"I'm still here." whispered a tiny voice from the other side of my desk. I lifted my eyes from my work to find optimism itself smiling back at me. The clock clicks slowly and steadily, yet I am overwhelmed by his pace. "They need my help" I said, "I guess I can't go home until I make a difference."
Another hour passed, and I closed my eyes and scratched my head, as if unearthing a solution beneath my heavy, twisted bun. I could still feel her hopeful eyes searching my face. "The ones giving are far fewer than those taking." I grabbed my coat, and followed the sound of my shoes clicking a lonely cadence as I retreated down the hallway.
My mind spent the better part of the night preparing for the morning that clicked closer. I counted my blinks, and imagined each was a photograph stacking on a pile of previous scenes in the same setting. I could fill rooms with the snapshots I have taken while waiting for sleep these last few months.
Arriving to my desk the next morning, I noticed my plant had wilted overnight. "Me too, buddy," I thought to myself. The buttons on my coat clicked against the front of my desk as I unburried myself from all the winter commuting necessities. I filled my coffee mug with water, and delivered a drink to my little green companion. "How have I missed the needs of the life right in front of me?"
Click. Click. Click. "Damn that clock. How am I supposed to find answers with seconds fleeing the one that follows?" fell from my mouth with a sigh. "Don't give up" she said, startling me with her quiet smile. "When did you get here?" I responded. "The same time you arrived." She spoke so softly, I could hardly hear her. "I thought about sitting with you on the train this morning, but you seemed content in your thoughts." she said. "I wouldn't mind. Maybe next time?" as I refocused on my work.
I blinked the computer screen from my blurry eyes, and stood up to stretch. "Did I get up all day?" I thought to myself. She must have noticed my puzzled look. "Your hair looks nice today" she interrupted. My computer closed with a tactile click before I slipped it into my bag. I shot her a smile and said, "I better leave before anyone mistakes my presence for availability. See you tomorrow."
As I snuggled into my sheets that night, I played scenes of the day through my mental theater, and allowed them to drift from memory to dream. The girl that sits on the other side of my desk is a photographer, and we are capturing those fleeing seconds and framing them in an endless gallery. Click. Click. Click. Smiling, nostalgic faces. Click. Click. Stories, beauty, light. Click. Click. Beep. BEEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
"Your plant looks much happier today!" she said, as I fell into my morning ritual. "I sure hope it blooms this year. Last year, it only made one lonely blossom." I responded, clicking my fingers to the keyboard. "But, it was such a lovely flower, I even took a picture!" she reminded me. I smiled as I realized my small efforts to keep a little green around had brought happiness, and been appreciated.
We sat together on the commute home that day. Though it was a quiet ride, I watched the city blur through the window, and I enjoyed her presence in the moment. Reflections bounced from building to building, and the tracks clicked in succession as we approached my stop. "I wish I had a real camera, I would love to capture the beauty and faces of this old city." she said. "I love the city, too, that's actually why I took this job," I answered the reflection in the window. "See you tomorrow" she said. I nodded and squeezed between some anonymous figures, and through the sliding doors.
My evening was spent digging through boxes, long neglected at the back of the closet. "Where is it? How could I lose it?" I scolded myself, as I shuffled through souvenirs from the past. My opportunity to be a part of the glamorous city seems to have lost a bit of luster this Winter. "Ah, finally." Tucked inside the smallest piece of luggage in my set was the hard silver case, safely hidden to protect my heart from memories. The cold, dull metal finish felt smooth as I ran my hand across the top, and relived my fascination from childhood. I spun the numerals to the code matching my month, day, and year of birth, and the latches clicked open for the first time since I inherited this dream from my father.
The protective foam smelled like glue with a hint of home, a place that no longer existed. I wasn't ready to miss it so much, to miss him. I lifted the top open, and took inventory of the black and silver cylinders arranged with care around the prized central piece. The heavy black body always felt too large for my clumsy hands as a girl, but not tonight. Components came together naturally, and I raised the weight to my eye to focus. Click. Those fleeing seconds halted in the moment, and I allowed my heart to break as I realized. There was still an undeveloped roll of film inside.
I didn't go to work the next morning, or the remainder of the week. I woke before my alarm, and raced the sun out my front door. The lock clicked in affirmation to my key, and I walked to the train with my head facing the future instead of the sidewalk. Click. The newborn day was leaking light between the skyscrapers like magic. Click. The men in suits sat in a row with the same newspaper, on the same bench, living the same life individually. Click. Eventually, there was only one photo left on the roll.
There was a cafe next to the photo center, so I ordered my usual, and sat in the window to wait for my final subject. The coffee warmed my hands, and everything it touched on the way down. The sun was finally high enough to shine through the windows, so I closed my eyes and felt the warmth of light sink into my skin. The waitress gracefully crossed the room with a steaming pot for a refill. When I smiled and thanked her, she said. "You are blooming in this sunshine, Dear, let me to take your photo!" Click.
Walking into work the following Monday, I was almost surprised the building hadn't collapsed without me holding it up last week. With the development of my father's film, I felt closure in my broken heart. It beats slower than the pace of this old city, but it reminds me to value every moment. I smiled a thanks to my reflection in the mirror on the other side of my desk, and watered my plant before it wilted this time. The sound of the clock reminded me that I only had a few more hours to go before finding out what the setting sun looked like through my favorite lens. Click. Click. Click.