5 SECONDS

By Alishba Shahzad

Hey, you know, I’ve been reading a book named ‘When’. It’s quite interesting. It’s about understanding and learning the correct timings of everything. According to the book, instead of learning HOW to do things, we should learn WHEN to do things. And, you know, I’m also in love with a quote written in this book. It’s ‘Time is not the main thing. It is the only thing.’
She sent countless messages to her elder brother—AKA her best friend who had moved to Australia a year ago for higher studies—and ranted on and on about the new book she had started reading recently. She tended to get super excited whenever she started reading something new, and then, she had to tell him everything about it because apparently she had no self-control whatsoever, and he was the lucky person who got to listen all about her excitement and sentiments related to every new thing she discovered. Listening to her talk at the speed of Ferrari, was both amusing and equally infuriating to him.
Oh, so you’re reading a book again. Nice. Continue. He texted her absentmindedly, not feigning any interest in the book or her excitement.
Yeah. I would love to tell you more about the book, but sadly, you don’t have any interest in books so I’ll definitely bore you. She texted back nonchalantly, although there was an underlying emotion behind her words—playful sarcasm.
Yeah. Whatever. Keep reading since you are the only person who’s busy in doing productive stuff while we others just sit idle and do nothing. I’ll be bored while listening to you. Right. Keep assuming and reading stuff. He scoffed at her by repeating the words she had said the previous day about him sitting idle all the time.
‘Ouch. That is certainly not the way he talks,’ she thought. He was just two years older than her, so they had a playful yet close relationship. And during their time physically apart from each other, they had developed a much stronger bond; they could now even sense the emotions behind each other’s texts, just by their choice of words.
She got the signal. He never said whatever. In his opinion, whatever implied that one is not interested and doesn’t care about the other person’s thoughts or feelings. He had also sarcastically remarked about her assuming things about him which was another arrow pointing towards the conclusion that his mood was off.
Choosing her next words carefully, she texted him. Okay. You do stuff as well. You’re not free all the time. I get it. Besides, my constant jibber-jabber does bore you. There’s no denying in that. I guess I shouldn’t disturb you any longer. I’ll continue reading.
Hmm, good. I’m not in the mood to get bored right now. Continue your reading. After a pause of five seconds, he further typed, you certainly like that a lot.
You certainly like that a lot. That was an incomplete sentence. What he didn’t add was: more than talking to me. That was the cue. He had descended down the negative train of thoughts, and now, he was lost in the midst of chaos that was currently stirring in his mind. In order to guide him back to the surface, she had to lighten his mood and indirectly confront him while dealing with a handful of patience. Only then, he would open up and let her take a glimpse through his mind.
She called him, and meanwhile, counted the seconds in anticipation. It was a habit she had acquired from her brother—they both counted seconds when anticipating something.
He picked up exactly after five seconds. His voice came from across the phone, “Hello?”
Instead of exchanging pleasantries, she asked him a brainteaser. “So, Earnesto is a dealer of antique coins. One day, someone brings him a beautiful bronze coin that has an emperor’s head on one side and the date 544 BC stamped on the other. He examines the coin, but instead of buying it, he calls the police. Why?”
He thought for five seconds, and then replied, “Umm perhaps he knows how the emperor ruling in 544 BC looked like and that’s not him on the coin?”
She face palmed. His answer was just like him—sarcastic. “What. That’s absurd. How can he know whether the right king is carved on the coin or not?” she asked him while rolling her eyes.
“Oh, right. I got it. Coins were not used in 544 BC. People used to exchange goods then.”
“And how do you know that for sure?”
“I just do.” He replied in his usual sarcastic, nonchalant tone.
“Your answer has no authentication. You need to give a confirmed answer which is proved by logics and facts.” She told him unamused.
“I just gave you an awesome logic like five seconds ago,” he argued.
“That’s not an awesome logic,” she again rolled her eyes. “The date on the coin is 544 BC as in 544 years before Christ. That designation couldn’t have been used then because Christ hadn’t been born yet and, of course, nobody knew that he would be born half a millennium later. The coin is obviously a fraud. Now, that’s an awesome logic.” She told him smirking. Knowing something that people around her didn’t know, gave her a strange sense of satisfaction.
It took another five seconds for the logic to settle in his mind. “Oh, nice brainteaser.” The tone of his voice indicated he was smiling a little now.
