Time Creep
Carole Wilkinson

I t is seventy days since my lover left me. Seventy days. On my digital alarm clock the two LED lights between the hours and the minutes blink off and on: one, two, three, four, five times. Five seconds more without him. I get up and eat breakfast. I have eaten seventy breakfasts since I saw him last.

On the train to work I wait for the second hand to crawl around the face of my watch. I hold my breath until it finally reaches 12 again. One more minute without him. He flew away to Far North Queensland. It will be warm there. I try to remember what warm feels like. My body has forgotten.

There are clocks everywhere. On people's wrists, at tram stops, on central heating timers, on the bottom right hand corner of my computer screen. I watch them all. In Far North Queensland there will be rampant greenness, vines and palms growing as you watch them. Tropical fruits fattening. Coconuts falling. In the park outside my office window the plane trees are naked. At lunch time I walk the city streets to pass the time. I watch the stationary hands on the town hall clock, my muscles tense until the big hand suddenly lurches on a whole minute.

Keeping warm is something I have to make an effort to do. If I don't think about it my warmth will diffuse out of me. The temperature of the air around me will rise a fraction of a degree and I will cool, until the air and my body are the same temperature. I have to make my body work to keep warm. I wear socks and track pants to bed, take a hot water bottle. I wake around 5 am, cold again.

In Far North Queensland there are houses with no walls, just a roof to keep out the warm rain and a mosquito net to keep out the insects. There are tree frogs and the ants are green. After work I go to the shopping centre to buy bread and milk. I wait under the novelty clock, watching the koalas rock back and forth. On the hour it plays Waltzing Matilda and cockatoos come out and dance. Another hour has passed.

It gets dark before I get home from work. I have a bath to re-experience warmth. In Far North Queensland you can stay warm without thinking about it. The sea there is as warm as this bath. I watch television until midnight so that I can see the digits on the video recorder change from 23.59 to 00.00. Another day has passed. It is seventy-one days since my lover left me.

First published: February 14, 1999
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