FORTY. Tomorrow, I will be forty. That number echoes in my footsteps as I walk the familiar beat to work.
That’s my name, and … where did the time go? When did I get to forty? What does it mean?
Beat, beat, beat: my footsteps rap along the sidewalk in time to the music pumping into my ears from my iPod touch. My footsteps distract me. But only for a moment. I think: at my age, my mother still had not had me. That’s why my mother and father had called me “Time.”
“It was about time your mother got pregnant,” my father would say often during post-Sunday-dinner coffee, as he leaned back in his worn armchair lighting his pipe.
“And it was about time you got out. You sat in there and sat in there and would not come out,” my mother would retort to me.
“So we called you ‘Time’,” Father would say. Then he would end the story with: “Seemed logical.”
“Seemed appropriate,” Mother would counter as Father finally managed to pull a draw from his pipe and emit three puffs.
What a horrid name, I think, as I turn the corner onto Queen. Today, it’s made me obsessed with time and with turning forty. I see a people-stuffed streetcar trundle by, and I sigh. It’s been awhile since I gave up trying to catch the streetcar to work and reluctantly woke up earlier to get there on foot.
Peggy and Sue have this big birthday lunch planned for me tomorrow at our favourite restaurant. And the boss has generously—I roll my eyes at “generously”—given me two hours off so we can take our time. The whole thing is surreal.
I take my iPod touch out of my skirt pocket and look at it. The screen is dark, and I press the Home button. No notifications. I turn it this way and that to find what created that strange noise. It seems okay. I shrug, slip it back into my pocket, and continue walking along my route.
The morning sun is slanting sharply along the sidewalk in front of me, toward me, pointing at me, that old woman turning forty. I want to hide from its edgy light, but no point in crossing the street into the shadowed sidewalk. I’ll only have to cross back again. I hate walking.
Voices interrupt my thoughts, and I glance into a garishly-painted alley and think: Ford Nation has obviously missed this place. But perhaps there’s so much graffiti in Queen West alleys, it’s worn out Mayor Ford and his fans before they could erase it all. But there’s no one loitering or walking in the alley, only solitary people like me hustling along Queen Street, coffee cups in hand. Suddenly, I stop. I look at my empty hand: I forgot to get my morning café latté, no whip, soya milk, half-sweet, grandé. I think of retracing my steps, but then I’ll be late, and the boss doesn’t like tardiness. He gets in a snit if I’m even one minute late. My feet resume walking.
And my thoughts resume churning.
At my age, my parents had been married twenty years. It would be another five before I was born. They’d both died a decade ago. I have no sisters or brothers. And since both my parents were only children, I had no immediate cousins. As a child, I met these strange adults my parents called “distant cousins” on special occasions like weddings, adults who embraced me in powder and perfume, exclaimed over how much I’d grown, making me squirm. But I haven’t seen them since the funeral.
The last funeral.
I’ve been alone in the world for ten years, yet until today I hadn’t dwelled on it, hadn’t felt alone. I live in the house my parents lived in. I’ve been working at the same kind of job since I graduated from university with my English Lit degree and went right into a temping agency. Father tried to get me to think bigger, but what was I good for? I’m bad at math. Numbers confuse me. And science is gibberish. Only eggheads do science anyway. But then who’d want an English grad? I thrust away a stray memory of an interview with … I can’t even remember now. Father had said I’d sabotaged it; Mother had said never mind, I was born to type. And so type I did and have until this day. I thought it’d be temporary until I found my feet. Yet there they are, my feet, attached to the bottom of my legs, and they’re taking me to my admin assistant job as they do every weekday.
Genre – Science Fiction / Time Travel
Rating – PG13