Sometimes, Carlos Jonowski’s watch, an Orient automatic with an icy grey face, stops for seconds at a time. He has caught his watch doing this twice now — out of the corner of his eye he notices the sweeping second hand stop, and then, after a few seconds, start again. Because he has noticed it twice, he assumes it happens all the time. But the watch keeps perfect time. He is troubled by this. It’s as if there is something disquieting about to happen.
On the afternoon of March 13, sitting in a cafe called La Dolce Vita in Little Italy, Carlos checks his watch against his phone and finds they match. He decides to focus on his watch — see if he can catch it pausing. He removes it and places it flat on the table beside his coffee cup. He follows the second hand as it makes its journey around the face of the watch and, after 15 minutes, he finds himself getting sleepy. He’s mesmerized. A short, round man wearing eyeglasses with thick black frames, who the waiter calls Little Tony, enters the cafe, and perches himself at the bar. Carlos lifts his gaze for a split second — because Little Tony never sits at the bar — and then it happens. The second hand stops and he smells his wife’s perfume.
“What did you expect would happen?” Carlos’s wife — well, ex-wife — is sitting across the table. It’s shocking to see her after all this time. Her hair is grey now, and it shimmers. There are a few more wrinkles around her eyes. Her smile still disarms him. Her voice still delights. The fact there is a woman in La Dolce Vita is also jarring. Carlos has never seen a woman inside this cafe.
“What?” he says.
“What did you expect? Can a watch stop for periods of time and still maintain perfect time? Does that make sense to you?”
“No, of course not. I had questions…”
“…you were curious…”
“…yes, and now you are here…” He glances at his watch and sees the second hand is stalled between 11 and 12. “…but how are you here?” He misses his wife. She was pure joy for him — even in the moments when he didn’t like her, he loved her beyond comprehension.
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“I am here because in between time, I can be.” “What?”
“Time doesn’t just more forward. It flows backwards, and sideways — and has layers. It’s more complex than you can imagine. Look around you, darling.”
So, he does. The cafe is stopped mid-morning. The waiter is placing Little Tony’s cappuccino on the bar, but his arm does not move. A puff of steam is motionless above the coffee machine. The cafe is a still-life painting, and his wife, who passed away two years, four months and 15 days ago, is sitting across from him, smiling. He is outside time and he does not know when he will go back inside, or if he wants to.
Thomas Trofimuk is a writer/poet who has four novels out in the world — The 52nd Poem, Doubting Yourself to the Bone, Waiting for Columbus, and This is All a Lie — with two new novels in development. He’s a long-time teacher at Youthwrite (a fantastic writing camp for kids) and writes on an irregular basis for his own website: thomastrofimuk.com.