OS Weekend Fiction, Anniversary Edition
Prompt: Write a story where a character goes back one year in time.
“Dad, you can’t go back. You can’t change things. The laws of physics don’t work that way. The sooner you get that through your head, the sooner you can get your life back together.”
His son, the theoretical physicist, did not pretend to know all the answers, but he was positive on this one and he was getting annoyed.
Moving on had been his big problem. It was nearly a year since his wife of 38 years had died in the car crash. On that fateful, snowy morning, he just grunted from under his covers when she kissed him good-bye and told him she loved him. He had lost his job several months before. At first, he got up with her and they would have breakfast together. After a while, he found it harder and harder to drag himself up at 6:00 AM.
“I don’t want to change anything, Rob,” he responded. “I just want to tell her how much I loved her.”
“Dad, she knew that. And if there is a way for you to go back, we don’t know what it is. However, we are beginning to think that there is no such thing as time; it is really all about space. That being said, we are sure that events occur in a sequence that can’t be changed. It's called the grandfather paradox: you can’t go back in time and kill your grandfather.”
“I don’t want to kill Pop, son. I just want to see your mother and hold her one more time. That’s going to foul up the whole fucking universe? I miss her so much. The little things haunt me like the way that lock of hair would always flop across her brow when she turned her head. "
“I know, Dad, I know, I know. Hold onto those things. What would you like us to do: shove your ass in a particle accelerator and fire you backwards? Dad, move on,” his son said. “Start by getting rid of Mom’s stuff…..or moving, for Christ sake.”
He was an awkward, reticent man; a number cruncher. The things he regretted in life were not the things he had done and said, but the things that went unspoken and the actions not taken.
When she closed the door that morning and walked out of his life forever, he entered a vortex of grief and regret that still dragged him down. He expected to see her around every corner, he still listened for the gravel crunch of her car pulling into the driveway, and still heard the soft sound of her breathing next to him at night. Their existences had become so entwined, he didn’t even know where he ended and she began. He didn’t know who he was anymore. The things he did to please her didn’t need to be done now, and there was nothing to take their place.
He couldn’t bring himself to deal with the things she left behind: her clothing, her jewelry, her stuff. He was still tripping over her slippers and her reading glasses remained on the nightstand by her side of the bed. His daughter was nagging him to let her come and clean house.
He stood in front of the storefront for a long time. “Psychic Readings”, the sign read.
He had seen the ad in the local shopping paper: “You CAN Change the Past.”
As he entered, he expected to be greeted by a gypsy in full regalia, instead he was met by a slim young woman wearing jeans and a denim work shirt.
He explained his situation and how he wanted to go back in time to the day of his wife’s passing.
“Your son is wrong,” she explained. “Naturally, physicists see the world in physical terms: particles of matter, cause and effect. This is not how things work. The universe is like a giant screen and every spirit in it projects its own reality. The world you see around you is a projection of your own being. Mine is different, and so is that of every other sensate creature in the universe. We call these dream tracks. You can do nothing to change someone else’s dream track after the fact. Your wife is gone and you can never bring her back. But you can change your own, and go back and say the things you want to say to her.”
She didn’t say how she knew this and he didn’t ask.
“Just take this pill the night before the anniversary of her death. When she leaves, and the pill wears off, your life will pick-up where you left it.”
When that night came, he looked out the window and saw it was a clear winter evening. “I can’t believe this is going to work. It's going to change the weather too?,” he thought as he washed down the big green pill.
He slept deeper and more soundly than he had in months. When he awoke he could feel the warmth of her body next to his. The softness of her breathing was real and not imagined.
His heart burst with joy as he seized her in an embrace.
“What the fuck is the matter with you?”, she groggily bellowed.
“I love you so much,” he said. “And I always will.”
“That’s sweet, but what the hell has gotten into you,” she said as she fled out the other side of the bed. “I have to go to work, and it’s snowing it’s ass off,” she said as she pulled open the curtain and looked out the window.
“Stay home, and let’s stay in bed all day like we used to,” he pleaded.
“We haven’t done that in thirty years, and, besides, today is the big meeting.”
They had coffee and toast together and she got dressed to leave. As she put her coat on, he embraced her. “I can’t let you leave,” he said.
“Let me go.”
The words pierced his heart and he knew he never could.
“I’m coming to the city with you. I’ve been meaning to have lunch with Jim and today is as good as any.”
“In your pajamas?”
“Give me a sec,” he said racing up the stairs to change.
As she pulled the car out of the driveway an alarm started to sound.
She turned toward him with a smile.“Your seat belt isn’t fastened," she said.
He brushed her hair back into place with a gentle stroke of his hand.
“I’ll take my chances,” he said as she headed onto the ice covered road.