She shuffles her feet nervously at the train station, wearing down the soles of her shoes, which

are almost too decrepit to wear already. People rush by her, the heels of their fully intact shoes clacking against the tiles. It takes three glances at the clock behind her for her to realize the intricate curls of iron beneath that yellowed glass don’t move with the passing of time, like that man standing on the other end of the platform. The two of them have watched three trains pass by now, and other than the occasional glance over his shoulder or a twitch of the lips at someone who looks his way, she hasn’t seen him move. His feet refuse to relinquish the ground beneath them. Another train approaches, and she looses sight of him in the rush of the crowd, but as the last of the passengers push into the train car, she sees he’s still there, not an inch from where she last saw him. Her shoes make that distinct scuffling noise only weathered shoes seem to make as she weaves through the crowd toward him. “Um, pardon me, sir,” she begins, “but do you have the time?” He smiles like he hasn’t heard her, keeping that expression for just long enough for her to believe it, only to say, “Do I have the time?...Such a silly question. Nobody owns the time, and even if I did, would I give it to you?” “Well, I – I suppose not.” “Suppose!” He seems genuinely shocked, and very animated about it, which surprises her because of the contrast to how he appeared from across the platform. “Of course not. If there is one thing people always want, it’s time. We can never get enough, and even when we have it, we’re always losing it. It just slips out of hour hands, but it’s not like it’s even ours. And you say ‘the time’ like there’s only one. With all those time zones I would think we’d have to specify, but I assume you mean the time here, yes?” “Y-yes, sir.” “And you are not even asking for time, itself, are you?” Before she can respond he shouts, “No, never! Time can not be so easily defined. What you are asking for is a quantitative measurement of what we perceive as the passing of time, and what is time anyway? You sound so sure it exists, that it is not simply a flaw in our understanding of the world, a failure of human consciousness, but do you know that? Do you really know?” “No, I don’t think so.” With a slight smile he lowers his voice and says, “I’ll tell you a secret; I don’t know either…but that doesn’t matter. Also, keep in mind, this is a question reserved for none other than complete strangers. You’d ask anyone else, ‘What time is it?’ And the only reason you don’t say that to strangers is to give yourself some semblance of eloquence, an appearance we have all given up on conveying to those close to us. Oh, but strangers, you’ll never see them again, and I think it’s for that very reason that some of the best conversations are held with complete strangers, don’t you think?” She can do nothing but nod. He cocks his head to the side, eyes studying her, mouth adorned with a new smile, a welcoming one. “I must say, I’m surprised you have stayed for my little rant, for if you’re asking about the time it insinuates you have somewhere to be and fear being late, do you?” “No, sir.” “Waiting for someone?” “No.”

“Did you even come here for the purposes of getting on a train?” She meekly shakes her head. That observational expression sweeps his face again, followed by one of what can only be described as sympathetic amusement. His hand pulls out a pocket watch from his coat, which he turns over in his fingers. “Well, perhaps you were simply curious as to what the time was with no reason at all, but that would be rather peculiar, wouldn’t it?”

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