Temporal Foil

A few days later and Alvin is stepping out of the office building where he works. The working day is over, as is the week, and he’s ready to head home. Before he does he spots Frank and Chris chatting so hurries over to them. He has news to give them. In his mind it is proof that something odd is going on. Something he believes he needs to find an answer too.

“Al, another day and week are done. Any plans for the weekend?” Chris queries with a broad smile once Alvin is within earshot. Chris always looks happy when it’s a Friday afternoon and the weekend is upon them. He doesn’t hate work. After all, there are far worse places to be employed. Yet there is nothing better than a weekend to relax and do with your time as you please. It’s why he really doesn’t get people who are married to their jobs. Frank certainly isn’t one of those and though Chris had concluded Alvin was it did turn out he’d been wrong. The mousy haired man certainly takes his work seriously, perhaps too much so, and puts in an incredible amount of work, but he’s never heard of Alvin dropping into the office at weekends or on days off. It was a positive thing to learn and Chris had dug deep to be sure.

“I have news.” Alvin’s announcement peaks both the curiosities of Frank and Chris. The shaven headed man raises an eyebrow and casts a look in Alvin’s direction while Chris’ smile manages to beam wider than it had previously. Neither man says a word as they wait with bated breath for whatever their co-worker has to announce. They certainly have no clue or inclination as to what it might be. In fact, both realise at that moment that they know very little in regards to what Alvin does during his off-time. He isn’t the sharing type, at least in terms of that aspect of his life anyway. His family, upbringing and all that yes he willingly shares, just not hobbies and so forth. Both men mark that as odd but very in-keeping with the man they know not as well as they had liked to think.

“My watch, it’s still doing it. Four days it’s lost two hours in the middle of the night. This has to mean something and I’m going to find out what it is.” The announcement isn’t as illuminating as Frank and Chris had been anticipating. It’s why Frank blinks slowly and Chris stands with his mouth hanging agape, a confused expression etched onto his face. Alvin is oblivious to the stunned looks of his colleagues as countless other employees who work in the same office as them float past heading for home whether it be via foot, public or personal transportation.

When next someone speaks it is Frank, “And the batteries?”

“They haven’t been changed. It isn’t the batteries, I tell you. I know this watch. Losing a couple hours at the same time every night is something it has never ever done.” Alvin assures without a hint of his excitement having been dented.

“When was the last time you had them replaced?” Chris queries with cautious curiosity. After all, he doesn’t want to put his foot in his mouth for what would be a second time this week. Once was more than enough.

“I replace them myself, but…. About five years ago.” Is the honest reply, including a elongating of the word but as he considered the duration before answering, that is offered in response.

“Five years! Yeah, it sounds like it really could be the batteries, Al.” Chris admits siding with Frank, carefully.

“No. It’s not. I swear. I know what this watch does when it needs new batteries.” Is the adamant and defensive reply from the mousy haired man.

“And that is?” Frank feels the need to ask. He doesn’t know why. To be honest this isn’t really a concern of his or Chris’. It just feels right to ask, as if this might be some sign that Alvin isn’t perhaps as OK as everyone likes to think or believe he is. At the end of the day, Alvin has never tried to hide the fact that he has OCD. He openly admits it. And not in a joking sort of way like most people do. He’s been diagnosed, by a medical professional. That is clearly why he’s so diligent at his job. It feeds into his OCD. His obsession with getting every little detail of every report not just correct but triple checked and cited. When Frank had learned that was the extent Alvin went to go get his reports done the shaven headed man had queried how his mousy haired co-worker managed to do it all in the time he’d be allotted for the reports issued to him. The truth? Well you had to see it to believe it and it was quite miraculous to behold. Had Frank not been put alongside Alvin he isn’t sure he ever would have believed the claims. Instead, he would have continued to assume the younger man with grey eyes did the work out of hours. He doesn’t. At least not from what Frank has seen anyway, because Alvin certainly doesn’t take it home with him. Unlike Frank and Chris he doesn’t walk around with a backpack or satchel. Yes the satchel is Chris; Frank doesn’t think one would suit him which is why he elects for a good old fashioned backpack, far larger than it needs to be.

