Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I Lost My Watch

Arica, Chile

Just before leaving LA, I received a wristwatch with my initials engraved on it as a parting gift from my girlfriend. The thing was a constant source of frustration. I could not for the life of me figure out how to turn off the alarm. I could change when it would start beeping, but was unable to silence it altogether. Jason thought this was hilarious because I take so much pride in being a master of all things one and zero. Once a day I was assured of at least one of those trademark Briceno laughs at this dent in my digerati armor.

For the first month or so, the watch alarm would go off at noon every day. Somewhere in Siberia, I changed it to seven in the morning. That proved to be a bit optimistic and I reset it to 10. Experience showed that the watch alarm is not really loud enough to wake me up, so I changed the time again to ten until one in the afternoon. In theory, this was meant to remind me to take my doxy (anti-malaria) pill for the day. In practice, it was more of a reminder of the giver, my fond feelings for whom more than overwhelmed any discontent resulting from Jason's reliably explosive guffaw.

I had arranged to spend my short time in LA between NZ and Peru in the company of this much-remembered woman, but things did not go my way. She was not waiting at the airport as expected and I found out a bit later by email that she no longer wished to see me and asked that I make no effort to contact her. That hurt quite a bit and was made more difficult by the daily reminder of my now estranged love interest. It was a few days later that I resolved to rid myself of the watch and the reminders along with it.

My original plan was to give it to a beggar, preferably one of the handful of kids that approach me every day asking for food or money. It is a nice Phlippe Starck watch - very modern and fashionable. I liked the idea of a Peruvian street urchin walking around with my urban hipster timepiece. Maybe he could tell his friends that he got it from some crazy gringo and later sell it for a few bucks. I never acted on this plan, though. It was not until the middle of Chile that I parted company with the watch.

During a night out in Arica, we accidentally went to a nudie club. The Lonely Planet described the place as a "popular and lively bar" or something like that. We probably should have known better since it had no windows and two suited bouncers out front, but I still claim innocence. The bar operates like a hostess club. You buy expensive beers for under-dressed girls and in return you get to enjoy their company. From time to time they dim the already dimness and one or a few of the girls does a dance.

Probably because we are money-soak gringos, Jason and I each got our own stripper to hang out with. Three awkward exchanges into the conversation, almost on script, one of the girls pointed out Jason's necklace - a dog chain secured by a small padlock. Not missing a beat, he took it off and put it around her neck. On impulse, I put my watch on the other girl's wrist as a joke, then set about drinking myself forgetful. We stumbled out of the place some hours later and left the watch behind. I say that I "lost" it, but I knew as soon as I took it off that I was never going to see it again.

Giving away the watch did not solve the core problem. I am still smarting from the especially sudden and ferocious dumping and think about the dumper a great deal. There is no longer a specific daily reminder, but I remember just the same. This must be one of those wounds that only time will heal. I tried booze, but that just makes it worse. I wonder if that stripper will figure out how to turn the damn alarm off.


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