the air on the back of her neck felt cold. she shrugged deeper into her light winter coat -a winter coat in spring. hmph. she used to wear a watch, but that had been years ago. she could barely remember those days, but she remembered her last and favorite watch. she still had it too, but she would never wear it again.
“I’m looking forward to the watch my brother is planning to give me,” he commented, “but I’d rather have the bike.”
“yeah,” she responded, “seems much more useful.” but she wasn’t thinking about watches, or bikes either -she was wondering what would happen if you could really stop the time, the way cell phones had stopped watches and watches had stopped sundials and no one looked up at the sun anymore. she could actually tell the time, though, just by looking up at the sun. she couldn’t tell direction to save her life, but the time she could always tell (as long as the sun was shining) -and she was proud of that fact, though it was a secret she rarely shared.
she wondered about that too -secrets, that is. just because something wasn’t shared, did that automatically make it a secret? couldn’t someone be private without being secretive? for some reason, thinking the word “secretive” made her think of Templeton, the little mouse from Charlotte’s Web, staring back at her, as though frozen momentarily when caught in the act of hoarding something. the notion amused her and she chuckled.
he looked at her, curious, but she shrugged and said nothing. the inner workings of her mind were not his to have.
whenever he was with her, he knew things were slipping away, every day in fact. he wondered if there was a way to hold on.
“do you want to see the watch when I get it?” he asked her.
“sure,” she said, noncommittal. she didn’t really know where he’d be when he got it, and he didn’t either, except they wouldn’t be together -and they both knew that. it startled her to realize that she wouldn’t know him next year. she might be sitting on this very same bench (doubtful), but it wouldn’t be with him. something about knowing that made her feel... she didn’t know. pleasure always seemed to be mixed with pain for her.
he caressed the watch in his hand that his brother had given him. the steel felt silky, cool where it did not touch and warm where it did. he was like Gollum with his ring of power, only all the watch did was tell time. and look good on his wrist.
he suddenly remembered, rather randomly, the conversation he’d had with her about the watch that day on the bench. it had been an unseasonably cool day. he’d been wearing a button down with an argyle sweater; she’d been wearing her rather ridiculous black coat with no belt (why no belt?). she hadn’t been too enthusiastic about the watch, but she was so practical, of course she’d preferred the bike, the bike he still did not have. he kind of wanted that bike.
he closed his eyes.
“why did your brother get you a watch when you really wanted a bike?” she asked him.
“I want both, actually,” he answered her. he opened his eyes, startled to find her there, asking about the watch.
she shrugged. “well, it’s a nice watch.”
he looked around, confused. the air was cool, the way it had been the last time he’d seen her. how long ago had that been? he couldn’t really remember, but there she was now, quite unexpectedly. had they had plans to meet back on this bench?
“how did I get here?” he asked, calmly, but inside, he was tumultuous.
“I don’t know.” she gave him an odd look. “I guess you walked? Didn’t you say you took the bus?”
“uh... how long have we been here?”
“you’re the one with the watch,” she yawned, “I don’t know. long enough for me to feel cold. shouldn’t we be walking now? I’m hungry; let’s go.”
she stood up and waited for him, but he didn’t move. he felt a momentary paralysis brought on by his confusion. he was back in the day when they’d met in the park and then had dinner together (all she’d had was garlic mashed potatoes; all he’d had was roasted asparagus; so, between the two of them, an almost incomplete meal). the day was as he thought he remembered, but it wasn’t, because now he had the watch. and their conversation was not the same. was she the same? he looked up at her, trying to see the differences, but she held onto her mystery, as she always did. always had, he corrected himself. he tucked his hands in his pockets and walked away with her.