At the subway station a man was talking to himself about the inaccuracy of time relative to his inability to do what he wanted to do and be where he needed to be in order to meet his deadlines. He had overslept. His alarm clock failing once again to do its job. His office assistants were failing to assist him too, operating at a saturnine speed of inefficiency. And thanks to them he would be unprepared for an important client who was scheduled to meet with him in less than an hour. A meeting which, in all probability, he would miss—arriving too late. Delayed. As was the train! What a surprise! With a sideward glance he informed a woman standing beside him of this delay, but she seemed unconcerned, reading her newspaper, turning a page. Actions meant to annoy him? Prior to stunning his senses. Her resemblance to his wife (who had died prematurely from a genetic heart defect one year to the day) was alarming. Nearly stopping his heart. He became lost in thought, recalling how his wife had kept him waiting. Applying makeup or sipping her coffee. Before tempering his impatience with a fey smile and a slow playful pout – getting him to laugh. He detected a gap of missing time. He examined the two large clocks in view. Both facing each other on opposite walls, an institutional monstrosity with bleak hands pointing to roman numerals, the other clock delineating time with graphic strokes of neon to symbolize hour and minute as if from some futuristic diner. The digitized gadgetry on his wrist was equipped with multiple dials and beepers and international times for New York, London, and Hong Kong – confusing him further. He pulled from his coat a handheld device, poking his digital assistant – confirming he was late, and offering no relief despite its impressive GPS satellite tracking skills linked to atomic clocks precise to within a billionth of a second. He glanced at the woman’s arm. Excuse me, he said, Your watch, is it slow? Her lack of response made him wonder if she was deaf or merely rude, so he tapped her shoulder. Excuse me, your watch? Yes? She looked not at him but at the crystal face. He tapped his own, the product of an elite manufacturer who guaranteed its accuracy for years – inquiring: Our times appear to differ. Is yours correct? He was only being polite, having discerned already her watch to be an inferior make, judging by its gaudy design and plastic casing. Yes, she told him. Her tone was unnerving and pragmatic. Said with such conviction. When it was obvious her time conflicted with all the other clocks, he indicated, suggesting she look herself. Instead she spread open her newspaper and continued to read. He bit down upon his lip, flummoxed by her unwillingness to grant a second to see his point of view. Perhaps from where she was born (some distant, denser planet, he mused) it was customary to move at slower speeds – minus twenty-one minutes to be precise. Assuming he could trust the precision of time or the reliability of any mechanism to perform accurately. He could not, nor could he trust his senses. This woman’s likeness to his late wife was unsettling. Enigmatic. Making him nervous. But why? Reliable sources had informed him women considered him to be attractive. And he supposed – viewed from a certain angle, if the lighting was right – he was attractive. But timing was everything. Curious too. Because if she had had the correct time, and he had not been trying to make up for the loss of time, neither of them would be standing at this exact moment in time. He knew the notion to be preposterous the instant he thought it. But were they destined to meet? If so, it was an opportunity rapidly ticking away. Desperately he tried to think of a subject to engage her interest. But only time, its passage, came to mind. Excuse me, he ventured, are you quite certain—But his question was cut off by the blast of a train whistle. He moved aside, allowing her to enter first through the electronic doors. Yes, she replied, turning her head with the hint of a smile. He was drawn to follow and did, seating himself across the aisle from her. When she smiled again with her eyes lingering this time and her lips pursing playfully, he forgot where he was and where it was he had been in such a hurry to be. His heart was pounding audibly and yet soothed by a serenity seen within her eyes as they entered a tunnel together. The wheels clacking over tracks and rocking them melodically back and forth, he could think of only one question to ask. Yes: Is that the only word you know?

Excerpt from Light-Years in the Dark: StoryPoems (see more)

photo-art design by todd crawshaw