I don’t understand why the boy wears two watches. Plus, they look really expensive. I just don’t get it. I myself can’t hold onto watches. I buy them and forget to take them off, which means when I shower or swim- both of which I do quite often- they get destroyed. I had a watch for two days once before I looked down in the middle of a breast stroke and saw the inner face fog up. I cursed under water and bubbles of regret rose to the surface. I’ve never been good with watches and now this child, as he is only about twelve years old, comes into my pottery studio with two watches on his wrist. One, I’m quite sure, is a Rolex.
“Is that a Rolex?” I ask.
The child looks at his wrist as if he’s surprised to find the watch there. “Why yes,” he replies. “Yes, it is.”
It looks like an Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea, but I’m no expert in watches. I lose them a lot, so I normally stick to the cheaper brands, the kind you find in plastic packaging on racks that spin, surrounded by belts and wallets. I once bought an Armitron Men’s Digital Sports watch from a rack at Target. It was black and set me back twenty-five dollars. The checkout girl, whose name was Tabitha, told me it was a nice watch. I think she was flirting with me, but she had bad acne and her breath smelled like pizza, and this was from across the counter. I smiled back.
I broke the watch two weeks later when I was saving a dog from a river. He’d gotten his rear leg wrapped around an old string of fishing line. I smashed the face of the watch on a granite boulder about the size of a football, but the dog survived. He was lucky, and by lucky I mean his name was Lucky and he was lucky he didn’t get his dog lungs filled with water from the Southwest river and die, a bloated canine body floating down stream to the next county. I don’t even know whose dog it was. It doesn’t matter. I like dogs.
The boy has two watches on and one of them is the Rolex. The other one is a Hublot King Power F1 Great Britain, with a satin-finish 18 karat gold case. Although I’m not quite sure, because, as I said, I’m no expert on watches. The watch costs over twenty grand. I’m pretty sure of this, but if you doubt me you can look it up on the Internet. I tell the child this.
“That’s a twenty-thousand-dollar watch,” I say. I tap the glass face with my finger. It feels cold, like ice or diamond.
“I got it used,” he says. “I think it was cheaper than that.”
“You bought it?” I ask. Like I said, he couldn’t have been more than twelve years old.
“I don’t know,” he mumbles and looks behind me, out the front window. “My dad
I doubt his dad paid full price for that Hublot, that’s for sure. I ask him how much he paid for the Rolex and he says he has no idea. I don’t believe him. His eyes keep shifting and his hand, the one whose wrist isn’t clad in thousands of dollars worth of time keepers, keeps reaching for the things on my desk, by the register. I know he is doing this and I shift my swivel chair to divert him. I still don’t know why he has both watches on. It’s a mystery to me.
I had a Merona Croco watch once. It lasted three weeks. I was skin-diving off the Gloucester coast, hoping to find some William and Mary guineas, English coins minted between 1689 and 1694, buried in the sediment. The first colonists were known to carry them and this being the banks of the mighty James River, I felt I had as good an opportunity to locate them as any. My mask and snorkel, however, were quite old, and I’m not sure what fogged up first, but when I came up after my first dive, after taking off my mask, I realized that I had just ruined my watch. I didn’t find any coins that day, but I wasn’t disappointed, because sometimes it’s just nice to take a dip on a hot day, and this day was particularly hot, as it was the middle of August and I couldn’t get out there until the afternoon, because my mother had wrecked the car when she had another mini-stroke and I had to meet her at the emergency room. The doctors told her she shouldn’t be driving with a brain tumor the size of a golf ball, but my mother was a stubborn woman. Anyway, I never found the coins, and the interesting thing is that these coins were minted at the Royal Mint in Wales, which is where the English still mint their money. I don’t know much about the English, but that strikes me as admirably consistent.
The child is here for the two o’clock pottery painting class. The studio is called Color Me Mine and is filled with unpainted, unfired clay pots and mugs. Students, for a small fee, can pick any of these and paint them themselves and then we put them in the kiln and fire them. These are expensive watches to have around a bunch of paint.
