IT WAS LATER THAN I THOUGHT

Time trailing off was somewhere on the other side of an undetermined horizon, unseen and yet to be reached. There were still many steps to take and thousands of miles to go. I thought you’d reach your last stop many moons from now, thinking there was such a vast distance still to travel, and a few turns to take. I never really thought about the steps that were inevitably moving you forward, or how quickly the miles added up behind you as you kept on walking, and as you stood still. Even though you didn’t move as swiftly somedays, and no matter how much you would slow down on other days, you were still moving forward. Time was still happening. You couldn’t fight it or defeat it, cheat it, or deny it. It didn’t speed up or slow down. You couldn’t conquer it, ignore it, or deny it. I wasn’t counting the miles behind you or estimating the distance ahead of you. I wasn’t keeping a schedule, it wasn’t necessary. There was time. There was supposed to be more minutes, hours, and days. We still had years to count down, plans were made and trips to take. I didn’t know that it was later than I thought.

I watched you growing tired, but I didn’t want to see it. I heard you try and tell me, but I didn’t want to hear it. Others were telling me that you weren’t the same as I remembered, but my mind wouldn’t let me consider it. Maybe so, I thought, but you had time. I saw the sparkle in your eyes grow hazier each time I looked into them. Your smile wasn’t as broad as before, and your voice became quieter. I attributed your silence to the fact that you were listening rather than wanting to be heard. Your eyes smiled more but you laughed less. I couldn’t make sense of it, so I ignored it. There was time. I tried to identify the change in your tone, and your need for less. You gazed intensely into my eyes, as though you wanted to say something crucial, but didn’t know how to. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to hear it. You kept our last call longer and your messages came more frequently. You seemed to have so much more time, and we had so many plans, but I didn’t know that it was later than I thought.

When you reached that unchartered horizon, I felt cheated. Conned. Tricked. Time exposed itself as cruel and heartless. A liar. It had deceived me and offered me no warning. You had more time. There was supposed to be more. I wasn’t keeping track of your calendar, but even if I did, it still didn’t fit in to the schedule my heart had drawn up. It just couldn’t be right. I went back and forth, stopped, and started again. Over and over, I tried to count the steps you took. It suddenly felt as though they were far too big and far too quick. Time didn’t add up and when I tried to match it with the steps you took, I was appalled to discover that it was so much later than I thought.

Perhaps, time held me hostage, or I took the enemy and tried to cage it. Was it because I still had so much to do with you that I kept us frozen in time? I didn’t see the horizon approaching, and when the sky turned dark, I looked back and noticed how the light had started dimming behind you long before. I thought that perhaps you found another route, a short-cut to the border between here and there, because it was just too short, or you had walked way too fast. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t see the horizon approaching. I couldn’t calculate the steps you still needed to take, or the time you would still have, but I do know now that it was later than I thought.

Retracing your steps, I want to shout out to you to stop. “Stop walking so fast!” Stop allowing time to push you forward. Stop. Just stop. But when I look back, I can see for the first time how often you stumbled. How torn you were between passing through the passage of time, or letting it pass you by. You have known for a while that your calendar was almost full and right on schedule. Time was perfectly set according to your timeline here, and the beginning of your timeline over there. I don’t want to change it. I don’t want to set myself up for a bitter warfare with time, because I can’t win. Because, as hard as I would fight, plead, and beg, time wants to happen. Time will happen. It doesn’t adapt to broken hearts or bucket lists. It doesn’t show mercy. As messy as time is; as unfair as it seems, and as ugly as it can be, I don’t want to fix it. Time has always been on God’s schedule, the Master of all calendars and timelines. Time can’t be fixed because it isn’t broken. Time takes God’s diary and carries out itineraries drawn up by Him. Its service is to God alone. Not for my broken heart or tears. Not for my silence or anger.

So, instead of trying to wrestle and negotiate with time, I am doing my best to try and catch up to it. Perhaps, if I can persuade my heart to match His schedule, I wouldn’t walk around in disbelief, angry at time, or miss you so much. If I could be perfectly aligned with time, then maybe I won’t hear you call my name in the wind, or stare motionlessly at your photograph, before running my fingers across your forehead, and lightly touching your cheek. Perhaps then I could smile at the eyes staring back at me instead of hunting for answers in them. I keep looking out for that cheeky wink and tight-lipped smile that says, “I’ve got this,” but the truth is, you did have this even when I couldn’t see. Maybe, I would stop reading and re-reading your messages, hoping to find a clue or identify a tone that would give me just an ounce of closure. Perhaps when my questions are answered, I might even be able to stop the tears from reaching my eyes and landing on my cheeks. Maybe then the hole inside of me that wasn’t there before wouldn’t feel so enormous and sore. I might even be able to start breathing normally again, instead of holding my breath because it manifests in an intense, physical hurt. I want to expel the anguish by holding my breath forever, but it happens instinctively. Unconsciously. Spontaneously. It doesn’t let me just stop. Time hasn’t yet received my itinerary. I don’t want my calendar filled just yet, I just want the messiness and agony of grief to lessen. If I could just get myself perfectly set with time, I know that I can once again find the light I keep reaching for.

I don’t ever want it to be later than I thought again.

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