Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, May 2019

For a minute in history, it is 8:11 AM Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday 12 May 2019. The moment stretches out to the sound of coffee sips and soft mechanical ticks – that rhythmic heartbeat of seconds. It then creeps by me without hesitation.

Now the minute hand on my kitchen wall clock has ticked over. I gaze up at it as I sit there alone, taking sips of excessively hot coffee. It is now 8:12 AM. The new moment – this timepoint that seems identical to the last one – stretches out to the monotonous sound of coffee sips and soft mechanical ticks. It, too, then creeps on by without hesitation. It is now 8:13 AM. That arrow of time just keeps moving ever onward, travelling on its infinite, one-way trajectory.

Where did the time go? I ask myself.

Into history. I muse, answering my own question.

Sighing, I rise from an antique kangaroo chair and tip the remainder of my coffee down the sink. I then drag my feet from the kitchen to the hallway. I take my grey peacoat from the coatrack and pull it on over my monochrome work shirt and pants. As the seconds tick lamely yet relentlessly by, I raise my left wrist and peer down at my watch: 8:14 AM. I will have to leave for work in less than a minute; I have precious little time to kill.

I retrieve my smartphone from my hip pocket, noting that same time glowing white on the screen: 8:14 AM. I check for any messages but there are none. As I go to pocket the phone, her name suddenly materialises on the screen to the sound of electrical buzzing. My heart rate increases, warmth permeating the whole organ.

‘Hey,’ I murmur into the phone.

‘Hey,’ she echoes in a honeyed tone.

Several seconds tick slowly by before she continues. ‘I wanted to wish you well for your first steering committee meeting today.’

‘Oh, thanks so much,’ I breathe, not seeing the time tick over to 8:15 AM.

‘Have you got a minute to talk about something else too? I’ve thought of things we can do out of town this weekend, and the weekend after.’

‘I’d love to but I don’t have time,’ I reply, my heart sinking and ticking as I speak. ‘If I don’t leave now, I’ll be late for work.’

‘Okay, well, call me in your lunch break if you get time,’ she manages with a sigh, the honey gone from her voice.

‘Will do,’ I promise, before abruptly hanging up.

I quickly check the time on my smartphone followed by my wristwatch. The two readings are concordant: it is 8:16 AM. I hurry through the hallway to the front door. I do not even notice the peace lily in the corner – that thriving houseplant she bought me yesterday. Stepping outside, I notice how the nearest verandah post casts a long shadow like a sundial.

As I slam the door behind me, the second hand on my watch ticks ever onward. I feel that all-too-familiar pressure of being a second closer to arriving late at work.

At the same time, I consider how I am also a second closer to my first steering committee meeting, to the weekend, to another week, to the weekend after, to Christmas, to next Easter…to my death. It will all come to pass in good time.

The  words of Bernard Fanning suddenly resound through my head: This life, well, it’s slipping right through my hands.

Michael J Leach (@m_jleach) is a statistician, researcher, writer and music lover. Michael’s poems have been published in a wide range of journals, including the Medical Journal of Australia, The Mathematical Intelligencer, Meniscus Literary Journal and Cordite Poetry Review. His poetry writing has been influenced as much by song lyrics as it has been by poems. Michael’s poem about music, entitled ‘My Twelve Favourite Albums (In Poetic Order)’, was published in Spillwords. In addition to penning poetry, Michael writes prose. He has published short stories in The Copperfield Review and Painted Words 2017 as well as a personal reflection in The STEAM Journal. He lives in his hometown of Bendigo, Australia.