And one clock stopped—and knew the meaning of time
AT PRECISELY 6:30 P.M., he noted, his mother was rushed to the hospital on account of a violent seizure.
The building was possessed by the spirits of disinfectant and the long lines of cold, seemingly undying fluorescent lights. The march of the doctors, nurses, personnel, and patients on wheel chairs with their guardians, along with the around-the-clock operative necessities in the passageways and rooms, always unsettled him. He wondered—not for the first time—how many patients die each day in all hospitals.
They were now inside a room. He sat on a stool beside his mother’s bed, gently pressing one unresponsive hand.
He felt that his mother’s apparatus sourced an ominous gravity. He tried not to keep time to its punctuated beeping, yet he couldn’t help but give a furtive glance at the transparent tubes and fluctuating green lines, and then at his timeworn watch wrapped around his wrist.
Its hands pointed to 8:15 p.m. Checking the time gave him a sense that moments were now fixed and numbered. When he heard the door swing open, he turned and saw the doctor, who then reported to him the results.
“Sir, I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “But your mother’s in a critical condition.”
He didn’t respond—or rather, had no idea how. In fact, he turned back to his wristwatch, and made as if he was fiddling with it.
The doctor waited. The silence let in an air so sinister that despite the double fluorescent bulbs, the room seemed to grow darker as if it were also suffering an episode of its own illness.
“Sir,” the doctor addressed him again.
“Doc,” he said. He wiped his face with the neck of his shirt and stood to face the doctor.
“We all did our best,” said the doctor, “but there’s nothing we can do now but pray and prepare ourselves for anything tha can happen any moment.”
“I see that,” he said as he gazed at an invisible dot on the white wall behind the doctor. “Doc, can I ask you something?”
“Yes,” said the doctor.
“Doc,” he said, his eyes still fixed on the dot. “What are your thoughts on God?”
The dot on the wall sprang into visions corresponding to his sharp query.
The doctor just stood silent.
“Him letting people suffer and die?” he added. “It seems like Death is God Himself.”
He tapped at his watch as if to indicate life as it draws near death. He glanced down.
The hands pointing coldly to 8:31 p.m. made him ask, “Where’s God now?” He looked at every corner of the room and turned to the doctor. “See, Doc? Only Death is coming to us.”
He sat back on his stool, realizing he has never actually believed in God, but has always wanted to blame Him ever since.
“I bear witness to these tragedies almost every day,” said the doctor.
He stared at him, and their eyes met.
“Doc,” he said. “I just don’t understand why all these things happen.”
“I suppose we must try to endure all that is to come, however worse they’ll get. The least we could do is to try.”
The doctor let out a deep sigh, reviewed his other papers, and checked his own watch. “Sir, I’m sorry, but I need to be going now. I need to attend to my other patients.”
The doctor hurried out with an unsteady stride.
When the door opened, from where he sat, he heard a score of footsteps, and imagined one of them to be Death’s.
He took in what the doctor had said about enduring “all that is to come.” He observed his mother’s faintly heaving chest and thought her lungs were giving up on the weight of breathing.
He meditated on her mother’s culminating mortality that was reflecting his, the doctor’s, and everyone’s. Diseases, accidents, misfortune, time, fate, and even life itself were all accomplices of death.
His own belief templates and choices, in some obscure link, influence or even determine someone else’s, and his too, he concluded, were preconfigured by other people’s, by the past, and all the way back to the womb of space and time.
Thus he examined the course of his life, as a metaphor: Had he spent more time with her mother, her life would not have been thoroughly miserable. Had she been a better mother, he would have not left her alone. Had his father not been a monster of a husband, his mother would not have turned insufferably monstrous herself. Had life gone easy on his father as a child, he would not have created monsters.
Everyone, including himself, was Death’s accomplice, he thought with the similar certitude sentencing his own death in the future.
He looked at his watch and turned around to listen to the muffled footsteps behind the door. For some unknown reason or sensation, he divined the inevitable arrival.
A long, loud beep filled the room.