You can watch it start to boil from the beach.
As with watched pots, so with oceans, they say. Look the other way, fill out a form, check the time periodically.
A watchband might be the most telling indication of a humid climate. My watchband darkens and I think, It is that time. We have all arrived at this point, one drop at a time, and suddenly there are dark-wristed people all across the city.
At least those who care for the time.
The official timekeepers.
An identifiable cell phone bulge will not necessarily darken. Even a bulge sheathed in tight denim during summer near the boiling ocean. Even if the cell phone is the only means of timekeeping, it's not a guarantee that the bulge will darken. But a dry dark watchband will darken still with sweat.
Although watchbands that shine with links will not darken, but slide at this point. The dial rotates 180 degrees until it's under the wrist, and the watch's owner becomes the kind of person who supinates to check the time.
These people are usually assholes.
Most people with watchbands that shine should be avoided unless the time is of a primary concern. A need-to-know basis.
I need to know what time it is, please.
"I don't have money," a woman once said to me after I asked her for the time.
This was at a time when I dressed particularly homeless. I had a home, but it wasn't obvious.
"Sorry," the woman said, and began to walk away. Again I asked for the time, which was all I needed from her. She turned and gave me a look indicating that I didn't really deserve to know the time, but that she would begrudge me the time.
It was 3:15.
"Thank you for your time," I said. I had nowhere to be for two days. Nowhere important that required my prompt arrival. In the meantime I went anywhere.
I didn't own a watch then. I have one now, cheaply bezelled, but more or less accurate.
An unassuming timepiece that no one would mistake for jewelry, although I once offered it in lieu of a cash payment to a band of teenage thieves.
It is water resistant but the specifications do not indicate to which depth, I had informed the thieves.
I would hate to be scuba diving and lose track of the time.
I would hate to be scuba diving at any time.
I never once had a watch that told the time in digits. I always liked being surprised by the time.
Such as, I did not know it was that late. Or, Is it possible that it's still 7:23.
Surprises like those are less surprising when interpreting the seven segments of digitized numerals.
Sometimes interpreting an analog watch requires guesswork. I have known how to tell the time since I was a child but there is still some guesswork involved.
At 3:55 I nearly celebrate quitting time. The realization dawns. The hands have tricked me. A timepiece's own sleight of hand.
Except it's unintentional, the watch is not out to trick me, it's me tricking me. But then I can't quit for another sixty-five minutes.
I'll take a fifteen minute cigarette break and then squander the remaining fifty asking people what they are doing with the remainder of their time.
I haven't mentioned that I am self-employed.
The remaining fifty minutes of the workday usually signal my dwindling awareness of reality.
I pace around and speak in various accents, to diversify the workplace.
Once I reprimanded myself for trying to duck out early. Having realized that I'd never ducked in, I did not know how to duck out.
I told myself, Don't go anywhere, just sit tight. Having realized that I'd never sat loose, I did not know how to sit tight.
Rigor mortis is a form of sitting tight, I mused. I sat there tightly enjoying the absurdity of a situation in which one is told to just sit tight, and then one suddenly dies, to the puzzlement of one's immediate supervisor.
In this manner I passed the time until the workday was over.
My watchband, a dark forest green fabric strap, is wet, but I have been nowhere near the ocean. I must occupy the time so as not to watch the ocean boil. I must occupy the time and seize several moments away from the shore.
Many of our temporal phraseologies suggest soldierly nuance, it turns out.
I knew a horologist who once stormed out of a dinner party after he asked another partygoer what he was doing by the bookshelf and the partygoer replied, "Just killing time." This was tantamount to calumny, to a band of teenage thieves smashing up his shop.
Before long the ocean will be too hot to swim in. Beachgoers will bring boxes of penne along with blankets and sunblock, al fresco picnics in the sand.
To this day I resent being taken for a beggar.
It was near a beach that the woman mistook me for a beggar. I was asking for the time, not begging for it, there were no demands, I did not attempt to assault her for the time. I was polite in my simple request.
Once, in a train station, I stopped a woman who'd dropped her hat. Before I could speak, she shrieked and ran off, perhaps not noticing that I was holding her hat and wished to return it.
I still wear that hat in certain moods.
