11:42 PM

When I was 19 years old, some friends had started attending a town centre youth club. It was the YMCA, operated by members of a Baptist Church. I suppose the leaders used the club as a way of reaching out to the local youth.

Despite being a YMCA, there were no motorcycle cops, native Indians or construction workers – not one bushy moustache.

The club, situated at the top of a narrow flight of stairs, was deceptively large. It had a coffee bar, a soft seating area and a sports hall for games. Although it was 33 years ago, I can remember it vividly. A couple of the leaders were attractive, and I may have held a crush on one for a short while.

After attending for many months and getting to know people, one night ruined everything.

A couple of new youths attended, and they were a little worse for wear due to some heavy drinking. In Northern Ireland language, they were poleaxed – drunk beyond comprehension.

Our paths never crossed until I went to say goodbye to Jill, one of the leaders I liked. She was in the sports area trying to talk sense into one of the drunken boys lying on the floor, slurring his words.

When I spoke to Jill, the fella on the floor slurred some words at me. I can’t remember what was said, but it turned into a shoving match, verging on a fistfight.

Others intervened, and I headed off for home. Annoyed by me walking away, the drunken guest came looking for me with a snooker cue, but I had already accepted a lift home with a couple of friends.

That was a lucky escape for me from what would have been a messy fight.

As I was driven around the town square, where the YMCA was based, I was told to keep my head low in the back seat of the car, as others were still in the street looking for me, with said snooker cure.

I knew that would be the end of my time at the YMCA.

When I got home, I went straight to my room and lay on the bed. As I turned over on my side to see the time, in digital red figures, the clock radio displayed 11:42 PM.

There was nothing unusual about the time, except 11:42 PM would keep recurring in my life.

Since that night, I have lost count of the number of occasions 11:42 PM has stood out. I would go as far as saying, 11:42 PM is the most common time I have ever seen.

I might be getting ready for bed, and a quick glance at the time, it will be 11:42 PM.

Is the recurrence of the specific time a coincidence? The circumstances are similar to when you think of buying a particular car; then all you see is that car everywhere you look.

I am unable to give supernatural examples of when 11:42 PM is revealed. It is usually during mundane things, like getting ready for bed or checking my watch when I’m worried about something.

I have stormed off after arguments at 11:42 PM. I’ve laid in bed, anxious about the next day, then noticing that same time on the clock.

It’s almost as if I’m subconsciously trained to look at a digital display at 11:42 PM.

The time has appeared so often in my life, since that night of the YMCA, I now harbour a belief that in the distant future, I will die at 11:42 PM. Well, actually 11:43 PM, as I’ll need a minute to look at the clock.

By the way, I did return to the club the very next week just to prove a point and show I wasn’t scared. Sure enough, the guy who played with me while holding a snooker cue was there. This time he was sober and couldn’t remember a thing from the previous week. He seemed quite a pleasant guy.

I never went back.