by Yael van der Wouden
She was still analyzing last night’s conversation the next day, taking the wash down the stairs. A specific phrasing of his came to mind and somewhere between a step and the railing, time jumped a few seconds and had to wait for herself at the bottom of the staircase—watch her own face fold into a frown as she walked back into her body.
She burped at the impact, grunted, thumped her chest a few times to settle the outer particles. She tsked, a quiet, dangerous, “Lisa!”, and decided that if thinking about it made her nervous enough to jump time, she’d better leave the whole thing alone.
This worked for exactly twenty minutes and then peeling an apple made her think of the conversation they’d had a few months ago about to what degree could apples be savory. How did she argue her case, couldn’t even remember, what a stupid disagreement to have over nothing, and why did she have to push at things she didn’t even care about? She asked her dog as much, and the dog reacted encouragingly enough while she aggressively reconstructed their five last goodbyes in her mind.
She lost near to a minute, there, watching herself feed the dog a slice of apple, watching herself let the dog lick at her fingers then search for the towel that was over the back of a chair, make a beeline for the fridge where she barreled back into herself with enough force to bring her to her knees.
She dry-heaved a few times, catching up. The dog sniffed at her ear, licked. “Ugh,” she said, pushing, then petting, then pushing. “Not good, Lisa,” she said, getting to her feet. “Not good.”
She called her mom and her mom told her to do breathing exercises. She called Frida who told her to remove the fucker from her contact list. She called her doctor who told her they’d agreed she wouldn’t call on Saturdays. “Right,” Lisa said. “Right.”
Then he called, unexpectedly, and she didn’t answer. Then he called again, and immediately she was sweating, and immediately she was pulled out of the present and into the garden, stuck, watching the blurry ravens skip between the blurry branches of a tree. She waited for herself to walk back into herself. It took a good ten minutes—the longest it had been in years. The collision had her sprawled in the mud-patched grass, gulping in breaths, hand at her throat.
“What did he say,” she asked herself, slowing down. “Wait. What did I say? What was—”
The ravens sharpened into reality and took off, outer feathers spread. Time, itself not very smart, heard her question and shrugged in the form of putting particles back from where they had fallen.
“Every time I need you to stay still,” she said, pushing time away, then pulling it back. She didn’t finish her sentence. Time knew, and apologized by staying very, very still, by swaying the tree branches in rhythm with the present.