Fun_People Archive
4 Sep
Found The Watch

Date: Mon, 4 Sep 95 19:50:47 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: Found The Watch

[Get it?  -psl]


                  From "The Instruction Manual"
                        by Julio Cortazar

The job of having to soften up the brick every day, the job of cleaving a
passage through the glutinous mess that declares itself to be the world, to
collide every morning with the same narrow rectangular space with the
disgusting name, filled with doggy satisfaction that everything is probably
in its place, the same woman beside you, the same shoes, the same taste of
the sametoothpaste, the same sad houses across the street, the filthy slats
on the shutters with the inscription THE HOTEL BELGIUM.

Drive the head like a reluctant bull through the transparent mass at the
center of which we take a coffee with milk and open the newspaper to find
out what has happened in whatever corner of that glass brick. Go ahead, deny
up and down that the delicate act of turning the door knob, the act which
may transform everything, is done with the indifferent vigor of a daily
reflex, "See you later, Sweetheart. Have a good day."

Tighten your fingers around a teaspoon, feel its metal pulse, its
mistrustful warning. How it hurts to refuse a spoon, to say no to a door,
to deny everything that habit has licked to a suitable smoothness. How much
simpler to accept the easy request of the spoon, to use it to stir the

And it's not that it's so bad that things meet us every day and are the
same. That the same woman is there beside us, the same watch, that the novel
lying open there on the table starts, once more, to take its bicycle ride
through your glasses. What could be wrong with it? But like a sad bull, one
has to lower the head, hustle out from the middle of the glass brick toward
the one nearest us, who is as unattainable as the picador, however close
the bull is to him. Punish the eyes looking at that which passes in the sky
and cunningly accept that its name is cloud, its answer catalogued in the
mind. Don't believe that the telephone is going to give you the numbers you
try to call, why should it? The only thing that will come is what you have
already prepared and decided, the gloomy reflection of your expectations,
that monkey, who scratches himself on the table and trembles with cold.
Break the monkey's head, take a run from the middle of the room to the wall
and break through it. Oh, how they sing upstairs! There's an apartment
upstairs where people live who don't know there's a downstairs floor and
that all of us live in the glass brick. And if suddenly a moth lands on the
edge of a pencil and flutters there like an ash-colored flame, look at it.
I am looking at it. I am touching its tiny heart and I hear it.  That moth
reverberates in the pie dough of frozen glass, all is not lost. When the
door opens and I lean over the stairwell, I'll know that the street begins
down there; not the already accepted matrix, not the familiar houses, not
the hotel across the street, that busy wilderness which can tumble upon me
like a magnolia any minute, where the faces will come to life when I look
at them, when I just go a little bit further, when I smash minutely against
the pie dough of the glass brick and stake my life while I press forward
step by step to go pick up the newspaper at the corner.

               Preamble To The Instructions On How
                         To Wind a Watch

Think of this: when they present you with a watch, they are gifting you with
a tiny flowering hell, a wreath of roses, a dungeon of air. They aren't
simply wishing the watch on you, and many more, and we hope it will last
you, it's a good grand, Swiss, seventeen rubies; they aren't just giving
you this minute stonecutter which will bind you by the wrist and walk along
with you. They are giving you - they don't know it, it's terrible that they
don't know it - they are gifting you with a new fragile and precarious piece
of yourself, something that's yours but not a part of your body, that you
have to strap to your body like your belt, like a tiny, furious bit of
something hanging onto your wrist. They gift you with the job of having to
wind it every day, an obligation to wind it, so that it goes on being a
watch, they gift you with the obsession of looking into jewelry-shop windows
to check the exact time, check the radio announcer, check the telephone
service. They give you the gift of fear, someone will steal it from you,
it'll fall on the street and get broken. They give you the gift of your
trademark and the assurance that it's a trademark better than others, they
gift you with the impulse to compare your watch with other watches. They
aren't giving you a watch, you are the gift, they are giving you yourself
for the watch's birthday.

               Instructions On How to Wind a Watch

Death stands there in the background, but don't be afraid. Hold the watch
down with one hand, take the stem in two fingers, and rotate it smoothly.
Now, another installment of time opens, trees spread their leaves, boats
run races, like a fan time continues filling with itself, and from that
burgeon of air, the breezes of earth, the shadow of a woman, the sweet smell
of bread.

What did you expect, what more did you want? Quickly, strap it to your
wrist, let it tick away in freedom, imitate it greedily.  Fear will rust
all the rubies, everything that could happen to it and was forgotten is
about to corrode the watch's veins, cranking the cold blood with its tiny
rubies. And death is there in the background, we must run to arrive
beforehand and understand it's already unimportant.

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []