Robert called earlier, frustrated about his slow progress at reading lessons, hungry and broke, and feeling lonesome. I told him I could meet him in the park and give him some money for a burger, but that I couldn’t visit with him.

Robert was standing at the corner watching my door when I went out a little later. I walked over with a ten-dollar bill in my pocket and talked to him for a minute. I gave him the ten-dollar bill, aware that to outside appearances this looked like a drug deal, and returned his hug.

Now I’m sitting here feeling a little lonely myself, waiting for Ingrid’s phone call, and trying to write about Robert. But I’m not getting anything down, not even a basic description of our conversation over coffee this morning. And I’m realizing that I felt lonelier talking to Robert than I did as soon as we parted.

Maybe part of that is sympathy for Robert – he has pretty much nothing and nobody. But more than feeling sympathy, I think I just feel empty when I see him. I see that the gap between what he can provide for himself and what he needs will always be wider than what anyone will be able to give him. No matter how his situation improves, he will always need exactly as much emotional support from me as he needs now.

I feel emptier each time I see him now. I try to separate Robert from the rest of my life, but sometimes it seeps in. And now I feel like I need to push him farther into the background of my life and move on.

Sentence Fragments

The foliage rising up from the sudden drop-off beside the one-lane dead-end gravel road. The car, its trunk open, leaning over the ledge at a forty-five degree angle, no tires touching the ground. The driver standing in the road, stunned. The hikers, hopeful Samaritans, verifying that their cell phones are also getting no signal.

The five-lane freeway on a busy night. The car stalled in the center lane. The cars screeching to a stop behind it. The drivers taking a breath and accelerating back into traffic at the first opening. The driver and passenger in the stalled car, eyes wide with panic, visible to the other cars for a moment as they whip past, sitting ducks.

The Watch

The Watch

The small hand on my watch sweeps around the watchface at twice the speed of the Earth’s rotation.

There’s a tiny window cut out of the watchface; it’s only a few millimeters across. It’s next to the “3” printed on the watchface. The numbers one through thirty-one are printed next to the outside edge of a wheel that turns behind the window. The numbers are just large enough for one of them to be seen through the window. The wheel remains stationary (relative to the rest of the watch) throughout most of the day. At the beginning of the last hour of the day it begins to turn. It continues to turn until the next number is completely visible through the window, at the end of the first of hour of the following day.

The number in the window corresponds to the day of the month. It goes out of sync five times a year, on the first day of each month that follows a month with fewer than thirty-one days. At some point, during the first few days after the number in the window goes out of sync, I’ll pull out the little knob on the side of the watch and reset the number in the window. I used to reset the number in the window by setting the watch forward twenty-four hours (eighty-six hours on March 1, 2001). But while resetting the watch on May 1, 2002, I discovered that if I only pulled the knob out half as far as it would go, I could set the number in the window without affecting the movement of the watch hands.

I also adjust the watch when I move between time zones. This is usually done on airplanes. I’m always careful to feign casualness, while at the same time making it clear to my seatmates what I’m doing. As if I was saying, “I have to do this so often that it’s second nature.” I think they usually see through my facade though.

I flew to Phoenix last spring. Arizona doesn’t adjust for daylight savings time, so Seattle time and Phoenix time where in sync and I didn’t adjust my watch. Daylight savings time ended while I was in Phoenix; so I only adjusted my watch on the flight back to Seattle.