Saturday, August 22, 2009

Missing Time

I looked down at my watch, an old digital display Casio from my youth. The time, only slightly visible through the scratched and discoloured plastic, read 4:15. That didn't seem right at all. I thought back; It was around 2pm when I left the house, and had only walked a few blocks. I had stopped at one store briefly to pick up a drink and then came straight to where I was standing now, waiting for a traffic light to change. That shouldn't have taken more than a half hour, but my watch said that over two hours had passed.

I looked up at the sky, but there was no way to tell where the sun was behind a thick layer of dark clouds. I wondered silently if it would have made a difference, like I would have been able to tell the time by sun position anyhow. Shrugging off the confusion I continued on my way, glancing again at my watch mostly out of habit. The display now read 4:47 in feeble liquid crystal letters. Well that was the end of that mystery, I thought with a chuckle. The old boy had finally kicked the bucket.

For some ten years the watch had been strapped dutifully to my side. It had been through flash storms, unexpected falls... Once many years ago, I was tip toeing along a boardwalk and predictably lost my balance and took a plunge into the mucky polluted lake water. It took a while to find a place to climb out, and I was about as wet as a fully dressed man could be. That at least had disabled the watch for a while, but like a good soldier it came back the next day ready for service. The watch had worked like, well like clockwork until now.

Looking at the display while I walked briskly along the sidewalk, I tapped on the screen with little effect. The watch continued to make no sense and in fact its condition seemed to be worsening. I wasn't sure what time 4:87 was exactly, but that was what the poor lad was trying to tell me now. I unstrapped the watch with a twinge of pain as the rubber straps caught on my arm hairs. It was as if it didn't want to let go, I thought with amusement. My next thought was that I was losing my grip on reality and that I needed to be in the company of humans. Rubbing the sting out of my wrist, I gently folded up the watch and dropped it into my jacket pocket.

Later that day while I was sitting around a bar with friends, enjoying expensive cocktails and talking about who knows what, I couldn't help but have my mind keep wandering back to the watch. The old broken down digital time piece was now laying near the floor in the pocket of my jacket, and I had to physically resist the urge to bring it out. Eventually an opportunity presented itself, someone asked what the time was. Funny they should ask! I started telling the story as my arm snaked down blindly feeling about for the pocket. I told them about how the watch and I had survived so many mishaps and close calls, about how it had worked all these years until it inexplicable broke down just earlier that day. As I recounted the story I fumbled about, patting one pocket and then another, but its location eluded me.

Stopping the story short I stood up and pulled the jacket off of the back of my chair. My friends all stared at me, confused about my behaviour and the intensity of my search. I opened both front pockets and pulled them inside out, nothing. I checked the hidden inside pocket, the breast pockets, again they were bare except for my wallet and a receipt from the store earlier. Stumped, I leaned down and started looking along the floor. A couple of my friends did the same. Eventually there was nothing left to do except sit back down and bashfully pretend it didn't matter.

The conversation lurched on awkwardly, but we got back into the groove of it even as my mind continued to be distracted. I was sure I had put it directly into my pocket. I remembered feeling it go in and snapping the button shut afterwords. Still, it must have gotten out somehow because it wasn't there now.

That night as I left the bar and said bye to my human friends, I checked every nook and crevice in my garments with a fury, but came up empty as before. I walked home carefully retracing every step and scanned the ground for a shine of plastic or a strip of rubber. Before long I was back at the intersection where I had first checked the time and I knew it was lost. I stood there for a long moment doing nothing. With a sigh, I pushed it all out of my mind and started moving again, wondering all the while why it even mattered.

I walked slowly the rest of the way home without a clue what time it was or how long the trip took.

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