Chapter 1 - What Really Happened - Setting
It shows a middle aged woman in what might be a hospital gown or a prison cell attire, sitting at a metal table. She looks as if life is being drained out of her continuously.
A woman of about the same age sits opposite of her and is wearing a lab coat, and dark rimmed glasses. There are other people in the room too, all wearing lab coats. Some are wearing surgical masks.
“What year is this?” She asks. Meanwhile she’s looking at her hands that are on the table, turning them over, studying them as if she hasn’t seen them in a long time.
“2023.” It is spoken in a dry, detached voice, the eyes peering above the glasses.
“Ah. 2023. I see… Back in the past again.”
Her answer thickens the atmosphere and some of the lab coats in the back share glances with each other, while others are taking notes.
“Yes.” The woman in glasses nods, as if she knows more of this, adding:
“Why don’t you tell us everything about that?”
“Where would I start?”
The other woman shrugs and suggests:
“At the beginning?”
Over time my body switched places with my mind.
When I was young I had a healthy, good body but a shy, uncertain mind. Then, at an age beyond menopause, my mind was strong and confident, while my poor body became sickly and weak.
There was only a small window in time where both were more or less in sync, but the weighing scale tipped and that all too short moment was gone forever…
All this confidence, all this knowing and nowhere to go with it.
Yes, I realize that what we experience in the past makes us who we are today. Of course it does.
So, the real question is if we like who we are today, isn’t it?
What I learned is that life isn’t binary. There are very few things black and white, there is only this strange mix of chance and risk, depending on how one sees life, and the only thing one can do is try to decrease or increase their odds.
The chance or maybe the risk I regretted not to have taken, had absolutely no impact on my life as a whole. It was something small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
The regret I had over it, came from another place. A place of realizing time was wasted. A far greater sin. Most people that look towards the undeniable second half of their lives, will understand this.
So, what really happened situated itself in an era before Internet. A time of first cell phones, huge and ugly and not actually very handy at all, but conquering the world nonetheless.
A world unaware it was on the brink of a new revolution that would change it irrevocably.
Indeed, I’m talking about ancient times and as the years went by, I found myself reminiscing more and more about them. A feeling of regretful nostalgia threatening to close my throat as I was confronted with my aging body in the mirror.
It needs mentioning that I had the privilege of going to college somewhere in Europe.
I was too young to appreciate that chance, I was simply excited to continue studying. I understand now that this most likely made me a geek. So be it. I embraced my inner geek.
I was even free to choose whatever the hell I wanted to study. So, I chose History, which during my first year turned to a bias for Archaeology. There was something about those first humans wandering the earth that intrigued me to no end…
Unfortunately that was where my parents drew the line, because:
“Honey, there is no future in that, unless you excel in it and well, let’s face it, you’re just average”.
And there it was, the part that wasn’t all roses and sunshine.
I was ‘just average’ and at that age I wholeheartedly agreed with that assumption. There was absolutely nothing showing in my features, nor my character, and most definitely not in my grades telling me otherwise.
Ah… The young and their insecurities!
How I wished I could transport my current adult confidence back into my young and impressionable mind. How I wished!
And you know what they say, right? Be careful what you wish for!
In any case, I was allowed to study Archaeology, provided I studied something else first, something with supposedly better prospects. That something became the obscure and not very well known Comparative Cultural Anthropology.
“And how is that any better later on the job market?” You may wonder. That’s right, it wasn’t any better, but the fact was that my country suffered growing social and cultural dissent and we thought this was going to prepare me to find a job in dealing with such matters.
I’ll let you in on a little secret right away: it didn’t prepare me and by the time I had my Master’s degree in my hands, I had lost all interest in such a job anyway…
How’s that for irony?
This brings me to the start of what really happened: me sitting with my average ass in the third row of a classroom for the first lesson of my first Master’s year of Comparative Cultural Anthropology.
I was utterly enthusiastic but quite nervous at the same time, not entirely sure what to expect.
The professor had finally deemed it suitable to enter and start his class. He had a wild beard, matching wild, frizzy hair, huge glasses and unfitting clothes that made him a decade older…
In other words, he looked like most professors back then. In some way that was reassuring to me.
