He walked eastward towards the building where he once lived. The sun was at his back and there were storm clouds gathering. The humidity was outrageous, the stench on the Brooklyn streets was putrid and the people walking among him were clearly not concerned with personal hygiene. He scratched the scar on his chest and took a deep breath; checked his messages and there were only social network alerts.
June something in the year 2016; twitter alerts filled with murders and destruction; so much progress in technology yet so much regress in humanity. He turned off his phone.
The clouds were forming, congregating above him and he could feel a cool breeze blowing.
As he walked, he felt a change coming over him and his surroundings. He noticed a change in the way people were dressed and the cars on the streets. Walking along Kings Highway he turned around and looked twice at the corner of East 4th and Kings Highway. Something felt strange, something was missing. He blinked, if only for a moment.
He opened his eyes and he felt a lightness to him, a sense of being able to physically do anything. He went to touch his chest but his scar was gone, perhaps life had been a dream? Sitting up he saw the Carvel on the corner of east 3rd street and King’s Highway; he saw cars parked in the lot and a line circling around to east 3rd. His friends were there, they were just as he remembered them from high school; 17 years old, lean and laughing. He spied Stacey and he couldn’t believe his eyes, she was exactly how she was before that shithead husband of his turned her life upside down.
She was smiling, that magical smile and then she let out a half laugh, she turned around as if looking for someone and then looked down at her feet. She was with her crew, seven girls who were like sisters. One minute great friends, the next minute each talking bad about the other – but always an underlying devotion to each other.
He was across the street on the other side of Kings Highway, right outside the “Hot Bagels” store when he heard his name being called in what sounded like a whisper. He turned to look but the sound and the source were gone.
Across the street, Stacey was looking his way and motioned him to cross the street. He crossed and jogged towards her and her smile was like a magnet to his soul…pulling him closer…
“Hi.” She said with that magnetic smile.
“Hi.” He wanted to kiss her, he wanted to throw his arms around her and carry her away. But something held him back.
“You look amazing, I am so happy to see you this way, Stace.” He said.
“Thanks – you ok?” She asked him.
“No, definitely not, I have no idea how I got here or if this is real or not. But I don’t care, you just, you look so refreshing.”
“Did you drink something?”
“No, I mean, a bad cup of coffee but, no. I don’t think so.” He looked around and he realized that all the old businesses were there. Nat’s Diner was on the corner, there was the Chinese restaurant, “Ying’s Garden,” “Sol’s Hardware” – there was old man Sol himself! He was speaking with Sam from the Dinette Store – they were both so young and alive. Zaki, who ran the grocery store across the way, was there speaking to…
“Oh my God, dad.” He was so young yet he had only remembered him always being old…here he was around 72 years old and he was solid. He wanted to go speak with his father…to try and understand things he never took the time to…
“How could I walk up to him? And Sam, just like a second father to me during those years…
How was this happening?”
He didn’t want to find out; but he did want to explore this time knowing what he knew as a 49 year old in this body of an 17 year old. He was skinny and he had crazy hair. He also had money in my pocket.
“Hey Stace, want to get some ice cream?”
“Not now, maybe later?” She winked at him and he thought, “oh yeah, the wink.”
“Definitely.” He answered, “I’ll be right back I am going to see my mom for a minute.” He said. He walked across East 3rd and past Metropolitan Life Insurance building that was there in place of Duane Reade, as he got closer to Whiz Travel, his family’s business, he began to shake and sweat. He thought to himself.
“That was my pop crossing and walking towards me now with his smile.” He looked through the window and saw his beautiful mother on the phone, writing something down. His two brothers were there working and as he got closer; I thought about Lou’s Deli, how he wanted to get a hot dog there; to see Ruth and Lou behind the counter while Buddy walked around and managed the place. As he got closer to his father he heard his name being called.
Just as quickly it was all gone. He lay in bed and put all his energy into standing up.
“It felt so real…the people, the sights, the sounds of my past. The youth that we all possessed – life pulsating yet taken for granted as life and time often are.”
He lay back down and he thought about Stacey and how her life ended way too soon, a smile extinguished leaving a world colder and harder. He thought about Sam and his faith and his strength. He thought about his parents and remembered just why he considered them his heroes.
He pulled on his jeans and a shirt; walked outside; the scar on his chest was still there; he felt a sense of regret for the time he had let slip away. For decisions he had made that if he could, he would go back and think them over once again. Even with the knowledge that everything will fall into place somehow – that knowledge seemed to abandon him sporadically throughout the day and night.
When is a dream just a dream? Do dreams end when one wakes up or are those nightmares that disturb us from dreaming?
A walk through time – it wasn’t always easy back then but in retrospect it feels as if so much has been taken away from us that we tend to romanticize the past in order to make us feel safe from the present. So we go on holding on to just a small dose of nostalgia if only to recall a smile, that once upon a time, made one’s heart skip a beat or two.