By Richard Rochemont
The clock’s hand woke me, what else could've it been, I’m sure of it. It’s ticking. I turned over to complain, but she wasn't there. I reached out and felt the smooth of her bedside, it was still warm. After some time staring at it’s emptiness, threads of my memory began to defog. I was able to recall the past three days I've spent in uncertainty, my time alone, without my missing wife.
I rolled onto the other side of the bed and grabbed the clock. It had no characteristics to that of a real clock, nothing to distinguish itself. No hands, no preset alarms, no round dial, no indicators; just a face to clock time.
Why does it keep waking me? Maybe it’s the harassment that stirs me, the constant questioning about my missing wife.
“If only I knew,” I’d respond, “if only.”
As every question rolls down and everyday drags on, that clock ticks louder.
My wife has always been a rambunctious soul, a women as appealing to the external world as she is to the internal. She makes a man wonder, how did I catch this one? How can I keep this one?
I’d look for her, but I don't know if she wants to be found.
She’s always been something else; someone more than me. She’s far from perfection, but closer to it on the spectrum of her and me.
If I were to tell anyone who she was they wouldn't believe me. My parents, her parents, her friends, my friends, they don't know who the fuck she is. Only I know who I married.
She traveled. She spent her days sipping cappuccinos and smoking cigarettes, and her nights flaunting to a new love by the Mediterranean, under Italy’s tidal moon. There were night’s when she would snort a line or two and roam the tent. She wasn't predictable because she didn't know what she wanted, but she was so goddamn good at masking her ambiguities with confidence. Her life was fueled through experience. There were nights when she would lay with him and soak in the warmth of his breath, their nakedness tying the intimacy.
How do I know this? She told me, of course.
Now I lay here, listening to the time, and wondering how it began.
I brushed the covers aside and slid from the sheets. I had dinner reservations.
The room was an offset white that balanced with the grayish bedding and drapes that extended far past their boundaries. There were paintings of all sorts hanging around the room, most held a new concept for me everyday, abstracts given new features that I once before ignored.
My eyes fell on the room’s first painting, an impressionist piece called Soleil Levant by French artist Claude Monet. It painted a sunrise setting in the West, an image that looked all-too-much like a sunset, moving above a placid-grey sea. A pair of oarsmen made their way towards it, or maybe towards the town. And the town was a background, yet it wasn’t, it was almost like white noise. A scene that dissolved into its foreground, becoming the background. The essence of the piece speaks time. If the sun were rising, they would be guided by its light, if it were setting, then darkness would cover their journey ahead. Depending on which abstract hour I chose to believe meant these seafarers lives. All I’ve ever seen was the sunset. It was a canvas oiled in uncertainty.
I had reservations.
I walked to my closet and sorted the night’s outfit, then walked out the house and locked the door behind me.
I heard her laugh. It resonated throughout the streets. Whether it was something innate or unrelated, it was something.
The ticking stopped.
The restaurant was of the highest class, rated five out of five by every critique it encountered. It was a rating well deserved. The ceilings weren't high, but reasonably low, maybe eight feet. The detail on the ceiling was unparalleled to any, with artwork of vibrant red and etched moldings of gold. It radiated authenticity, from its marble cut floors to its dim-lit, almost lunar, lighting.
“Ciao! avete alcuna riserva?”…
I turned to the voice; it was the receptionist. He was a small man, probably a head shorter than me, but his vivacity covered what his height lacked. His smile was luring and his speech was almost song-like, they stuck out like pieces of home that he'd never leave, despite their inconvenience. I looked at his hair, a dark brown marked by a whimsical grey, his forehead creased with age and unbegotten stress, his eyes cobbled in the lustful streets of Italy. Time.
“Vorresti fare uno?”
It wasn't after I changed my look from bland to quizzical that I was questioned in english rather than Italian.
“S’cusa, do you hav-ah prenotazione?” he asked. It wasn't fully translated but it was enough.
“Yes I do… Sì sì, noom-ero seven,” Italian culture definitely isn't my niche, but it’s worth some measure of admiration. He gave a small nod of his head, as if he decided that I knew enough of his language to continue.
I followed in envy.
There was someone already seated at the table. I pulled the cold metal of the seat and sat down across from her. Between us sat two glasses of wine, a dwarfish bouquet, and a single candle that contributed to the already dim room.
“Ciao,” I greeted her with a smile, “how long have you been waiting?”
“Does it matter? You never were great with time. Drink please, please drink.”
And so I drank.
“I was never great with a lot of things, yet here I am, alive and well.”
That made her smile. She was a shade of something beautiful, but her gaze never let me forget that she was just as dangerous. She sipped her wine.
“If you were alive and well we wouldn't be here tonight. It’s been three days, why have you only come to me now?”
“I need to know whether she's lost or hurt or gone and I don't know who else to turn to.”
“The only one who's lost, is you. The only one who's hurt, is you. She is gone, at least you know that. Drink.”
And so I drank.
“The truth will never come from you. So drink, empty your glass.”
And so I emptied my glass,
And ran out the restaurant.
And ran home,
And ran passed the divorce papers.
And ran into the room,
And up to Soleil Levant,
And watched the sunrise.