“Those are expensive watches to have around a bunch of paint,” I say, pointing at the wall of paint cans in the back, near the long tables and benches covered in old newspaper.
The boy looks at me, down at his watches, back at the paint cans and the table and benches, and shrugs. He doesn’t care. And if he doesn’t care, I don’t care either. That’s just the way it is.
“Oh, well. Pick a piece and go back there and I’ll get you started.”
Truth be told, my mother didn’t really wreck the car. She had the stroke just at the end of the block and drove into the neighbor’s mailbox, but the curb itself stopped her from going any further. Apparently, she laid on the horn until someone ran out and called 911.
I was at home watching Paula Zahn on CNN. I think Paula Zahn should be dead by now,but I don’t know. I’m not an expert on news anchors. Anyway, this was only six months after my own accident, which is why I was living at home with my mother. I would tell you what time it was, and it was morning, but I didn’t have a watch so I don’t know. It could have been eight. It could have been eleven. But really, time is never that important, in the grand scheme of things. What’s going to happen is going to happen, no matter what time it is.
The boy picks out his mug and claims his place at the table, so I walk over to get him started. The light coming from the window dances across the faces of his watches and reflects on the cans of paint. I can see the bead of light cross the shades of green, yellow, all of the reds and oranges. If I was a cat I would chase it, but I’m not a cat, and I’m not particularly fond of cats, either. So I don’t chase the light. For a moment I stare at it, and I think the boy does too, but I can’t be so sure. I give him brushes and a pallet and tell him he can feel free to do whatever he wants. There’s normally a limit. Customers can’t just paint willy-nilly, but today I don’t care. I don’t know why. I turn to walk away, but I spy the light dancing across the cans again and I turn back.
“Why do you wear two watches?”
The boy looks up at me. At first, I think he’ll shrug his shoulders again, but he takes a deep sigh, like an old man, and shakes his head.
“I just like to be careful, I guess,” he says. He holds out his arm and admires his watches. I’m not sure what he means by being careful, as if punctuality has any bearing on circumstance, one way or the other, because it doesn’t. I think it’s a lazy answer, but I believe him. I nod my head in agreement and walk back to the register.
The nicest watch I ever owned was a Casio G-Shock GA110HC-1A. These are shock
resistant watches, hence the name “G-Shock”. You could lay a Casio G-Shock GA110HC-1A watch on the driveway and beat it with an aluminum baseball bat and it still wouldn’t break, although the wristband might come loose, or you might bend the metal clasp that holds the band together. You could invite your friends over to drink beer and have them whack it with the bat as well, just to make sure your experiment is scientifically sound, and you’d see that it still wouldn’t break. You could even place it behind the tires of a 1976 Toyota Corolla, the one that you and your friend put the lift kit on and installed a killer car stereo in when you lived in your own apartment. And then you can back that car over the watch, and it still wouldn’t break. You’d realize by then that you are dealing with an amazing watch. Then you and your buddies could sit on the back porch, drinking beer, throwing rocks into the river that flows majestically in the back, like a proper leather band, the kind that Formula One drivers would wear on their twenty thousand dollar Hulbots, indestructible and awe-inspiring. And at the end of the night, you could strap the Casio G-Shock back onto your wrist and drive the Corolla on the Colonial Parkway and swerve to avoid hitting a deer, sending the car careening over a metal guardrail down a ten foot ravine, until you are wrapped around a sugar maple like a hunk of clay, the kind of red clay you shape into coffee mugs and ashtrays. And when you look beside you, the world would be upside down. There would be red and orange and yellow and green leaves floating past the cracked windshield like shrapnel. They would gather in the interior, under your feet, beneath your fingernails, mixed in with the blood flowing from your forehead. Your friend’s eyes would look at you as if they were empty, as if the time had been sucked right out of them, and all you’d hear is the tick tick tick of your Casio G-Shock and the sound of the wind whipping through the open windows, and you’d wish you had driven slower and had one less drink. But there’s nothing you can do. You can’t turn back time, no matter how bad you want to. And that’s the saddest thing of all.
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