A Millisecond Before 04.00 PM

By: Seno Gumira Ajidarma

(source text: https://lakonhidup.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/seperseribu-detik-sebelum-pukul-1600)

Actually both of them don’t want to look at their own watches, also the clock, because it will only serve them with painful reality.

“I don’t want to be separated.”

“Neither do I.”

“I don’t want that.”

“Don’t want it too.”

“Won’t have that. No matter what, won’t take that.”

“Don’t. Just don’t take that.”

They’re gazing into each other’s eyes. There’s no time. Can 60 minutes make up for 60 years? There’s no time.

Isn’t there any time?

No one ever knows if time has a beginning and an end. None. Never. Insuperable. Unnecessary.

No more time left. Both are staring at their watches. The roaring aircrafts are flying by from a distance.

There’s still time!

“Five more minutes.”

“A mere five minutes!”

The ticking of the clock sounds like a bang traveling the sky in echoes.

“I don’t want this, I don’t want this, I don’t want this….”

The old man is shaking his head. The old woman keeps looking down, always down, like she does all the time since her tender age. Isn’t she, the old man’s thinking, the one whose face is as dark as a black hole in the sky that sucks me into it in a million twirls? In 60 years everything has changed, but after 60 years their eyes still speak the same language.

“I don’t want this too…,” the old lady is muttering in a whisper, “but how?”

How. That’s the thing. How.

The five-minute window is opening. Planes are landing. The others are taking off. A light blue pool. A garden in the sun. People are eating and drinking and laughing in numerous languages. A stewardess is dragging her suitcase.

“Argh…,” again the man is exclaiming with both hands on his head, “why this has to happen.”

The woman is raising the face she has kept down to that point.

“This meeting?”

“This parting!”

The old lady is then holding her head down. That’s the reality. They parted 60 years ago without meeting each other ever since, without saying a word, and now they’re about to be drawn apart once again.

“I’ve always remembered you.”

“The same is true.”

They have kept each other in mind without knowing the secret of each other’s heart though their hearts have met now. They’ve heard everything their hearts have to say in none other language than feeling, just feeling, and no other than feeling which doesn’t translate to reason in the mind.

“How could I be so naïve then, huh?”

“I was guilty of being simple too.”

Now both are fixing their eyes to the ground. They’ve met each other again now that 60 years have moved past and felt there’s no need for them to be away from each other come what may, even when it’s not remotely possible.

“But how?”

That’s the problem! How!

“One more minute!”

The old lady is rubbing her eyes. The old man is holding her hand.

“No! We don’t have to be separated anymore! No need to go that way!”

There’s no more time!

Their hands clasp tightly, in a very firm grip, as if nothing could be tighter.

“I don’t want this, I don’t want this, I don’t want this!”

It was just like a whisper, but within their world the universe grows turbulent. With all the powers they’ve got, they’re pushing away the beats of seconds so one beat grows in distance from another, and they’ve become far away, increasingly distant, so far-flung it makes every beat reverberate alone in the universe of silent time which is so silent it feels as if nothing else is quieter until the expanse makes an echo unable to find a medium where it could travel at all because time seems to have stuck!


In the restaurant the rotating clock hands look shaken in violent vibration, so violent they cannot be seen because if time that would have been free-flowing has been contained it should create fierce repulsion between those hands!

A thousandth of a second before 04.00 pm local time, the hands of the clocks around the world shake fiercely in their respective local times! Time has stuck! People stop walking. Spoons stop right in front of people’s mouths. Drinks pause midway when poured down. They’re floating because time has ground to a halt. Heck!

Yet for all the restrained movements, colossally throbbing in an irresistible impetus of time that in reality is curtailed, the brainpowers of those whose motions stop remain functioning and they’re still capable of speaking to channel their panic! Like a giant dam stems the flashflood, the flow of time which actually is uncontainable in its confinement eventually leaks out all over the place in a highly random manner….

“Goodness gracious! What’s this? What’s happening?”

Cars stop running, but the radio remains on because its journalist whose hands stop while holding up the microphone can still talk and tell her account of events learned through the auditory organs in her ears.

