it’s only time.
and only time will tell.
— the prophet guy charles clark
Rick looks intently at his watch as we begin our walk. It’s 1 o’clock.
We were heading out for our morning trek today when he glanced at his wrist and saw nothing but a tan line. A brief panic and a quick scramble later, he’s wearing it again. If forced to choose between me or his watch as a traveling companion, I would not finish in the top three.
We head out into the morning sun. A rainstorm rumbled through yesterday, so it’s a delightfully cooler day after a string of heat-stroke outings. Glorious.
This visit has been a bittersweet one because some of the things he had in his head are gone now. Among them are the routes of our daily walks.
The Santa Rita neighborhood is an eclectic mixture of modest homes and mansions, prickly pears and towering live oaks, hills and creeks and a dog on a pogo stick. Each day we would walk a different route. This way, Rick would say. Left, right, up, down, left again. I never had any idea where we were, but he always got us home.
But this week, he hasn’t been pointing the way. He stands and waits for me to choose a direction, unsure of his bearings. I’ve been missing the old days.
We get to the first intersection. As I am about to turn left, he points right. Let’s go this way, he says. He looks at his watch. It’s 1 o’clock.
We zig and we zag and we zig again If it’s possible to zig without a zag. I remember this route. It’s my favorite. The underground home. The abandoned house that demands inspection. The tree swing that calls out, assuring you that you won’t be prosecuted if you give it a try.
We walk for a while, and he checks his watch again. It’s 1 o’clock.
We take a downhill that bends left past a huge house that’s been for sale too long. We walk along a little road where every driver waves in that West Texas way.
There’s an immaculate mid-50s Chevy pickup and a little foofoo dog looking annoyed as her elderly owner stops to talk on her phone and huge shade trees and a sense of community that you take for granted till you find yourself living in a city of 4 million strangers.
The air has that post-rain aroma you rarely get in West Texas. I hope the walk never ends. I have no idea where we are, but I know he’ll get us home.
Finally, we make the last turn. He checks his watch. It’s 1 o’clock. We go past the Marine flag waving proudly, the dog on the trampoline. He stops to look at a lost dog poster on a telephone pole. The last block floats by, and then we’re home.
He checks his watch. It’s 1 o’clock. His watch doesn’t work.
But what does that matter? I was just re-reading Bill Bryson’s book on hiking the Appalachian Trail. Time has no meaning while hiking, he noted. Wake up when it’s light, sleep when it’s dark. Time is an unnecessary formality.
And 1 o’clock seems as good a place as any to live your life.
After all, it’s only time. And only time will tell.
I can’t wait to see where tomorrow’s walk leads.
I’ll find out at 1 o’clock.