“And I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
You wake up to the sound of silence; usually the garbage truck would be passing by this time of day, or that your alarm would go blaring off but neither one interrupted your deep slumber. It’s a Monday and you wonder why you feel so awake. You look at your watch and see 1:15 AM blinking back at you. You rub your eyes trying to see if what you’re seeing is real. Sighing, you walk out of your room towards the kitchen. You turn on the lights, nothing happens. Turn it off then on again; still, nothing. You wonder why, then realize that you haven’t paid your bill yet. You rub your head in frustration and go back to your room hoping that it might help you go back to sleep. It doesn’t and you just go sit on your chair, wondering if your life could have been better. You doubt it, of course, because you were never born into a wealthy family, and your parents only barely paid for your education. Besides, you only got into a so-so course in an only so-so college, and got only a so-so job after.
You close your eyes, holding the can of root beer in your left hand and you pray for sleep.
When you wake up again for the second time, you find that you’re late for work, again. You don’t even mind. The office is used to you already. You’re only just waiting for some miracle to happen: get offered a better job that pays better or get fired and go back to living with your older sister because you know that no matter what, your parents won’t accommodate you again. You finish eating the last of your cereal and go to work. You look around the curb hoping to see a car you’ve always been dreaming of, instead you see your beat up bike, almost falling into pieces. You ride it anyways because you don’t have any other thing to use.
When you enter work, nobody bats you an eye. You make your way towards your desk and there’s a stack of papers already on top of it, being asked to be read and rewritten. Sitting down, you look at them contemplating what to do. After a whole minute of staring, you take the top paper on the pile and start to work. Around lunch you’re done with almost half of the papers. You’re surprised at yourself at how fast you’re going then someone stops by your desk.
‘We’re getting some burgers for lunch, want to join us?’ he asks. You stare at him and shake your head, seeing a paper bag on top of your table.
‘I’m all set’ You say, showing him the paper bag. He shrugs, ‘You sure about that?’ he asks. You nod. ‘Besides, I’m saving up.’ He laughs as if that was a comical answer. ‘You have a girl friend, do you?’ he asks. You just smile and he just lets you be. You laugh at yourself wondering what you’re really saving up for. Probably a new house, or a car, or maybe even when you do have a girl friend already. Or maybe you’re not really saving up at all, it’s just that you have really nothing to spend. Besides, you still have an electric bill to pay for.
As the clock ticks to an end, and the lights in the office started shutting down, you go home. All your colleagues walk towards the parking lot, saying good bye to you as they go. You walk towards the bike rack and fortunately see your bike still intact.
You bike home and once you get there you notice the lights were on. You don’t remember turning it on and you wonder how the lights are even on in the first place. You haven’t had the time to drop your payment yet, which is why you bought candles. When you get closer, something shiny flashes in your peripheral vision and you notice a car. You double check and wonder if you got to the wrong house. You look to your left and you still see the old swing set that the owners of the place before you never took away. The broken bottles of beer were still on the windowpane. You panic. Maybe nobody told you that your house has been sold and the new owners have just moved in but you realized that was highly unlikely. They should have gotten rid of the beer bottles. You shake your head and think that maybe you just forgot that you really did pay. And this morning was just another black out. Maybe the car in your parking area isn’t yours. Maybe a neighbor just parked their car seeing that you don’t have one and won’t have any use of the parking area anyhow. You sigh and walk towards the house, inserting the key in the keyhole. In your surprise it doesn’t budge. You try and try again but it just won’t move. You try to call someone and grunt in frustration because there was nobody to call.
You wave your hands, doing magic tricks on your door, earning a weird look from the lady passing by.
You knock, thinking it would work; you’ve run out of ideas anyway.
In your surprise, it does. It opens. You see a lady behind the door.
‘There you are, we’ve been waiting for you all night.’ The lady says. She looks old, maybe around 50 or 60 years old but you can tell that she might have been a pretty girl when she was younger. You realize that she wasn’t the only one in the house. There was some sort of party. You furrow your brow in confusion. You don’t know any of these people, but they seem to know you.
‘Take his coat, Andrew.’ The lady beside you says. You look down at yourself. Your eyes grow wide as you see that you’re wearing a suit.
‘Your sister has been waiting for you the whole night. We thought you got lost.’ She says. She leads you to the living room and the living room makes you smile. It looks just like the living room that your ex-girlfriend fixed for you before she left. The last thing you remember about it is destroying it, filling the carpet with glass, sweat and tears. Maybe even blood.