Obviously on the day at the beach where I stopped a woman for the time, I was thinking that I wished I'd had the hat, which was at home, which wasn't obvious.
In fact, this woman supinated to check the time, a tiny silver dial that radiated luxury and bespoke its owner's impatience for encounters with blank-wristed men whose home ownership wasn't obvious.
And yet it is people like me, and not her, who are at risk of at-risk teenagers. I am both threat and target.
In New York, a minute suggests immediacy, the time it takes to lose a hat. In New Orleans, a minute suggests eternity. It's been a minute since I've seen you, Aunt Bearnice, now come get some fresh crawfish pie and tell me all about it.
Although I was not anywhere near New York on the day at the beach where I stopped a woman for the time, it was obvious that she was operating on New York time.
Had I been in need of the time near a beach on the bayou, not only would I have been told the time, I would have learned the story of the last time this person had been asked for the time, with a lengthy epilogue on the subject of this person's vague genealogy.
I would have had to say, after being told the time, "I'm sorry, but I don't have the time."
Although it may be that beachgoers are more likely to view a man like me as a threat to their enjoyment on the shore. Landlocked timekeepers must behave in a different manner.
Having never been to New Palestine, Indiana, I am unsure of how I would impress a stranger there by asking for the time.
Although New Palestine does observe Eastern Standard Time. Were I to ask for the time there, It is Eastern Standard Time would be a perfectly acceptable reply.
Although I could not live in New Palestine, where the only body of water to enjoy is a small stream named after a popular sweetener.
Although of course this stream too will eventually boil, and at a faster rate than the ocean, it being naturally a smaller amount of water.
The ocean has still not reached a full boil. I have just gone to check on it.
When the ocean vaporizes, it follows that all the world will be sandy beach.
Historians will historicize the Seven Beaches of the World. Their children will not know what it means to see a wave crash and spray rainbows on the air. Oceanographers, their lives' work rendered obsolete, will commit suicide in swimming pools.
When the ocean reaches a full boil, it will not be necessary to season the water if one has indeed brought some dry pasta to the beach.
It's possible that I could die at the shore while checking on the ocean, and after some time my bones will form crude little sundials.
Children of future historians will come across my weathered phalanges and, if it's sunny and the child does not have a phone at hand, he could reasonably approximate the time.
Oh, I did not know it was this late, Father, and I am hungry, for there is a pasta smell in the air.
Yes, son, in years past our people used to boil and eat pasta at this very beach.
As I said, reasonably approximate.
But I have gotten ahead of myself. The character of the ocean cannot yet be described as ebullient. Hardly at a simmer. And so I pass the time from hand to hand as though it were a baseball and I a nervous ballplayer.
I have never played ball, strictly speaking, although I once acquiesced to the wishes of another person.
A woman, an old flame, had told me in a colorful way to leave her house at once. And so, picking up the ball, so to speak, I called a taxi. Having felt that the rate of return yielded a loss, this woman refused to spend any more time on me.
I am fairly certain she was suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, the fundamental disorder of our times.
I said as much to the driver, who agreed, and then began to tell the story of the last time he picked up a fare in a similar situation during the early spring.
The fare was a man whose own generalized anxiety had been triggered by the death of his pet rabbit Dudley, a rich chocolate Dutch. His generalized anxiety soon snarled into complicated grief. In his home he forbade the work of Beatrix Potter. The opening strains of Merrie Melodies would send him into a crying fit. The weeks before the Eastertide were fraught with thoughts of suicide.
As I said, it was very complicated.
My watchband is now sopping wet. To complicate matters, it bears a whiff of the diaphoretic odor commonly associated with anti-anxiety medication.
I have never taken anti-anxiety medication, the fundamental medication of our times. I have always been somewhat less than anxious about the business of living.
The whiff and wetness are merely environmental conditions of the 29th parallel, where crawfish live and thrive.
When the ocean reaches a full boil, it is likely that I will have a basket of crawfish at the ready, to the ascatalogical delight of all present at the shore.
It delights me that the study of shit and the study of crawfish are one vowel apart. And from there it's only a few letters away from the end of time.
"You should have been with us that day round the stainless steel stockpot," I would say to those who arrived days after the last carapace was cracked, after it seemed as though time had stopped and you could see the steam begin to rise.