Time Is On My Side
Elbow deep in warm soapy water, scrubbing furiously at a pot- the clock is about to strike 12 Midnight. I gazed helplessly at the dishes, pots and pans, silverware, and cups that towered at least 3 feet into the air. I absolutely had to be done with these dishes by twelve, because there was a very important event that I wanted to witness.
It’s my birthday, and that in itself is nothing important, but tonight’s special because there is going to be a chance of a meteor storm. A meteor storm, much like the one that fell back on November 13, 1833, and caused people to think that Armageddon had finally arrived. Thousands of meteors fell per minute for four hours before the dawn, and people were startled out of their slumber by the bright flashes in the sky. Unbeknownst to them, it was the Leonid Meteor Showers and once every so often, they put on a spectacular show.
According to astronomers, this year is supposed to be a spectacular chance to witness a meteor storm, not just a meteor shower. The best times to view them are between 12Am and just before dawn. Which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem, but my day and evening had been hectic to the point of insanity.
I spent all morning baking cakes, cookies, and breads while simultaneously making large batches of my signature potato and macaroni salads. By 3PM I had completed my cooking, wrapped all the food, and loaded it into my car. Then I drove it to the recipients of my hard work- Grandma’s House of Hope, the homeless shelter and food kitchen located two towns away from me in Burlington, NJ.
Grandma’s House of Hope is run by an ivory-haired, 80 year old angel of a lady name Romelia Radford. Her gentle blue eyes shone with love and compassion upon the world, as she daily took on the rampant hunger and homelessness that plagued her town. She has known me since I was a little girl, and I always thought of her as my Grandma, just as a countless number of other people felt.
I usually bake or cook something on the weekends for her food kitchen to serve. And a lot of my spare time is spent at the shelter during the week, helping out with the day-to-day needs of the House of Hope.
Anyway, today Grandma held a huge pre-Thanksgiving Dinner for the folks at the shelter and anyone else who needed a good meal. So of course I volunteered to cook something.
The dinner fed a multitude of men, women, and children that otherwise wouldn’t have any Thanksgiving Dinner at all. The event was heartwarming and exhausting, as I stayed on to help the kitchen staff clean up- thereby neglecting my own kitchen nightmare. I was so caught up with the days events that I plum forgot about the probable meteor storm.
I eyed the pile of dishes as the second hand ticked steadily on. I knew this mass of dishes would take at least 2 hours or more to clean, because I didn’t own a dishwasher. I knew even if I missed just 2 hours of not watching the sky, I could lose out on the chance of seeing one of the largest meteor storms in centuries. But I couldn’t let the dishes sit for much longer, the food caked onto them would already make a blow torch sweat.
I rubbed my pounding head and throbbing neck, a combination migraine and tension headache, that I call a double whammy, and sighed. "I wish", I muttered, closing my eyes as a wave of dizziness swept over me, "I wish Time would stop, just for a bit...". Eyes still closed, I couldn’t watch the minute hand reach 12. I slumped against the sink in defeat, dishwater dripping onto the floor.
From behind closed eyes, I could see a vivid flash of light. Thinking that there had been a single burst of freak lightning, I opened my eyes to the sight of Whiskers, my 15lb black & white tuxedo cat, paused in the midst of stepping into the kitchen. I stared at him, but he stood as still as a fuzzy statue, with one paw raised in mid-step. I also saw a handful of soapy bubbles hanging motionless in mid-air.
"As you wish, my lady," a voice as deep and dark as a moonless night, spoke from by the back door. I whirled around and I swear my heart stopped beating for at least 3 seconds.
A strange man of extraordinary beauty was leaning nonchalantly against the door. Shining hair, dark as a raven’s wing fell just past his shoulders. Alabaster skin that glowed faintly as if it were made of moonlight, was the perfect backdrop for his spectacular eyes. They were darker than the spaces between the stars, and as I stared helplessly into them, I saw flashes of silver spark in their velvety depths.
