5:59. He wakes up. His eyes open suddenly. They’re sore & swollen. He’s very still for a moment, to collect his thoughts. Then he glances at the alarm clock & reaches over to push a button. The alarm goes off at 6:00, but he always wakes up at 5:59. He briefly wonders why he sets the thing at all, but then realizes that the day he doesn’t will be the day he doesn’t wake up.

It’s been 168 days since she packed a bag & walked out of the apartment. He tries not to think about it, he doesn’t know how many days it’s been. He still has some of her things in the top drawer of his dresser. He can smell the nearly empty bottle of her perfume when he walks by to get ready for his day.

His bathroom is small, barely large enough for everything it needs. He keeps it clean & organized.

The kitchen isn’t clean. Dishes are piled in the sink, he isn’t sure when he washed them last. He doesn’t want to look at them this early, so he looks for a granola bar in the cupboard. He finds one & washes it down with a glass of orange juice.

6:24. It’s a beautiful September morning. The air is crisp & there are some clouds in the otherwise blue sky. It rained last night, the pavement is still slightly damp & everything smells simultaneously of dirt & cleanliness. He inhales deeply as he walks out of his front door. This is a good morning for a run. He’ll be gone for 32 minutes & be disappointed. He should be able to do it in 29.

7:38. He steps back outside, showered & dressed for work. Instead of a briefcase, he wears a backpack. He will ride his bicycle this morning. As he walks towards it, he thinks of her briefly. She loved this bicycle. He used to ride it to work every morning, but she would laugh & steal it before he could leave so she could use it. She had her own, but she liked this one more. When she left, she took her bicycle & left him his. He still drives to work some mornings.

8:22. He arrives to the office early. He prefers it that way, there’s no one around the coffee pot trying to talk to him. He doesn’t mind his job at all. It’s a little bit tedious some days, but he makes a lot of money & has three day weekends. He’ll be able to retire in eight years, he is 32 years old. The people he works with are very friendly, he doesn’t always have the energy to talk with them in the morning, although he likes them. The only other person he sees is his secretary. He says good morning as he walks into his office.

13:01. He walks out of his office to go get lunch. His secretary offers to go for him, or with him. He is worried about him, he’s lost too much weight over the last 6 months or so. He’s very handsome, but has begun looking ill. He declines, he’s going to the deli & grabbing a sandwich, he tells him. He’s gone for the full hour, he doesn’t eat. He meant to, but he got distracted walking.

17:14. He’s walking out of the building to go home. He’s invited for drinks with his colleagues, but he respectfully declines. Not today, he tells them. He has plans with an old friend.

18:58. He arrives at the house of his old school friend. They have known each other since they were sixteen. His friend has a wife now, & three children. They’re a beautiful family, & they’re happy. He sees them at least twice a month. They’re hosting a dinner party tonight. He brought a bottle of expensive wine. His friend & his wife will drink it privately later.

There are nine people there tonight. They laugh & talk about their lives & then laugh some more. The wine is delicious, the food is better. Two of them just got back from Spain, one of them is waiting on a big promotion, one couple is expecting their second child. These are all good people whom he is lucky to know. One of the women tells him that he looks ill. She says he needs a woman in his life, that he must be lonely. She has a friend that she’d like him to meet. She’s free tomorrow. He smiles his most charming smile & thanks her sincerely. He would love to meet her friend, but he can’t tomorrow. He has plans. There’s a new rock climbing wall downtown & his colleague has insisted they go together.

23:35. He walks through his front door & looks around. He needs to get rid of half of this junk. He has too much furniture, too many things, too many books he’ll never read again, too much black & white art on the walls that he’s tired of looking at. Everything seems so watched out & empty. He carefully puts away his shoes & hangs up his jacket. He walks into the kitchen, the dishes are still in the sink, filthy. He rolls up his sleeves & begins washing them.

00:06. He sends a text message to a colleague, “Hi, sorry I’m texting so late, but something’s come up and I’m afraid I can’t make it rock climbing tomorrow. You’ll have to tell me how it is! If it’s any good, maybe we can go next weekend. Sorry about the short notice and I hope I’m not disturbing you.” The response comes within minutes. “Hey! No problem, we can go some other time. It’s pretty late. Everything okay?” He doesn’t reply. He really will go rock climbing soon, but he just knows he will be too tired tomorrow, & he has other things he needs to do anyway.

1:27. He is ready for bed, but he realizes he forgot to make it this morning. He changes the sheets & climbs in. He picks up the book that’s sitting on his night stand. It’s a book that his niece asked him to read. It’s about a young woman who fights for women, their freedom to have civil rights & education. He smiles. His niece will grow into an amazing & powerful woman.

2:15. He’s done reading for now. The book isn’t quite finished. He will save the rest for tomorrow.

2:18. He lies down & stares into nothing. The ceiling is up there somewhere in the dark. It’s so quiet, all he can hear is the odd car driving by on the street, but it’s a quiet neighbourhood & there aren’t many vehicles at night.

He rolls over, facing the open window. He can’t hear anything now. He starts to cry silently & doesn’t stop until he can see the sun.

5:59. He wakes up. His eyes open suddenly, sore & swollen. He’s very still for a moment, to collect his thoughts. He glances over at the alarm clock, then reaches to push the button. The clock would have gone off at 6:00, but he wakes up at 5:59. He briefly wonders why he sets the thing at all, but then realizes that the day he doesn’t will be the day he doesn’t wake up.