Temporal Foil

That night, late, Alvin is sat at his desk in his apartment. He owns a sofa but rarely sits on it, unless he has visitors, which in itself is rare. When he does it’s generally been family, chiefly his parents. Though, they are yet to visit this apartment of his. He’s lived in it for a little over seven months and continues to be surrounded by stacks of boxes. He lives out of them. Unpacking has not been high up on his priority list. At least past getting a place to sleep, his work station all configured and a living space to entertain if anyone was to come for a visit. The last time that happened was one of his cousins about nine weeks ago. She was passing through and needed a place to crash due to her flight being delayed eleven hours. Alvin had offered and given her his bed. He didn’t need it as she was only staying through the Saturday night. Still, he spent most of his Sunday asleep after she’d departed; thanking him with a hug but telling him his apartment needs a woman’s touch. Alvin still doesn’t know what she meant by that and truthfully is enjoying being single after he broke up with his last girlfriend, Tatiana. Even living out of boxes is quite nice in many ways because the majority of things are carefully sorted into boxes and neatly packed away stacked atop one another.

The mousy haired man would be remiss if he did not admit that he’s struggling to stay awake following a busy work day that saw him wake at five in the morning and with it now being one o’clock Saturday morning. Nevertheless he perseveres because he really wants to find out what is the cause of his watch losing two hours at roughly the same time every night. There has, in his mind, to be an explanation for it. It isn’t the batteries. He knows that for a fact. Frank and Chris might not have believed him but they don’t know this watch like he does. No one does, except his dad.

Following his cancer remission Alvin had offered to return the watch to him. His dad had refused; assured that the watch could be in no more capable and deserving hands than Alvin’s. He’d said all of that whilst laid up in bed and it had almost brought Alvin to tears. Not as close as when the thirty year old had feared losing his father was an inevitability following the diagnosis, but a great deal closer than the man could remember to being to tears since the death of his grandfather. Yet, Alvin had only been seven when his grandfather had passed. He’d had a tendency to call him Grandy, he doesn’t know why but as an adult felt it was wrong to do so.

The video on the bright monitor serving as one of only two separate sources of illumination for the small box room comes to an end. In its place is a raft of video thumbnails bearing some apparent link to the one that’s just come to a close. Alvin ignores them all and returns to the websites home screen. He rarely picks a video based on what is suggested to him. He has his favourites, his wants, his needs and long since concluded that suggested is so rarely to his tastes that it isn’t worth indulging in the risk of being disappointed by an algorithm which seems completely incapable of catering to his interests. He isn’t surprised. Very few things or people have ever really been capable of working out what drives Alvin. It certainly isn’t money, or possessions, people. In fact, even Alvin isn’t sure why he does what he does, other than to say that it’s because he enjoys it. And if his enjoyment for something fades, he moves on to other things. It isn’t a frequent occurrence but has transpired a few times throughout his life. Truthfully, one of the only constants has been his interest in mechanisms. They fascinate him, which is why his mother, Belle, always tried to encourage him into pursuing it. Yet, he had held no wish to. Work was precisely that, work. It was not something that he felt you should turn a hobby into. Mainly due to a fear that in doing so he might grow bored or disinterested in it, as a result. Still, he’s worked the same report fabricating job for seven years and is yet to get bored of that so perhaps, he realises now, his mother did have a point. He shrugs knowing that it matters little now for he has an occupation and it suits him well enough.

Scrolling absentmindedly through the reams of thumbnails searching for something of interest that he hasn’t already viewed but that are from the channels he enjoys it quickly becomes apparent that there isn’t much new for him to watch. Alvin considers rewatching an old favourite. It doesn’t take long before he settles on not being in the mood for such a thing. After all, he’s trying to stay awake, which he doubts a rewatch of something would be conducive to. Plus, he does dislike, except on very rare occasions, watching things he has already seen.

