I remember the first night we started talking: August 2013. The night we stopped: August 2014. The night we started again: June 2015. And stopped: June 2016. I have spent the past five years loving you like clockwork, in patterns we swore each time would never repeat themselves. Like the clock at the base of a time bomb, I listened to its tick every day, thinking maybe this is the way a heartbeat is supposed to sound.
The first time the batteries stopped working, I waited a year, then wound the hands back into place and started counting again. The second time, it wasn't just the batteries; you stole the hands too, snapped them clean off its face, leaving me with twelve lonely Roman numerals and a meaningless ticking ringing in my ear. I wished myself deaf, so I wouldn't have to hear it anymore. I wished myself blind, so the numbers could disappear, because I couldn't tell time anymore anyway, not without the hands. Not without your hands.
Not without your hands taking mine on the sofa at your house, those days we sat shoulder-to-shoulder pretending to watch cop shows on television, the shows your mother always liked. Not without your fingers tracing my knuckles, the IV scar on my wrist from when, at three years old, I had pneumonia. Not without your skin and my skin, our hands joined together, united, eternal, forever.
I could never tell time without counting out the minutes on my fingers, multiples of five swirling around my head. The chant they taught us back in first grade sticks with me to this day: five, ten, fifteen, twenty. I wonder how you count the minutes now, with only hands and batteries. I wonder if you've found another clock.
I wonder if clockwork ever mattered to you.
Alyssa Tyson has been writing since she knew what words were. She has an affinity for books, dogs, Harry Potter, rock concerts, and sit-coms.