Men don’t wear jewelry. At least not the men I know. My father didn’t even wear a watch. In this day and age, you don’t really need to because you have your phone, but sometimes I wonder if he ever ran late because he had no idea what time it was. I think some people just don’t have to worry about time. In my life, I am constantly working to try to fit more and more into the little boxes that represent hours and minutes. I think I get “better” by cramming more into the space, as if compression is a good thing. I feel like life is just one big hourglass with sand running out and that if I don’t fit enough in that I will run out of sand and be left holding my hand out as my whole life recedes into the distance. I worry that my time will be suddenly cut short. I rush because I don’t want to miss anything. As a kid, I didn’t even want to sleep because it seemed like such a waste of time.
But there are a few places where I have been where time seems to be completely different. Travel seems to do that, it breaks patterns and in doing so lets us experience time in a completely different way. Whether it is the last week before a trip that seems to be gone in a flash or a long flight that carries you through a day, a night, a day erasing the numbers on the calendar and the hands marching around the clock face. Time can be fluid. In Angel Fire I met a woman who would not be rushed. She was a hotel owner and must have had to deal with clients and guests every day. At yet she moved at her pace, got things done eventually, and seemed to have never heard the word urgency. She was simultaneously infuriating and inspiring. What would it mean to refuse to be hurried along? To reject master time as it whips and yells and rudely insults?
But some men do wear jewelry and some men really, really love watches. Mostly I didn’t know anything about timekeeping. I guess I vaguely associated the Swiss with the craft. I went through the Swatch craze as a teenager. But, I didn’t realize the money and the culture around watches. When I got old enough, a friend in a bar told me to look not at the men’s clothes or shoes, but at their watch to truly gauge their wealth. We aren’t friends anymore. But I think of her sometimes because I have a good friend now who loves watches. And I still am as ignorant as ever. I have heard the explanations about how there is magic in how timekeeping happens. It must be a mix of science and art, one of those intersections that I can appreciate in theory but that my mind struggles to grasp. The art part I get, though I tend to want art to challenge me. A watch has yet to alter the way I think. But, to him it does that other thing that art does, it alters the way he feels. I don’t wear a watch primarily because I feel like it makes me feel leashed. Like there is time, sitting right there on my wrist. I can’t ignore it. It’s just ticking away. I could open my eyes and watch the seconds leak. Present. Oops, now past. The watch only moves in one direction. If I felt that it would surprise me someday I might feel more excited by it. But I fear it will only disappoint. Time is that way to me. I fear time moving too fast. My heart moves at the speed of glaciers. And more than anything time is final. You don’t get it back and so that makes it special and rare. I fight with time. We seem to disagree. Its persona is rich and exquisite. Its persona is cheap and disposable. My frustrated understanding cannot reconcile that it is both. Like these two loved one, my much-loved, busy father without any need for watches or time clocks, and a fragile boy who is ruled by the theme of time. Time is one way we describe, but there any other facets needed for a full picture. The man in the distance, is he singing to himself, half-forgotten melodies? The boy who just left the kitchen, did he put a still-warm cookie in his pocket, the scent lingering in his path? The face, how does it feel? The taste, can it be discerned? Yes, in a single moment it always can. And then time comes to steal it away. Time, a thief and my memory a sleepy nightshift guard.
This piece is part of the #52essays2017 challenge where I will share one essay a week in 2017. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out writer Vanessa Martir’s website and post about it.