However, to say that Alvin simply watches the videos online would be incorrect. He analyses them, gaining as much information and detail as he feels is acceptable for the format before moving on. It’s a part of his OCD but he loves indulging it in this way. Sure, he’s been told that he should break away from these habits but in the instances that he has tried, it’s been many years since he has, the mousy haired man has quickly found himself feeling miserable. His analysis of things, far deeper than most would wish, is what makes him happy. Yes, some have found it annoying and he’s lost more than one partner as a result, but in his mind that simply means they were not right for him. Doesn’t change how awkward it was to have to explain that to them only for a couple to explode angrily in his face, proclaiming that he’s mad, that they are dumping him and then storming out.

That isn’t what happened with Tatiana. Their split was amicable. At least that is how he would term it and for once it was her who broke it off with him. The reason for doing so was simple; she’d been offered the job of a lifetime across the country. Neither of them wanted a long distance relationship and so with Alvin not wishing to follow her, their bond was brought to a close. Alvin had felt it was the right thing to do, though was surprised that Tatiana had been the one to speak first and call it quits. He doesn’t know if she agreed with her own decision but it matters little for he moved into this apartment not long after finding it and they haven’t spoken since, other than for her to inform him that she made it across country without issue and begun to settle in to her new surroundings. He doubts he’ll hear from her again. There is little reason for her to contact him and he has fewer reasons than that to contact her, especially as he really does enjoy being a single guy living alone. It affords him the opportunity to indulge in whatever takes his fancy whenever he pleases without fear for having to attend boring functions and parties with people he doesn’t know and that his partner cannot stand but is attending to further their career.

It wasn’t only Tatiana who had been guilty of that. Looking back Alvin struggles to find a partner who wasn’t. Rob certainly had been, as had Francine, Lita, Gray, Salma and Su. He sees no reason to consider any names further back than that, but harbours no ill-will toward any of them for their actions. Alas, he is aware that the same perhaps cannot be said from their perspectives in regards to him.

Finally, Alvin finishes scrolling when he concludes there is nothing that takes his fancy. It’s a disappointing outcome but not an entirely unexpected one. Hence, that is why he switches website to a live streaming platform that covers a myriad of differing and largely unrelated content genres. Most of them, the most popular directories, he ignores as he navigates effortlessly to his chosen preference which is a short list of streamers digging into the histories of various old tools and machines. Quickly he finds just what he feels suits his current mood, a short haired woman with a round face who is examining the history of locomotives. A beaming smile slides across Alvin’s face as the page begins to load. This is exactly the sort of entertainment he needs to keep himself awake. He only needs to last about two hours and as yet his watch is bang on time, none lost. He finds the prospect of discovery exciting and struggles to contain himself until the stream loads only to inform that the programme has only moments ago come to an end. With that Alvin sinks in his partially reclined chair, it’s of ergonomic design and cost him more than the desk, book shelving units and drawers that occupy this room combined. In fact, it’s the second most expensive item behind his computer, which though made up of six separate items all linked together with cables he counts as a single entity. Still, while it might be fast it isn’t pretty. The ‘case’ of his computer is a 3U server style box within which are contained a mid-range processor, graphics card, RAM, motherboard, high-end PSU, premium fans and an ample cooler. Some of the components have RGB lighting but none of it can be seen through the case, though if he was to remove the shroud it would be best described as rainbow vomit for none of it has been calibrated and made into a uniformed configuration. Normally that would drive Alvin’s OCD mad but with it being contained within a box that has no viewing window he doesn’t care. Plus, the only time he ever removes the panels on the chassis is when it is powered off and that is either to clean or upgrade a part. Neither of which forces him to look at the mismatched colours competing against one another for attention. Yet, chiefly his reason for opening the case tends to be the former of the two options as Alvin is religious in the periodic cleaning of his rig. To the point that he does so every three weeks to ensure that there is very little likelihood of dust, muck and corruption building up. It’s excessive to be truthful but is a theme that is carried on throughout his apartment, except it is cleaned on a twice weekly basis. If there were more rooms he’d struggle but seeing as there is only this box room, one other bedroom, an open living kitchen space and bathroom it’s quite a simple task to achieve. In his eyes it is anyway and leaves him with more than enough time for his hobbies.

