Time Travel, Unexpectedly

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Curves.

Time travel  hurts,  okay?  Not  always,  but tonight it did. If for no other reason, because it was just so unexpected and so raw. And I was so powerless.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

Earlier, while Aislinn slept off a virus, Shannon and I watched The Gift, one of my favorite movies and the one of the few  where Keanu Reeves showed he can act in- stead of just looking pretty  (he had actual lines!). While we watched and commented on how the small town life reminded us more of Georgia  than Louisiana  and how much we liked the simple life presented and yet, at the same time,  there  we  sat,  both  of us  with  our  laptops, working  on  our  separate  projects  while  we  watched  a movie together.

When I got  ready  for bed,  long after  the  girls  had fallen asleep, I realized I’d left an important file on the laptop  and  went  back  to  retrieve  it to  transfer  it to  a thumb drive.

As I plopped  down in one of the overstuffed  gold chairs and booted the laptop, I glanced around the family room. The damaged floor is being replaced, probably this week, maybe next.  Strangers  will arrive in the next few days, measure the rooms, and then be back to replace the flooring, provided no hurricanes interfere again.  Finally. I’ve waited a long, long time and I’m getting the push not to wait another month to get all the house issues cleared up, even if I’m still waiting for the roofers to reimburse me for the damages 9 months later.

This will be the last of the big changes in this room. It’s changed  so much in the past year and a half. The green and purple walls, the  new wall hangings, the new pillows, the plants, the bamboo shades, the  beaded valances. In my mind, I try to imagine this room before all the color was added but after the new post-divorce furniture.

And then I’m back there. Back 18 months in the past,

18 months to the day, 18 months to the moment, though I don’t realize this until later. Back there, back then, sitting in this very chair.

Looking at the twirling ceiling fan against the white walls and small Thomas McKnight paintings from a life- time ago.

Looking  at  my  new  sofa  with  the  funky  magenta swirls on gold and the crazy pillows.

Looking at the way my friends and I have shifted the furniture in the room to either side to make room for a massage table and a healing  session that has me terribly nervous.

Looking  at  the  table  in  front  of  me  and  the  man stretched out under my favorite purple velvet throw, very tense and  nervous and in so much pain, on the table in front of me.

It’s for him. I did this for him. To help him because I want to help him and I don’t know how. I want to ease his hurt and instead, on this night, in this moment of long ago, I don’t ease it. I share it. I see it, feel it, experience it as he does. And I drop to the overstuffed gold chair, my chest hurting with his pain, and I sit here, just watching, and hearing him apologize for my feeling his pain.

”I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I’m so sorry.”

And now in this moment, my friends work around him, over the table, becoming shadows as they work, all else around us falling away except for the table in front of me and the man on the table, now relaxed, at least for a moment. Now asleep.

I’m caught  in the moment,  and I can’t  move.  If I could move, I  would reach out and touch him, put my hand over his heart, but I’m  frozen here, either by the pain that’s his or by time itself and I can only look, not touch.

This room and the world around us fades away, gone.

He lies, eyes closed, breathing peacefully for the moment, asleep in front of me. My heart twists up inside me and I can’t move, I can’t change the  moment, I can’t do any- thing to rewrite it.

Then he wakes with a start, just as he did that night, and he flails  and he bolts upright and gasping, thinking he’d fallen and suddenly realizing he’s safe in my home. He jerks his head in my direction and sees me and seems relieved and then…then I’m…back here.

Too late to reach out and touch. This room is empty. The walls now have color, but the room is achingly empty tonight.

On the way to bed, I pass the seat where he serenaded me later that evening with my old guitar. I look the other way. I can’t afford to travel back to that moment. If I do, I won’t want to come back.