This is something I wrote for my Creative Writing Fiction Assignment. It’s not my best work, in my opinion, but I didn’t want to cheat and send in something I had already written in the past. I wanted to try to use what I had learnt in my classes in this story.
It just needs a bit more editing and polishing to make it better, I think. I feel like the dialogue is to stilted. But I hope you enjoy this anyway. :3 Please do give me your comments.
PS. It contains one swear word. Hahaha.
PPS. I wrote this while I was sick and on medication soooooooooooooo. Forgive me?
The street suddenly bursts with people. Sweaty, shouting people, all squeezing into a line. Barely fitting. I am sandwiched between some dude talking into a small rectangular box, like he was using a mobile, and a girl dressed in way-too-short shorts and an orange tee baring her midriffs. It’s so bright it hurts my eyes. I feel out of place in my flannel shirt and faded denim mini skirt.
A moment ago, that line hadn’t been there. A moment ago, I was turning a corner of a street that I could navigate with my eyes closed. But that moment passed, and now I’m in some place I’d never seen before in my entire life.
The music – if you can call it that – pulses out of the bright and shiny place that everyone is eager to get into. I try peering inside. What’s happening inside? Two men stumble out. Fists flying. Knees knocking. The dude talking to the box and the skimpily dressed girl are both distracted. I take my chance, squeeze out of the crowd, find myself turning back. The noise is too loud – music and brawling men trying to form a sort of strange melody – but it’s fading.
I’m not back at my street. This street is too different. There is a large sign that hangs from the ceiling. Sketch, it says, in bright red. It reminds me of a movie theatre sign, except without the show timings.
An art gallery of some sort. The walls are too white; the place too quiet. It seems to be closed. I squint at the poster that takes up the glass window. A melting clock is in the background, fading into black.
‘A (Space) in Time
C. N. Langton
14 September – 20 December 2012’
I stare at the date. Scan the poster. Glare at the year. 2012? It doesn’t make any sense. Where the fuck am -
“She said you’ll be here.”
I swivel, like a pivot anchored to the concrete I stood on. Rooted.
“Who?” I ask, my voice barely audible.
I don’t dare to approach him. The figure is dark, at first. It lingers in the shadows, making friends with them. Then the light starts to spill around him. I don’t recognise him. But he… he knows me. I can see it in his green eyes. It’s like he found something that he had lost a long time ago.
“You,” he says.
“I don’t understand.”
He shuffles to me, as if he were afraid I would disappear if he made any sudden movements. I jerk away almost instinctively. Yet there’s something about him that makes me not want to run. I am definitely experiencing some sort of deja-vu.
“You told me,” he says, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
He’s searching for something, I can tell. He’s digging through his pockets, and that brown leather messenger bag he has slung over his shoulder. I expect him to take out his wallet, but instead he takes out a mini television, like the one that dude was talking into, but thinner. It’s flat and long, and it sort of glows.
I peer at it. The colours on the screen pop out at me, and I can’t help but just stare, fascinated. He uses a finger to ‘slide to unlock’, then taps on the little sunflower that has the word ‘photos’ underneath.
He swipes upwards furiously, and taps on a photo. He tilts the device at me.
“This,” he says.
I look to see myself grinning from inside the screen, while this man has his arm around me. His gaze was fixed on me. He swipes the screen to the right, and I see that he gave me a kiss, and that I grinned even wider. My hair’s blonde in the picture. I never thought I would ever be blonde. Always thought I would stay brunette.
I can’t find the words to ask him who he is, or where he’s from, or how he has a picture of me that looks so much like me but older, or what that thing he holds in his hand is. My lips part, but my voice box refuses to do its job.
“Hi, Nora. I’m Daniel.”
There is this thing called YouTube. It is quite addictive. I could sit at the computer – with its humongous 27 inch screen – and just watch those episodes of 90210 Dad never lets me stay up for. And cat videos. Once you click on one, you’ll click on all of them.
It makes me forget I’m not in my own time, that I have no way of going back. I tried going back to the art gallery, to see if time would magically warp me back to 1992, but no such luck.
Sometimes I wonder about Dad. I wonder if he’s getting on well without me. He must be, judging by all the Facebook messages I get on my future self’s wall. She never logs off on that Macbook Pro of hers. Ever.
But I can’t go meet him. I can’t go ask him if he and Mum ever get back together. I don’t want to look at their Facebooks. It feels like I’m prying, like I’m seeing something I’m not supposed to know. I feel like if I know… if when I ever do go back… I might screw everything up.
Besides, Mum’s not on Facebook. I checked. I couldn’t stop myself.
Eventually, I’ll get back anyway. I must have, or I wouldn’t have met Daniel, let alone marry him. Eventually.
