A Sea of Buttons

Time is everything. Time is nothing. Time is the invisible that is tangible, told through seconds making minutes making days. Making up lives. Lives revolve around the clock, moving closer and closer to an end. The end of a day with a beautiful sunset or maybe a night where everything turns to darkness. Mine ended with darkness. And the next began with light.

I realized you could count time with seconds and days and weeks. You can count time by pennies, how much money you make. You can keep time in a book, recording history and stories of people’s lives. Sign in sheets and punched time cards. And by counting buttons.

I open the door to her room and see her things in garbage bags. I look at the room, the men lifting her furniture. I look toward my dad and see him picking up a plastic basket with holes. He’s moving her things out of them and into those black bags with ties that will close them. Strings that will tie up her life with a pretty bow, like a present to the dump. The bags make it look like her things are garbage. Like her belongings were trash. I can’t even stand to look at them.

“What are you doing?” I ask in disbelief. He looks up and notices me standing in the doorway. He looks back down to the clean, empty basket in his hand. The holes in the basket like my punctured heart, unable to hold feeling anymore.

My dad sighs my name. “It’s time to move on now. We can’t live in the past anymore. We have to move on with our lives. Fulfill it with things she was never able to do.”

He picks up a bag, and I hear the contents move around inside. He walks slowly around the room. Outside I hear the men and the truck leaving the road, with all the heaviness of a truck containing my sister’s whole life. The room seems now black and white, despite the bright pink covering her walls. It’s like I’ve been transported to a different life, a different world. It’s gone from a colorful world to dull, it seems. Like The Wizard of Oz in reverse. I discovered a world of courage and love only to be taken back to an empty room in dreary Kansas.

My dad opens the bag he was holding and colored rain falls out, overflowing the plastic basket. They remind me of his face a couple of days ago, when tears fell from his stormy eyes, thunder erupting from his sobs. I guess my brain is still clouded from her death. I just can’t imagine when the sun will finally shine.

I walk toward my father and look down at the colored buttons of the rainbow. I look up to question him, but he has disappeared. My eyes sink down to the buttons. I pick one up to examine it. It looks normal, with three holes in it. My eyes roam the basket, the sea of colors. They’re all different kinds of buttons, Some with two holes, others with three or four. Some are small, others are big. Not one is the same. Unorganized chaos.

I plunge my hands deep into the basket and pull them back out, letting the small circles trickle through my fingers. The feeling of the smooth, cold buttons feels good on my hands. I put my hands in again and again. I pick out a pink button and hold it in my hand. It’s the exact color of her room.

A small drop of rain falls onto the button, and I let the button go. My face is wet.


I begin to count the buttons. Two. Three. Four. It seems they’re never ending. I count faster. I look around for a clock, wondering how long it’s been. How long I have. But there are none around.

I start to sob, ugly tears of grey and black, staining the buttons. I try to count, but I lose track of where I am. I lost track of time. I can’t find the bottom of the basket. I jump into the white basket of the colored sea and find it hard to breathe. I try to take a breath, but I can’t. I’m surrounded by buttons, drowning me and reminding me of the time of I have lost and the time I have left.

I’m drowning, sinking. I see the bottom of the basket where they finally end. And then I’m falling, submerged in reality.

My eyes open, and I see darkness. I hurriedly turn on the lamp next to my bed and check the clock out of habit. I run out of my room to the one across from mine.

My sister is sleeping, like the rest of the world. Her legs are curled up on her bed, the blanket spread around her. My eyes blur and I walk toward her, trying not to make a sound.“Thank goodness,” I whisper, grateful it was only a dream. A nightmare. And at that moment, I am reminded of my mortality.

I lean down and kiss her on the cheek before I walk out of my sister’s room. I check the clock again.

I open the curtains to see the world outside. The sun is rising and there are many colors, blended into one another. This world is a painted canvas of beauty. The different hues meld to create the perfect sunrise of buttons as another day begins.


(Featured Image: Jeremy Bishop)

Kulsoom Mohammad

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