The empty apartment is engulfed in the morning sun, thus awakening the man that inhabits it. An old, seemingly lonely man takes a sip of water before getting out of bed and into the shower. He always liked the sensation of hot water trickling down his body; water that cleans everything evil and drags it down the drain.It felt cathartic, even though the man needed everything but redemption. He wasn't particularly lonely either, but he had been feeling that way for the last couple of months. Dressed in a fancy suit, he prepares to leave this barren territory he called home.
Door shut, keys in coat pocket and ready to go. He walks down his childhood street, and there it is, but how? It closed over 30 years ago... In spite of this, it stands as glorious and probably delicious as it was before: Bernie's Place. Used to be ran by good ol' Bernie Hertz, along with his lovely wife, Christina, and in the latter years, by his son and daughter: Kevin and Delilah... How could this be? He was retired, but he still had something urgent to do, even though he had no idea what it was; where it was, he did.
Without further ado, he continues (almost) sprinting down so many familiar streets, too many memories to bare at once. He had to keep going, he need to reach his destination. It was an immediate need, a need he properly had no knowledge of. That feeling of utter desperation when you need to do something, or want to, and simply aren't able to... He couldn't let that happen.
And finally, he arrived: the park, specifically the bench where he had never sat in a park he had never been to, waiting for something that could or couldn't happen, and surely wouldn't. But life sometimes surprises you.
"Finally, you're here."
A young man appears out of nowhere, as if he were dealing with an apparition.
"Why am I here? Who are you?"
"I know you are probably confused. It's quite lucky you only ran into 'Bernie's Place,' or we would have had big problems."
"What are you talking about?"
"Everything at its due time. Let's begin with the first question, shall we? Perfect. You know you don't know this place. You know you had to be here, but you don't know why you wanted to be here. And still, here you are, wanting what you don't know. I knew you would follow your gut."
"Please, stop babbling about and go to the point."
"Of course, excuse me. You're here because I drew you here, because I know you better than anyone."
"I don't even know you."
"Are you actually telling me you don't recognize yourself?"
The old man gasps and stares blankly at his alleged imposter. He turns around to face a small pond with a family of ducks swimming calmly in it. He wish he could be that calm. He can do this, he can. With a couple of breaths, he earns the so needed courage and turns again to face his adversary.
"What do you mean? Are you insinuating that you... are me?"
"And you are me. Exactly. Well, not quite. I'm not exactly you, I am the incarnation of all you were, but no longer are."
"How naive do you think I am? You know what, I have to get going."
"Where? You can't even breath without that tube that runs through your respiratory system."
"What tube? For your information, I am a perfectly healthy person."
"I know. But accidents happen, and you hit yourself pretty hard."
"I am fine! Are you able to see that?"
"Of course you are fine. You are fine here. But physically, you are practically destroyed, struggling to survive."
"What on God's name are you talking about?!"
"I guess I should go straight to the point. We were never too patient. Alright, so here it goes: you are inside your mind right now; you fell down the stairs and hot yourself in the head. Bottom line, you are in a comma."
Disbelief floods the man. He thinks this guy is an asshole for messing around with– And he realizes what one would think is impossible. He can't recur to the only resource he can use to express whatever he believes: his thoughts. He can't think. Why can't he think? What the hell is happening? This man... He can't be possibly telling the truth.
"I need to go."
"It's rude not to say farewell to someone, but it is even ruder not to answer your mother's call.
His mother. She had been dead for 25 years now. He missed her a lot.
"My mother passed away over 25 years ago. Listen to me, you punk, either you stop messing with me or–"
"Call her. Call your mother. Check your cellphone, go to your contacts and search 'Mother'."
He was fairly tired of arguing with him. Besides, what was the worst that could happen? In any case, he could punch the guy in the face. He searches his coat pocket and takes out his cellphone. He is almost laughing when he sees it. He becomes as serious as ever. One tap and he would prove this guy is a joke. One tap.
Beep... Beep... Beep...
That voice. That voice that you couldn't confuse even if you were in the middle of a roaring crowd, and that person is standing at the other end of it. He can't help it.
"Sonny! I'm so glad you called. It's been some time since we last talked."
Two tears trickle down his face, one of each eye. It is her, his mother.
"Yes, it has. Such a long time. Too long."
"You should come visit me some time. I bought your favorite treat: lemon pie."
"I'll sure do, Mom."
"Okay, Sonny. Well, then, see you later!"
The phone call ends with a man in tears and his older/younger self watching over him.
After a seemingly endless silence, the man decides to continue his interrogation.
"Why can't I think?"
"It's like trying to breath underwater. Okay, you won't die if you try to think, but it's a good example. There are some places where you just can't do something because it's impossible. Simple as that."
"Am I dying? Outside, I mean."
"Yes, I'm afraid. When your body can't react, your mind decides to adapt your reality into something more tangible."
"Does this happen to everyone who has this sort of condition?"
"Probably. I couldn't be sure. Remember, I'm just you. I'm not some sort of Mental Ambassador, although that would be the coolest job ever."
