|The Time Keeper writes the rules, and moves me through my day, ensuring I am kept on track. The alarm rings at six and I am jarred rudely from pleasant slumber, swiftly taken from my warm bed and cast head first into the day. Hitting snooze just one time, and I run the risk of a day filled with playing catch up, a small slap on the wrist from the Time Keeper. He is in control, and any attempt on my part to challenge this, will be noticed and dealt with. It is his responsibility to keep things running smoothly, any deviations in the rules is his choosing not mine.
Eight, I am in my car, the smell of warm coffee filling the small enclosed space. Traffic is light, I sit only one rotation at the lights this morning, and think I may actually arrive early today. Humming to the radio, an old Bee Gee's tune, I feel ready for anything the day has to offer. Soon my office comes into view, an old 1930's two story building with flat roof and small, dirt smudged windows that let in very little light. At some point the building was painted brown, through the years layers of colors had been applied one on top of another, no one bothering to scrap away the old before applying the new. The faded peeling white, once clean and new, allowed peeks of red and brown to show through, in a decayed, spotted affect from the road. Some may say depressing, but I enjoy seeing the colors from years gone by, a little piece of history peeking out through time.
Going through my day the Time Keeper keeps me moving. A meeting at ten, lunch at noon, reports due by three, lateness will not be tolerated, so I must keep up. Five arrives and slow moving traffic and the long ride home waits. Now is not the time to push the boundaries. Leave just a few minutes too late and my hour ride can easily turn into two. Traffic, lights, stop signs, all will do their best to keep me from the comfort of my home, where I will kick off my shoes, slide into comfy pajamas, and relax. That is the best part of my day. My time, no demands, schedules or expectations, the Time Keeper's reward, and by the end of the day I feel I deserve it.
Pulling into my apartment complex I am shocked to see police cars, an ambulance, and various uniformed men standing around the main front door. Like most who live in the city, I do not know my neighbors. A quick hello in the hall, a nod while running out the door is the most contact we have with each other. I live on the second floor with ten other apartments. Nine other lives happening simultaneously with mine, and I do not know anyone's name. Approaching the front door, I ask the officer blocking the entry if I am allowed to go up to my apartment. I will only realize later that I do not ask him what has happened, merely wanting to know if I may enter. After a quick rundown of name, address, and if I live alone, I am allowed entry. Odd question, do I live alone. Has a crime happened and he is concerned for my safety, or perhaps is he wondering if more of my group will be bothering him, wanting to be allowed access? Either way, again my city upbringing does not prompt me to ask what has happened.
Moving up the stairs, my apartment is the second from the landing, I see more uniformed men standing outside my next door neighbor's door. This is getting a little to close for comfort. Trying not to make eye contact with anyone, I walk quickly to my door, turn the key, hurry in and lock it behind me. The Time Keeper has to be proud. Not a second wasted. Taking off my shoes I head over to the sofa, sit and wonder about the situation happening just a few feet from my door. Nagging at the back of my brain is the thought that I am still dressed in my work clothes. First thing in the door after work, I remove my shoes, head to the bedroom and change. Shedding my work clothes and putting on my pajamas is the best part of the day. A creature of comfort, they are loose fitting, soft, and relax me the moment I put them on. The Time Keeper is tapping his pocket watch, knows I am falling behind, and is doing his best to remind me I am out of sync.
Still pondering the situation going on just a few feet away, I hear one of the men outside ask if the Coroner has been called. That simple word is all it takes to make my heart skip a beat. The implication of that one word is, to say the least, staggering. My neighbor has died at some point today, While I was rushing through my day, someone has ceased to be. Just the night before I had heard his voice as he welcomed friends who had come over to visit, greeting them at his door, and welcoming them in. Less than twenty four hours later he is gone. At some point today his time on this earth has ended and I never said more than ten words to him in two years of living next door. Again I notice I have not changed, still sitting on my sofa, work clothes on, hair still pulled in a long braid, and everything is on hold. No Coroner yet meant something so awful; I can not wrap my mind around it. Just mere feet from where I am sitting my neighbor lay dead, waiting to be taken away.
Sitting and pondering the meaning of life and death, I catch pieces of conversations from the officers, slowly putting the story together bit by bit. A relative had come to visit after lunch, he had found him dead. Nothing seemed to be out of place in his apartment, although foul play could not be ruled out. Yes he had medical problems; yes he had been seen alive last night, no he had no one who would wish to harm him. His death has been placed on public display. Others in the complex want to know what is going on, have small pieces of information to offer in the hopes of filling in their own blanks of the story. Still sitting, unable to fall into my routine, I wait. Tonight, we re-write the rules Time Keeper. Something terrible has happened and I have taken control, if only this one time. Normalcy just does not feel right tonight.
How can I order delivery with a hallway full of tragedy? Read a book, watch a movie? Someone's life is over and we are all waiting for an official to come and take him away. As morbid as it sounds, I need him to be taken. Knowing he is mere feet away, alive one minute, gone the next, send chills through me. Is death lurking, now feeling the power of taking one, peeking in to see if perhaps someone else is nearby is on his list? Being touched by death in this way, someone you barely know, but so close, affords you the opportunity to view it without grief clouding your senses. I begin to think about hearing his voice the night before, never knowing that would be the last time. Realizing as he joked with friends that would be his last night, never again to sit and enjoy their company. Completely unaware that tomorrow he would die. Would he have lived his last evening different? Would he have spent his last morning doing something else? He was blindsided, never knew his hours were numbered.
After his body is taken away, the uniforms are gone, there is silence. The usual noises of the building are different tonight. We are all touched by this event, changed in some small way. No one is talking in the hall; the doors are not opening and closing. All have told the Time Keeper tonight we re-write the rules.