“Gramma, why does your face have so many lines in it?" I ask.
"Oh... well, they're sorta like tree rings. They show how old I am" my grandmother says with a smile.
"What are tree rings?”
“Well… why don’t I show you.”
We walk over to the wood pile where lies all the wood my father had chopped for my grandparents. Much of it was split into smaller pieces, but some pieces are still unsplit. My grandmother takes me over to one of these.
“Now, look here. You see the circles in the wood? Those are tree rings, and they show how old the tree is, as each ring represents a year of the tree’s life” she told me.
“So… it grew bigger every year?” I ask.
“That’s right dear, just like you” she says with another smile.
“Do other things have lines that show how old they are?”
“Well… there is another old thing that has lines. Let’s go back inside.”
We go back inside my grandparents’ house and my grandmother guides me over to a shelf with a bunch of knick-knacks on it. I can see an antique clock that no longer works, an ornate little hourglass, some rocks, an old weight scale, and an ammonite fossil. My grandmother directs my attention towards this last item.
“See there? That’s an ammonite fossil, which is a really old shell. You see the rings on it?” she asks.
“Yeah. Do they show how much the shell grew?” I ask.
“In a way. That shell was made by a creature, and it took some time to make.”
“Oh. Hey, Gramma, can I see that glass thing?”
“This hourglass here?”
“Yeah. What’s an hourglass?”
“Well, see, if you flip it over, the sand inside starts to go to the bottom, and once all the sand has gone down, that means an hour has passed.”
“Cool! Can I play with it some?”
With a laugh, my grandmother says “You can have it if you want.”
It’s been twelve years since she gave me this hourglass, and here I am, still fiddling with it. I guess it’s like my connection to her or something. She died a few years back, so this is what I have left of her. I wasn’t ever super close to my grandma, but she was a nice old lady, and I was sad to hear when she died.
I’m nineteen now though, and there’s a lot on my mind, mostly video games. Been playing a lot of Dark Souls III with my friends lately, which is how we met in the first place. Some people say internet friends aren’t real friends, but I have a lot more fun with my friends online than I do IRL. Personally, I think real friends are lame. Can’t have a good conversation with them.
“Git gud, you filthy casual!” my friend Austin shouts over the line. “You just got rekt, son!”
“Yeah well, at least I’m not some noob meta user that relies on stun-locking to do any damage. What happened to this being an ‘honor duel’” I ask.
“Hey, it’s not my fault poise doesn’t work in this game. And stop getting so salty, it’s not as if I was buffing for an hour or healing! Please! give me a break.”
“Oh, whatever! You know your build and play-style are cancer. Quit acting so noble.”
“I confess, I’m a tryhard. What can I say?”
“You can shut up and fight me again with a different weapon.”
“Yeah… no. How ‘bout not.”
“I know” he says with a grin I can just hear.
So yeah, internet friends. They’re alright, I guess. In truth, I’m not all that social of a guy. People just don’t really get me, you know? And I don’t get people. Sure, I play video games, but that’s only to distract myself from living. Waking up everyday is such a drag. Some days I don’t shower, or brush my teeth, or eat enough, but it’s whatever. It’s not like I go places. My parents force me to go to church on Sundays, but other than that I don’t get out much.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the future, and what I’m gonna do. My dad’s always telling me to get a job, but I really hate the idea of working at minimum wage for some corporation that doesn’t care about its employees. I’ll be going to community college this coming fall, but I hate that too. Don’t have the money to go somewhere nice, so I have to settle for less. Already feels like I’m selling my soul to this capitalist machine that grinds up everybody except the people on top.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t contemplating suicide. Seems like the only noble path to take. It’s either die free or live a slave. But I mean, my life is something I should enjoy, right? That’s what everyone says anyway. Personally, I think that’s a load of BS, but when the overwhelming majority of people say something, you kinda are forced to listen. That’s probably why I have no real friends, because everyone’s so focused on living.
“Hey, Jack. What’s that thing you got in your hand?” this kid, Matthew asks me.
“You don’t know what an hourglass is?” I ask, slightly annoyed he’s talking to me.
“Oh, is that what that is? I mean, I’ve heard of them, but never really seen one. Where’d you get it?”
“From my grandmother.”
“Oh, that’s cool. You have a good relationship with her?”
“Yeah… she was nice.”
“She’s dead now.”
It’s seven years later, and I’m twenty-six now. Working a dead-end job, and living all by myself. Video games stopped working as a distraction a while ago now, so I’m trying something new. In one hand I have my grandmother’s hourglass, and in the other, a gun I bought recently. I put the barrel to head, and say “I’m coming to see you now, Grandma.”