His tall, leanly muscled frame was dressed in perfectly ordinary black jeans and boots, a white t-shirt, and a leather jacket thrown casually over his shoulder. But on him, the clothes were elegant and regal, as an aura of quiet authority and old world charm surrounded him.
I cleared my throat and managed to squeak out, "Who are you? What do you want? And how the heck did you get into my house?" My heart thundered in my chest as thoughts of escaped convicts and psycho serial killers raced through my mind. Combined with my pounding migraine that felt as if jack hammers were slamming away at the entire left side of my head, face, and neck- dizziness overtook me and my vision went dark.
I regained consciousness an undetermined amount of time later. To my surprise, I had been carried over to the over-stuffed armchair in a cozy corner of the kitchen. The stranger’s leather jacket lay tucked around my shoulders. Involuntarily I breathed in the vanilla and spice aroma that wafted out of the jacket. I sighed and started to get up, but fell back into the chair as a wave of migraine pain swept over me. I groaned and rubbed futilely at my head.
"Please, do not be alarmed. You have nothing to fear,"the stranger murmured. I opened my eyes as he slowly approached me. He held out a small glass of juice and a bottle of Excedrin. "I believe that you are in need of migraine relief." I stared suspiciously at him for a few seconds. He smiled disarmingly. "It’s ok. This juice is from your refrigerator and the pills came from your medicine closet."
Silently I reached out, took the glass and pill bottle from him. He removed an ice pack from the freezer while I took some Excedrin and sipped the juice. I accepted the ice pack and sighed in relief as the startling cold numbed some of my pain.
"So," I said, after about 2 minutes of silence. "You never did answer my questions."
He grinned. "My apologies. I am Julian, here at your service," he bowed gallantly. "And I just walked in through a Time Portal."
"Julian, huh. Do you have a last name?"
"I do not have need for a family name."
"Ah, I see, sort of like Madonna or Cher, right?"
"Not quite," he smiled.
I sighed, "Look, Julian. I don’t feel well at all. I have a ton of dishes to do, plus I am missing one of the most important meteor showers in centuries. So cut the crap and tell me straight up what in Heaven’s name is going on!" I mustered up my best steely glare and crossed my arms over my chest.
"Alright, but I must warn you, what I am about to say will seem quite impossible." Julian smiled disarmingly again, and I felt my glare wither a tiny bit. "Julian is the name I had given myself a long, long time ago. But you will probably know me as Father Time."
"Old Father Time?" I said, raising a skeptic eyebrow. "You certainly don’t look like history and legend depict you-older gentleman, long white hair and beard, with flowing robes."
He rolled his eyes. "Oh, that would be my melodramatic brother, Kronos."
"Kronos? As in the Personification of Time Itself- aka Saturn?"
"Exactly!" Julian smiled brilliantly.
"I wasn’t aware that Kronos had a brother, in particular one named Julian," I couldn’t believe that I was still reasonably calm, considering the situation.
Julian leaned against the kitchen counter, his eyes sparkling with amusement. "Ah, now here comes the tricky part...I am not actually Kronos’ sibling. I am a portion of Kronos himself."
"So you’re his imaginary friend come to life?" I asked, barely able to keep a straight face.
He threw back his head and let out a hearty laugh that brightened the room as if the sun had shone into the windows. "I am technically a thought form that Kronos created eons ago. His whole existence is dedicated to the progression of Time and Life and Death. The whole routine became rather depressing for Kronos." Julian smiled a little sadly. "The poor fellow took to imagining adventures and life beyond this very serious existence."
"Kronos dreamed you up?"
Julian nodded and continued on in his wonderful voice, which I noticed had a trace British accent. "I began as a tiny shimmering grain of sand in his mind. Eventually he gave me form, both physically and spiritually. Out of the sands of Time from his hourglass, he fashioned my body. With his own breath and a portion of his spirit, he gave me life."
"After that it was all fun and games for you, right?"