“I know, right,” she replied grinning. “So, what have you been doing all day?”
And from there, their conversation began and accelerated like a roller coaster. They talked for an hour about random things—she often joked to distract his mind from whatever that was troubling him, and well, also to hear the sound of his contagious laugh.
“Hey, do you want to hear something I wrote recently?” she asked him. Writing was kind of her obsession and she was really good at it.
“Yeah, sure. Enlighten me with your words for the millionth time.” He told her laughingly. He loved the way she could beautifully express everything she felt through her writings. He considered her as a rare gem that had been blessed with an exceptionally brilliant mind.
“Unleashing a torrent of pessimistic thoughts and angry words on someone close to you is better than bottling up different emotions inside. A closed, sealed bottle of increasing liquid tends to overflow and blow up sooner or later, scattering shreds of glass everywhere.” Her words left him in deep thought. After five seconds of pondering, he responded with a “hmm”.
Heavy silence enveloped them for another five seconds. “I’m sorry for my rude behavior earlier. A lot has been running through my mind since last night.” He confessed solemnly.
“Hmm. I figured. Don’t be sorry, though. It’s fine.”
“It’s just, you know, this semester I scored a low GPA, and lately I haven’t been scoring too well in my quizzes either. Moreover, I’m doing nothing productive. I just waste my time going out with friends and watching Netflix.” He gave a dry, sarcastic laugh. “I don’t think I’m capable enough to build myself the future I imagine, the future I want. That thought makes me scared a lot.”
“Hey, why do you think you’re not capable enough to accomplish your goals? You cannot arrive at that conclusion just yet. You think you’re not capable enough but that’s just a lie you’re feeding yourself. You can do anything and everything. You can shape your future any way you want it to be. You are not just a product of your circumstances. You shape yourself according to your circumstances and take advantage from them.”
“I don’t know what to do anymore. I have a perfect future planned in my mind. I want to start a business in future. I have already told you before; I don’t want to be a job seeker. I want to become a job provider. But, I see myself now, what I have done so far, what I’m doing right now, and based on my current situation, I cannot imagine myself building the future I have in mind. For a matter of fact, I cannot imagine myself anywhere in the future.”
“You’re having too many negative thoughts. You think way too lowly about yourself which is not good. You’re being hopeless about yourself, your life, your future way too soon. You’re just nineteen now. That’s not much of an age. This is just the beginning of your life and your struggle. You still have a lot of time, hopefully, to make happen all the things you want. You still have a long way to go. You’re not hopeless or incapable. You’re just giving yourself a hard time because you don’t believe in yourself enough. I believe in you. You should, too.”
He kept quiet the whole time while listening to her. His lack of faith in himself always pissed her off. He was a perfectly capable, hard-working and motivated person who made long term plans and carried them out in the best possible way. Also, he was an honest and selfless person with an intriguing aura and appealing personality. Why he underestimated himself so much, proved to be the only thing she could never understand no matter how hard she tried. If only there was a way to show him the same sparkle that mesmerized her every day.

“I want things to proceed according to my plans and I hate it when things fail to go as per planned. You see, that’s the problem. I make plans and then carry them out accordingly because I want things to be in one particular manner. That’s the case of my life. I want my future to be exactly the way I have it planned in my mind. But I feel like my plans are more superior to myself.”
The frustration was evident in his voice; he was on the brink of collapsing and falling into utter hopelessness. He was an emotionally strong person—in fact, all boys are—who had full dominance over his mind and thoughts. Normally, instead of getting emotionally petrified by the negativity that occasionally stirred in his mind, he chose to alter the lane of his thoughts. Positivity always runs parallel to negativity, waiting to switch lanes.
He was the kind of person who found relief in distress on his own. But, unlike every other time, this time he got overwhelmed by the weight of his future and lost control over his mind, probably because he was far from home and was still trying to adjust into a new, different life, one he wasn’t entirely used to of yet. Besides, pessimism is bound to overcome optimism at some point. One can’t be happy for a long time; happiness doesn’t last forever. Nothing is permanent. Everything falls apart eventually.
A hug always made him feel better and relaxed. Unfortunately, she couldn’t offer him a warm hug at the moment. So instead, she decided to make him feel better with words. Words are the most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting pain and remedying it. Her words were powerful enough to make an impact on a person’s mentality. To put it simply, words were the art and she was the artist.