Still, with his disappointment regarding the chosen livestream overcome he drops back to the previous webpage to peruse the remaining options available to him. He sighs seeing little of interest and again needing to resort to scrolling.

After some time he breaks from his scrolling to glance at his watch; to his astonishment more than twenty minutes have passed. If he didn’t know better he’d say he got a few minutes shut eye but there is no way that happened. He’s wide awake having worked past the most recent period of tiredness which mercifully is but a memory he can barely recall.

Suddenly, Alvin pauses his scrolling for a second time but on his occasion to study a potential livestream which has caught his eye. The limited, far too much so in his opinion, information provided for it helps to further cement that this is indeed the sort of programme he wishes to indulge in. Without hesitation he clicks on the preview window to load the livestream page. It does so effortlessly, which it should for the price he pays to the telecoms company that was only one of two that could provide gigabit internet to his apartment. Still, to get it installed he’d been forced to negotiate with his new landlord for they had feared it would result in a great deal more work than the amount that ultimately transpired. Just as well his apartment is on the ground floor then as the engineer had admitted had Alvin not been then it would have cost twice the price.

With the livestream loaded Alvin jacks up the volume via the monitors built-in speakers. They are sufficient for this form of content, but were he attempting to listen to music they would sound off. He can’t explain it better than that for he is not an audiophile, and seldomly surrounds himself within a soundscape of music. Not because he has issue with music. Truthfully he finds it mesmerising and beautiful. It’s just he prefers to educate himself and listening to music does not allow such, for him anyway.

Quickly Alvin discovers and becomes engrossed in the livestream. It’s covering the subject of reconditioning an old sewing machine which is currently no longer able to perform the role that it was constructed for. Without doubt it is pre-electrification and driven entirely by a pedal. The mousy haired man thinks it is fascinating, while the presenter digs into the mechanical guts of the inoperable machine now that a side panel has been extracted.

The mousy haired man’s eyes search for any signs as to what might be the cause for its failure. He can see little, sadly, at this moment but determines this is likely a much better viewing option than his original failed choice. Plus, he is fairly confident this is not a channel he has ever viewed previously. Yet, while he is enjoying it thus far he elects not to follow or subscribe to it. For such a thing to come to pass Alvin will need to see a great deal more for he needs to be certain that the content provided will be to his liking.  Thankfully, the presenter is not the overly chatty sort, which is good because for the mousy haired man it frequently comes across as a desperate need to fill dead air that would be better suited to being left dead. These are his opinions but he is unaware that many others do not share them, though he does clock the view counter for the stream sitting at a constant twenty nine. None of the streams he indulges and invests his time into go much above the eighties. Alvin does not understand as to why that is. After all, they are a great deal more interesting and entertaining compared to some of the strange semi-pornographic leaning ‘shows’ that are consistently plastered on the front-page of what is meant to be a family orientated platform. Yet, he cannot say he has ever felt the wish or will to enter any of those advertised livestreams. They seem as pointless to him as the ones where people show you their daily life or playthrough video games which the watchers could easily play through themselves and in a manner of their liking.

Finally, the camera gets deep into the guts of the sewing machine. Within seconds Alvin identifies the problem and excitedly points it out. Sadly, he doesn’t know the terminology for what it is that has sheared and become lodged between serrated cogs and gears. By the looks of things the sheared length of what he can only imagine has to be metal is not the sum total of the non-functioning machines issues for there are small slivers of what he guesses to also be metal scattered about.

