Telling Time

In the late afternoon on Friday, October 7, I relinquished my watch to a jeweler on Chapel Street.

I can’t tell you the precise time this occurred.

My watch had been ailing for days, maybe the better part of two weeks. First, it was five minutes behind. Then ten. Then forty. Then it stopped. Then it would tick again and I’d wind the dial so the second and minute hands rested at the correct distance from each other. Then it would stop, again, but I’d wear it anyway, hoping that it would revive during the day when it got some sunlight and some fresh air and that I’d look down when I needed it and the hands would be moving again like they were supposed to.

I’d sit down to dinner in the dining hall and find myself telling everyone about my watch.

“So, how’s your week?” asked my long-unseen friends. “How have you been?”

My fork would clink against my plate. I would dig into roasted cauliflower or tofu fried rice or pan-seared salmon with mango salsa.

“Good! Good. I need to get my watch fixed, though. Every time I look down it’s more behind.”

“Oh, yeah—hm. That must be so annoying!”

You know the phrase, “You are what you eat?” Rewrite. You are what you say while you eat. My watch was the bland, vicissitudinous spoonful I fed my suitemates.

On Tuesday, October 11, after my film lecture, I returned to the jeweler on Chapel Street. The lecture ends at 2:20 p.m. It couldn’t have been long after that.

The woman behind the counter asked for the ticket they’d given me on my first visit. I couldn’t find it in my backpack, and all seemed lost.

But she said I could give her my name, which I eagerly did. She disappeared into the back, reemerged with a crisp, yellow manila envelope, and asked to see my identification. Satisfied, she unveiled my watch, the band neatly coiled. It was pulsing gorgeously.

I was reunited with my watch at 2:32 p.m., according to the receipt.

“Would you like to wear it out?” the woman asked.

“Oh yes, I would,” I said.

Is knowing the time all the time so important? If it is, why did days grow into the better part of two weeks before I relinquished a time-teller that couldn’t tell me the time? I mean before I got it diagnosed. Cured. Fixed?

My watch’s constant tempo gives regular rhythm to inconstant days. Its band wraps around my wrist and beats with a pulse where I can feel my own. It’s the living, moving machine I choose to wear with me from day’s start to day’s end.

Maybe it took me so long to part with my watch because it’s really a small part of me. Maybe I had known all along that I would miss it. I had been a negligent owner, really. Maybe that’s why it was the conversational morsel I gave others to digest.

Or maybe I need to stop worrying about my watch and find something else to talk about.

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