I’d had an idea swimming in my head for over a year about a man who a watch could be set by, comedically so. That he is up at 6:33 every morning, into the shower four-and-a-half minutes later taking no more than a six minute and no less than a seven minute shower, whilst afterward spending thirty-seven seconds brushing his teeth, twenty seconds combing his hair, ten seconds on deodorant (each arm, a total of twenty-four seconds with a two second allowance to switch the deodorant from right to left hands, uncap and also recap and remove and replace from the shelf) intrigued me greatly.
The man who never got so far as to have a name, though I imagined it obnoxious, ending with a hard consanant, a last name like Bach or Rausch or Funk, would be the direct opposite of myself and quite difficult to take seriously. But, I would try to place myself inside him, in his voice and in his reasoning. Sadly, there was nothing of substance to pair with him — make him late for a meeting, drive him crazy in a sort of Falling Down scenario or something equaly terse for his psyche and see how he recovers felt bland.
Until this evening, when I stood for the train, and heard an unexpected voice behind me.
“Hey. Hey. HEY. Got a minute?”
At his voice, a woosh filled my brain and no, I did not have a minute. And neither did Fran Funk or Dickie Rausch or whatever the fuck the man who only could dwell previously in moments, clips and exaggerated breaths before disappearing into the cataclysm of thoughts once more. I thought of the absurdity of a man who in fact did not have a minute because his life was so scripted, so devoid of any true realism that he’d absorbed himself into this ritual of time, blaming precious seconds that could escape when he could, in fact spare a minute though he was completely incapable.
And then I thought of how vile it would be if not only was he inconvenienced but for a moment, but for a series of moments. In this next second, he gained a wife who he’d loved, who he’d scheduled time for. He’d gained co-workers who’d genuinely liked him because he truly was a hard worker, an excellent scheduler but quirky as could be. There were no children though — no time, see.
I imagined him looking, waiting for the same train and when he didn’t see the light heading down the tunnel, he looked at his watch. He turned to say “Sure, pal. What can I do for you?” Except as he turned, there was nothing.
Time slipped away in an instant. He heard the hit and saw himself fall before he felt it, his body slipping in slow motion. Only few and precious flashes punctuating the darkness that seemed just a few hours but was in fact weeks flittered in — a news story about the frantic search for the man who was always on time. His credit cards untouched, his car parked in the same spot it always was, waiting for the train at the station where he always parked. A pain, searing on his back. A pain in his arms and face. A near constant sound of lightly pounding flesh and a rocking sensation as if he were a boat, the fulcrum somewhere in his hips. A taste of delicious red sauce, a rare treat though so delicious he could not take his mind off the taste. Hearing the amplified sound of his wife’s tears on a national TV program and the laughter that followed soon after.
My train arrived and I received a text from my wife. “Started rice for dinner.” And just as quickly as the phone vibrated, my mind focused less on that dirty, nasty, terrible place deep inside me before Dickie or Fran or Fonny or Marc (with a C, not a K because the C makes him an ass) or Geoff (instead of a J because the Geo makes you an asshole, too) had something happen to him.
He’s there though. Waiting. Waiting for me to let him be discovered and tell the third part of his story. I don’t wish to dwell on the second, and I think if I don’t, the story makes for something better. In fact — the paragraph above may be perfect — that since he knows nothing, his second act into where he loses his precious time should be short, should be punctuated by something sinister creeping at the very back of it. Wondering if the wife was tired of the constant punctuality, wondering if a co-worker had enough of being shown up in the face of Dickie or Fran or Fonny or Marc or Geoff’s constant need to be constant and concise.
Until then, I lay this here at my feet as a prompt to finish.
Come what may.