They fell silent once again—not in a comfortable deep silence, but rather in an uncomfortable choking one. Sometimes, silence is louder than every other sound because the only thing you’re hearing is the beating of your heart.
She spent five seconds in assembling her thoughts before she started speaking again.
“It’s like you’re in a maze, a labyrinth. That’s your life. What you want is to have an outlined map of the maze. You want to know every path, every turn, every end, every curve of the maze so you can reach your destination easily and quickly, without facing failure or any dilemmas. But, that’s not possible. First, you have to visit all the paths, all the crossroads, every corner, every dead end. Only then, the maze will start forming a profound image in your mind and you will be able to determine a distinct way that will take you to your desired destination. With experience, comes knowledge. You cannot get an aerial view and discover a planned single path that will directly take you to the end. You can’t escape the maze either. You’ll only escape it once you die. Until then, you’re stuck inside the labyrinth, discovering it whole, walking on all paths, both crooked and straight, making many choices, both good and bad. But, you know, what the best part is. You’re not alone. You’re stuck inside with your loved ones. You’re stuck inside with me. The people who care about you will always be there for you. So, there’s nothing to be worried about. I know it’s hard for you to have faith in something you feel hopeless about right now, but it’s all normal. Stressing about things is all part of life. You just have to be patient and hope for the best, and have faith, in yourself and God. Everything doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to be, but sometimes, things turn out in a different, more better way. Sometimes, we receive happiness from unexpectedness, and believe me, unexpected happiness is the best of all. You’re the strongest person I know. When the burden of your future starts weighing you down, take a deep breath, shut your mind, and listen to what your heart wants. It’ll make you feel better.” She gave a brief pause and took a breath. “Be patient. Everything will turn out just fine.”
He stayed silent, letting the weight of her words lift his spirit up. She had a knack of making people feel better, no matter how far they were. Her long speech had actually made him feel relaxed. Thanks to her effort, he could now see the faint outline of hope. In the last two hours, she had tolerated his rude remarks, lightened his mood, and had also helped him in clearing his mind from all the negative thoughts. Despite how hard he had tried to conceal his insecurities and frustration from everyone, he could never really hide anything from her. She was the only one who could make him open up, even though he was pretty stubborn and hard to convince. She truly was amazing.
“That small mouth of yours shouldn’t be speaking such big words, sis.” He taunted her playfully.
‘And my big bro is finally back from his trip to the underworld, and now an endless roasting is headed my way. Great.’ That thought made her feel both contented and dreadful at the same time—contented because he was finally back to being his normal self who gained pleasure from roasting others, and dreadful because she was about to be badly roasted in the next few seconds.
“Just like your small mind shouldn’t understand such big words? Huh.” She mocked him back in the same playful tone.
He erupted in fits of laughter. “Nice comeback, sis. At least, your humor is increasing, unlike your height.” He loved to piss her off by his roasting.
“Now, I regret making you feel better. I should’ve left you to rot in your own self-pity instead.” She rolled her eyes.
He again laughed. “Awe. Did you get offended, again?” He emphasized on again just to piss her off even more.
“Do you want me to end the call?” She threatened him.
He tried to control his laughter, but failed to do so. She was like a demon but with a soft heart. “Okay, okay. That’s enough roasting for today. You have already been through a lot. I don’t think your tiny mind can come up with more comebacks right now. We’ll continue this tomorrow.”
“Thanks a lot for being so generous to me. Must’ve been hard for you.” She rolled her eyes for the hundredth time in the last two hours.
“You have no idea.” He laughed. The sound of his laugh made her laugh as well. Five seconds later, they both were laughing together. Both the siblings enjoyed each other’s company more than anything else.
“Sometimes, I can’t believe you’re just seventeen years old. The way you think, the way you handle me at my worst, the way you console me from miles away, it’s really impressive.” He told her in his most sincere voice.
“Well, yeah. I’m impressive.” She smirked.
He chuckled. “Yeah, you are. No doubt in that. I’m glad to have you as my sister. Thanks for making me feel good. I feel ten times lighter, now that I’ve talked to you.”
She smiled. “Hmm. No problem. I’m always here for you. Just like you’re always here for me. Nothing is permanent. But, our efforts can make the temporary things last a little longer.”
He smiled, too. “True.”

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