WHAT WAS NOW
By Phyllis Heltay
Hickory, dickory, dock, the mouse ran up the clock…then the damnable rodent continued to try to skitter a way into my works, chased up my tower by Desdemona’s cat. The turn of the last century makers were not metal fools and so built me impervious to the elements and any creatures that might consider this a safe perching nest. My iron face has retained its original subtle patina, despite what it routinely has to witness that is less than dignified, I must say.
Horrors! The aforementioned Desdemona is ignoring her marauding tabby just as she ignores the sign at the entrance to this public rose garden – NO PETS PLEASE. There you have it. The “please” at the end makes it seem like a kindly suggestion rather than a rule. While she sits on that bench, for exactly forty five minutes each and every Tuesday through Thursday, her freedom crazed animal will pounce on mice, beetles, and wind-blown leaves. Then, when its metabolism is charged to the maximum, it will use the base of the Queen Elizabeth Pink as a litter box. Shameful. Desdemona will ignore the desecration, only looking up once at my face to check that she hasn’t become so lost in her fiction that she’s out-stayed her welcome. If only my minute and hour hands could form a scowl to show my annoyance. However, I was built for the inevitable, not judgement. One minute follows the next, regardless of the endless prayers to the contrary etched on the hopeful upturned faces I see on a regular basis. They come to the garden to slow down time, and even stop it.
A few days ago a young man entered the park on a wave of anxiety, his telephone contraption glued to his ear. I’m surprised that anyone can look at me and remember how to read the hour since the style is to have the numbers flashed without a hint of irony or grace. I’ve seen expectant lovers hold their breath between the ticks of my filigree minute hand, parsing out the seconds until their flushed partners arrive, not a moment too soon.
The young man circled me twice, muttering obscenities and then, I am almost sure, I heard the sound of a gut retching pain that emanated from his core as he threw his device to the ground. He pressed his forehead to my cool metal and stood silent and still. When he felt the vibration of the hour being struck he raised his head, and I saw it in his eyes, that prayer – a sad expression of overwhelming regret and loss, and an intense need for my hands to move counter clock wise, giving him the moment back when irreparably choices changed the course of his life. I can only look down and offer another second, minute, and hour to set things right. Can he feel the vast forgiving ocean of time in those infinitesimal spaces between then, and now?