Anyway, he had just started speaking and was telling us something about cuneiform script tablets in ancient near East, like where Iraq and Iran is today, when suddenly the double doors of the class room burst open.
How embarrassing, a thought went through my head that was like 20 minutes too late and I jerked up from my notes to see who dared disturb the lecture.
That was when my world stopped.
That was when I forgot to breathe.
A guy stumbled through the doors, looking all disheveled. His satchel with books in his arms, his winter jacket not even properly on his broad shoulders, his long raven black hair fanning out around his face (Oh, dear goodness, that face!), huffing and puffing from obviously hastening himself to this class.
“I’m sorry” He mumbled, his voice gravelly and making my insides twist and turn, while he ducked his head. As if that would make him more inconspicuous! He quickly searched the room for a place to sit.
Our eyes met.
Instant goosebumps all over my body. I’m not kidding, that really happened and it made me feel so out of control and totally bewildered.
What was happening to me?!
He was by far the most stunning male specimen I had ever seen. Ever!
His hair was long, hanging on his shoulders, as was in fashion those days, grunge music gaining solid ground ever since Nirvana had awakened something non-specific but nonetheless relatable in the core of my generation. His hair wasn’t just long, it was pitch black. His eyes though were a clear, light grayish blue. This made his looks full of stark contrast, which I found in myself as well, but nowhere near his level of perfection.
And his features were exactly that: perfection!
A perfect nose, perfect lips, perfect ratios, perfect symmetry. His body, just as balanced. Tall, broad, muscled, but nothing too much or too little. Sculpted thighs in black jeans. Manly, oh yes, so very manly. He simply looked as if he stepped out of a magazine. One of those unattainable creatures. And his sudden appearance both froze my mind while having an immediate effect on my body.
There was no time to ruminate any further about this mystifying, new experience I was going through, because he kept looking too long into my eyes. It made the world around me disappear.
And then he suddenly chose to come towards me, winding through the several rows of desks, seemingly not breaking eye contact. It was like a magnet, thwarted by desks and chairs, but undeniably coming towards me.
I got so nervous and thought: Oh no, he isn’t!
In the meantime the professor must’ve mumbled something, for the life of me, I had no clue what, but it seemed he wasn’t very perturbed by the unexpected disturbance and promptly continued his teachings. Teachings I was only superficially aware of.
By then this wondrous, delectable body, I mean boy, seemed to have reached his goal and came to a stop next to me. Some instinct realized I needed oxygen, so I sucked in a desperate breath while staring up at him.
From the depths of my barely functioning brain cells came:
What does he want? There are like only 15 people here where there’s at least room for a 100, but he chooses to come to a halt right next to me? What’s he doing? What does he want with me?
While I was still processing his possible reasons for coming this close, he leaned towards me and whispered the answer to me:
“Can I sit here next to you?”
My body responded quicker than my brain as I shoved my pencil case and some of my notes towards me, making room for him. He rightly interpreted this as an OK from my side, while I simply flicked my eyes downwards and started blushing.
Because aside from being mere average, I also had this annoying tendency to get red cheeks.
Whenever I made the slightest physical effort or whenever I simply used my poor mediocre brain, I was guaranteed to have a flushed face. It made me feel like a country girl, used to being outdoors all the time, which I basically was. Yes, that was me alright, a totally average farmer girl.
I rarely blushed because of embarrassment though.
So when I felt my face heat up then and there, I recognized this as one of the many weird reactions I was manifesting the second this male student came stumbling in my life.
While I was distracted by my damned treacherous cheeks, he had already crashed into the chair next to me and I could feel the outside cold emanating from his clothes, making the seemingly never ceasing goosebumps on my skin intensify even more.
He threw his satchel between our chairs, undid his leather jacket and hung it to the back of the chair… oh, his own smell… it wafted into my nostrils and I simply disappeared from that class room for an instant. I’ve no idea where I went, it simply was an extremely visceral reaction.
OK, well done, Olivia, you are in your first lesson of the academic year and you haven’t heard a word the
professor is saying!