Lots of people were afraid. Rational and irrational fears grew like ivy in the cluttered world he lived in. As Jeremiah found, fear was just a part of life. His sister had always been afraid of spiders. Snakes too, though spiders were a more an everyday hazard, bringing out an alarming response from her no matter who was around. He never forgot the day she found one in her bed when she was going to sleep, the screams had echoed down into the street making the dogs in the neighbour’s garden bark. They had shared a bedroom in the old house then, out of necessity more than anything else.
It wasn’t until he was five years old that he had a room of his own. Of course, this came with the collapse of his parent’s marriage and he would have traded in a second the large bedroom at his father’s house, for the pokey one he shared with his sister. At least that way they would still be together. But people, like marriages collapse. His sister departing only a year into his larger bedroom life, not from a spider attack, but from the leukemia that had corroded her from the inside.
Jeremiah was afraid of one thing, and one thing only. He was afraid of time. How it snuck in on him and those he loved. Snatching away those things and people he held dear. Turning, tumbling and changing his little world that he would want to keep secret and safe under a bell jar. He would look up into the night’s sky and see the stars blinking above him. Fixed into position like reliable Christmas lights, always there like the season; waiting to bring joy.
When he was much older, he learned the true nature of space. The twirling chaos that attacked the cosmos, with everything in flux. But for that six year boy within him still, he would always see safety and security in the stars. His friends that were always there like jewels in black cement.
Jeremiah though was understanding about people’s fears. He understood why his sister had been afraid of spiders. How her mind would run with a thousand possibilities of what could happen, and the deathly mist that surrounded them and the poisonousness possibilities. Much like he understood people’s fear of flying. He had met an old lady on a flight to Rome once before, sitting in the aisle seat next to him. She was so afraid, her white knuckles had gripped onto the armrest for the duration of the flight; her eyes closed as if in silent prayer to keep her aloft and to land safely in the eternal city. He had wondered what she was so desperate to live for, what in her life was she so afraid of losing. One’s own death being usually a horrible climax of pain and distress, but momentary. What was she so afraid of not completing? What had her life really been about?
He had sat there himself on that small plane, thousands of miles above the French Alps, watching the snow-capped peaks shimmering in the sun. If they were to descend, collapse in a fiery demise and be strewn in wreckage across the snowy landscape; what was he missing out on? What in his life was he left to accomplish or leave behind? He would be missed of course. His partner would be distraught, and tears would be shed; at least he hoped would. But life would go on, time would cover the hurt up in sand and silence. Changing once more the nature of things.
Time. His biggest enemy.
He had landed in Rome safe and sound, the flight not having crashed like many unfortunate others had. He had quit his job that very day, enjoying a nice little holiday there instead of the work he had come there to do.
If he had known he were to die at the age of thirty three, Jeremiah would probably not have done things much different than he had. He would most likely have avoided a lot more arguments. Those stupid back and forths with people over things that mean nothing to the wider universe. He knew time was always against him, under his feet like an escalator he couldn’t stop or slow down. In this way, he lived a full life. He understood the preciousness and fragility of it all. He squeezed his partner a bit more when they hugged and kissed. He meant it more when he said I love you. Perfection was not to be a part of his existence on earth, yet Jeremiah saw the bigger picture. It was all a blink in the eye of God, and he knew he had no time to waste.
When at thirty three, he reached the top of the escalator, he glanced over the side to see how far he’d come. It all looked so small and crushable from his vantage point. He was alone, but he wasn’t sad. He could see his friends glittering their celestial magic as diamonds across the inky black. Their luminosity radiant and strong like a million burning suns. And he took his place in the stars, content and happy that the clocks had finally stopped ticking.