“Well, what it does is it loses time periodically throughout the day. I mean minutes. After an hour it’ll be almost twenty minutes behind where it should be. Whenever that happens I change the batteries right away. I don’t want it going dead on me. I rely on this thing too much for that.” Alvin pats the gold faced watch on his left wrist as if it’s a childhood pet and he’s a young boy enamoured with caring for it. It’s as though the mousy haired man thinks if he doesn’t it’ll be lost forever. Of course it won’t but that is how it comes across to both Frank and Chris. It’s another reminder of Alvin’s OCD.

“And you have the gear for that?” Chris asks astonished not because so few people wear watches now, though that is true, but due to the fact that he has never heard of any watch wearers possessing the necessary equipment to change batteries themselves. In fact, he never considered that anyone, bar a watchmaker, would wish too and they only likely do so because it’s their occupation.

“Oh yeah… I’m not entrusting this watch into anyone else’s care. It stays with me. This way it won’t get damaged. It’s nearly a hundred years old after all and I’ve seen how some watchmakers treat items like this. It’s bad. Real bad.” Alvin shudders instinctively but the reaction adds conviction to his stated belief. Not that it’s difficult to tell he’s serious about what he’s claiming. The expression on his face and tone of his voice are proof enough of that.

“Soooooo… what’s the plan here Al?” Frank asks cautiously.

“Well, it stops at close enough to same time every night. Around three-ish…”

“How around the same time are we talking?” Is the question which slips from between Chris’ lips.

“Within about a couple minute span.” Alvin answers with a shrug that does nothing to put him off his pace. Right after he returns to and launches into his previously planned statement, “…and my plan is to stay up. Wait it out and see what happens. Then I’ll know why it’s losing a couple hours every night. There has to be a reason. I know there is. It isn’t the batteries. Something else is happening to make it lose time.”

“Based on?” Chris asks only to get a shake of the head from Frank. Sadly it’s too late. Chris has already issued his query.

The crowd around them is scant now. Many of the other office workers have since clambered into their cars, jumped onto buses or pounded down the concrete sidewalks heading for home, whether it be directly or to hop aboard one of the trains that roll through the nearby station.

“…the fact that I know this watch as well as I know myself, if not better.” Alvin’s tone is filled with conviction. He really believes what he is saying and without him becoming angry, heated, annoyed or severe. His voice having at no point risen above the volume it generally resides at whenever he speaks. If it had the responses from Frank and Chris might be different, defensive, but they are not. Instead, Frank nods and says, “Ok Al, have a good weekend and best of luck to you with finding your answers, yeah?”

Alvin nods furiously with a half smile across his lips leaving Chris to offer his concluding statement for this conversation. “Yeah, Frank’s right. Take it easy Al. Make sure you get sleep once you’ve got your answers.” Again the mousy haired man nods. His head movements aren’t as furious this time, though the expression on his face has not faltered one iota. And with that Chris and Frank depart leaving Alvin to gaze at the cloud encroaching blue sky. He whistles, turns and heads for the multi-storey across the street where his car is parked.

Meanwhile, Chris asks, “Frank, you think Al’s going to be alright?”

“Yeah, he’ll be good. He just needs an answer is all.” Frank assures. It won’t be long before he and Chris go their separate ways because Chris will be heading for the train station.

“And once he has them?”

Frank shrugs. No one but Alvin can say as to what answers will afford him. Hopefully it’ll be some much needed rest and the remainder of a weekend he does with whatever it is Alvin likes to do. Maybe it’s tinker with the watch that is his focus currently. Maybe it’ll be to focus on something else entirely. Frank hasn’t a clue. These are just thoughts that run through his head.

“Do you know what he does with his free time?” Chris asks following a short awkward silence.

“Not a clue. He’s never mentioned. It’s the one part of his life I know nothing about.”

“Don’t you think that’s odd?” Is the concerned question that next is uttered by Chris confirming without saying so that he too knows nothing about what their co-worker does when he’s not at the office working.

Frank shrugs and admits, “For some, perhaps. For Al, not so much. He shares what he wishes to share and keeps the rest to himself. In that way, he’s much like everybody else.” Frank looks to Chris whose brow is furrowed in deep consideration. The furrows ease when he concludes Frank might be right and with such a conclusion comes a nod of acceptance.

The pair moves the conversation on from Alvin and do not return to their co-worker before parting and going their separate ways, wishing the other a good couple days rest as well as giving assurances that they will see each other Monday morning when the new working week begins.

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