‘There you are. I thought you wouldn’t come. You promised you wouldn’t miss your little sister’s graduation.’ A little girl says. She looks around 20 or probably 21, maybe a college graduate. This must be the little sister. You never had a little sister. Well, you always wanted one, or a little brother because being the youngest in the family seemed so constricting. Then suddenly everything became a blur.
No, it actually was a bit clear but you just can’t wrap your head on what was happening. You said hi to a couple of people, drank wine for the very first time. It felt so radiant, so rich.
You walked. You talked. You laughed. You walked. You talked. You drank. Then slowly, they all started leaving.
After all the guests left and your “sister” and “parents” have gone to bed, you walk into your room.
It looks just like it was but much cleaner. You had a photograph with the strangers downstairs wearing graduation robes. There was a logo at the background and you know it far too well. It’s the college that you always wanted to get in to but never got into. You still had the letter tacked on your bulletin board but rather that it saying, Sorry..., it said, Congratulations...
There was a certificate beside it. You recognize your name but below it, something unfamiliar was written: Graduate of Business Administration. You clutch your head in confusion.
‘What is happening to me?’ You tell yourself. You try not to scream. Your “sister” is in the other room. You lie down and hope that you get some sleep. You also hope that tomorrow everything will make sense, or hopefully, even though you dreaded it, everything will go back to normal.
You wake up to the smell of bacon. You roll in your bed and feel the softness of it underneath you. You almost didn’t want to wake up but then you silently curse yourself because this means that everything wasn’t back to normal. You reach for your phone and be surprised about the absence of keypads on it. You look at it and you were holding an iPhone. Whenever did you afford to have an iPhone? You get distracted by someone at the door. You didn’t even realize it was open. When you look up, you see your older sister. You exhale. At least it was reassuring to see someone familiar in this very unfamiliar situation.
‘Wake up, sleepy head. You still have school.’ she says, eating from what looked like a bowl of dried cereal.
‘School?’ She laughs at you and just walks away. You just wanted someone to make sense of the situation you’re in but there doesn’t seem to be someone.
Yesterday, you were just riding a bike towards you really shabby office and now you’re back in school. You look at your phone again and see that the date hasn’t changed. It’s still the day after yesterday. But this wasn’t supposed to be the day after yesterday. This is supposed to be four years ago.
You hear your name being called and you quickly scramble out of bed. Maybe downstairs you can understand what you’re going through. When you get down to the kitchen, you see your father reading a newspaper, sipping coffee. Your sister was on her phone and your mother was cooking in the background. You smile. You missed this. Ever since your father died from a car accident, your mother never wanted to see you. You reminded her too much of the memory your father left. If only you were more like him but you weren’t. Your father looks up and smiles at you and you almost laugh. Somehow you kind of get what was going on in your head but it still didn’t make sense. This was the type of family you always wanted. Where your mother could look you straight in the eyes and serve you food in the morning, wherein your sister stayed at home and didn’t run away when the possibility rose, and where your father was alive. You could’ve have had a better family, a better education, a better life. You close your eyes, place your head in your hands and try to muffle a scream, hoping that when you open your eyes everything will be gone. As if everything was just happening inside your head.
‘Are you alright?’ You open your eyes and see your sister towering over you. This was real. As real as it could be anyways.
‘I’m fine.’ You say. Your sister looks at you suspiciously but shrugs and invites you to eat. You sit down and watch each of them eating. They don’t notice your lack of appetite or your confused looks. It felt so perfect. The situation felt so real.
You find yourself inside a car towards the school the next thing after breakfast. You move to the motions of this world you’re apparently living through. You walk to your classes as if it’s normal. Eat with people you never realized you can interact with. You surprise yourself by answering questions your real self wouldn’t really be able to answer. Oh, how you longed to be this smart. How you longed to be this wanted. You wanted to enjoy it but as much as it felt so real, it wasn’t.
So you waited for your sister to pick you up and take you home. In the car ride she babbled, she talked. You listened absentmindedly and thought about life tomorrow. Will it be different? And if it will be, you ask yourself: Why?
