Time is not Money

By Mikiko Miyakawa

On a corner of an old-fashioned clock store, a girl sits all day.   Her clothes look old-fashioned too. None of the many clocks on the wall has told accurate time since her late parents left this store to her. She looks bored floating between the tides of time.

Normally I am pretty fair to everyone on this planet. But this girl, Saori,  is an exception. She is special to me. Having been a retired genius scientist and programmer from a governmental foundation, Saori was tired of shameful jealousy toward her. She was too holy to endure such disgraceful attitude of human being. It seems she has abandoned her life already. But it’s not.

She has her idol, this guitarist Keith who performs every music place in this small town. He is famous in here, mainly as a ladies’ man. But Saori does not care. Although he is not her boyfriend, she offers time to him for free.

It doesn’t mean that she donate her time to him. She just can manipulate time. By enlarging his time, she can make him play the guitar faster than anyone. See he only has to play at 100 BPM(Beat Per Minute) when he needs to play it at 140 BPM.

Yes, she had been developing a device to supervise time in the governmental foundation. In this era when people can control time by adjusting gravitational fields, the government has to supervise every citizens’ time as a part of their registered records.

Of course even the government is allowed to manipulate time only when critically needed. Say, emergency cases in medical and transportation field. But Saori secretly made some intentional bugs on the program before her retirement. So she can give someone a few minutes by borrowing someone else’s time through the access to the program from her personal computer.

This is the theory of this world, you understand. When someone enjoys abundant time, another one sacrifices his or her time to serve this someone.

Yesterday, as usual, she went to Keith’s gig at a music bar by a park. His play was stunning. His white arms, hands and fingers charmed every girls in the bar, thanks to the prolonged time that Saori had given him. The crowd was enthusiastic. Even intoxicated. After the stage, he came to Saori and whispered curtly.

“Hey you, can I have more time for next gig?”

As soon as Saori nodded, he walked out with a red head girl in a showy dress.

***

On the counter of Saori’s clock store, there is a hand-written ad card lately. It reads ” We buy your idle time”. This does not mean Saori buys used watches and clocks indeed. And this annoys me a little bit, because she is going too far. Since the safe amount of time she can use to help Keith is running short, she needs to ask strangers to give her their “social time security numbers”. By these numbers, Saori can access their records to borrow their time for Keith through the governmental program.

The rumor of this confidential ad card eventually attracted those who needed to buy time also. Students with exams or rushing writers of birthday emails, for example. Anyway, Saori successfully got enough number of people who offer their time. You would sometimes meet people who work so slowly. They could be the time sellers.

One day, she went out of her clock store for lunch. At her frequent French cafe, she took an outdoor seat. Before the sandwich she ordered, a red head girl came over to her table and asked.

“Is this seat taken?”

Without waiting for Saori’s reply, the red hair sat in front of Saori. She was the girl who disappeared with Keith from the music bar months ago. One of the Keith’s groupies.

Smiling brightly, she introduced herself.

“My name is Amaris. Yours?”

“Saori.”

“Did you knowSaori, that Keith signed a major record label?”

Amaris looked proud.

“No, I have never heard. When?”

“A couple weeks ago. But you hang out with Keith right?”

“No, I just talk to him sometimes. Last week he didn’t mention the record deal.”

“Really?  He is moving to West coast shortly for this deal. And me too.”

Amaris never stopped talking about how fun it was to hang out with Keith during the lunch. Amaris looked more attractive in her plain shirt and jeans. She is a nice girl. But I knew how painful Saori felt.

After the lunch, Saori went back to the clock store and tore the ad card. I heard her say

“Maybe I offered Keith time too easily, so that he thought I was a cheap girl. Too much supply. But not anymore. ”

Being really upset, she decided to rely on invisible hand of God, the general interpretation of an economic theory. It could boost the price of her time, if she controls supply.

Saori began to refuse Keith’s order through emails. Finally she didn’t even reply. She was certain that Keith would need much time for recordings and big concerts. So I understood that she expected Keith would change his attitude in order to get time from her, if she says no to him. She expected something like his emails with tender words, in stead of insipid ones he had sent.  I say she didn’t demand much in her mind. She just dreamt of having sweet dates with him even once or twice, in exchange for time.

***

Three month after Keith left this town, nothing changed. Saori sat on the corner of her clock store, dreaming her date with Keith. So when she saw Keith walking in, she didn’t realize it was not a dream.

“Hi.” Keith said, nervously beaming. He took out a CD from his shoulder bag and put it on the counter.

“This one is for you.”

On it were his name and the title. Saori read it out loud.

“God’s invisible hands. Is this yours from the major label?”

“Yes, it just came out. The title means the movement of my fingers is too fast to see. My producer put this title. I know you’re laughing though.”, Keith mumbled.

“ No, but—“

“You’re wondering how I could do this recording without your help, aren’t you?”

I was really sorry she had nothing to say. Keith continued.

“I actually played all by myself. I practiced.”

“In just three month?”, Saori asked doubtfully.

“No. In one year or more. I didn’t need time from you these days, Saori.”

“Then why you were asking me all the time?”

“Well, because…..because I wanted to have chances to talk to you, although I suspected you looked down on me. So I promised myself to hand you my CD one day and—”

“And?”

I knew Keith wanted to add “ and ask you out.”  But he didn’t say that. Saori tried her best to express herself.

“Keith, I never looked down on you. I just wanted to be of your help.”

“Thank you. I could make this happen because of you. I have to go now. Ah, Amaris said hello to you.”

“Are you with her now?”

“Yes, we were engaged.”

Poor Saori. The truth is Keith came to love Amaris because she supported broken-hearted Keith who misunderstood that Saori disliked him. God’s invisible hand didn’t help Saori. It didn’t work maybe because time is not money.

Turning around to the entrance, Keith said thoughtfully.

“You were like a goddess to me.”

Saori was just sitting still. All I could do for her was to stay by her side, creating comfortable stream.

Saori, you have me. Keith is great but I am as well. My lifespan is longer than the universe. So I could blow a trumpet with angels for the opening of Last Judgment, although I can not play the guitar.

You know my name. I am time.

Mikiko is a composer/pianist based in New York City. Besides performing, she writes piano pieces for the media and for Velvet Green Music, an production music library serving the greater Los Angeles television, film and advertising market. Please find Mikiko’s another fiction stories on a literature contest site The Asylum and follow her on Instagram

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