Fiction

How to Tell Time

For some time now I’ve lost track of the days. The weeks pass by in a blur, like when you’re riding a train and you see the landscape out the window. Read More

For some time now I’ve lost track of the days. The weeks pass by in a blur, like when you’re riding a train and you see the landscape out the window. Everything keeps passing before your eyes and you can’t yell at the conductor to stop. You can’t say, “I didn’t get to see what we left behind!” Chances are, you won’t even remember what you left behind.

When I moved into my new apartment, I threw every unsorted thing in a small closet under the staircase. Boxes I didn’t want to deal with, old jackets and clothes, knick knacks, and decorations. All the things that I thought were useless to me, but I was too lazy to get rid of. I decided it was finally time to stop saying “I’ll sort it out tomorrow.” Since I’d been telling myself that for the past six months. As I was cleaning, I eventually uncovered a box with trinkets from childhood. Lost memories I had left behind. Photos of friends, certificates of school achievements, old birthday cards. There was photo was of me, ten years ago in high school, sitting with my two best friends. We had sworn we would never lose contact with each other. We didn’t, we still talk to this day, but it’s spaced out now, and maybe once in a few months we reach out to one another, to remind each other we exist. Yet, I don’t remember where we were in this photo. A party, I think. But who’s? We look so happy, normally I look awful in pictures, but I didn’t mind this one. For a few seconds I felt lost in the photo, angry that I couldn’t remember where it was taken. That smiling face probably never imagined time would fragment the memory. Back then, I probably had so many moments that I thought would remain in my memory. I can’t even begin to think about all the things I said I’d never forget. After rummaging through more junk, I uncovered an old silver wristwatch. My father’s.

A strange wave of dizzying nostalgia overtook me. Memories that were buried had been dug up and brought to the forefront of my mind. Tell me, how long were you buried, waiting to be found? I remember him, yes clearly. I remember the day. With burly arms, wide shoulders, and a softly stern face, my father descended the staircase with a small, black box in hand. It must have been the evening, moments before dusk set. Memory has kept intact the small kitchen of my childhood. Golden sunlight, getting ready to fade, shined through the window, splashing light on the brown, wooden table, now slightly yellowish. Shadows began to creep in the kitchen with the final gasping moments of the day’s natural glow. I sat at the table, legs swinging in the air because I was still too small for my feet to touch the ground. A concert of crickets had begun its overture outside in the garden. The world outside my window was yellowing, becoming gold, twilight had arrived. With box in hand, my father stood at the edge of the hallway that served as the bridge to the kitchen. I think he looked tired, but I remember a small smile. In those waning days, there still was a smile. The cancer had weakened him and robbed his head of hair, but in this moment, it had not yet killed him, he still stood as resolute as memory can piece together. If memory stopped there, and preserved the image of that man, weak and resolute greeting me with quiet courage and warmth—no let memory stop here. Let me remember the strength in weakness that I could not comprehend at six. He sat down and placed the box in front of me. He gently opened the lid, and there gleamed a silver wristwatch.

“It won’t fit your wrist yet.” He chuckled. “But one day you’ll be able to wear this watch. Your grandfather gave it to me when I was a boy. And now, it’s yours.” My father handed me his wristwatch, “Here’s how to tell time.” He said with a smile.

I sat in awe, watching him manipulate the hands on the watch with a knob. I thought my father had the power to control time, and that he was revealing to me the secrets of it in our kitchen. Until then, I had no concept of the days, let alone the hours, minutes, and seconds. Now I am painfully aware of each day that passes. Years that felt stretched out now feel as if time compressed.

I placed the wristwatch back in the box. Perhaps it can be fixed and keep track of time again. The past always gets further away, as we lose precious treasures that we thought we could cling to forever. Yet not everything is lost. I don’t have many images of my father before the cancer. Most of what remains intact are of his diminishing days. Pale, flickering lights in hospitals. A man dying in front of me day by day. How has twenty years gone by? Time will continue to march on into eternity, leaving us behind. Yet, even as each moment continues to slip away, there in that kitchen, held together by memory, my father will forever remain, smiling as dusk descended upon the world. Immemorial.

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