You wake up with the smell of gasoline and a honey-like odor. You wonder if you’re in a farm but when you open your eyes you’re at your house, normal, and seemingly uninhabited by other people. You look at your phone and see that it was the next day and you wonder what would be different. Who will you be acting out today? You wander around your room looking for another different thing but you still can’t see one and you wonder if life is going back to normal. In your gut though, you feel it says it hasn’t. When you walk out the room, it’s where you start questioning everything. When you got out of the room, instead of seeing a staircase to your right or an empty hallway to your left, you see open skies. It seems like a scene in a 1940s movie. You know this place though; it’s a train station. You’re wearing a suit that fit your body, and wasn’t big in places and a brown fedora. You have a suitcase on your left hand. You feel like a journalist, or one of those characters in Jack Kerouac’s stories. You smile as you remind yourself of the memory where your mother bought you a journal and you love writing in it because you’ve always wanted to be a successful writer one day. You dreamed of publishing a book. The situations suddenly started making sense. Are you experiencing this because you dreamt it? Are these dead dreams coming true? You shake your head wondering that maybe everything was just a dream but it feels so real and going on for so long that you can’t be imagining it. Then the train comes. You don’t know if you should get in or not. You’re the only one on the station so you decide to ride the train to whoever knows where. You find a comfy seat and sit on the seat beside the window. You act as if you’ve done this before but you always just looked at blogs and brochures and imagined yourself riding a train. You decide to open your suitcase since you didn’t have much to do. You see pairs of clothing: pants, shirts and the like. Beside it was a book, and somehow, also a journal. You remove the book and the journal and place your suitcase below the table, near your feet. You open the book. It’s On The Road by Jack Kerouac, your favorite author. You loved-love this book regardless of its themes. You open the journal next. It’s filled with dates and stories underneath each. You wonder if it’ll make sense of the situations you’ve been for the past days but you’re only more confused. You close it and pick up the book again. You’ve read it a thousand times and maybe even memorized a couple of lines already. You know the book cover to cover but you decide to read it again. In the span of the really long train ride that you didn’t notice, you finished the book. You stop yourself from reading it again. You feel restless and decided to sleep but just before slept overcame you, you remember the smell of honey.
When you woke up you thought you’d be in a different situation, probably back in bed or maybe already in a farm, or hopefully back home to your house, to your life but you woke up with a stiff neck and an aching back and realize you’re still on the train. Before you could get bearings of your surroundings, someone approaches you.
‘Sir, aren’t you suppose to go down? This is the last stop.’ He says. You nod and rub your eyes.
‘Yes, sorry about that.’ You tell him. You get all your things, making sure you didn’t forget anything and then hastily walk out of the train. When you get out of the train, it hurries to leave and you’re left at seemingly another empty train station. This looks much more modern than the one you’ve left on the other side of the trip, but still unfamiliar. When you walk in the establishment though, you see people but you also see a girl so familiar that your heart broke. She was the first one you’ve loved and she was the first one who broke your heart. When she sees you, she waves and runs towards you. She hugs you and you stay there stiff, wondering what was happening, remembering the days where all these felt so normal.
‘Well, that was a long ride. I thought you might never get back.’ she says. She takes your coat and your fedora and snakes her arm around yours.
’Your son is waiting for you at home--” you drown out her chatter because you’re still making sense of your situation. Your ex-girl friend was here and you had a son.
You had a son.
You inhale and stop.
Your ex-girlfriend, well, maybe your wife in this situation, stops talking and looks curiously at you.
‘I have a son?’ You ask her, not knowing what that question entails. She looks worried yet rather amused at the same time.
’He’s 2′5" tall, loves eating bacon and oranges, 3 years old, and looks just like his father.′ she says. She laughs then adds, ‘That’s you, by the way: the dad.’ You nod. She rolls her eyes and takes your hand into hers and tugs you to start walking again. ‘You must have hit your head somewhere. Are you alright?’ She asks. You nod but let her lead you instead. You were tired of making this all make sense so you don’t. Instead you just try to live it.
When you got home you saw your son. He was sleeping and sure enough he does look like you and your heart breaks because you know whatever this is, it won’t last. Whatever is making you live these things, it’ll be gone after a good night’s rest because whatever this is, it’s not real.
And you don’t want to see all this go.
And so you ask your “wife” if you could sleep because in your heart you don’t want to be attached to these people and somehow, sleep is the only thing that can make things change.