"So am I going to be here until I die?"
"Yes. Do you know how people say you see your entire life before you die? It's actually a much longer process than just getting shot, seeing your depraved teenage years and dying."
"Well, if I'm here, I better take advantage of it. Care to walk with me?"
"Not at all. Follow me. I know some great places downtown.
And so, they walked around his memories for a while.
They visited Bernie's Place first, since it was the first memory he relieved. The food was as delicious and as nostalgic as ever. Bernie greeted both with open arms and invited them to take a seat in the only empty table. SurroundIng them were his most feared friends, neighbors and all sorts of people he had met throughout his life, except for his mother and wife. Arthur, his dearest friend of them all, approached the table and, without even saying anything, hugged the man. For the first time in months, he didn't feel lonely. He was happy, euphoric.
He talked to Arthur for like for what felt like hours, while enjoying the exquisite dishes Bernie incessantly delivered to the table. His other self just smiled, sometimes laughing and nodding politely. Then, Mac joined them. Mac, his college roommate, his colleague, his confidant, his best friend for such a long time he couldn't possibly count the years with all his fingers. Arthur had never met Mac, but they acted like they had known each other forever.
They remembered so many things together, so many significant events. Happy, sad, furious, joyous, and plainly boring moments that contributed to the enrichment of his and their lives. The advantage of being inside his mind, is that they could all share memories they couldn't possible know in the outside world. They never got tired, the restaurant never closed and the costumes never left: an eternal part inside an individual's head. Who could believe something like that.
After having talked about everything they could've possible talked, the man gave a warm hug to both of his dear friends and left the restaurant. He revisited his childhood house, the house where he had the first fight with his brother, the first scold from her mother, his first kiss, his most inspired and illuminating moments, even though they turned out to be not as illuminating and inspired as he thought. This place remained empty. After he went to college, his brother remained with his mother until he left for college. The mother then decided to move to a small apartment in the city, rather than living in a big, empty house in the suburbs.
He went to college once again, but not as a student this time. His dorm room was exactly as he remembered leaving it. Some wild things happened there, but some of the happiest moments of his life also did. His classrooms, the podium here he received his diploma. It was too much to take in at the same time. He then went to the place he worked for 33 years. He realized that, despite having spent the most time of his life in there, he didn't really have many fond memories of it, besides the ones that involved Mac.
For A While
After visiting all those significant places, he decided to visit the most important of all, at least in his mind: his mother's apartment in the city, where was sure he'd find the most important people of his life. One, two, three knocks. A wait of 5 seconds and the door opens. A 50-year-old woman, radiant as always, opens the door, dressed in magnificent clothes.
"Sonny, I'm so glad you came!"
The man wraps her mother with his arms and embraces her like he had never embraced anyone in his life.
"Leave something for me, sweetheart,"
That voice. Another unmistakeable one: his wife. She had passed away as well, but more recently than his mother. She was in her thirties again. The most beautiful woman he had ever met, the one he had loved more intensely and passionately than anyone else. He stopped hugging his mother and kissed his wife like he did when they first met. He hugged her, too.
"I've missed you so much, both of you."
"I've missed you too, honey, so much. And I think I can speak for both your mother and I. Your brother, too."
His brother? He hadn't seen him in years, and not because he was death, but because they had grown aparts over the passing of the years. He turned his head left to see him. He was drinking a beer and was looking rather stylish. The man moved towards his brother, but he is stopped by the brother himself, who stands up and hugs his brother.
"I'm so sorry. I'm sorry we grew apart. I love you so much, brother."
The man can't help but cry.
"I'm sorry, too. You don't know how much."
They both cry as they hug each other. The mother decides to join the scene, and so does the wife. This is happiness at its highest degree. Nothing could be better. Crying breaks up the scene.
"Oh, the baby must have woken up. Just in time!" says an excited wife.
The man looks puzzled. A baby? But they only had one child, a daughter. Unless...
"Say hello to Stanley, honey!"
Stan... Stanley. Their first child, who didn't make it through the difficulty of birth. That... It was too much. He couldn't handle it.
"No. I can't do that, I can't face that sorrow again. It will destroy me, like it did the first time."
"What are you talking about, honey?"
"Stop for a minute there," orders the previously silent other man.
Everyone disappears. The man is left alone with the other man in a blank, empty space.
"I cannot deal with that, not again."
"Stop, please. Let me explain: this is it."
"My time to go?"
"Yes, but I couldn't let you go like this. With this much suffering, I needed to giev you one last happy memory: the revisiting of your memories. I know it's complicated, but you understand. I know you do."
"Can I at least say good-bye to my daughter?"
"I'm afraid not. It's the end of the line. But, now that I think about it... Move you right hand's fingers a bit, just wiggle them. And smile, that's the most important part."
"Will it work?"
"Let's hope so."
"Can I say good-bye to them, to everyone?"
"I don't think so."
"Please. Let me. Just for a while. Just to say good-bye."