My Life as I Knew It - Chapter 1 Teaser
Everybody thinks about going back in time and what they would or would not do differently. You can protest all you like. You can say 'there's no point in thinking about it' or 'the past is the past, move on' or 'if I had done things differently I may not have met my wonderful husband/wife' or 'may not have had my beautiful children.' True, there is no point in dwelling on the past. Learning from it, yes, dwelling on it, useless. True, if traveling back in time were possible and you were to do something different there is always a chance that you could change the course of history for others and that could turn out to be either good or bad.
The point I'm trying to make is this: everyone has thought about going back in time to undo or redo something. I don't care how cynical or how much of a pragmatist you are. Even if it was just for one second, that thought has crossed your mind. You are not human if you have not done something you completely regret that's either now affecting your life, has affected your life, or will in the future.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I think I may have completely lost my mind. No, I take that back...I know I have completely lost my mind! Let me catch you up on my dilemma. I wake up this morning lying on a mattress on the floor (not even a bed, a mattress on the floor!) staring at one of those ceilings that look like cottage cheese, trying to process where I am right now. I sit up and look around me. To my right is a window with vertical blinds that are shut. At the foot of my makeshift bed is a television...on the floor! All of a sudden I can't breathe. I think to myself, 'I know this place!' Ha! I'm just dreaming! Ever since I asked my doctor to up my dosage of Prozac I've been sleeping like a rock, which is fantastic, but the dreams have been beyond bizarre. That's perfectly fine with me, though. As long as I'm getting at least six hours of sleep I can always discuss those dreams at my bi-weekly therapy visits. Anyway, getting back to what I was hoping was a dream...
To my right is a bathroom and unfortunately I know exactly who is behind that closed door. At this moment Damian, whom I made the mistake of dating for a few months when I was twenty-six, is taking a shower. The bigger mistake was the two of us thinking it would be a good idea to move in together after the first few weeks of dating because we both needed to move out of our current residences and were both broke. Yes, I know. But I never said I was a smart twenty-six year old. I'll talk more about how asinine I was later. Where I am at this moment is the apartment Damian and I were sharing during our disastrous dating period. It was a studio apartment in a low-income area in Fullerton, California.
I rub my eyes and try to wake up. Although I loathe the thought of getting out of bed I remember that today I get to break in my brand new fabulous leather Coach bag and my new pair of Manolos that my incredible husband Greg bought me for my birthday. Believe me we're not rich by any means and we don't always spoil each other like that, but we've been going through our share of disappointments lately so we've been treating each other to some extras this year. So remembering the gifts I get to break in today, I attempt to shake myself awake. Nothing. Did I take two pills last night? Why can't I wake up? Just then my heart leapt into my throat. Checkers, my Tabby-Persian mixed cat who died twelve years ago of feline cancer comes strolling up to me. I loved that beautiful cat so much. Throughout my life I've had my share of some heartbreaking experiences and having to put Checkers to sleep was definitely one of them. I took Checkers in my arms and buried my face in her long grey fur and started sobbing uncontrollably. She meowed like she usually did when I cried. Her fur felt strangely real against my face. God, I hate waking up from dreams like this; it's so bitter sweet.
"What's wrong?" Damian asks. Wait; shouldn't it be Greg's voice I'm hearing? I let go of Checkers and she strolled toward the tiny kitchen. I wipe my eyes and turn around. Standing at the bathroom door is Damian with a towel wrapped around his waist.
"Uh," I rub my eyes and try to stand up. "I...I can't wake up."
"Well, I made some coffee. You're gonna be late again," he says in the irritated voice I came to know well. "I'm sure you're very tired," he says sarcastically.
Ugh...I'm dreaming about that day. 'Well, I know now what I would have done differently, but this is a dream so just wake up already and get going,' I say to myself. I walk out of the nook that serves as our bedroom toward the kitchen. I stop in the middle of the living room.
"I...I smell coffee," I say in alarm.
"I told you I made coffee. Exactly, how much did you drink last night?" Damian proceeded with one of his daily rants while I stood in the living room taking in everything.
This is too real, I can't wake up. I think I'm sleeping, right? I walk over to the sliding glass door and shove the vertical blinds aside. Sun. Brilliant California sun momentarily blinds me. As my eyes adjust, I see my pale yellow Pontiac parked at the curb. Scratch that; it's actually my parents Pontiac which I had borrowed for a good part of my mid-twenties. Across the street is the Fullerton shopping center. No, no, this can't be! I run my hands through my hair. It's curly again! I just spent $400.00 for my hair to be pin straight for another year, why is it curly again? My body goes numb and I collapse, I can't breathe, my hands are tingling. Damian is still mid-rant when he appears from around the corner of the faux wood partition that separates the bedroom from the living room and stops when he sees me on the floor.
"Oh my god what's wrong," he says kneeling down, grabbing my hands. "Breathe slowly, breathe slowly."
"I can't. Why am I here?" I manage to pry a hand away from his and slap myself and look around. I'm still in the living room with him. I slap myself again. I'm still here! This can't be happening!
