The headaches that used to accompany morning awakenings have now vanished, so instead of running for a pain killer, I am going directly to the bathroom to take a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I recognize my face as I have known it since the era I was living in the normal world, at the age I was forced to abandon it and be placed in this strange place where time flows according to the author’s will, who has been given the right to write about my life, or perhaps the reader’s moods, who reads the story unwillingly, jumping from one chapter to another, without caring about regularity disturbances that may be caused by jumping chapters and paragraphs. A shadow on the rear of the mirror seems to be watching me in silence. It is the first time I see it and I can even detect traces of tenderness and sympathy, but I attribute the feeling to the general sensation that somebody has been watching me since I have been trapped in this strange book that claims to be narrating my life.
It all began some months ago, when I accepted the proposal of the strange man, who introduced himself as a journalist or a writer or something like that, and suggested that he should write my biography. I thought he was joking, since biographies are written about important people, who have offered much to humanity or about persons that have influenced its course for better or worse at the very least. Despite my humble objections though, he insisted on the project.
Unwillingly, I answer the phone that persistently rings.
“I hope you did not regret it, sir,” he states in excitement. I have not heard of him for a really long time, but I quickly realize that to him, it was just last night that we signed the contract.
“I have most certainly regretted it. I really do not feel like participating in your project at all.”
Silence on the other end of the line.
“Do you hear me? I changed my mind. I want my life back,” I shout angrily, unable to control myself or my nerves.
“But you did sign the contract sir. You cannot back out now.”
“There must be a price. Name it and save yourself the trouble,” I tell him in a desperate effort to negotiate.
“I am terribly sorry, sir. With or without your help, the book has already started,” he says and hangs up.
He did not have to tell me that. I already know firsthand.
So, this is how I got trapped in this bizarre world, where time does not flow in the usual linear way, but on the contrary, every single day that dawns finds me in a different season of my life. I could not realize this immediately. In the beginning, I thought somebody turned back time in order to give me a second chance at life, so that I could accomplish all the big achievements I had been destined to complete, and I was truly grateful and happy about it.
It took me some time to realize that days did not succeed one another like it happened in my previous life, but it was as if some one was really trying to write my biography, recounting only the most important days of my life. In time, instead of slipping from one significant moment to the next, it was as if some one was reading the book of my life, skipping chapters according to his mood, or even returning to previous chapters from time to time in order to properly understand what happened, thus making time travelling back and forth a part of my routine. In the beginning, all those long time distance trips I was forced to endure from one day to the next caused severe headaches, similar to those that one acquires while travelling long distance trips, until one gets used to time difference. In time though, my body got used to temporal trips and headaches subsided.
The important days of my life came one after another, not necessarily in the linear chronological order I remembered but it was proved later on that something even worse was happening. Not only did they not seem that important any more, but also there was nothing I could do to make them more important either. My life simply repeated itself, as a patchwork, yet still in the same exact way it had happened before. I made the same decisions, chose the same roads, talked to the same persons, without the ability to change anything in order to thrive and prove myself worthy of the writer’s effort.
Our gazes cross for a second, but all it takes is one single moment for me to recognize her. She holds a book in her hand and immediately looks away, as if to defend a space that rightfully belongs to her, which I invaded by mistake. This woman has the same tender eyes I detected earlier today on the mirror. It is definitely her. The reader of a book that has not been written yet, so it cannot have been read either, but she is certainly the one to read it in the future and she will be the one to see below the surface, the man whose story is being written so that he can finally meet her.
The lights in the bar are low and you can barely hear the music. I do not wish to scare her away, but I cannot hold back either, so I tell her the truth. She laughs.
“The opposite is not so unusual,” she says.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that it is not so unusual for the reader to develop feelings for the main character of a book, while you say that you fell in love with the reader of a book of which you happen to be the main character, or you will be for that matter.”
I hear her even louder laughter now, as if she said the most amusing joke and I laugh along, because my story really seems like a silly joke, although at least now I have the impression that it may lead somewhere nice, to some kind of happy ending to say the least.
“It does not really make any sense at all. None of this sounds valid,” I tell her, realizing how absurd my story sounds, now that I speak of it, instead of just thinking about it.
“It all may be valid. However there is no reason for us to waste time. You can tell me all about your life, instead of waiting for me to read it in the book.”
I do not want to sleep tonight. I fear that I could wake up to an irrelevant time and space and that it will take lots of time for me to find her again. I will stay awake and recite all I recall from my life, even the most insignificant details. I suspect I could be more significant than I ever though I would be. At least I can be significant to her. In my metric system, this is more than enough.
We wake up embraced. Relieved to find her by my side, yet still in agony about the continuity of time, I run to the bathroom mirror once more, as discreetly as possible, in an effort not to disturb her. It is all true. Time counts normally again. Or this may be happening for the first time, I cannot be certain of that. I look at the calendar to confirm my suspicion. The calendar says what I already know. That time flows as it is supposed to flow. Or perhaps this is the first time it flows forward, full of moments that will not vanish into insignificance, but will be filled instead with love and shared experiences. Time counts when you begin to love. Or at least, this is the only way to tame it.
Copyright 2016 by Mileva Anastasiadou. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.
Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, living and working in Athens, Greece. She has published two books. Her work can be found in Ofi press magazine, Infective Ink, the Molotov Cocktail, Foliate Oak, HFC journal, Down in the Dirt magazine, and soon in Menacing Hedge, Massacre magazine, the Wolfian, Pendora magazine and the Fear of Monkeys.