The stone in my pocket

You know the stone I carry around in my pocket? The one that looks like any old boring piece of rock?

Small, smooth and round, it sits comfortably in the palm of my hand; weighing just as much as a stone should weigh. It’s unremarkable, grey, and there’s nothing about it that would make you think to pick it up and take it home with you. Well I want to tell you that it isn’t an ordinary stone at all. It’s my very own pause button. 

Whenever I need a moment to last just a little bit longer, or if I want to stretch a feeling out so I can indulge in it a little more, I’ll reach into my pocket and turn that old boring piece of rock three times clockwise. 

On the first turn, the edges of the world will soften. From the corner of my eye, I’ll see the horizon start to blur and the colours of the trees and sky will smudge, like an artist rubbing their finger carefully over creation. Only the important things stay in focus.

When I turn it a second time, the harsh discords of daily life are turned down and only the right sounds are awarded volume. Laughter tinkles in the air and the sound of children playing will echo happily, while blaring traffic and angry arguments are dulled to a low vibration.

On the third and final turn, the universe takes a big wide breath, sucking in all the air and suspending everything in action. Time is held tightly between its lips and the world moves in slow-motion. Then, little by little, the air will escape again and, it’s then, in that gradual exhale, that I get five more minutes to enjoy. 

Now, I’ve only used this pause button a handful of times and you might think that’s strange. I mean, I know it’s not everyday you can slow down time but it’s also not everyday that you need to. I didn’t want to waste it on silly things like giving myself an extra five minutes to wake up in the morning or to get to the train station on time. No. I’ve always saved it for special occasions. 

One such occasion was the night I took Pania to the high school dance. Her father had stood, arms crossed and with a scowl on his face, in their front door when I arrived to pick her up. I could tell he didn’t like the look of me, a young blue collared ratbag coming to take his precious little girl out for the evening. 

“You get her home by midnight, boy,” he instructed sternly, “or there’ll be hell to pay.” 

With a warning like that, I made sure to get her home on time. In fact, we were three minutes early. At eleven fifty-seven, we were back, standing on her front porch, kissing. It was the first time I’d kissed a girl and I sure did like it. Pania’s lips were soft and gentle against mine. When she slid her tongue into my mouth, I tasted cheap vodka and orange juice. Someone had spiked the punch. 

When the clock did strike midnight, the porch-light we’d been canoodling under started flickering rapidly. Pania broke away from me, her eyes bright and her cheeks flushed. It was her Dad interrupting us, sending a morse code signal that it was time to say goodnight. 

I remember Pania giggled and whispered, “Sorry! I’ve got to go. Thanks for a wonderful time.” 

But I wasn’t ready to leave, so I quickly slipped my hand into my pocket and turned the stone three times clockwise. Everything slowed, I reached out and grabbed Pania’s hand. I pulled her back to face me and we kept on kissing. 

I don’t know what happened to Pania or where she might be nowadays. A few months after the dance, her Dad got some big important job up in Auckland and so she moved away. But whenever I see a flickering light, I find myself smiling and remembering that kiss. 

Another moment worthy of taking a pause, was the day I married your mother. I remember standing in the backyard, waiting for her to arrive. Our friends and family were sitting around on white plastic chairs that we’d hired from the bowls club for a box of beer, and trying not to look too obviously at their watches. I was nervous as anything, sweating right through my white collared shirt, and of all the days to be late, she was late. 

I was just starting to think I should call the whole thing off when your Auntie Helen arrived, wearing this ridiculous magenta dress that was too tight around her legs, making her walk like a gangly purple penguin. 

“We’re here!” She’d yelled, waving her arms frantically, “Sorry! The bride had to make an emergency pee stop!” 

Well, that made everybody laugh. What a relief! You see, your mother and I had done things a little back to front, and she was actually already six months pregnant with you. I’ve since been told that hitching up a wedding dress to use the bathroom is somewhat an olympic feat. Add in a swollen belly, and it becomes a gold-medal performance. 

Anyway, after a bit of fuss, we got everything ready, someone hit play on the tape player and next thing I knew, your mother was walking down the aisle towards me. 

She was radiant. Holding a simple bouquet between her hands and wearing a long flowing white gown, I knew I was about to marry an angel. She was beaming at me, her eyes smiling and holding back tears all at the same time. My heart was thumping so loudly in my chest and you better believe I was turning that stone three times. I wanted that moment of anticipation to last forever and, on that third turn, all the people and noise faded into the background. Everything slowed and she was the only thing in focus.

Of course, we’ve been married for fifty-odd years now. I don’t know how your mother has put up with me for so long but here’s hoping she has enough patience to give me a few more months. 

And I guess this is why I’ve decided to tell you about the stone. I wanted to tell you now before it’s too late. You see, the funny thing about a pause button is that, at some point, you have to press play again. We all only have so many minutes in our lifetime and I’m finally reaching the upper limit. So I’m giving you the stone to take care of after I’m gone.

I know you’ll use it wisely and maybe, just before I go, you’ll take that ordinary boring piece of rock, hold it in the palm of your hand, turn it three times clockwise, and give us five more minutes.

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