Time is very elusive……….there is never enough of it, or there is too much of it, depending on whether or not your life is fulfilled. Years ago, stuck in a dreadfully boring job, I can remember clock watching at work, waiting longingly for five pm when I could get out of the hot and sticky office and into my air conditioned car heading homeward. Oh how I wish I could have a few of those wasted hours back now!
This time last month I was waiting excitedly for a visit from my daughter from Canada, I was watching the Olympics and had a lot of the summer still left to enjoy. Now a month later, my daughter’s visit is a distant memory, the Olympics are well and truly over, as is the Summer. In a few months’ time we will be plunged into the depths of Winter, and getting ready for Christmas. How depressing! As we get older time seems to get faster and faster, as we head along on the express train of life.
It never ceases to amaze me how much one can cram into a day sometimes, but on other days, those dull, dark dreary days when one is confined to quarters, oh how the hours seem to drag. Why is this?
Looking back over my life, the early years were very full, and seemed to go on forever. As I got older, only the days of boredom seemed to go on forever, the busy days were all swallowed up by some sort of time guzzler. Yet they all seem to be so very long ago. I can remember when I moved into my house twenty four years ago I was still young and energetic. I never thought about time. That seems like a lifetime ago. Now I can’t even contemplate the next year. Before I know it, next year will be here and gone again, and the next, and the next….. Will I look back in ten years time, all supposing I am still alive, and think today was a lifetime ago? I doubt it….I think it will feel more like it was only yesterday.
Are events in our lives shaped by time? Who knows what would have happened if we had left home ten minutes earlier or later the day we met our partners in life, for instance?
I was late leaving home the day I was due to meet my wannabe boyfriend for our first real date. We were a member of staff down and I had worked ten minutes late in the cake shop where I was a Saturday girl, and I consequently missed my bus home. It was a twenty minute wait for the next bus, or a fifteen minute walk home, so I ran all the way home, making it ten minutes later than I would have been had I managed to catch the right bus. I dived into a warm bath, gobbled down my tea my mum had prepared for me, and dashed out again, but I missed the half-hourly bus to take me to the cinema where I was supposed to be meeting my new boyfriend. I had been after him for ages, but he seemed to only have eyes for my friend, until she found herself a regular boyfriend, so he had asked me out. I was a consolation prize, I suppose.
Anyway, that day I was by now half an hour late, and when I arrived, he was nowhere to be seen. Had he already gone into the cinema on his own, or had he just gone home thinking he had been stood up? He wasn’t in the foyer. I hung around outside the cinema in the hope that he would turn up, sheltering from the rain under the canopy of a shop nearby. After five minutes, I watched him arrive……with another girl! Well he hadn’t wasted much time finding someone else, had he? I was to discover years later, that this particular lady-killer had broken the hearts of several of his conquests. I convinced myself that time had been on my side the day I was due to go out with that particular heart-breaker.
A month or so later I was at the same cinema with an old reliable male friend I had known for years. I had agreed to accompany him to the cinema when he was on the rebound from being jilted by his girlfriend. There we were, eating our ice creams in the intermission (we had two films in those days), when who should we see but Mr Old-Reliable’s ex-girlfriend. She was with my Mr Heart-Breaker! Maybe they deserved each other, we thought.
Time having been on my side again, my friendship with Mr Old-Reliable developed over the next few months, and within two years we were married. Two children and four grandchildren later, I often wonder where I would be now if I had left home on time that fateful day and caught the right bus for my date with Mr Heart-Breaker. How much difference those ten minutes made to my life then. How much happier I had been, than I would have been with Mr Heart-Breaker.
But I was to pay later. Ten minutes was all the time it took to snatch the love of my life away from me. My Mr Old-Reliable was late coming home from work because I had called him to ask him to pick up some groceries at the corner store near where he worked. If he had come straight home that day, he would have been ten minutes ahead of the multiple pile-up on the motorway.
Do you believe in fate? I think I do.
I couldn’t bear to stay in the cold empty home I had shared with my Mr Old-Reliable and our children, so I eventually sold my house the day I put it on the market, and moved out a month later into a small rented flat in a nearby town, while I looked for a new permanent home. As I moved in I bumped into the tenant of the flat opposite. Roger was his name. He was grey haired, but attractive. I thought about the Roger I had known all those years ago, Mr Heart-Breaker. He did bear some uncanny resemblance to him, but I was a hundred and sixty miles from where we had been when we had known each other all those years ago. It couldn’t possibly be him, could it? I didn’t ask his surname that day, but we shared a common post box, and within a few days I discovered he had the same surname. He was Roger Richardson. I still couldn’t believe he could be the same Roger as the guy who had tried to date me all those years ago. He would never have remembered me anyway, I thought. The years had not been as kind to me as they had to him and I had put on weight, quite a bit of it. I decided not to bring up the subject of us possibly being old ‘friends’.
Roger got into the habit of knocking on my door each evening, on his return from work, to check if I was alright. He was the manager of a local corner shop, and now and again he would bring me some fresh fruit that was left over at the end of the day. We got to become firm friends and some evenings I would invite him to dinner. Once or twice he took me out to the local Italian restaurant around the corner. Once, after an evening at mine and a bottle or two of wine, we got to talking about our past lives, and I opened up about having known a Roger Richardson years ago, but who lived Maidstone, not where we lived now in Birmingham.
Roger had started with surprise. “I originated in Maidstone. I knew a Jennifer in Maidstone too,” he said, “Jennifer Hayward”.
“That was my maiden name,” I said.
“I can’t believe it!” he exclaimed. “I looked for you everywhere after you stood me up that night!”
“I didn’t stand you up,” I explained. “I missed the bus, and when I arrived you had gone. I waited and waited, and then I saw you come back to the cinema with another girl.”
“That was my sister!” Roger said. “I bumped into her after I gave up waiting for you, and we went back to watch the second film. I never managed to find out where you were after that. You never came back to the coffee bar we used to meet in. I went there every Tuesday as usual, but you never came again. I can’t believe that your ‘ten minutes’ has affected both of our lives ever since. I’ve never found anyone else like you.”
“But you only went out with me because Sue had found herself a boyfriend,” I responded.
“No,” protested Roger. “The fact that Sue had found herself a boyfriend gave me the courage to ask you out. I’d always been after you, but I thought you and she were such good chums you would never be separated, and I couldn’t stand her really.”
That was twenty five years ago. Roger and I bought our new house together a year or so later and moved out of our flats. What a difference those ten minutes had made to our lives all those years ago, but we have made up for them ever since.
Creative writing project for onthepremises.com Writing Contest – I won’t be submitting it, as I don’t think it is good enough