I become aware I am laying down. I am probably still sleeping. The darkness gently fades away. I was definitely sleeping. My brain is still gradually taking the plain measure of the situation. I get this sometimes, waking up feeling lost, this happens often when I sleep in an unfamiliar place. I remember now, I am in a tent.
Memories float back to my conscious self. We were all sitting around the fire, sometimes exchanging stories, sometimes debating, but we were always laughing. The true beauty of what we had became apparent when our weariness made us stop talking. We sat there silently, mesmerised by the crackling fire. The orange, yellow and red shapes danced in front of us as the flames consumed the wood. You don't often get to make fire, for some reason this long practised but almost forgotten skill of ours made us so happy. I can still feel its warmth.
Judging by the light it was now morning. The tent is moist from the night's gentle rain. I lay there, simply enjoying the beautiful environment I find myself in. I can hear the birds chirping outside and some crickets slowly waking up from their nightly slumber. Modern life does not let me be that close to nature often. I remain there for a moment, dazed by such simple beauty. At some point, I will have to stand and get out, start the day. How long can I allow myself to stay here? What would be the right time to get out?
As I start asking myself those questions, some faint yet persistent feeling is creeping at the back of my mind. I was simply thinking of the same things I think of every day but this time it did not make sense at all. My mind was going straight to its old habits but something was not right about this reasoning. What did I just think of? Do I want to know what time is the right time? How would I even know such a thing: we had all left our phones and watches in a big bag that was sealed away. It hits me. I laugh at my own silliness. I had forgotten I did not need to know any of this, I can just walk out whenever I feel like it. This thought makes me strangely happy.
I lay down for some more time, enjoying my new found freedom. When I finally decide to get up and walk outside, everything is still half asleep. I can see some of the other campers wandering around. Some are just going to sleep, some are just getting up. I turn my sight to the fire, a little smoke is still emanating from the fire. A woman is bringing more wood, she and others probably decided to keep the flames going throughout the night despite the rain. The warmth I felt yesterday while watching into the blaze was rekindled by the thought of them staying up to keep the fire alive. I decide to join them and I just sit with them without a word. I get tired smiles. No talk is necessary.
This morning feels heavier than the other ones in this camp. A sadness is slowly becoming apparent. We all know that in a few hours we will have to say goodbye. I never liked goodbyes, I never wanted to say goodbye to anyone. Someone once told me that there was something beautiful behind sad goodbyes: they mean you met someone truly meaningful to you who had a positive impact on your life and you should be happy about it. It all makes sense but I can not help feeling sad even more this time, as what I am leaving behind is not just people.
My heart is getting heavier as the dreaded hour draws near, I did not expect to be affected like this. I thought not having my phone for a weekend was not a big deal. And I was right, it was easy to separate myself from my phone. What I did not foresee was what getting rid of my watch would do to me. I am apprehending to have access to it now. Not knowing the time was probably the most liberating experience of my life. Stress did not exist, duty did not exist, no schedule existed, we just had to live. We just had to follow the natural rhythm and let ourselves drift together in the middle of a beautiful nature and feel the warmth of this fire we all had bred together.
And now I find myself only a few minutes, I assume, from getting the knowledge back. It is ironic, I always thought that knowledge was the most precious thing you could ever have and now I do not want it. Too late I realised it, too late I understood what it all meant: I have just tasted freedom and I am about to chain myself back to the arrow of time who will drag me at full speed towards... Towards what? Death? I never ask myself what is at the end, because what is there is scary. The end of everything cannot be good, can it?
I could never really formulate it properly but it was always there, just under my nose. I am a slave, we all are. We are the slaves of Time. In fact, the whole universe is. Billions of years ago, Time originated. Time was there first, then came light, then came the rest. Time is the only thing nothing can escape. Time makes life and death, Time creates galaxies and destroys them. Time was there first, Time will be there last. Not even the universe will survive Time because not even the universe is eternal. Everything is bound to succumb to the effects of Time, there is no escaping. There is no escaping, but for a blissful moment, I could forget I was bound.
The bag is in front of me, Time is in there, or at least the shackles that will once again make my ties apparent are in there. With a febrile gesture, I slowly put my watch on and turn my phone on. For a moment I stop. I do not want to look, but I have to. My eyes slowly lower themselves on the two arms of the watch. Slowly my brain registers the information. It's 10:32 A.M., we're late, we have to hurry to get back to the city.