“Imagine trying to live without air. Now imagine something worse.” ~ Amy Reed
People who say that there is no such thing as time travel, are full of shit. It definitely exists, but it’s not all fun and games, Back to the Future – “Would I like my dad if I knew him in high school?” And it doesn’t pull into your driveway like a sweet Delorean with gull-wing doors. Your time travel future-self doesn’t have a hip name that’s full of irony, like Marty McFly.
Your version of time travel looks like this: One day you’re at the soccer field, sitting on a blue nylon folding chair watching as your daughter executes the perfect slide tackle. An icy Diet Pepsi is sweating in the plastic cup holder that’s attached to the arm rest. You are laughing and chatting with the other parents, and you have successfully fulfilled your snack duties by providing Gogurt and Mini Oreos for all of the kids on the team.
Your life is almost perfect. You’re a good mom, and a good friend. You drive a Prius, and you listen to NPR. You recycle. But nobody thinks you’re special. Nobody leaves sweet notes for you by the coffee maker before they head out to the office. Nobody grabs your hand, and leads you over to the window and says, “Look, it’s a hummingbird,” or “Let’s go away for the weekend – just us.” Nobody saves you the blue M&Ms because they’re your favorite.
The mediocrity and the loneliness wear on you, so you start searching for your bolt of electricity – your ticket to the future. You attend a couple of services at the Unitarian Church. You take a knitting class. You even join the Mountaineers. You try to convince yourself that embracing a liberal spiritual path, or having sleek biceps like Michelle Obama will fill the gaping void within you, but eventually you admit that what you’re actually looking for is love. Your best friend tells you to hang out in the plumbing section at Home Depot, and you do – twice. But you can’t think of plausible conversation-starters related to toilets or sinks, and the rows of PVC pipe and the hundreds of plastic drawers filled with tiny metal things make you feel insignificant, so you start hanging out in coffee shops instead. Coffee smells like hope. It makes you feel like tomorrow might possibly be worth getting out of bed for. You see a flyer taped to the back of the bathroom door at your favorite coffee shop.
YOU CAN FIND LOVE IN FOUR MINUTES!
Speed Dating Event for
Single Professionals Aged 32-44
EVERY FOURTH TUESDAY
Gallagher’s Cafe – Bring Three Questions
($25 per entrant)
You order a latte, and settle on your three questions: 1. Where do you work? 2. Do you have any children? 3. What’s the one thing about yourself that you would most like me to know? (Your favorite)
You show up at Gallagher’s at 6:45, and make small talk with a woman in a faux leather coat. You discreetly tell her that the back of her skirt is tucked into her nylons. She’s grateful for your honesty, and hopes aloud that you were the only one who noticed. You reassure her, allaying her fear that anyone else has seen this transgression, even though you caught at least three other “speed daters” staring at the firm, pink ass cheek straining against her pantyhose just below the bunched fabric of her trendy broomstick skirt.
The host is a short guy with bowlegs and large forearms. He’s carrying a stopwatch. A silver whistle hangs on a yellow cord around his neck. He makes you think of swim coaches, and Popeye, and rodeos. All of the speed dating participants are assigned a number. You get number 17, which seems like an bad omen, because that’s the number of years your marriage lasted before the father of your children started banging the neighbor’s wife.
Popeye invites all of the “ladies” to take a seat at one of the small tables scattered around the room, then the men are instructed to join the lady of their choice for the first round of questioning. Each table is equipped with a small note pad, and a scorecard. The rounds last four minutes, at which time, Popeye blows his whistle, the women remain seated, and the men move to a new table for the next round. You meet a dozen men, but most of them are timid and paunchy. They wear short-sleeved plaid shirts. One of them has a lazy eye. Nate is different. He has thick, curly hair, and a sexy five o’clock shadow. His answer to the one thing you want me to know about you question is, “I’m a risk-taker.” You leave with him, and you sleep with him even though he listens to country music, and he has a “Real Men Love Jesus” bumper sticker on his truck.
Everything is perfect for about three months. You laugh a lot. You feel special. The first time Nate offers you the pipe, you decline. The chemical smell makes your eyes burn. Nate laughs and says, “That’s okay, more for me.” At some point, you change your mind – decide to take a risk. Your mouth tastes like tin foil, but your brain is on fire. You can’t wait to do it again.
And then one day, you catch a glimpse of your reflection in the filthy window of your living room – the one with the mildew lining the corners and the tight metal latches that pinch the skin on your fingers every time you try to release them. Your hair has two inches of grow out and is flat with grease. Your armpits smell like onions. Some distant memory of the person that you used to be, taps you on the shoulder, whispers admonitions. “Take a fucking shower! Sign the twins’ field trip form.” But you don’t, because you are frozen with waiting. Nate left five hours ago, and you have been clutching the remote and pacing ever since – stepping around the toys and dirty dishes that litter the floor.
Five.fucking.hours. You are clutching that remote like its the Holy Grail . . .waiting.
Good Morning America was on when Nate left. And you’ve lived through The Price is Right, three episodes of Friends, and Dr. Phil. Fuck Dr. Phil, and fuck Nate! You can’t endure the waiting much longer. You’ve already torn the couch apart looking for a forgotten crumb; spread the thick gold threads of the hideous shag carpet in search of white; pressed your moist fingertip down into the knobby burlap backing and brought it to your lips expectantly.
You catch another glimpse of your reflection in the window, and you remember the way Nate’s ex-wife looked at you when the two of you ran into her at the Shell station; how he said “Hey Katie – wait up. I want you to meet my girlfriend Angie.” How she glanced into your eyes with a mixture of fear and pity; how she turned and she never looked back, she just kept on walking.
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