The clock is loud, its tick-tock echoing somewhere in the room. When I find it, it’s inside the entertainment cabinet, its battery slowly running out for the digital readout for the fourth city – now unnamed for its label peeled off a long time ago – is blinking, like a light about to go out.
Hoping that the battery compartment hasn’t rusted, for it’s probably been at least four years since I’ve replaced it, I flip up the lid and sigh, relieved, that the compartment is fine. When I change the battery – it takes only one – the tick tock becomes louder, and I remember one night long ago when I had a lover over and he complained that he could not sleep because of the damn clock that kept on going and going and going.
It’s my father’s clock, I told him. He got it as a business gift or something a long, long time ago. I was probably only a teen.
Well, it’s too noisy, he grumbled. I can’t believe how you can sleep through that.
Well, I can, I said.
Well, I can’t, he said.
Well, you can go then, I said.
Well, I will, then, he said.
Well, good-bye then, I said.
And so he left at around 3 am. I remember, because that’s what my father’s clock said.
It’s a small thing, about 6 inches wide by 3 or so inches high. It has a square face that tells the current time, while on either side of it are digital times for Paris, San Francisco, New York, and if I remember correctly, for the one whose sticker came off, Tokyo. It was a gift to my father by some one who worked for Evergreen Line, a “unified common trade name for the four shipping companies of the Evergreen Group,” or so says their current website.
I remember seeing it on my father’s desk when his company was still very successful, when he owned not just a gentleman’s club, but also a gas station, and during Christmas morning, we’d get into his Mercedes and his driver would take us through the city where people waited for him at certain places to give them their Christmas presents – money and a sack of rice. And I’d like to believe because I must have heard it somewhere as a child, that he also once owned an island that disappeared when the tide came up – hey, the Philippines has over 7,100 islands. The story could very well be true for I have memories of him taking us along with all his business friends and I was so excited that when I slipped off the inner tube, I thought I could just go down onto the bottom of the ocean, and walk to the shore. And I’d like to believe that for one minute, when he was truly powerful, when people really did look up to him because he was, at one time, rich, that he really did own that island, that he really did business with the Japanese – and that one of them bothered to give him a little token of their gratitude.
And that now, I have that token.
It’s the only thing I have left of my father, really. He died last year, poor and surrounded only by very distant relatives, with none of his children close by – and I was so lost in writing and fangirl politics to really allow myself to grieve the loss of the man I really loved, no matter how flawed he was.
I still haven’t done all the grieving. I haven’t even started.
Next week, he
turns would have turned 70-something, I don’t even remember his age because in my mind, he’s never aged. In my mind he’s always smiling, always telling me to not worry about the small things, to always do good any way I could because there was always someone worse off than I was. And that though he may not have anything to leave me in money or property any longer, now that the days of wealth for him were long over, he did his best to give me an education, whether I took advantage of that gift or not.
Most of all, his greatest lesson for me was to listen; he said that it was the hardest thing to learn in the world. And he’s right, it still is, especially for me.
And so I like the tick-tock that I hear through the house. I may have kept it hidden for over four years, but this morning, I pulled it out of its hiding place, relieved to hear it still ticking, replaced its battery so I can keep on hearing it.
So I can keep on listening.