of the moulded seat against her legs.

Bong. She tasted the dry bitterness in her mouth.

Bong. She smelled the sweet scent of narcissus bulbs blooming in a gravel filled bowl on the table.

Bong. She felt air around her stir as someone walked by.

Bong. She noticed the beating of her heart against her chest.

Although she knew that she was simply in a small town library, the chimes of the clock striking six seemed to echo through her like a Japanese temple gong. She turned to look at the clock; it's octagonal wooden frame with a little box underneath where a brass disk swept back and forth, rocking out the seconds. She could see the flat curve of it, and the way it caught and turned the yellow light. She was suddenly aware of the looping dark green and blue paisley design in the sturdy brown library carpet. How was it that she'd never before noticed how warm and homey it was?

She looked back out the window, seeing patches of blue in a mostly white sky. The small white narcissus flowers nodded their yellow centers at her. So bright and cheerful. Such a delicate, sweet smell. And how green their stems were as bits of filtered light shone through them.

She just sat for a moment, memorizing everything. She never wanted to lose this moment. After months of dullness, she couldn't assume that she could hold this memory, even for a moment. She knew, with utter clarity, that she could assume nothing. To be honest with herself, she couldn't remember walking to the library, or why she'd come here. But here she was, and for the first time, maybe ever, she was completely alert, awake to the present moment.

She closed here eyes, listening to the ticking of the clock and the soft shuffling of feet on carpet as people looked for books. Maybe even people she knew. With a slow , deep breath she took in the scent of the narcissus. In that breath she knew, in the present moment, everything is possible.

© 2001 Pamela Goddard