by Lola Ellen Laforge
Every day was like the day before. Get up, wash, eat, read, go outside to exercise. Wait to die. What were the things he had most wanted? How many years had passed since he’d planned to go anywhere or dreamt of anything beyond the sequence of events that brought him here? Could he have taken a different path? Sure. The trajectory of a human life can shift with a solitary choice; even a simple one like where to eat; turning left instead of right; shifting one’s course on a whim. Any plans he’d had beyond July 21, 2010, were obliterated in the wake of a single action. Was it a moment of passion? Could it even be called that? After all, the writing was on the wall long before it was spattered with blood. In retrospect he could see how change is less of a choice than it the consequence of making one. There is no going back.
Every day was like the day before. Access to the extensive library permitted him to read up on subjects that interested him – the collective consciousness, epigenetics, cause and effect, and time-travel. ‘I always wished I had more time to read’, he muttered under his breath, flipping through an old edition of Popular Mechanics. If millions of people had stood in awe of the Eiffel Tower, did he really need to see it with his own eyes? Seeing the Eiffel tower was transmitted in his genes. The tower was as near to him as his grandfather, who had spent three years in Paris working as a bellman. He asked himself why he should need to own a Ducati when thousands of cycle enthusiasts rode them. The experience of riding a Ducati was in his soul’s DNA. Every possible experience was somewhere recorded in the Akashic records; stored in a supercomputer on the ethereal plane. There was no need to go back.
Every day was like the day before. Although travel was still his passion, he had come to see how reading could take him anywhere he wished to go. From what he had read, his vivid imagination was suited to time travel. Prior to that fateful night he had imagined in fifty ways how a crime such as his would unfold; never certain that he could commit it. Not right up to the moment when he thought she had left him the only option what would force him to abandon all his wishes. Now (if he was honest) he’d have to admit that, since his arraignment, his wishes were starkly different. All he wanted now was to do the things most men took for granted. If he could do anything tonight, he would drive his old Mazda pickup down to the am/pm, pick up a couple of stovepipe 40s, sit out at Widow’s Peak and drink the sun down. He’d take his little brother fishing; stopping off at Fosters for burgers. Or sit at his mother’s kitchen table for tea. She loved it when he came around. He’d fix this or that, take out the trash, make her laugh. She always had something that needed repairing. He could almost smell her kitchen right now: simmered lemons, vanilla, strong coffee. And he could predict with near certainty his mother’s every query (and rebuke) while they sat for tea.
“Has that girl left yet? Are you still giving her money?”
“I worry about you getting yourself caught up with drifters and troublemakers. You trust people too easily and get taken advantage of”.
She would look at him with a depth of concern; her eyes pleading for some sign that she was reaching him and that he would comply. He would never go back.
Every day was like the day before. If a bucket list were things a man would vow never to do before he died, well that’d be easy. He’d never have left the military which had given him structure and purpose, and a steady paycheck. He’d never have walked into the Orange Twist that summer afternoon. And he damned sure wouldn’t have spoken to her; or wanted her… or loved her. He’d harbored doubts about her from their very first meeting. She had been so responsive to him, though. Her easy laughter; encouraging him to keep talking. Her willing body; luring him back again and again. Right up to the last time he had heard her familiar footfalls echoed across the wooden planks of the dock. That night her laughter had turned to a derisive cackle; her responsiveness, mocking. Her fists clenched tight in a rage, pounding against his face and neck. Through liquored lips she had spat out what he could not bear to hear her say. Things he did not want her to know about him. Things he himself had told her in moments of weakness. All that he had harbored inside to armor himself had spewed from her whiskey-soaked mouth. He had so wanted to trust her, but she was never the one he could trust; and he knew it. This knowledge haunted him now; that he could not trust himself. That night when he had finally quieted her she stood staring at him; emptiness filling her cheeks and forehead. Emptiness that didn’t spread up from the neck where the puncture wound seemed to be gasping for air, but from the center of her face, moving up and out toward her ears and forehead. She was like a blooming flower; neither her mind nor body able to process the fatal injury. He had shoved her away and she had tripped backward toward the edge of the wall, onto the boat hook that entered through the side of her neck and protruded from her throat. He couldn’t see her well in the dark night. He grabbed her and yanked her forward and she slumped over his arm. He quickly released her, and she slipped on the puddle forming at her feet, her neck twisting up and back as she fell to the side, smacking her chin on the dock before splashing down into the rotting water. He didn’t want to go back.
Every day was like the day before. Get up, wash, eat, read, go out to exercise. Wait to die. If a bucket list was a list of things a man would do instead, he would have walked right past the Orange Twist on his way to his mother’s that afternoon, not even looking through the faded window of the pub toward the now familiar laughter. He would’ve shifted his course that day, and even the subtlest shift would have taken him a different way. He would have visited his mother for tea and, over tea, made her laugh instead. The single item on that backward bucket list of things he would never do was time travel. Instead, he would travel every day in his mind to the places he knew for sure he would avoid at all costs if time travel were possible. Those few places where fate had lurked, disguised as opportunity, waiting to steal his life: the Orange Twist, the harbor, her bed. There is no going back.