“Ladies and gentlemen across the country who can tune in to this broadcast, kindly allow us to tell you a story of the extraordinary events as narrated by our reporter on the ground who, despite being unable to move her body, remains capable of delivering an eyewitness report through a microphone she happens to put before her mouth. Our beloved listeners, in the streets cars have stopped with the engine still running as if they intend to move forward with time, but are found helplessly unable to do so for time is held back. Even airplanes stop dead in their tracks, but don’t fall since apparently time gets stuck along with everything that moves in it! However, not the entire of time is contained as time whose flows and streams are irrepressible seeps and leaks here and there so we’re still able to talk! People are left motionless in the streets, but can still talk to each other in panic because they think this is the end of the world! Ahh…, aren’t all those kinda weird? Haha! ”

A millisecond before 04.00 pm time is curbed. The remaining millisecond turns into a million years a billion years a trillion years and infinity! What kind of meaning is there in those 60 years crammed into a stalled, stuck time which toils to proceed with the kind of struggle and power beyond the reckoning of men? The wind stops blowing, the clouds stand still, the river flows grind to a halt, the oceans go into silence without breaking waves, eagles are on the fly without flapping their wings, the universe and the entire sky turn out to be a picture.

In a world that freezes just like an image, but one that quivers with the power of the universe whose time is held back when it shouldn’t be containable, words and only words scatter outside time and space as ideas. These are ideas that pervade the layers of space and time and come to pose questions.

“What is this? What’s going on?”

“It’s weird that time has stopped, isn’t it! Why not the apocalypse as well? Apparently somebody’s got so much time for fooling around! ”

“Do you think somebody’s behind this? Who do you think might have so much time to do this? ”

In the market, though all body movements stop, mouths refuse to be silenced.

“What on earth is this?! What does this mean? ”

“No idea who wanted to do this; certainly the person doesn’t care much that this could do people harm.”

“Yeah! This is egregious!”

Ideas are coming out among people who have lifted the spoons filled with fried rice to their mouths but unable to complete the next move, among those whose beverage in their bottles has poured into the thirsty mouths but the water stops before entering their throats, among people who walk while buried in thoughts of their lovers that have been waiting for them but have their legs gone stock-still and unable to go ahead although they wish to push on, among ladies that have graced the cat-walks because it’s their job as female models but then freeze like a mannequin put up for display, among those who have performed a somersault in the air in gymnastics contests but now stop midair without being able to be pulled down as the whole mankind in the universe have their movements come to standstill. Shoot…

There will be no more events. Stories come to an end, and without any story the entire world’s existence is pointless. Time which is repressed must be fought back and it’s being resisted, but what will presumably guarantee the success of that fight if time which should have been unconstrainable gets suppressed so that even rain stays unmoving just like a page of perspective? Still, somewhere out there in the quietest place a serrated blade about to stab one’s belly gets stuck, unable to pierce inside. In the messy, contained time, ill fate is put off, but it also remains unclear whether it could be evaded after all.

A millisecond before 04.00 pm. The waiters in the restaurant look over two elderlies who still grasp each other’s hands as both don’t want to part company with one another. They just want to be there forever, in such a very long time there’s nothing that long because they want it to be forever. Their eyes are cast down and their hands are gripping tightly as if they weather time which is trying to drag and pull them apart.

“Why did you vanish just like that while I lay in wait for you all this time…?”

“I had no clue that you were always waiting for me, never knew it and would’ve never disappeared had I known that you kept waiting for me, otherwise I’d never go away….”

“How could you not know I’ve been always waiting for you like that….”

“How do I know that you’re always waiting for me like that….”

“You know, every time you came to me you sent me to cloud nine, until one day you no longer turned up, disappeared like the earth had swallowed you….”

“I didn’t know that, never knew, you always kept your head down I thought you didn’t like me around you ….”

“I had always waited for you, like the girl in the fairy tales, until I knew I had to face reality and get over you….”

“Now you’d still be leaving and forget about me ….”

“No. Impossible. No way.…”

But the check-in will close by 04.00 pm. If she doesn’t check in, chance is the old woman could be late, and if she’s late and misses the flight, the story will be dragging on.

“If only time ….”

They don’t want time to reach 4 o’clock. They want time to be kept in check so the universe doesn’t revolve and thus shudders it makes the sky gleam with flickers.

However, time keeps on running, until a millisecond before 04.00 pm.

“If only…,” says the old man eventually, clutching the hands of the old lady firmly, as if he wants to become one with her and not be separated again after 60 years have gone by without any encounter.

A millisecond before 04.00 pm, if time is to remain stuck then the universe will explode into light dusts and soon dissolve forever like a vanishing whisper, as if love is so great that the world must be sacrificed.

A millisecond before 04.00 pm, the hour hand is moving toward 4 o’clock.

Both the seniors are staring at each other, with eyes soaked in tears unable to be held back….



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