I’m staying at Daniel’s now. It’s awkward, if I’m being kind. But really, it’s more like there’s a film of bubble in between us made of diamond. Like you could almost poke through it but you can’t because there’s this thing in between you that you will never be able to saw through that’s giving you the illusion that it’s just a flimsy bubble when it really isn’t.
It’s kind of strange, living with my future husband. He cooks me meals. (My God, that dude can cook up a storm. One good thing, I guess. We won’t just microwave Mac and Cheese everyday.) He gives me the bed to sleep in. He tries to talk to me, but I don’t know… it’s just not the same for him to talk to a kid version of his wife, I guess.
He always wears the same thing to work. A white shirt, a blue tie, black dress pants and shiny black polished dress shoes. I think he’s some head accountant at some big firm which I will never bother to remember the name of. Not the me right now, anyway. Apparently Future Me bothered enough to marry him.
But he lets me do whatever the heck I want, basically. It’s not like I can take over his wife’s – I mean, my – place and go to work in her place.
She’s a painter. Or I am. It’s quite confusing. But she – I – am quite good at painting. There are certificates on the walls saying that I’ve won ‘Artist of the Year’ for 3 years in a row from some organisation I don’t recognise. I see my Watercolours too. They are literally everywhere.
Daniel doesn’t tell me where she is. I thought maybe she died, but then I wouldn’t want to die at, like, 37. That’s just tragic, man. I have my whole life ahead of me. I don’t want to just off myself. Or be sad and depressed because I die at 37.
Anyway, it turns out that device Daniel was holding is a mobile. It’s called the iPhone 5, and it’s newly released. It’s really light. And another thing that’s totally addictive. You can practically do anything on it. I find Instagram a great addition to my life.
If When I get back to 1992, I’m going to miss Instagraming every single streetlamp I see. I’m just kidding. I don’t Instagram street lamps. That’s just lame.
The apartment is on the 20th Avenue, and I’m on the 38th floor. It’s not everything I imagine my apartment to be like, but at least it has a beanbag that’s squishy enough for me to sink into and take a nap in. The living room is surrounded by wooden platforms. Every time I’m there, I feel like I’m living in a box.
I’m at Sketch today. Something about the place makes me keep going back. Yesterday was the last day of that other exhibition about time. But it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen enough of clocks and watches and minute hands. I’ve seen how they move and how they stop, how some watches crack and how some clocks get smashed into little tiny bits and pieces that are swept up with the dust.
I’ve seen how inconsequential time is.
I’ve seen this boy who works at Sketch stare at me every day, like he’s known me all his life.
I’ve seen my heart.
Not because of Daniel.
But because this boy – his name is Ethan – is walking towards me now.
He’s wearing jeans and a Nirvana tee today. His brown hair is a little messy, like he’d just got out of bed. We’re going to meet today after his shift at the museum. And yes, I’ve been talking to him because he’s cute. But not just because of that. He’s different from Daniel.
Where Daniel is stiff and boring, Ethan is a free spirit. He’s spontaneous. He randomly wants to go to places I’ve never even heard of before. Sure, I’m from the 90s, but I learn fast and I Google stuff now. This is stuff that cannot be Googled. Or they could, but you have to learn where to look.
Ethan’s teaching me just that.
I look at Daniel, with his perfect blonde hair and his dull green eyes and his coarse hands, and all I see are the times he treads carefully around me, like I’m glass or something, like one wrong step can shatter me.
There she is. Her blonde hair has since turned a wine red, but there’s no mistaking it. My amber eyes (as I like to think of them) will never change. I never thought I’d be a red-head. But there I am.
Should I stop her?
The cars and buses and vans and lorries zoom back and forth and obscure her from my view. They are lights in the drizzle-mist. She continues walking, opposite me. I follow her with my eyes. We are like two twins. In theory we look the same, but she couldn’t be more different than me. She must have experienced what I’m experiencing now.
But she won’t understand what I’m going through. She’s too different now.
Daniel sits down opposite us.
I shift a little. It feels a bit like an interrogation. We’re in that box of a living room. He’s on the bean bag. It sinks in more when he’s sitting on it. We’re on the dark blue couch. From here, I could see the view of the city. Skyscrapers almost touching the edge of the sky. They’re making a connection we can’t seem to make.
He had shifted the coffee table to the side earlier, so he’s the only one blocking my view. He’s looking imploringly at me.
But not at me, at her.
The girl with the red hair.
She’s trembling. I wonder if I can reach out and touch her. If I can squeeze her hand. But I don’t try it. If I touch her, I might scatter into the non-existent wind.
“I didn’t want to be here,” she says, looking down at the parquet wooden floor. There are stains marking where the coffee table used to be. Four little circles, one for each leg. I stare at that, and I wonder if those stains can ever be removed.
No one else dares to speak. Daniel and I just wait in the never-ending silence for something to happen. I furtively glance at her and I realise she’s crying. Silent tears. Angry tears. Desperate tears.
