As I unwrapped the present that my friend Alex had picked out for me, I tried to muster up the expression of delight that I knew I would need. I knew that his intentions were good, but Alex always managed to find the oddest and most useless gifts. One year, I had received a small robot that was supposed to wander around my apartment and clean my floor, but instead ended up mostly just sulking in one corner near its charger. Another time he gave me a disturbingly large golden spider, all metal and springs, that would scurry about horribly with a few twists of a wind-up key. He meant well, but he could never quite understand that I wasn’t as thrilled with his geeky pursuits.
The wrappings fell away to reveal a small box with a picture of a watch on the front. A large blurb at the bottom proclaimed the “improved rumble feature” in capital letters. Surprised, I didn’t have to work quite as hard to seem delighted. I had been meaning to pick up a watch in any case, and this would save me a few dollars, even if it wasn’t quite my usual style of accessory.
“Oh Alex, I love it!” I exclaimed. “I’ve been needing a watch! It’s perfect!”
Across the couch, Alex beamed back at me, and I felt a slight twinge of shame. I had known for months that he had a crush on me, but I just never felt quite the same way towards him. Pulling my eyes away, I pulled the watch out of the box, slipping it onto my wrist. It was a little larger and bulkier than I would have preferred, but the rubber strap fit snugly and the weight wasn’t unreasonable.
I looked back inside the box for the instruction manual, but the box was empty aside from some crumpled wrapping paper. Glancing down at my wrist, I saw that the watch was already displaying the correct time on its black face. Oh well, no need then.
The rest of the party flashed by, and I was saying goodbye to my guests at the door. Alex came up towards the end, and I held out my arms for a hug.
“It’s actually a really cool watch,” he said, as we stepped back away from each other. “It has this rumble feature, which is supposed to alert you to danger somehow.”
I glanced down at my wrist. “Danger?” I asked. “Like if I’m going to be late for an appointment or something?”
“Something like that,” Alex said. “I don’t really know how it works. I was hoping you could tell me how it goes.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Oh, I see. I’m your guinea pig, is that it? Your test subject for this thing?”
Laughing, Alex threw up his hands in mock surrender. “Sue, you’re too smart for me! You’ve seen through my nefarious plans! I am foiled!” As he called me Sue, smiling, I felt another twinge inside. Alex was the only one who shortened Susan down to Sue. He really was a great guy, and I knew that he would be a wonderful and caring boyfriend. But I’d just never had that spark, and I couldn’t pursue a relationship when I didn’t have love as a driving force.
After he had left, I went up to bed, placing the watch on my bedside table. It had a couple buttons, one of which activated a small backlight and one of which seemed to start and stop the second hand, a bit like a stopwatch. The third button didn’t appear to do anything, however, and I guessed that it perhaps related to the “rumble” feature, whatever that was. The watch certainly hadn’t rumbled tonight. I shrugged and closed my eyes, letting sleep come.
Link to Part II