The Weight Of Time

The Weight Of Time

A Story by Tom Aubin

A man looking for the cause of his unhappiness finds an answer on a warm summer day where he noticed someone sitting next to him at the park.


Nigel was a gaunt, grim-looking, unhappy old man that had spent his whole life looking for happiness. 
His house seemed to get smaller and smaller every day. He was alone, as he had always been. His nights were often an endless struggle in a blurry sea where he felt like drowning between reality and dreams. 
The bookshelf in his living room was filled with self-helping books and movies with people smiling and laughing on the covers. They were his heroes, his role models. But somehow he never managed to fill their shoes. 
Nigel often wondered if he was, at least unconsciously, the cause of his own suffering. Some people seemed to have despair in their blood, and to support his theory, his family was a good example. 
The only thing he had left from his father was a golden watch on his left wrist. A beautiful souvenir from a man he never knew. Nigel’s father had died when he was just a baby. But as a kid, as he looked down at his wrist, he felt as if that the weight of it was more than just the object.
It filled him equally with wonder and fear, and it was around that time that something grew in his head. Something that would follow him his entire life. A belief that time and happiness were only one thing, belief that soon turned out to become a fear of time itself. A dread at the idea of losing a day, losing a minute. An insane chase after something that he was never able to catch up. 
One of his remaining pleasures in life, as an old man, was to go to the park, sit on a bench and read a nice book. There the time seemed to stop and he did not feel like running after it. The world around him would disappear and the words he was reading stopped being words and became doors that took him to better places.  
But even this could not last forever, and as soon as the time was up, Nigel would again feel this emptiness inside, and the eternal question: “Why am I not happy?”
There must have been a reason, hidden somewhere deep down, or in a place he never thought of inspecting. But he never would have expected that on a warm summer day someone would sit next to him on the bench and give him the answer he was looking for. 
At first he had not realized that he was not alone anymore. Nigel was still in the world of words. But as he turned the page, his glance moved away from it and he saw the shadow on the floor next to his. 
Before seeing the person’s face, he saw a hand, and heard a voice. 
“How are you, my friend?”
Nigel’s first reaction was to frown, and for a second the hand he had raised automatically stood motionless in mid-air. He did not have anything against familiarities, and quite enjoyed to break social boundaries himself in his glory days, but this had just been unexpected. 
The two hands joined and shook. 
“Not too bad.” Nigel replied. “Yourself?”
“I feel terrific, friend.” the man said. 
His voice was light and dreamy, carrying a sound of calm ecstasy, as if the man had spent his whole life trapped behind bars and was finally able to enjoy true freedom. He had deep blue eyes, in this particular shape where one did not need to look at the mouth to know that the person was smiling. 
“Isn’t this wonderful?” the man looked ahead. 
Nigel followed his glance to the playground in front of them. Two little boys that looked like siblings were chasing each other, one of them climbing in panic on the slide before the other one could catch him, and throwing himself down without a second thought, as if the place at the bottom of the swing had the answer to all the questions in the world. The grass was green and freshly cut, still carrying the smell of the night rain. And far away, beyond everything, the mountain top. It was probably the last place in the city where it was possible to see it. 
Nigel heard himself say: “Not too bad.”, and directly after saying these words he asked himself since how long he had become so unmoved by the beauty of simplicity. 
He looked at his watch: two-thirty. Only five hours of sunshine, more or less. In an hour he would go for groceries, and he wanted to finish this chapter before going there. If only the man would go on his way and leave him alone. 
“Not too bad?” the man burst into laughter. “Oh, Nigel, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Nigel’s gaze left his watch and he looked at the man in confusion. He analyzed the face for a brief moment but could not stare at it for too long because of these bright piercing blue eyes. It felt like looking into the sun for too long. 
“Do I know you?” he asked. 
“No.” said the blue-eyed man. “But I have been impatient to know you for quite a while now, Nigel.”
“I don’t understand.”
Suddenly the man seemed to be ageless. When Nigel’s look wandered about he looked like a man in his mid-thirties, but when he would meet his eyes, there was something inside them, something that even a word-lover like Nigel could not describe. 
“You’re the first one I want to help, Nigel.”
