Six Minutes At 4 AM

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-One

I have six minutes left before the boy I used to know as a child comes out to skate the performance of his life. I go downstairs to make instant oatmeal and the water takes ages to boil. I compose a list of things you can do in six minutes – it might well not include instant oatmeal. You can unsubscribe from ten online newsletters. You can do your eyeliner. You can half die, too; seventy percent, even. The only time I saw someone die, it took him seven minutes.

I must have put way too much water in the kettle. I go on my phone. A video on my feed shows a man with a ponytail discussing the one true way to appreciate Olympic skating. You have to know the sport, he says. I don’t know the sport. Not any more than I know the resuscitation procedure. All these years and I still can’t recall what I was actually doing for those seven minutes.

It’s raining again. It rained back then too. It’s easy to blame things on the rain here. Having a lie in, a premature death, whatever.

I realise the oatmeal needs to stand for two minutes, get stirred, stand again. It’s either the oatmeal or the boy I used to know as a child then. The oatmeal will have to deal.

Thanks for the effort, the paramedics said. They took in my puzzled gaze and cold hands and concluded I was a passerby, a spontaneous part-time helper. I didn’t find it in me to tell them I might’ve just refused that man, but he was not meant to die. Or to try some more. Or that I’m sorry, but thank you for the effort won’t cut it, fuck you, I’m sorry, I know you guys are practically saints.

A high-pitched sound drills into the early morning. An ambulance? The water kettle. This oatmeal venture is finally underway. They pronounced him dead at the scene.

I’m back upstairs and the boy I used to know as a child is about to skate the performance of his life. I wonder if he knows that it hardly matters. That he could be dead by commercials. That I’m watching him in wailing London at four a.m., while he’s out in Beijing, skating the performance of his life.

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