I put my hand on hers, and squeeze it. I don’t vanish.
She looks up, broken out of her own little bubble.
“You’ve met Ethan, haven’t you?” she says.
I don’t answer, but she already knows what my answer will be anyway.
“Is it a tragedy?” I ask.
The way she looks at me. Like I’ve said something most intelligent and she was trying to figure me out. I almost want to shut up.
“I said, is it a tragedy. You can tell me, you know. Shakespeare’s plays always specify whether they are comedies or tragedies. It’s to prepare your heart. So that at least you know it’s going to break.”
She takes a deep breath. I steal a look at Daniel. He’s stoic. I don’t know if he’s trying to hide the fact that he has emotions or if he really feels nothing.
“Ethan and I met when I was your age. Like you, I turned a corner off 57th street and came across that noisy club. I was curious, so I went inside. It was there where I first met him.”
So if I hadn’t chosen to walk away… I would have met him earlier.
“He was different from all the other boys. You know that, right?”
I nod. Ethan is different.
The only thing we have in common, in spite of the twenty years that split us, is that we both like the band Nirvana. He had grown up in a world filled with technology which, while I picked it up quickly, I would never be able to fully understand.
But he is the only one who could reach inside me. The only one who brings out the courage in me to try something more, to not be passive, to always seek out the adventure that life holds for me. He is the only one who made me forget everything else, and just remember how he likes to stand with his hands hanging lazily at his sides, how he likes to have coffee with only one teaspoon of sugar and no milk, how his favourite artist is Salvador Dalí, how he never has anything in his pockets because he prefers to carry a backpack with his camera safely inside.
“We fell in love,” she says, and for a brief moment I felt jealous of all the time she had spent with Ethan, of how she knew him longer than I ever did and ever will.
Then that moment passed, because I remember I was her. I am her red hair, and her amber eyes, and that small tattoo of the word ‘time’ in script on the nape of her neck which you can only see if she tied her hair up. I am the wreck she is, the love she felt. I am that spirit inside her, dying to relive what I’m living through right now.
She flips my hand over, and looks into my eyes. I feel a little surreal. I’m looking into eyes that are mine but are not mine. Daniel is forgotten.
“It didn’t last. One day I turned another corner and found myself back in 2008. I met Daniel then. Our parents were glad to finally find me again, after all these years. They stuck together while I – we – was gone. He made me smile again, but I had lived another life for too long. The only way I could truly be happy was when I was painting. The exhibit at The Sketch you saw where I begged Daniel to remember to pick you up so you wouldn’t have to meet him? That was mine. Then 2012 came, and I was in the same time as he was. But I couldn’t meet him. I never told him that I had leaped into the future, into his future. The only thing I could do was have an exhibit. That was the closest we could be.”
That’s the closest we will be.
Ending it now would be painful, but it’s better to rip off the band aid now then to leave it there to merge with the wound and become flesh. Daniel leads her downstairs to get her my favourite cup of hot chocolate. His hand is around her waist, and I can’t help but feel disgusted by it.
I’m sure he loves her – that he loves me – that I could learn to love him. But it would be different. And it would make my heart stop. My heart would stop feeling, but time will move on, like the erratic, unexplainable mess it had thrown me into.
His attempts to love her seem pathetic to me.
I run after them, banging my fist on the number one in the elevator. I could still change it. I could tell Ethan everything.
When the elevator doors open, I rush outside, to see Ethan’s arm raised dangerously near Daniel’s eye. She cowers in the corner. She’s scared, but she does nothing.
“Ethan!” I call out, anxious he won’t hear me.
He swerves, and he sees me. Me with my brown hair and my amber eyes and no tattoo. Me without the broken spirit inside. He seems to glide over, and all I feel is his arms around me. He looks at me curiously.
“I thought that was you,” he says, “I thought that man did something to you.”
“It is me,” I tell him, my voice steady.
I tell him the most absurd story he will ever hear in his life. I tell him I’m afraid we will only have 16 years together. I’m afraid I will disappear. I’m afraid he won’t believe me. I start to shake. But he only smiles, and holds my hand and his ground, anchoring us both.
“This might sound absurd to you, “ he says, echoing what I just said as he pulls me to walk the other way, “But I’ve known you all your life. Perhaps even longer. We will always find each other. Don’t ever doubt that.”
I shake my head, wondering what Ethan’s story is. He’ll tell me when the time is right. I’m certain of that. So for now, I take his words and etch them on my heart. I will not doubt. The future is as uncertain as it is, but it’s the only way we can go. I will take the leap with him.
As I turn back to take one last look at Daniel, I see her fading away. For a moment, Daniel is anxious, and upset, and angry. He slumps over where she was and cries. His shoulders tremble. But then the moment passes. He stands up straight, and walks on, passing Ethan and I by. No look of recognition flashes in his eyes.
All Photos Taken By Me.