No Hours

Betina opened her eyes with uncertainty rolling down with her tears. She could not speak the language of the clock, which insisted on indicating the passing hours. For one minute, maybe more, she was lost in forgetfulness. She did not know, could not remember the date or the place. Her eyes showed her bed, sheets, and neglect. She was there, but what day was it?

Her mind was filled with numbers scratched in scarlet hue. The calendar was nothing but hours consumed. Was it the past or the future she saw there in front of her?

She got up shaking out her hair and exhaustion. The sun was slinking through the window, discreet in its first rays of light. Night had abandoned dreams and charms. Saturday, it was Saturday―whatever the month, the year of choice.

She looked at herself in the mirror.

The woman who had awoken to doubts was a complete stranger to herself. Inert before her own reflection, she analyzed her features and desires so that she could finally wake up to the day that moved on without her authorization.

The empty bed indicated absence. The smooth side had no wrinkles of dreams, no heat from the body that had not been lying there. It had been someone's spot once before.

The alarm came from afar, in the form of bells―consecutive sounds tolling in pleas. Feeling at times impatient, then feverish, Betina made efforts to uncover the hours. She had been so happy on those days, she was certain of that. Confused and afraid, she wondered where Ivan was. What day had it been when they said good-bye?

“I need to talk to you.”

The sentence echoed in her mind as pressing neglect―the last dragging syllable of an unfinished farewell.

“There's no need. I get it.”

She had then closed the door. Caught between the despair and the resignation that were appropriate for the moment, she had sighed. Now, as she opened the window and listened to the sounds of the city, she recognized that story as her own. The voice of the one she believed she would know forever was now nothing but the bells tolling.

“I'll never forget you.”

Kisses and interlocked fingers blended fates together in imprecise lines. As accomplices in promises for a future that would never come to be, they were partners in an attentiveness worthy of the stuff of legends.

Saturday, he would come and lie there with her. They would drink either wine or poison. It didn't matter anymore. It was a probable end by his side. She, bare of arguments, was leaning on the gaps of her own words. A cold, but sweet epilogue. Perfect in the ferocity of a lover who arrived late.

“I could stay here with you forever, you know?”

She had not known that. She had guessed all his desires, believed her own promises, but had kept her distance from him as she would from a miracle. Her gaze seemed to be lost in another century, as museums of precious memories. She could no longer say with certainty whether he was young, mature, or elderly. Everything blended in him with the sophistication of divine alchemy. Betina could decipher him trait by trait and later, devastated, realize he was someone else already. Ivan switched addresses and identities throughout the months. Sometimes he was a distant memory; other times, he was present in her praying and singing.

And so they crossed the desert of days, weeks, and months. Without noticing it, years soon crept in slowly. Ivan became a sporadic visitor. There was no evidence of his existence in the corners of that room. All signs and traces of him, his face and mere exhaustion were gone.

Betina confirmed that their shared lines had been erased. She remained confused between desire and reasoning. Where was the key to that moment? She wanted to open that door and go take a stroll. The arms of the clock would show her the way. Everything there tasted like nostalgic melancholy, but reality offered her a false schedule.

Unable to imagine Ivan away from there, she drew hearts in invisible ink and signed her name in each connecting segment. Their intertwined initials revealed an invitation to when they would meet again.

She woke up. Stars were still hovering over her retinas. She turned on her side slowly. It was slow and painful, but she was still alive. She smiled when she heard the rhythmic snoring of her companion. He was there. Eyes closed, veiled past. Striped pajamas, bony faces, not so many wrinkles on display. Mr. Antonio, whom not even time had forsaken. He fit that moment, knowing that he would be all hers.

A string of years then formed, aligned and stretched into decades to reach for her heart. What a shame she was no longer young! However, she didn't want to go back to the years that didn't belong to her anymore. Back to the empty, sleepy bed, and the scarecrow of time. Cronus was making fun of her, but she pretended not to hurry again.

Little by little, she got up with the difficulty of the day crawling up her slightly curved back. She made it to the mirror. She smiled at the elderly lady who, suddenly, had found her destiny at the right rhythm. Minute by minute, repeated sunrises, her world awakened at last.

CLAUDIA ANGST was born in Santos, state of São Paulo. She majored in Languages and Literature from the Catholic University of Santos (UNISANTOS), with specialization in Portuguese, English, and French.

She is a private language teaches and also offers support to students who wish to excel school. Additionally, she is a language researcher and translator.

Since 2008, she has been posting her stories to three blogs: O despertar das palavras [Awakening Words], Cotidiano drops [Daily Drops] and Traços do dia [Traces of the Day].

Translated by:

In partnership with: