Thursday, 26 September 2013

Time's Keeper

I used to live on the wrist of a jovial salesman; a man with the gift of the gab who liked his liquor and sweets. He charmed the birds out of the trees and navigated wild seas when he made sales trips to the Isle of Wright. He loved the sea and so was pleased to wear me on his wrist: an Omega Automatic Sea Master. During work or in church I was hidden under the cuff of a shirt or a suit jacket sleeve, but on other days I was in view on his wrist. We were constant companions: I kept steady time and he spent it. My hands kept the hours, minutes and seconds ticking so he could live and be, and oh what a life I was privileged to see!
I was a gift in '77, marking a new passage of time for my new owner; he was leaving his current home to live by the sea. His wife, ambivalent about the sea, was not best pleased; the sea air always affected her, but with a daughter married and a son in his 20s, the time was ripe to commence their middle life and move to a new Dutch barn-style house. Being a Sea Master, I was overjoyed to have been given to a hardy, seaworthy captain. When I was first strapped to his wrist I knew that here was a man not made for the land, but made for water: he was calm seas with a little choppiness under the surface. His emotions, which didn't often brim except to classic music, were like the tide: rough and smooth, and his wise words were brewed with humour. He was built like an immovable boulder with thick hair the colour of sea spray, which magnified his ruddy complexion. Altogether, he was a well-weathered sea-dog; a fair man who was liked by his contemporaries: his colleagues, business associates, and drinking buddies.
His wife was witty, vivacious, and the quintessential home-maker: she cooked, baked, sewed, and made countless cups of tea for unannounced friends and expected family. Together, they made the perfect host and hostess, despite the bickering that dominated their married life. She was like a rare, entertaining bird, who broke into song and dance at appropriate and inappropriate moments, and laughed and exclaimed at everything. It so happened she wore a gold bracelet watch who, despite the difference in our years – she was older than me – became my lady friend. Like her wearer, she appeared delicate, but had a surprising robustness. On rare occasions when we were both unclasped from our owner's wrists, we would be twinned together, our straps and clock faces laid down side by side, almost touching each other, but usually we had our own separate resting places. In sleep, we matched our ticks to our owners' breaths and called out to one another.
However, if too much time was spent at home I hankered for the sea, as did my master. His daily constitution was to promenade with his Labrador on the sand or shingle, even when there were gusty winds and thundering waves. There was nothing he enjoyed better than tasting salt or feeling wave-spit in the air, which in a short-sleeved cotton shirt he found invigorating. We were the same: him and I, but even a storm was no match for his jaunts to the Isle of Wight: the ferry bobbing across the sea and the Islanders hospitality. For a decade or more, it was part of his sales territory, a business necessity but also a pleasure, and when retirement came this feeling remained and so he still made trips from the mainland. Our wives understanding us allowed us to be free.
But good times do not last and along with our owners, we aged. I slowed down more often, as did the mechanics of my owner, until the day came to pass when we both stopped, and on this occasion we were not in tune with each other. Worn by him, I had a place, a function, but now I'm a corpse of time: a dead wrist watch.