Time’s Up (Flash Fiction)

Catherine adjusted the thin watch on her wrist. It was made of silver and very elegant against her tanned skin. “We have about seven minutes,” she said. “Is there anything else that you’d like to say?”

Bob looked at the clock on the wall directly behind her. He suspected it was kept there for a reason, a constant reminder that this was only a relationship that lasted between the hours of 3 and 4 every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. He wondered if she cared. He wondered if she was allowed to. “I’ve been thinking about suicide,” he said.

Catherine tensed and reopened her notepad. “You’re considering the act of suicide?” she asked.

“No,” Bob said. “I’m not considering doing it. I’ve just been thinking about it.” The clock on the wall ticked a minute closer to 4pm. “Why do you have that clock there?” he asked.

“Please continue with your thoughts on suicide,” Catherine pressed. She looked truly attentive for the first time in weeks.

“Is it some sort of reminder that I have to leave soon or something?” Bob asked. “I mean, don’t you want me to feel welcome?”

“Many patients of mine like knowing how much time they have left. It helps to calm them. Now please,” said Catherine, closing her notepad again. “Please tell me in what way you’ve been thinking about suicide.”

Bob squirmed and the leather seat squeaked beneath his movements. The clock behind Catherine ticked again and he felt the sudden urge to tear it down. He wanted to tear the whole office down. “I dunno. It’s not that I want to die. I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to be here anymore.” Bob looked Catherine in the eye and waited for a response. None came. “I’m tired,” he said. “I’m tired of existing.”

The clock behind Catherine ticked again. “There are some beliefs, Buddhism for example, that state the only true question worth considering is whether or not to commit suicide,” said Catherine. “Do you feel that is true, that suicide is the only question worth truly considering?”

Bob watched Catherine as she played with her watch again. He noticed it a month ago or so, that she always began to play with her watch ten minutes before the session was supposed to end. At first, he found it curious. He considered it to be a sort of subconscious tick that happened with her when it came close to sending someone away. But then he understood it’s true meaning. It wasn’t a subconscious tick; it was a deliberate signal. She always did it at ten minutes ’til. She wanted her patients to know it was time to tie up the loose ends and put things in a nice little package before they headed out the door and back into their real lives.

“There is no point in living,” Bob said. “The act of living is the illusion of progress. All things come to an end. There is no escaping death. So why go on?” he asked. “Why bother dancing to the song when the singer comes upon the final chorus?”

Catherine moved uneasily. “The point of dancing to a song is to dance,” she said. “There doesn’t have to be a state of permanence associated with it. Enjoy the song.”

The clock on the wall ticked again. Time was up. “I don’t want to dance anymore,” said Bob.

Catherine looked at her watch, so silvery and shiny and new. It went so well with her thin wrist and tan skin.

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