The Quotable

A Good Night for Time Travelling

He calls to tell me that it’s a good night for time travelling. He says that when he is kissing me he is not cheating on the petite blonde from Greece that wears his ring, but merely time travelling back to a more innocent time where she did not yet exist. I am not exactly duped by this, but like all women, maybe all humans, the right combination of pheromones and charm can turn me into a blithering idiot. I climb into my Dodge Neon, think of the Delorian. I close my eyes and ask forgiveness of the universe for interrupting a regularly scheduled autumn night to fuck up the balance before starting the ignition so I can fly down the road. My speedometer’s arm lifts and falls, lifts and falls as I get closer; my transmission hesitates every time I have to stop and start again. These could be legitimate mechanical problems or it could be the universe punishing the conduit sending me through the space/time continuum.

I wake up in the morning; seventeen again, in his bed before it was his marital bed. That’s the anachronism that throws this world out of whack—it can’t be his old bed with the sagging frame when it’s a new oak bed that she bought from an overpriced show room. There are other things, too. The first night we laid in this liminal space, he already had wrinkles—soft laugh lines, crow’s feet flying from the corners of his eyes ready to scratch at my skin when we got too close. I was still just a girl-child, though, and now my own wrinkles are emerging. I have creases in my forehead where it furrows. Time travelling is hard on the body.

We are before the point in time where I left, where he found her, where I swore celibacy and turned in my Saturday night only heels for a tambourine to dance with at a church my mother swears is a cult. I am watching him re-tile his kitchen’s floor. A moment like this is simple enough—mundane enough—that I can be convinced, temporarily, that all of this is normal. He looks ridiculous on all fours, knee pads strapped over his sweat pants as he labors over the task ahead of him, the task below him.

He straightens up. “You could have had all this,” he says, throwing out his arms to wave to his new floor, the renovated cabinets. “In another life, you could have had all of this and I wouldn’t be in this situation.” I do not know what situation he is referring to, because I have no memory marker to place this. I assume he is referring to being with the absent woman, which equals out to being with me, but I say nothing. I slide my feet over the grout not yet washed off the floor. If he poured water over my feet, it would feel like we were at the ocean.

I don’t like it when he talks about other worlds, other lifetimes. We shift enough as it is without engaging in day-trips to parallel universes, though we acknowledge them. His front door is not an exit, but a revolving door, an entrance to an MC Escher painting with never-ending stairs. There’s no use in leaving—it’s just as exhausting as weaving back and forth between the past and the present within the same townhouse-sized geographical landscape. I grip my chair and try to focus on staying here, in this place, in this moment even though I feel obligated to apologize to him and I’m not sure what for. The chair, too, is dangerous. I think of my literary criticism class in college but he is at the head of my class now and there’s no professor—just him, in my professor’s clothes, in my professor’s spectacles. I don’t know if I am gripping the chair or the projection of the chair. I don’ t know if I’m myself on this chair or the projection of what he wants me to be, a timeline-challenged angel of the house who has been kicked to the streets and has crawled back, unsure of what her role is. Yes, dear, I will cook for you. Yes dear, I will bend over.

Trying to figure out where I am and what chair I’m on is like that time in college I took Salvia and thought I’d turned into the platform that a carousel sits on, the one thing that’s still when the world is spinning. He is the carnival master, orchestrating the dizzying music, the trick mirror dances, the blurry distractions. There is only one person capable of pausing this and bringing us back to October 6th, 2010. She stands oblivious of her power in an airport in Texas, holding her boarding ticket. If she can ever manage to meet us in this continuum, it might well be over.

He is looking at me, still, expectant. The look of Jim Jones with Kool-Aid in hand, Humbert Humbert unbuttoning his pants and eyeing Lolita. The look of a man who wants to take something from me he can’t have. I look at my hands. Will I give it?


Brooke Bailey earned her BA in English from Appalachian State University in 2009. Since then, she has taught high school English classes in rural North Carolina, worked as a corporate trainer, and emerged from an ontological crisis (mostly) unscathed. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including Sidereality, Defenestration, Certain Circuits, and Lavender Review.

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