It was happening again. The world around them seemed to close itself, exactly like when the words would take him to foreign places.
“What do you…”
“Do you know what is the difference between men and animals?”
Nigel’s mind felt empty, out of resources, but the man gave his answer almost immediately after asking the question. He lowered his hands on Nigel’s left wrist and said: “Look.”
Nigel looked down, searching for something he was obviously missing. 
“What am I supposed to look for?” 
The blue-eyed man waved his hand slowly over Nigel’s left wrist. 
“Can’t you see it?” the man asked. 
Nigel looked closely but could not see anything different. He was about to tell the man to stop taking him for an idiot when he finally noticed it. 
The needles of his watch. They were gone. 
“This is the difference.” the man said. “And now you are a little bit more alike.”
He waved his hand again, and the face of the watch disappeared. “A little bit more…”
He did it a last time, and the watch disappeared. “Now you’re the same.”
Nigel felt as if he was floating, as if a tremendous weight had just been taken away from him. His mind was totally empty of thoughts. 
“How did you…”
“Listen really carefully.” the man said. “People are not carrying watches, or hanging clocks on their walls. They are carrying a countdown. The seconds, the minutes, the hours of a clock are not going forward. They go backward. And most of people do not even realize it.”
He paused, then said: “I’m here to change that. Do you understand now?”
This voice, so full of compassion, filled Nigel’s chest with something indescribably heavy. 
“If I take away the countdown, then what you have left is all the time in the world. That’s my goal. I’m here to give you a second chance.”
“I don’t get... You’re here to… erase time?”
The blue-eyed man’s beautiful laugh filled the world once again. 
“What you’re saying is impossible, my friend. But the general idea is that time is something you can tame. Something tangible. Something you can grab and fit into little agendas. Time is invisible. It doesn’t belong on a wall, inside of a screen or on someone’s wrist. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world when you stop looking for it. You don’t find it. It finds you. It will always exist, even without needles to indicate where it is. Indeed, it is much more enjoyable that way.”
These words led suddenly to a beautiful and unique silence. It was something Nigel had never experienced in his long life. This kind of silence could be lasting forever in his opinion. 
“Look over there.” the blue-eyed man said. 
Nigel looked up, and his eyes widened. The swing was gone, as well as the kids. 
In the middle of the park, coming out of the green grass, stood a wooden door. 
“Where is it going?” he asked. “It looks… familiar.”
“Well,” the man smiled. “I guess you will have to cross it if you want to know.”
Nigel looked away from the door, and this time straight into these bright blue eyes. It was not painful anymore. 
“Who are you?”
His thoughts had been navigating between different ideas. An angel, a demon, a sorcerer. Death. God. 
The man laughed, and Nigel knew that either he had spoken out loud, or the man had just heard his thoughts. 
“All of these, and none of them. This is the only thing I can think of to answer your question.”
Nigel lowered his head, and the man put a hand on his shoulder. 
“Think of me as one of many others that were trapped for a very long time. And now we are finally free, and we want to help.”
Nigel got up. 
“Before you go.” the man said. 
As he turned to face him, Nigel saw that the man was holding something in his hand : his father’s watch. 
“Do you want it back?”
And there, Nigel realized that the weight that had been taken away with the watch, the weight of time, was gone, but the presence of somebody walking with him was still there.  
The man smiled in satisfaction. 
“Then go, and don’t look back. I expect many more to follow your steps. Soon, very soon.”
Nigel did not look back, and as he stood in front of the door, he realized why it looked so familiar. His hand patted affectionately the wooden frame, feeling every little detail of it he had forgotten over the years.
It was the front door of his childhood home. 


© 2017 Tom Aubin

Author's Note

Tom Aubin
I really don't know how to describe this story. It has a simple premise, but everything that happened seemed to be out of my control. It might not make much sense, but I had a good feeling while writing it. Please let me know what you think, and I would be really glad if you can point mistakes or grammatical errors.
Thank you.

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This makes the kind of sense that I feel, more than understand. From my experience, when a story presents itself in the way you say this did, it's going to be good. This is very well-written and I enjoyed it very much.

Posted 5 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Tom Aubin

5 Years Ago

Thank you very much. I also really love the feeling of a story presenting itself and waiting to be w.. read more

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Added on August 17, 2017
Last Updated on August 17, 2017