I wake up in a puddle of my own drool. My butt’s in the air and my knees tucked under my chest. I blink, then gasp. I twist and turn and untangle myself with a scream. Only it’s not my scream, it’s little boy’s scream.
I’m in my racecar bed, wearing my racecar pajamas. I blink again, my eyes bulging as I focus. My hands are little and sticky.
I swing my feet out in front of me, panting. I’m a crying, sniffling mess. Just like group therapy. I can’t stop. I jump as the door opens and my mom walks in the room. Her eyes are young and wide and she’s beautiful.
“Grayson. It’s okay sweetie. Come here.”
She takes me in her arms. I put my head in her bosom. She smells like honeysuckle, a hint of vanilla, a heady scent that my mind could never produce on its own in a dream. It’s the safest place I’ve ever known. Real place anyway.
She cradles me and it’s only then I notice that I’m in my childhood room. I pull away and peer straight into her eyes. Her face is free of all the hurt and pain that life has slung at her—will sling at her. We stare at each other in a still silence for nearly a full minute. Then a smile breaks across her lips.
“I love you Grayson.”
“I love you Mommy.”
She makes pancakes. I sit across from my six year old sister, beside my father who sips coffee. I reach out and touch him. The fact that I’m three years old is now fully hitting me. It’s too real for a dream. Time travel? Maybe, but it’s more still.
“Grayson, what’s the matter, son?”
I shake my head, my eyes awash with tears.
“Dad, it’s me.”
“Well yes son, it is you.”
I stammer and pout. My mind works too fast for the mechanics of speaking. I glance at the wallpaper, the green rotary phone. I know it’s 1979. I don’t need to see the opened newspaper to confirm that yes, this is the day that my father died, and nearly two years before my sister will drown Mason’s Creek at the park.
My mother’s voice is like honey. It is sweet and full and free of the pain that will turn it to rust. I sit there, useless, years before I’ll enter my first rehab and something like 26 years before Mom dies and I’ll slide that needle back into my arm.
Then it hits me, just as my mother is setting a plate of pancakes on the table. This is what’s next. This isn’t the past but…next. Even though I’ve shunned God and everyone else. Too lazy to even become an aithiest. Yet, when I plummeted off a bridge, my life looped.
If this is hell, I’ll do it all over again. If it’s heaven I can change the past. Mom tilts her head.
“Grayson, what is it sweetie?”
“I don’t want Dad to go to work.”
Mom gives my father a sweet look. He opens the door and turns around, his voice deep and sturdy.
“Trust me, kid, I don’t want to go either.”
I squirm out of her grasp and scuttle out the door. It’s bright. The sun strikes me with blinding rays and I blink out the tears. I can hear my father, somewhere. Laughing with my mother. I wipe my eyes, my sister waves me over.
They’re waiting for me.