Back in 7th grade my best friend and I were deep in the business of discovering girls. We dove into the social maelstrom that was the late 1960s lovefest with our eyes on being liked and liking back.
Part of our allure, in our eyes at least, was how good we could be in sports. Fortunately I was very good at sports. But somehow that connection did not always fulfill the promise of female adoration as I might have liked. You also had to know how to talk to girls. That was a skill to be learned as well.
Time out of mind
Of course there were moments when actions spoke louder than words. Like the time I sank a last second shot in the 7th grade basketball championship to win the game. That got me lots of girl attention. There is a Polaroid from that day, a washed out picture of me warming up for that game that my father took. The picture is so washed out there is no one on earth that would recognize me in that photo but me. Why do we keep such things?
Because they are strange little records of our existence. Not long after that photo was taken my father announced to our family that we would be moving to Illinois. My best friend and I were devastated. He’d previously moved way for a year or so during his family’s difficult passage through divorce. He went to live with his father in Florida and that changed my friend in ways I could not have anticipated. He came back with a cynical side that I had not known before. He used it to protect himself socially. It also changed our friendship from open and innocent to something more calculated and cautious.
Yet we continued sharing our deepest secrets on many fronts. That included talking about the girls we were dating. He was one of the most popular and good-looking kids in class. I was also popular. Perhaps not as good looking.
But he had three sisters. That helped him understand that girls were real human beings. To me they were beautiful Martians. I struggled to understand them.
Time to compete
My friend’s relationship patterns were intense as a result of his knowledge of women. He knew they could be manipulative as well as sweet. One of his 7th grade girlfriends was playing him against another competing for her attention and this drove my friend insane. He took to a Guess Who song as a salve for his damaged ego…
No time for a summer friend
No time for the love you send
Seasons change and so did I
You need not wonder why
You need not wonder why
There’s no time left for you
No time left for you
And then I told him I would be moving away. We sat together on the elevated tee on the 13th hole of the golf course where we lived and cried together. He turned to me and said, “Why does everything I love have to leave me?”
That hurt to hear. I was hurting myself and it hurt me to think I was hurting him by leaving. We’d grown up from the age of 5 to the age of 12 together. Those are intense years. The years upon which a lifetime of memories are built. Adolescence too. Time is the measure of our pain in this world, or else pain is the measure of our time.
Time to go away
When our family moved away from town, the kids in our 7th grade gathered some money to buy me gifts. There were two albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be from the Beatles. And there was a watch.
Sure, I’d borrowed my father’s watch to time myself running as a little kid. Yet I had never owned my own watch before. Suddenly time had very real significance. Having a watch on my wrist was like touching time, and it hurt somehow.
Since then there have been watches of many brands and kinds. Late in my teens I started purchasing digital watches for use in running. There were Casios and all those off-brand watches that looked like time contraptions.
And then I got my first Timex. I’ve owned many since. They run without question for years usually. Then they either get so beat up they’re an embarrassment to wear or one of the critical buttons eventually wears out. Those get thrown in a drawer where they beep away for years like a pitiful voice from the Land of Long Lost Toys. I know. Sad, isn’t it?
Time to fix
But just try to replace a battery in a Timex watch sometime. As they’ve evolved in their waterproofing technology the ability to flip the back off a Timex and replace the battery yourself has disappeared. There are these tiny screws that require a jeweler’s touch to remove.
I’ve tried doing that myself and by the time I get the back off I’ve accidentally dinged one of the parts and the whole watch is doomed at that point. That’s why I have a small collection of useless Timex watches in my bedroom drawer. Some are still talking to me. They go off at 5:40 or whatever time I long ago set to wake me up for workouts or work.
My girlfriend has an Ironman Timex watch she uses for training. (So do I. She bought it for me two Christmases ago.) She also has a discarded Timex that still beeps at 5:35. Then my watch goes off at 5:45. Then her actual watch goes off sometime later. Then her alarm rings as well. It’s like a chorus of Timex and time awakenings. A battle-fatigued soldier could not sleep through all of that beeping, ringing and noise.
Did I not mention that we also have iPhones? These also have alarms. That means it’s like running the time gauntlet every time we cash out from training and wake up to swim, run or ride. In the morning it’s like a flock of addle-headed birds going off.
Does anybody really know what time it is?
With so much dinging and tweeting and beeping there’s almost no time to consider what time it really is. Or what time really means.
All those years of wearing Timex watches on my wrist has taught me a few things about the significance of time. How you remember some moments more than others. Why other moments drift away. All of time is lost to the past unless this happens, this recollection. Our personal histories, and history that seems to matter to all humankind. Time.
Best and worst
Those watches have seen me at my best and worst. They have thrilled me when the splits in an interval or a race match up to expectations. They have tortured me when the day or event is not going so well.
That’s why I called Fox Jewelers in Geneva. They’re a locally owned shop that has solved all kinds of jewelry problems over the years. “Can you replace the battery on a Timex Ironman watch?” I asked.
“Sure,” he told me. “We do that all the time.”
What a perfect answer. We do that all the time.
We do that all the time.