There is always time. It flows on like a river, sometimes trickling along in a drought, barely there, barely moving, like those summer days of childhood that lasted weeks. Other times it is a raging flood, the days pouring past with their hours frothing and writhing against each other as they hurtle past.
You never know what kind of time you will wake up to, the slow trickle of minutes dragging themselves into hours, or those days that flash by and are gone like some washed away tree trunk caught in a torrent.
I looked at her and she looked at me.
Time stopped then.
I don’t know how long we stared at each other across that café. I was conscious of the world carrying on around us. I could hear the muted clink of cutlery against plates, dishes and cups, and the murmur of conversation, but somehow muted as though someone had turned the volume of the world down.
Someone at her table of three women was talking to her. I could see her lips mutter some reply, but she did not take her eyes from me.
There were nods and kisses and the gathering of belongings around her as he companions rose from the table.
For a moment, she was lost to my view as the two on this side of her table rose and shrugged on coats. There were another round of goodbyes and kisses, and then the other women moved away.
She was still looking at me as though she’d been able to see me through the bodies of her friends.
I heard the door close behind them.
I stood up and edged through the tables to hers.
She was looking up at me. She did not smile.
‘Do I know you?’ I said.
‘I don’t…’ She shook her head. ‘No.’
‘Can I…?’ I touched the back of the seat in front of me.
I placed my half-empty coffee on the table and sat.
She shifted forward in her seat. ‘Black?’ She pointed at my cup.
‘Yes… How did you…?’
‘I don’t know, Michael.’
‘How do you know my name?’
‘I just know it. Do you know mine?’
I looked at her again for a moment. ‘Natalie?’
She nodded. ‘This is weird.’ She edged back on her seat. ‘I saw you and something in my mind said, that’s him.’
‘I know you too.’ I pointed at her upper arm hidden under a cardigan sleeve. ‘You have a birthmark?’
She nodded, eyed widening.
‘Shaped like a cat’s face with the ears?’ I outlined a shape of a cat’s face in the air in front of us with my fingertip.
She nodded, and then shook her head. ‘I know something about you too.’
I smiled trying to look reassuring. ‘What?’
‘I can’t,’ she glanced around, cowering down over her empty cup. ‘It is too… too personal.’
‘Ah.’ I knew what she meant.
‘Is it… though… Y’know?’ She was blushing.
‘Yes, it is.’
She nodded as though unable to continue that line of conversation. But I’d had a nickname at school because of it.
She looked at me. ‘I know your old nickname too.’
I nodded before she could say it. ‘But who are you?’
Natalie looked at me, right into my eyes. ‘I think I may be your wife.’