You don’t want to wake up because you know waking up will only mean one thing. You’re not use to this change, if it were that in the first place. How can change be so fleeting? You ask yourself. When you open your eyes you see a light bulb hanging above you. It didn’t look like your house; instead it looked like a cabin. You sit up and smell the sea. You didn’t have to look to know you were beside the ocean. You walk out of the room towards the living area and you see no one. You were all alone and this made you happy. In a way, this was normal.
You never really minded living alone, so far from your family but then again you realize that maybe you’re just so used to being alone that you eventually didn’t mind. You open up your fridge and see beer, not wine. You see bags of oatmeal and boxes of cereal. You see a karton of milk and wonder if it still hasn’t expired. It reminds you of summer break just before you graduated. You told your sister you wanted a weekend out so you rented a cabin near the beach. You wonder if you’re only reminiscing. You walk outside, and see the ocean. The waves look calm, and the sea so inviting. You knew how to swim but there was a battle in the back of your head whether you should. You decide to put it aside for later. Now, you needed to think. You sit down on the kitchen table, crossing your arms in front of you and setting your eyes straight as if you were in a formal interview. You try to recall what happened on Monday. What could’ve happened that triggered these events? You remember leaving for work, finishing some papers, being offered lunch for the very first time and then you went home. Nothing peculiar.
Nothing at all.
You decide that you can’t do it. You can’t make sense of whatever was happening just that it was happening because you once wanted it; you’ve once dreamt of it, or you wanted something to change about that day.
You know this cabin far too well. It’s where your life took a turn for the worst. It’s when you heard your sister ran away from home and your dad rushed to find her, only to be hit by a truck causing him to plunge into a river. His body was never found and you only heard it from a phone call, yet the only thing you can think about back then was that you weren’t there. You were here, a thousand miles away, enjoying your vacation. You came home then with an apathetic mother and a sister who cared too much, that she got hurt and never wanted to return.
You sigh and walk out of the cabin towards the beach, thinking that maybe you did need a swim.
So you swam. There wasn’t anyone beside you and you like to think that it’s because of you, because this is your own little world and you’re living it out. You hear the phone ringing inside the house so you swim farther. You don’t know what you’re doing or what you’re trying to achieve but you swim farther away until you can no longer feel the sea floor. You know you still want to swim farther but you can’t. So you stay there, head above the water, floating. You close your eyes for a minute but then when you open it again, you were under the sea and you felt the water sting your eyes. You close it again and feel the water pushing you under, pushing on your body, your chest and you can’t seem to find the capacity to breath and you wonder if this is it.
Is this how everything will end.
You feel something strap your feet and feel yourself being pulled in deeper towards the depth of the water.
And then you panic.
You start scrambling around you and then you see no ocean; you feel no sea.
You feel thirsty.
You try to find water but you find yourself in a desert. You get confused. None of your dreams involved deserts, nor did you ever want to go to one. You wonder why you’re here. You rack our brain for possibilities or for instances that you wanted to go to a desert but there wasn’t any. As far as you know, in your 25 years of existence, the last place you wanted to be in is in a desert.
You walk around, feel the heat on your skin but you don’t mind. You just want to live. You just want to find water. Ironic how the last place you were before here was a limitless supply of water. You continue walking. You head to your left, then to your right then go straight ahead. You remember why you hated deserts. You hated it because it was a big one big puzzle and you were never good with puzzles. It’s a puzzle with no clues what so ever. You wonder if that’s the reason you’re here. Maybe all of this was just a puzzle you had to solve.
You stop in your tracks, and feel the air.
But no wind was pitching in. You only feel sand sticking to your clothes, your arms, your hair.
You take a deep breath, rest and stay calm if you wanted to.
Once the thirst kicks in again you start walking.
You feel your knees give in beneath you and you stop. Look at the sky and ask for an explanation from the universe and then you fall down, face first on the sand. You feel the grains piercing your body.
You wake up to the sound of silence.
You look around you and see your room. The old pizza box was still on the floor with all your laundry surrounding it. You look at the time and see 1:15 blaring back at you.
You exhale and think that everything is normal again.
You see the can of root beer on your table and finally believe that it was normal.
You look at your phone and see that it was Monday.
You think to yourself that maybe it was all just a dream, a really long and tiring dream. You decide to sleep again and enjoy the six hours before you go back to work again.
What you never realize when you looked at your phone was the date. It was dated exactly a week later. And you never even realized the smell: the smell of sand, salt water and honey.