A Mistaken Plot: “If only?”    

by LJ Frank

The scene that unfolded was disarming. I felt stranded. I wasn’t supposed to be there. Yet…I was there. Had I entered someone else’s life story? Did the Author confuse me with another character? Was it the universe’s setup I read about in theoretical physics? Perhaps Earth and our solar system’s placement and movement in an arm of the Milky Way was all a setup. A cosmic experiment of chance and tease. The Author appeared to be playing a game with creation and each creature in which no pain or pleasure was too great. Like a work of art without a message or rationale except to exist and to be.

The only meaning to life was the meaning that I gave it. Buddha was correct. That was part of the initial plan I suspect. Fate or Karma? Things were amiss. This was not happening, I told myself, yet it was. My initial response was regret. Henry David Thoreau wrote in his Journal on 13 November 1839 – to Make the most of your regrets…to regret deeply is to live afresh.  

Until that moment I made decisions based on my situation rather than another assumed choice. What affected my choice? Fear? Peer pressure? Perhaps I wasn’t listening to my evolving subconscious. Pragmatism has its own merits. I couldn’t fully relate to those merits given my circumstances. Rationalizations are important to me. Intent is a legal term that’s philosophically disingenuous if you don’t have the resources to even take the first step. Like religion intent has an element of wishful thinking. Perhaps it’s my cynicism seeping from the mortal cells in my head and heart.

And now I was there. It was surreal. I was heading towards a downtown area to a hotel where I was to give, ironically, a presentation on mysticism and reincarnation. Somehow and some way, I found myself without a car and was walking in a neighborhood of luxurious townhomes with indistinguishable exteriors, on a narrow street with no addresses and no names posted on the street corners.  

There was an icy breath in the air. I buttoned my trench coat. And, as I was walking a woman appeared and joined me, touching my arm, and smiling as if she knew something but refrained from saying. Her thick lips vaguely reminded me of my third wife. My third wife had literally departed one day. I remember coming home from work on a Friday afternoon thinking we’d go out for dinner or at least a glass of wine and an appetizer. I walked into an empty house. Her clothes were missing from the closet, all of her jewelry, shoes, her hats, the painting she liked, even the pillow upon which she slept. But there was an odd note on the bed that read: Awareness – due diligence may lead away from a hidden truth.

I shook my head, as if to rid my brain of metaphorical tangles of glistening silken threads.

The furniture and other stuff were still there. I sensed the place was professionally cleaned. The smell of furniture polish permeated the home as it were.

And now?

The woman next to me was wearing a short black dress, matching heels, and leather trench coat. Was I in my own or someone else’s story? What was it leading up to? When would I awaken or would I?

We kept walking. We could see distant tall buildings as if the scene was a mirage when I heard a voice behind me. I turned to look. It belonged to a thin bald-headed man with hollow cheeks and thin lips. He smiled, a gracious smile. and said, you’re in the wrong place and probably should leave.

I was about to say something when he reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of one-hundred-dollar bills and spoke – you’re going to need this, and then reached in his other pocket and pressed some keys on an android phone and said, your services are needed at this time.

Just then a woman opened the door of a nearby house and asked me if her neighbor gave me enough money to get to my destination. I was speechless. How did she know?

She said come to the back of her house through an adjacent path and go out in the back yard and look for yourself.

My female companion nodded and we walked to the back of the house into the yard. We saw a descending slope of boulders and broken concrete stretching into the distance in both directions, and a railroad track on the other side. On the other side of the track was an old wood building with a cement platform and beyond the building was a river.

I could see the city in the distance. I began feeling nauseated when the woman from the house said – your taxi has arrived. It’s best to leave now.

My companion and I walked to the front of the house and to the taxi.

I opened the door and my companion slid in followed by me.

The taxi driver looked at us in the rearview mirror. How did you find yourself here? But he immediately shrugged and noted it didn’t matter.

The taxi jerked forward. The driver drove down the street that turned into a potholed road until we reached a bridge that took us over the railroad track and the river, and finally into the downtown of skyscrapers.

I was about to tell him the name of the hotel and he waved his hand and said he knew.

Minutes later we were in front of the hotel. Neither of us had any bags or luggage, just the clothes on our back.

I paid the man a hundred dollars for the drive and my female companion and I walked into the hotel. She placed her arm under my arm and said she hoped this time it worked out.

What did she mean?

I was bewildered. I tried to recall how I arrived at that strange neighborhood we departed from but now I was at a hotel with someone I really didn’t know.

We checked in, paid cash, had a dinner and drinks and settled in the for the night. I told myself it was all a surreal dream and I would wake up from it, perhaps by morning.

I looked at my wallet. Maybe I wasn’t who I thought I was and someone else altogether. Why did I wait until now to look. I opened the wallet to see if I could fit the cash in from my pocket. The wallet was empty save an old driver’s license. Nothing else. I placed as much money into the wallet as I could, with the remainder back into my pocket.

My companion meanwhile was taking a shower and came out wearing a smile and wrapped in a bath towel. It was my turn. I nodded and took a shower and then joined her in an adjacent living room. I was at a loss I told her. I asked her who she was. She replied, in due time.

Within the hour we were in bed in each other’s naked arms and asleep.

I then heard a telephone ring. Where did the night go? I answered the phone and a man’s raspy baritone voice said – its time, please get dressed, and come down to the lobby. Your companion will be waiting.

I looked over at the other side of the bed and my companion was gone. Her side of the bed looked undisturbed.

I shaved, got dressed, and with coat in hand, walked to the elevator, and pressed the button for lobby, when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Jesus, I didn’t see you when I entered the elevator.

She laughed and said she understood. It was the woman from the luxury town houses on the other side of the tracks. She said she was glad I made it this far. I nodded in thanks. Once the elevator reached the lobby, I exited and started walking, glancing back to the neighbor but she seemed to have vanished.

I began to wonder if my life was a hallucination of the Author high on some drug that was in an experimental stage.

I walked into the lobby. My female companion wearing the same clothes and coat from yesterday was waiting. She bit her lower lip and hurriedly wrapped her arms around me. While hugging me, in an excited breath, she observed – so far so good.

What did she mean?

A taxi’s waiting at the entrance.

I nodded.

Come with me.

I slipped on my coat. We walked outside into a chilly light rain. We got into the taxi. She took a deep breath and grasped my hand and said, I think I know where it is.

What are you talking about?

She gently smiled, kissed me, and whispered in my ear – the real plot to your life that you’ve been looking for all these years. And once we arrive at that intersection, I’ll reveal to you who I really am.