Monday, December 20, 2010

1985

I'm driving between Del Mar and La Jolla, California on a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway that extends between the two and overlooks the ocean. The salt air wafts over the Torrey Pines dotting the roadside and is cool but not cold. The car phone in my convertible rests on the transmission hump. I glance at it because the phone is ringing.

I pick up the white handset.

"Hello?"

"Is this..."

"Yes, who is calling please?"

"I've got NSA Director Faurer on the line. Is the Robin's egg blue?"

"The Robin's egg is red and white."

The operator connects the line and I find myself dodging surfers in wetsuits jaywalking across PCH while discussing President Reagan's new foreign policy initiative and a personal invitation to head to DC for an important meeting.

The surfers look really cold and I realize the wind is starting to pick up a bit. I look at my Seiko and see it's a quarter to five and if I don't get moving, I will get stuck in traffic. My vintage convertible does not like to get stuck and starts to overheat just idling through the drive-thru of a slow moving fast food restaurant. So I get ready to turn east, so I can hit the 405 before it starts to get all clogged up.

The state of the art Alpine am/fm cassette radio is playing "Ain't this the life" by Oingo Boingo. Edgy stuff and a bit anti-social. The hip local radio station, 91x, specializes in edgy new wave rock and they play Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode and other stuff guaranteed to alienate the previous generation quite a bit.

A cute girl in a red BMW 3 series convertible pulls alongside.

"Nice car. What year is it?"

"It's a 1965 Pontiac."

"I love the whitewall tires!"

"Thanks. That's a nice car you got there yourself."

"Oh this? Thanks. Hey, would you like to get a bite to eat sometime?"

"Sure...call me." I pull out a personal card from my wallet. I put the car in park and hop out and hand it to the blond with a winning smile and a beautiful bikini...among other appealing attributes. She writes down her number on a small piece of paper and the light has already turned green. Someone in a Mercedes Benz 500sel is honking. I take the paper, smile and hop back into my car. I turn right at Via De La Valle and watch as she continues north.

The adrenaline is pumping a bit. I don't usually do the number exchange bit and its always a bit interesting to be pursued, rather than being the pursuer.

As I merge with the freeway traffic, something feels amiss. The wind buffets my hair and a semi rig is barreling down the second lane like a bat from hell. No one wants to let me in. Fine. I punch the Pontiac and 400 horsepower from the 421 tri-carb engine quickly take me to 80mph and I easily blow past the semi.

But there is that feeling again. It's like a deja vu but in reverse. Something is wrong. What is it? This is my life, but at the same time it feels like it isn't? Like I've forgotten something? Traffic is starting to congest at the freeway juncture and I can't shake this feeling that something is amiss.

I look at my watch. I try to remember when I bought it? Was it a gift? I can't remember it. Suddenly, something about the car seems off as well. Didn't my car have a 389 with a 4 barrrel instead of the 421 tri-carb when I bought it a few months earlier? I pull over and pop the latch on the hood and lift it. It's a 421 tri-carb with 3 shiny small chrome air cleaners in a row. But it shouldn't be. I remember the 389 with the four barrel.

It's making me crazy. I look around and everything seems right, yet somehow off at the same time. I look through my wallet. I see pictures. Lot's of pictures My God! I'm married to a beautiful woman and have two adorable daughters! How could I have forgotten them? Why on Earth did I accept that girls number? What sort of husband am I? When I see their picture in my wallet I know it's true, but why does it simultaneously seem wrong?

What the hell is going on? As I look up at the corner gas station even it seems wrong. This station should be a Texaco station. It's a Shell. But I know this corner had the Texaco station - I joked about the white glove restroom inspection with the clerk a few weeks ago...or did I? It seems sort of blurry now.

I just want to get back to my wife and kids. That will clear things up. But where do I live? I had a big place in La Jolla on Mt. Soledad with an ocean view, but my wife and I live in University City with our daughters, near the mall in a four bedroom tract home. Why do I remember two different houses? I close the hood, put my wallet back in my pants and start driving towards my University City home.

I stop and pull out my wallet again. I look at my California Driver's License and the name printed on it. It's all wrong.

That's not my name.

Is this what it feels like to lose one's mind? Did I hit my head and not realize it? What the hell is going on here with me?

I pull up into the driveway. My wife's white Volkswagen Jetta is in the driveway. I get to the door and my two beautiful daughters race up and each grab one of my legs.

"Daddy! You're home early! Yay!" says the oldest.

The television is on and the screen goes blank for a test of the emergency broadcasting system. A buzzing sound starts. I pick up my youngest daughter and I reach down to turn the TV off. Just as I reach the switch, my wife turns the corner and I see her.

She is lovely beyond words. Her smile resuscitates me. I give her a kiss and its like a zephyr breeze flows through my soul. She now kisses me and it is a passionate kiss, filled with her love. Her taste is on my lips and it is delicious and sweet.

I am so happy.

"A plane ticket arrived today by special courier for a flight to Washington DC. Do you have to go?"

"I'm supposed to go." I look around at my wife and daughters and I get this feeling - I don't want to leave them alone. "But, I think I will make some excuse and miss it. They can easily get along without me."

"That's wonderful."

My wife kisses me again and I wonder how I could ever have forgotten this woman. She is so wonderful...her every touch is filled with her warmth, kindness and love. But something is still out of place. I still see the other house in my mind and the enormous picture window. Whose house was that if not mine?

I hear a voice in my head. "It's time for you to go now." I crumple up the piece of paper, with the phone number in my pants and throw it in the trash. I suddenly realize I am about to leave and even as I kiss my daughter on the cheek, I feel myself slipping away.

I look up at Shayla, whose tears in the corner of her eyes reveals how hard this was for her to have to watch as well.

I try to hold back my own tears as I realize I will never see my wife or kids again, "That was the alternate universe you spoke of - the one where I am much happier. Was all that real?"

"Yes. As real as you and I standing here."

For once, I am speechless. I don't know what to say. My feelings, desires, dreams and obligations all dart inside my head at the speed of light. Part of me can't, or perhaps does not want to, keep up and so I just drift off and try to think about something else.

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