She looked down at her wrist, as she did so many times each day, hoping to see something different. One year, 1 day, 35 minutes, 2 seconds. She was going to celebrate her 83rd birthday tomorrow.
Why was she supposed to take so long? One would think that she’d be used to the idea by now. She’d known since she was a little girl that she wouldn’t meet her soulmate until she was eighty-four. That didn’t make it better. She was doomed since birth for some deep loneliness that friends couldn’t fill. Now that she was nearly eighty-three, she found herself looking at her clock more than ever with a kind of restless excitement.
The year passed slowly. She was healthy, staying active every day, eating well. The day of her eighty-fourth birthday arrived, and she was nearly breathless with anticipation. Her girl friends teased her gently in their cards and phone calls. “Best of luck in your new relationship.” “Catch a good one!” “He’s a keeper.” “Kiss him on the cheek for me, okay?”
She took care that day to dress normally before going to the farmers market. Light green top, gold necklace, brown sandals. She didn’t want to meet him as anyone but herself. She drove the speed limit and parked between the lines. She pulled her tote bag out of the backseat. Just picking out some corn on the cob, she rehearsed to herself as the clock ticked. Fifteen minutes, 23 seconds.
She tried her hardest to quiet her loudly beating heart as she looked in the crate for the best corn. She took her time, looking carefully at the different ears, searching for the perfect corn for a special dinner tonight. A birthday dinner. A celebration dinner. “Can I help you?” a worker asked her as she dug through the pile.
“Just picking out some cob on the corn,” she said, flustered, and laughed. “Corn on the cob.” Three minutes, 46 seconds. She continued to dig through the crate and mindlessly put a few ears of corn into her bag. Two minutes, 25 seconds. Beginning to feel a strange urgency, she went over to the cash register and bought the corn as quickly as possible. One minute, 12 seconds. She smiled at a woman at the door as she headed out from under the shaded market back to her car. Should she stay? She had less than a minute until her clock clicked off. She stood still for a minute, in an agony of indecision. What should she do?
Fifteen seconds to go. All of the sudden she knew what to do. She turned around and began to walk back toward the farmers market. Step after step. It felt so strange, almost as if she was being drawn towards the first booth. She knew not what exactly was happening. Six seconds.
Five. She stepped forward, not daring to look around. Who was it?
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said a deep voice behind her, and she felt herself bumped in the shoulder. Her clock ticked quietly for the last time, and as the tab fell off her wrist to the dusty ground, she turned to see a man about her age with salt and pepper hair and brown eyes. He smiled.