Before long the presenter goes into an explanation detailing the names of the parts and the damage suffered within. Alvin winces when it is pointed out that the scattered slivers are teeth from some of the cogs which have snapped free from the components that they provide a vital service too. Mercifully the same presenter, an aging man with a white bushy beard, kind brown eyes and thinning grey hair, explains that all of the damage can be rectified. Alvin claps and chirps merrily hearing that, for he had been begun to lean in close, fearful that the issue might be beyond repair, save for a full rebuild. Instead, the bearded man assures that, save for the sheared length of metal, the teeth can and will be meticulously reattached to the cogs from which they have been severed. The mousy haired man could not be more invested in the livestream or offer more praise for this bearded man going to the effort of repairing instead of replacing, or worse tossing the old machine aside in favour of a modern version. Sure, the modern sewing machine would be orders of magnitude faster and more efficient yet the presenter puts it best, “These machines are a document of our past and at least a few should be maintained and preserved for future reference. After all, forgetting your past leaves it open to becoming lost.” It has happened many times throughout human history resulting in assumptions, educated guesses and conclusions having to be drawn without the real possibility of a definite answer ever being achievable. For Alvin that’s more than a tad painful; that is why he is pleased people such as this bearded man exist. To a point the mousy haired thirty year old could be counted amongst them. He does and would not agree if it were said but it does not change how he tends to his grandfathers watch in much the same manner.

When Alvin looks to his watch next his eyes go wide for he finds that it is now less than ten minutes from the three a.m. goal of discovering what is causing his watch to lose a couple hours. His heart begins to thunder and nerves creep in to shout loudly in his head. He doesn’t understand why the atmosphere around him becomes palpable but that would be his analysis. Still, he cannot doubt that suddenly exhaustion has returned. He curses it for its sudden and ill-timed revival but assures he will not fall victim until he has answers. Unfortunately, so not to become overwhelmed by stimuli the mousy haired man has dialled the volume of the livestream back. The meat of the content, in his eyes, is largely over. He’s aware of how, and agrees with the methods, by which the bearded man is restoring the guts of the old sewing machine, yet has lost interest in favour of his own investigation and the repetition which prevents him from learning information that he has not already gleaned.

“Stay awake. You need to stay awake, Alvin. This is the moment of truth. The moment where you’ll discover exactly why your watch is losing time.” His voice is soft, barely more than a whisper and echoes strangely in the dead of night that has enveloped this box room which is the only instance of a space that is near completion. Sadly, it has very little effect on how heavy his eyelids feel, which is why he shakes his head vigorously from side to side only to then rub his eyes and drag what sleep from them might be thinking of forming. It works, partially, and the mousy haired man feels a burst of energy fill his mass. A smile spreads across his face for he believes he has conquered the exhaustion. Looking at his watch he concludes that his success has come just in the nick of time for it is minutes to three a.m. Yet, he will have to remain in the realm of the conscious for several minutes following the striking of the hour before he might have his answer. It enters his head that it is just as well the discrepancy between the earliest and latest times of this occurrence are so small. If they were not and it was perhaps hours long Alvin feels it important to note that this endeavour might be far more difficult to undertake and achieve. Yet, how much later than three a.m. could this occur at without it having affected and been witnessed by his natural rousing from slumber? Anytime up to a little prior to five a.m. is the mental response he hears uttered by his own voice. He can’t fault or argue the claim, though it was an entirely rhetorical query and not one he ever planned nor wished to be offered an answer too.

Again Alvin checks his watch, one minute until three a.m. is here. The mousy haired man begins to feel giddy with anticipation. It doesn’t last long for suddenly exhaustion and heavy eyelids strike back with a surging vengeance like an irate mob hell-bent on violence. The resurgence of both grate and irritate the man considerably. For a second time he tries to shake the feelings away, alas this time his attempts fail. Their insistence is much greater, as if they have a will of their own. He knows that is impossible but urges his body to fight with him. It does not. Only his mind is engaged in this battle and not in a manner that is likely to see him victorious.

Before he gets the opportunity to clamber out of his ergonomic chair and to his feet, for that might well do the trick of waking him, he checks his watch sees the hand strike for three a.m. only for his eyelids to drop and him fall into a deep sleep.

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