"Oh, no. I stayed on to help Kronos out with his duties," Julian smiled. "I couldn’t leave him alone in the state he was in. Kronos was burnt out, bitter, angry, and terribly lonely. So for quite awhile after my creation, he and I were a team. Then I sent him on a much needed vacation to Elysium, the Isle of the Blest."
"Oh yes indeed. He returned with a tan and a renewed passion for his existence," Julian murmured, his dark eyes distant, as he no doubt reflected on events that took place eons ago.
I sat up cautiously and realized with great relief that my headache had completely disappeared. I glanced at my watch and saw that it too had halted about 2 seconds from 12Am. Whiskers remained in the same position as when I passed out, along with the soap bubbles hanging motionless in the air. Any doubts that I may have had about Julian’s identity were now completely squashed.
Julian was now looking at me, his eyes firmly back to the present. I smiled at him. "So, what about yourself? Why are you here and why would you stop Time for me?"
"You don’t recognize me. Selena?" I shook my head, no- a little shocked that he knew my name. But I shouldn’t be surprised, after all Time knows us all by name and soul. A soft smile played upon his lips. "You’ve forgotten your dreams so soon?"
I stared at his face, and realized that he did look familiar. I racked my brain and then it hit me. When I turned 18, I started having dreams about Julian, and they have occurred for the past 12 years now.
Under his dark gaze, I replayed a countless number of dreams. In one, I owned a bookstore and he was a customer that frequented my shop. In another, my car got a flat tire and left me stranded on a deserted stretch of road. He happened upon me and fixed the flat. In one dream Julian was a Grandfather Clock store owner, and I stumbled upon him by chance.
And in a particularly lovely re-occurring dream, we literally bumped into each other in the library, coming around a shelf with our noses buried in a book. He was a poet and wrote the most heart- wrenchingly romantic poetry imaginable. I owned a New Age Curio shop. We both felt an instant connection that seemed to defy all logic and reason.
So it was no big surprise that we both fell for each other. I remember walking through the forest on cool autumn mornings, both of us holding hands. The library was one of our favorite haunts, as was the Jersey Shore. Cooking, singing along to our CD’s, and watching TV documentaries about ancient history were our favorite past times.
When I awakened from these dreams I was always devastated, for the love that I found did not exist in my reality. I knew that even if I searched I would not find it anywhere, except in dreams...But seeing Julian here and now, as real as myself, changed everything. Even still, I was afraid to hope.
"It is you," I breathed. "But how...I mean, I thought that they were only dreams."
"Only dreams?" Julian smiled softly. "Do you realize how many stories and poems were written because of dreams? Or how many musical compositions filled the dreams of the musician, before they became reality? Do you know how many inventions and discoveries were born in slumber and dreams? In dreams the fabric of reality is woven, and in waking life is when it all is revealed."
"Julian, I have no doubt that all this is true , but what I don’t understand is-why me?" I threw the ice pack onto the small table next to me. "I mean, look at me! I am nothing special. I am certainly not the dulcet lady of legends and fairytales."
Julian pushed away from the counter and walked slowly over. He crouched before me and took my hand. A tiny shock traveled up my arm and butterflies danced wildly about my stomach. "I have waited for an unfathomable amount of time for a lady who stirs my heart and completes the empty place in my soul. I have searched for the one who has wished for me as I have so ardently wished for her." He brushed a strand of my auburn hair away from my face. My heart leapt and my breath caught in my throat. His dark eyes searched my own hazel ones intently. The silver flecks sparked in the ebony seas of his eyes as they saw into the hidden depths of my soul. "Nothing is hidden from Time. Its unflinching gaze sweeps over both light and shadow. The ages roll slowly past, uncertain and unpredictable, but Time remains steadfast and certain. Generally Time favors noone and nothing, and it’s gaze is clear and never rose-clouded." He laughed softly and a bit unsteadily. "But I dare say that ever since we’ve met in dreams I am no longer the impartial spirit of Time."
