The house is on fire, and I am sitting outside in a kiddie pool, shivering. Inside, my wife was watching television, the cats snuggling beside her. I am there too. The night sky is clear. It is filled with smoke. And I see myself in both places, as I walk down a road filled with potholes and shell casings, and cars zip by without a care, honking at me to get to the shoulder, or just because.
It’s all happening at once; I am in all those places and times and moments. Like watching a collage of different movies all playing at once, or maybe a collage of the same movie, all starting at different points, all on repeat, and it is so cold, and I haven’t slept in a bed in ages, and my hands are cracked and bleeding when I reach for the door to the café.
The woman behind the counter smiles at me. She has a nice smile, welcoming, filling me with a flicker of warmth. I ask for a cappuccino and reach into my wallet. It is brand new, calfskin leather. I am not sure if this is the past or the future or happening right now or if I am still sitting in a backyard of a house going up in flames.
The woman, her name is Jen, it says so on her nametag, asks if I want anything more, a pastry or a bagel maybe. She looks just like my wife, now sitting on the couch with our cats in that other place and time. I wonder if I should ask her out as artillery bursts around us. She ducks for cover, masonry cutting her face just below the eye.
The café is all crumbling walls and deserted, and I stand very still. I feel so old like I have been carrying the weight of countless lifetimes and then I hear a clattering of a plate and the hiss of milk frothing. She smiles at me again, the café as it was, if only for this moment, whenever this moment is. But she is also lying on the floor, among a silence that grows and consumes and envelopes until she moves a finger, a hand, an arm until she slowly rises to her feet. And I thank her for the cappuccino and bagel and ask her if she wants to get a drink sometime.
About the Author
Neal Sandin (he/him) is an independent market researcher by trade and arm-chair historian for free. He has traveled extensively across Asia and Europe and has even explored the exotic land of New Jersey, although he currently lives in upstate New York with his wife and three cats. He can be found on Twitter @nealsandin and occasionally posts things on his website: nealsandin.com.
This piece is a part of Issue Two: CHRONOS. Read more like it here.