When Time Stood Still
Katrina Oswalt stood at the corner waiting for the traffic to stop and the “Walk” sign to flash. Her watch read 1:17. Airpods in, eyes down, she tapped her right thigh along to some Dropkick Murphys. When the cars halted, she was the first in a wave of New Yorkers to begin crossing the street. The twenty-three-year-old pushed her skateboard out in front and hopped on, cutting a straight line through an incoming trio of suits.
“Hey, watch it,” one of the guys yelled at her as she rolled by them. His voice was barely audible over the crash of cymbals.
On instinct, Katrina turned around to flip him the bird. When she saw him in the same position, midstride, still as a statue – right hand clutching a briefcase, left hand in pocket – she skidded to a halt.
“What the…” Katrina murmured. The other two men glared daggers at her, but they too appeared as if they were frozen in time.
Katrina pulled out her Airpods, pocketed them, and kicked the skateboard up into her hands. She glanced around. A nearby street performer gripped an acoustic guitar and carried a silent, perhaps eternal, tune. Some girl with pink hair was making out with a guy in a black cape. They were motionless, locked together. A pretzel vendor was in the middle of counting change.
The silence, the stillness, made Katrina drop to a knee. She couldn’t breathe. Goosebumps covered her arms and tears welled up in her eyes.
It felt like New York City had transformed into a morgue in moments.
“Please tell me this is all a dream,” she whispered to herself, trying to gather her composure. I’ll wake up and realize this was all a nightmare, or a bad trip, or…God, anything but this.
“Hello?” she said to the men in suits, approaching them. She dropped her skateboard and waved her hands in front of their unblinking, still angry faces. She touched the “watch it” guy’s face – held it in her hands.
“Are you there, man?” Katrina asked, feeling the tears come on again. “Are you in there?” Panic crept its way inside her, built up, and then all of it rushed out in a single burst. “Hello?” she screamed into Watch It’s face, slapping him with both hands and crying harder. Katrina turned away from him and hollered the same word at the top of her lungs, over and over, running through non moving traffic, yelling at the street performer, police officers, anyone, everyone – even the pretzel guy, who was still stuck getting change for a twenty.
After what felt like hours, but was probably mere minutes, Katrina slumped onto a bench and stared out emptily at the surreal scene before her. Her watch still read 1:17.
That’s when she heard it – another voice. A man’s voice.
“Hey!” she yelled, following it.
“Can anyone hear me?” he screamed. A lone figure emerged from a block or two away. He was running down the middle of the street between cars.
“Over here!” Katrina called out as she sprinted toward him. Oh my God oh my God oh my God…
The man was wearing a Boston Red Sox baseball cap, khaki shorts, and a pair of beat-up Converse. He was visibly shaken. His eyes were bloodshot, and he was sweating profusely.
The two strangers embraced one another in the middle of a sea of taxi cabs, hugging each other tightly and crying into each other’s shoulders.
“What the hell is happening,” the man choked. Katrina tried to respond but couldn’t find the right words to tell this man how thankful she was to see him.
After a minute or two, he whispered, “Looks like it’s just the two of us.”
In that exact instant, everything, the world – life, as they knew it – snapped back together and realigned itself.
The buzz and hum of New York City returned. Conversations picked up from where they had left off. Music and singing and the sound of construction equipment drilling and hammering resumed.
The cab driver nearest the couple slammed his brakes and honked his horn. Several others followed suit. “Hey assholes, get outta the road!”
“No way!” the stranger in the Red Sox hat said as he picked up Katrina and swung her around as if they’d known each other forever. “No Goddamn way, man!”
The honking and cursing directed at them intensified, but the two couldn’t help but laugh as they spun around three more times before bolting toward the sidewalk.
“So…do you have any reasonable explanation as to what the hell just happened?” the man asked as he and Katrina slid their backs against the wall of a building.
Katrina shook her head. “The only thing I know right now is that I need a drink.”
“Right there with you.” A loud rumble of laughter escaped the building they were resting against, so they turned and noticed they’d been leaning against an Irish pub. “Well, that’s convenient.”
“I’m Katrina, by the way.”
“I’m Jake. I don’t know about you, but I feel like we’re going to have a lot to talk about.”
As they both laughed and entered the pub arm in arm, Katrina’s watch read 1:22.
Thank you so much for reading “When Time Stood Still” — I hope you enjoyed it.
Sometimes during the day, a random idea will pop into my head. If I don’t have my journal or any pen or paper handy, I’ll add a quick note on my phone. This particular note reads: “Time stands still…couple goes on first date.” I suppose you could argue I had the beginning and ending figured out before I sat to write this one.
Fellow writers: do you keep a physical journal/diary, or do you keep notes electronically (laptop/phone)? Both? None of the above? I’m curious. Let me know below!
Take care and have a great weekend!