"Brianna, quit it! You're scaring me! What's going on?"
There is no way in hell this could be happening! There is no way I can be back here in this mess I made for myself! The past seventeen years did happen! I look Damian square in the face. What can I possibly say? What can I possibly do? I know...coffee! Every dream I have consists of me attempting to do something such as eat, drink, call someone, and I am never able to complete the task. I attempt said task several times and the frustration of trying to complete that task ultimately wakes me. I take a couple of deep breaths.
"Nothing," I say as calmly as possible. "I...I had a really bad dream and....I'm having a tough time shaking it."
"Oh man, you really scared me! Your face was totally white; I thought you might be having a heart attack! You sure you're ok?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I just need some coffee." I slowly stand up and make my way to the kitchen. Where did I keep the coffee cups back then? I open a couple cabinets and find them. The pink and white flowered coffee cups, wow! I remember these. I feel Damien's eyes on me, looking me up and down. I look down and for the first time I realize I'm wearing nothing but my underwear. I hate these dreams! But I manage to stay calm because I'm confident I will wake up any minute now. I ignore Damien's leering and pour myself a cup with no problem. I reach into the fridge and grab my hazelnut creamer and pour with no problem. I take a gulp. Oh my god, I'm not waking up! I AM NOT WAKING UP!
I can't breathe again. I clutch the counter and try to stay calm. 'If this isn't a dream,' I say to myself, 'then you need to put some clothes on before anything else.' I bolt past Damian (who seems to have not stopped talking once this morning) to the bedroom area. I grab a t-shirt and a pair of sweats lying in the closet floor and run into the bathroom which is directly across from the closet and shut the door behind me.
As I lean against the door trying unsuccessfully to collect myself and keep my heart from pounding out of my chest. I see myself in the mirror. My twenty-six year old self, that is. What is happening to me? I slowly walk the couple of steps to the sink and move as close as I can to the mirror above it; so close my nose is almost touching the glass. I pull away just a little. Not one line. There is not one line on my face. At the age of forty-three, I do look well for my age; most people mistake me for being much younger, but definitely not a twenty-six year old. I could thank Clinique for that, but I'm guessing it stems from good genes. After all, my father didn't find his first grey hair until he was fifty years old.
Standing in the bathroom holding my sweats and t-shirt, I look down at my thighs. They are as smooth as silk, not one dimple. I've never been fat; at my heaviest I may have been about fifteen pounds overweight thanks to fertility drugs, but I haven't seen my legs look this trim in I don't know how many years. Well, actually, since my twenties. I hold my arms out and look in the mirror. Gravity hasn't yet taken its toll. Why do I not remember my body looking this good? I always hated my body! I slip into my clothes and stand in the bathroom for another few minutes and let the reality of the moment wash over me.
"This can't be happening," I say out loud. "This can't be happening," I say louder, my voice bouncing off the bathroom walls.
I slap myself again, and still find myself in the bathroom of my studio apartment. In Fullerton. With Damian. Who’s in the other room...and is he still talking??? I completely forgot about the psychotic ramblings to which I allowed him to subject me! I need to think, and I can't do that while he's rambling, and telling him to shut up will simply add fuel to the fire. I swing the bathroom door open.
"What year is it?" I ask Damian who of course had been standing in front of the bathroom door the whole time.
He stops his complaining for a moment and stares at me in disbelief.
"What do you mean what year is it?"
"Damian, I'm being serious, I'm not feeling well! Something's wrong with me! Please, please tell me what year it is!"
I tried to remain calm as I ask, "And it's...," I try to remember approximately when we moved into this apartment. "It's September?"
"No Bri! What is wrong with you? It's May. Friday, May 30th!"
I gasped. May 30, 1997? Exactly thirteen years before Greg and I got married. Or should I say will be getting married? Seventeen years before...well, before I was supposed to wake up to my birthday presents!
I walked over to the sliding glass door and stared outside for a minute. This was all too unreal.
"Listen Bri, I don't know what's going on right now..."
"Well, neither do I!"
"...but I have to go to work. We can deal with this later. In the meantime you're gonna be late for work," Damian continued as he brought over my coffee, "If you're really feeling that bad maybe you should call out."
"Call who?" I was so confused.
"Suredent, Bri! Call the people you work for at Suredent!"
"Right, right. Maybe I should call out today." That's for sure! No way was I going back there. Suredent was one of the worst companies I ever worked for.
"Ok, well since I don't have the privilege of calling out, I have get to work."
"Fine," I replied distractedly. What did I ever see in this idiot?
Damian gathered his toolbox and other work items and left. Finally! Now I could be left alone in silence and figure out what I was going to do. If I was able to do anything! I opened the sliding glass door to let in some air and slid to the floor to sit and gather my thoughts.
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(c) 2014 Brenda Thornlow
Brenda Thornlow was voted one of the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2015. She is the author of the new fiction series My Life as I Knew It; the short story, The Revolving Door and A Godless Love. Available at Amazon. (Link below)
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© 2015 Brenda Thornlow