Julian’s wondrous voice is like a balm for the deepest ache in my soul. The loneliness that permeated my life evaporated as I looked into his eyes. But even then I knew that we had no business thinking that a mortal and an immortal being could share their lives together. Especially for a being as important as Julian. I squeezed his hand. "Julian, why do you say such things to me? I know that we could never truly have a life together. You are immortal and more importantly, vital to the order of the Universe. And I am mortal, and well..just plain me."
"Selena, Kronos is more than capable of dealing with the duties of Time. No matter how many breakdowns and burnouts he had and may have in the future, he is content with his existence. After all, it is what he was created to do," he smiled. "I was just a fleeting glimpse of a life that he could never have. But instead of making him sad and biter, it reinforced his desire to do what ultimately is not just his duty, but his passion."
I stared at him in disbelief. "Does Kronos know about me?"
"My brother knows me better than I do. For the past 12 years he has been trying to convince me to throw caution to the wind, reach out, and embrace my dearest wish and answer to the prayer of my soul." I sat there, unable to speak, just barely able to keep on breathing. Julian reached up and touched my cheek with his free hand. "I do not know what possessed me to wait for so long. Perhaps I became a bit mad." He grinned suddenly, his eyes twinkling with mischief.
I found my voice. "So, what now? Are you going to haunt me? I will be the only person able to see you?"
"I am no phantom, Selena. I am flesh, bone, and spirit," he murmured. "I am real."
My heart skipped a beat as I slowly reached out and touched a strand of his silky, ebony hair. He caught my hand and brought it to his lips. "I have dreamed and wished for you every waking moment. I can’t believe you’re here!"
"Believe it, my love. I will remain here with you all the days of your life. And many, many years from now, when it is your time to pass through the doorway of forever, I will be holding your hand. Together we shall step forth into adventures that know no bounds and love that is eternal, " Julian whispered. "This I promise you."
I laughed, unable to contain the joy that enveloped my entire being. "Did anyone ever mention to you that you are one heck of a smooth talker? You could cause a modern 21st century girl to swoon right onto a fainting couch."
He chuckled. "Then I must furnish this house with one straight away."
"So what happens next?"
"Well, I believe that there is a particularly spectacular meteor storm waiting for your viewing pleasure," my eyes slid to the dishes. He smiled. "Time will remain paused for the dishes until the dawn. Everything else will resume to it’s normal state."
"Mmm, you are handy as well as charming. I do believe that I hit the proverbial jackpot!"
Smiling, he stood up, pulling me gently to my feet. "Shall we travel out into the backyard? It is time for the show."
"Lead the way, gentle sir." I squeezed his hand and together we walked out into the night where Time had resumed its pace. There we stood, hand in hand, under the velvety canopy of sky that was ablaze with a myriad of stars.
Suddenly the meteor storm descended, sending a veil of shooting stars that lit up the night sky. We stood transfixed at the sight of the heavens’ glory as the storms continued during the hours before dawn.
As the sun’s rays began to set the eastern sky on fire, I looked up at Julian. He gazed down at me, love shining from his beautiful eyes. His head lowered, my eyes closed, and our lips met for the first time in the waking world. The ground trembled lightly beneath our feet, the birds burst forth their morning song, the wind sighed and I swooned right into Julian’s embrace.
What else is there left to say except to say except that our shared dreamed of happily ever after became a reality, and that the dishes were finally clean-but not by our own handiwork.
When we returned to the kitchen that morning, we were greeted by the sight if a tall older gentleman with ancient ebony eyes, long glowing white hair and beard, and wearing midnight blue robes that shimmered in the sunlight. He was elbow deep in soapy water, scrubbing furiously at a pot, while singing along to the radio blaring "Time Is On My Side" by the Stones.
"Kronos?" I gasped. Eyes sparkling, he grinned and bowed gallantly, inadvertently dousing both Julian and I with dishwater.
Indeed, Time is on my side!