The dog is at the ex’s. Fortunately, you never had any kids with her. You’ve called in sick to work. You are free to do as you choose, at least with a few hundred dollars in the checking account, and about as much available on your credit cards. You could spend the day in quiet contemplation, fasting throughout the morning and afternoon, and then have a light supper of bread, tea and fruit. You could really get focused on what you need to do to change yourself to become the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be.
In your fantasies you always know what to say in any social situation. You have learned two other foreign languages, and finally got around to mastering the piano. You read GQ and Maxim, and follow the guidelines and tips they offer to men. You own a motorcycle and often rent a boat on the lake, inviting friends you met last night at the club out to get naked and drunk on the water. You travel to large, global cities and appreciate good art, food, music and wine. Your job is vaguely sales-related, but you are mostly charged with putting on dog and Powerpoint pony shows for admiring boardrooms, then waltzing away after they’ve cut you a check.
You have a robust selection of self help books and DVDs that you purchased from Half Price Books. You like the idea of reading The Art of War and The Prince to get wisdom for getting ahead–though you can’t really seem to get past the first few pages of these kinds of books, or even really sugary, motivational-speaker books written with tons of blockquotes and bullet points.
You put a guy’s movie into your desktop computer’s DVD player. You’ve been meaning to upgrade the CRT monitor, or buy a laptop, but you can’t afford these things yet. You certainly can’t afford a nice, flatscreen television, since you’ve ran up a lot of debt at clubs and restaurants. It’s 2002, so these nicer technologies are very expensive. You decide to watch a Mel Gibson buddy cop movie. After about 30 minutes, you go online to look at Ducati motorcycles and fantasize about operating a nice yellow one while wearing matching Italian racing leathers with some skinny model you met at a club. Then you masturbate.
After spending two hours cleaning all of the viruses and spyware off of your hard drive, you take a nap. Then, you call your friend Dean.
“Dean, let’s go downtown.”
“Okay, where are we going?”
“We could go get some wings.”
“We always go get wings, let’s go to a bar where we can drink beer and scotch, and shoot pool.”
“Or do karaoke.”
“Or do karaoke.”
You meet Dean at a bar where he used to work, and he carries on a conversation with the bartender, completely ignoring you.
You believe a girl is smiling at you from three stools over. You smile at her, and she smirks, then her boyfriend returns from the men’s room to drape himself over her with his back to you.
That’s when you realize that you’ve traveled back in time, and you are repeating a night that already happened. This was ten years ago. You tell Dean that you need to go home because you have a headache, and he makes fun of you, inviting the bartender to join in the derision.
“Drink more!” cries the bartender.
You turn and walk out the door. You find an ATM, then flag a cab, and find yourself back at your tiny studio with the leaky gas. You call your mom because it’s not that late, only about eight PM, and tell her how much you love her. She seems confused and worried that you might be mixed up in something terrible. Well, you are, but it isn’t anything that a grown man shouldn’t be able to get himself out of. If you were a little less drunk, you’d hop in your car and drive the fifty miles to see her, but think better of it.
You go online and find a nice little chapel nearby that is having a quiet, contemplative retreat this evening and walk over to this church. Nobody seems to mind that you’re there, but they don’t seem to really care, either.
As you join the others in reflecting on the awesomeness and wonderful holiness of Jesus, you drift out of this environment.
You wake up, and it is 2012 again.
You have a strange woman in your bed and you live in a strange home. A baby cries in the other room; and the woman, who knows your name, tells you that it’s your turn to go check on it. There is an iPhone on your nightstand that tells you where you are. You are in a large city in the Midwest. A trail of emails tells you that you are an Account Manager for a large, advertising agency.
The baby is a girl.
You have more of your hair than when you left 2012, and less of it is gray. You dive into the bathroom cabinets and drawers to see if your improved follicle condition is mostly due to artificial medicines and dyes, or if your slight change to the timeline caused you to stress less, and retain more rich, black hair. The former seems to be the case.
Reading through a series of journals on your laptop, you see that your mother still died about the same time, though she lived a little longer. Perhaps having a cleaner, more caring son gave her just a little more something to live for. Your dad still lives in Texas, and the dog you owned with your ex died about the same time.
The woman who was your wife when you first left 2012 became a stranger. After all, you would never have met her, having begun to clean your life up much sooner, and having become a member of a different church where you met the woman you are now married to. You look your
“first wife” up online, and see that she is doing the same work she was doing when you left her, and engaged to a different man that she met at your church.
You go back to sleep after calming the baby down, and your new wife puts her arm around you.
You wake up, and it’s 1993. Mickey Travinski is going to commit suicide today, and you will discover this when you show up at high school in your black, Chevy S-10 pickup truck. Priscilla Chernier, your first crush ever, is scheduled to work with you at Subway tonight. The small town of Murphy’s Falls feels like a pair of pants that are five sizes too small.