Clocks

Chicago was where it all started.

Lovino was an art history intern, dragging out his days at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Antonio was a Spanish exchange student, bright and bubbly and way too happy at ten o'clock in the morning. They met in front of the clocks exhibit: two clocks, side by side, synchronized down to the millisecond. The plaque beneath read, "Eventually, one of the clocks will fall out of sync and expire due to mechanical failure. The other will continue ticking."

Lovino was standing alone, watching the clocks. Antonio walked by, came back and said, "You know, these clocks are really beautiful. They've been together for so long, but soon one of them will break and the other will have to learn to cope."

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Lovino muttered. He turned and left.

Antonio was back the next day. "You don't think this piece really says something?" he asked, having found Lovino in the same place, same time. "Don't you think they'll be sad when they part?"

"They're just clocks. Stop giving them emotions." Lovino crossed his arms and watched the clocks. Antonio watched him.

The museum was closed on Mondays; Lovino spent these free hours in the campus library, inhaling coffee and finishing his thesis. He often found himself at the same table as Antonio. "Nowhere else is free," he grumbled when they sat together. Antonio smiled and blamed it on fate. Lovino blamed it on Antonio.

Thanksgiving found them sitting opposite each other in a shoddy Chinese buffet.

"This is even stupider than what you said about the clocks," Lovino huffed.

Antonio smiled. "I'm going back to Spain in a month."

Lovino turned his face to the window. "I won't miss you."

Autumn ended this way, and Antonio finally got an answer on Christmas Eve.

"This is the only exhibit you ever look at," he said that day, dark hair speckled with snow. "There must be something that brings you here."

Lovino crossed his arms.

"What is it about the clocks that draws you here?"

He was silent for a beat or two before responding. "Even after one of them breaks," he said quietly, "they'll still be here together." He turned on his heel and left.

Antonio watched the clocks until night fell.

January brought three feet of snow and something strange. Lovino stood in the museum alone and watched the clocks in a dizzy haze. He heard only ticking and pretended that it was a welcome change.

On a windy day in April, he is watching the clocks as usual when an older woman approaches him.

"Excuse me?" she says. Lovino spares her a single withering glance, but she isn't deterred. "This clock exhibit- do you know who the artist is? I'm afraid I don't have my glasses with me at the moment."

He rolls his eyes, but he's getting paid to answer stupid questions so he goes up close to the clocks and bends down and looks at the plaque and-

Antonio Fernandez Carriedo, 2012.

Still here.