On the night of October 27, 2003, Curtis Lovelle crawled into bed next to Katie, his wife of 8 years. It was a Tuesday night and he had stayed up too late watching TV again, passing out briefly on the couch. As his bride had been asleep for several hours already, he was careful not to wake her. Unlike him, if she woke up now she would likely have a terrible time going back to sleep. Once he was settled in and confident that she was still fast asleep he returned to sleep himself.
Lovelle lived with his wife and 4 year old son Kyle in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Theirs was the epitome of a normal life, and Lovelle would have it no other way. He had made many a misstep in his day, but, his was a happy life. He was a man that believed that every action, good or bad, had brought him to this happy place. Not being a man of faith, and certainly not a fatalist, he would never believe that he could have gotten to this place by any other path than the one he had taken. Coincidentally, a coworker had recently asked him the age old question, “If you could do things over again, would you do anything different?” Lovelle had answered without hesitation, “Not a thing.” It was not a question that he hadn’t thought about, and he had very definite opinions on the subject. If only he knew how he was about to put that philosophy to the test.
The next morning an unfamiliar alarm sounded and Lovelle woke up in his parent’s house. This was, of course, impossible. His mother didn’t even live there anymore. So he naturally assumed himself to be having a graphic dream. He had been known to have them in the past, although it had been quite some time since the last one. He knew that he was oddly aware for someone in a dream, but he decided to roll with it anyhow. Very quickly he realized that he was not only out of place, but out of time as well. He arose to find himself looking at a teenage version of himself in the mirrored closet door. “This is interesting,” he muttered.
He opened the closet and began rummaging through his clothes. He found it amusing that, as much as life had changed him, some things had not changed much at all. After all the years, he was still a jeans and t-shirt guy. He had simply gone from tight pants and concert shirts to relaxed fit and sports teams. He spotted his old favorite, a Zeppelin shirt that he had worn well into his twenties. He removed it, and one of the several identical pairs of pants.
Playing his part in the dream, he made his way down to the bathroom in the basement. For several years it had been his private facility, and once he was inside he knew why. It was disgusting. It looked as though it hadn’t been cleaned in months. And unless his parents had hosted a basement party recently, that was probably the case. The sight of it made him think gratefully of his Katie and her influence on him. He had to wonder how he might have turned out without her. Although she had certainly not turned him into a neat freak, he would never put up with this sort mess.
Still believing it to be a dream, and not wanting to waste any of it, he braved the dirty little shower stall. The shower was like being in a torture chamber. He had long since forgotten about the pressure washer style shower head. Whoever designed that thing must have believed that soap would be in short supply and brute force would be necessary to get a person clean. Looking back, he wondered why he had never replaced it. He had suffered with it all the way through college and even for a short while beyond.
As un-refreshing as the shower was, Lovelle was amazed at how good he felt. His teenaged body felt so vital to him. Losing that youthful vitality had been so gradual that he hadn’t noticed it slipping away. Now, getting it all back at once, it was so obvious. He resolved, not for the first time, that when he woke up he would start to take better care of himself. He wondered how accurate his unconscious mind was on this score, and then wondered why his mind was even bothering with such detail. That was just one more oddity in this surreal dream.
After his shower, Lovelle attempted to deal with the mop of hair on his head. As he worked mousse into it, he laughed at how hard he had tried to grow his ‘rock band’ hair. Somehow it always seemed like a bad mix of a mullet and the grunge style that wouldn’t exist for several more years.
He finished himself off as best he could with the tools at his disposal and made his way upstairs. While he was showering, his parents had arisen. He found them sitting quietly, drinking coffee at the kitchen table. “Good morning. All ready for the first day of school?” his mother asked.
Figuring she would know better than he, he nodded his ascent. Then, looking at his father, he resisted the urge to hug the man who he hadn’t seen for 3 years. Doing so would have been out of character, which shouldn’t matter in a dream, but somehow Lovelle had the feeling that this was something more.
He found some cereal in the pantry and sat down for a quick breakfast, then had the foresight to find the class schedule he knew must be lying around somewhere. Before finding out that it was the first day of school, he had considered feigning illness and staying home to spend time with his father before the dream ended. But he had realized that his father would be leaving for work shortly himself. Besides that, as the dream continued he felt more and more compelled to stay in character. He knew that time could pass very quickly in a dream, covering hours, or days, but, that time always seemed to pass like a movie, jumping past the irrelevant dead times. He had been at this for half an hour, and he had experienced fully every second of it. So he walked outside and laid eyes on his Alfa Romeo, another great memory. Lovelle had forgotten just how much he’d loved that car.
He had known that his parents intended to buy him a car for his sixteenth birthday, so he convinced them to go in halves with him for the car he really wanted. He had been working at the little dive on the corner for several months before his birthday, just for that purpose. It had allowed him to afford this well worn yet still pretty cool little ’67 Spyder. It was a couple of years older than he was, but, it was still a sound runner. Now he knew exactly what year it was. He was 16 years old, and it was 1985.
As he slid behind the wheel he thought about how this would not only be the first, but, also probably the last cool car he would ever own. Sadly, in only a few months the car would be totaled. He would wreck it fooling around in the first snowfall of the year, and, being short on cash, he would replace it with an even more run down, and not remotely cool, Plymouth Valiant.
Lovelle managed to get a mile down the road before remembering that he always drove his best friend to school in those days. He turned around, anxious to see Shane again. They had been nearly inseparable for years. Fast friends since the 2nd grade, he would have sworn that they would be friends for life. But this would be the first time he had seen him in more than 20 years. A few minutes later he pulled into Shane’s driveway and his friend casually strolled out to the car.
"Nice. Fashionably late for the first day? What'd you do, oversleep, butt-head?"
"Actually, I almost went without you."
"Gee, thanks jerk.” Shane quipped, “You've had your car for two months and you're already crapping on your friends” Shane teased.
"Yeah right." Lovelle retorted, “If I was gonna dis’ you, I’d find something better to leave you behind for than School."
"If you were gonna diss me? What the heck does that mean?"
Lovelle grimaced internally at his gaffe. If anyone was going to figure out that someone else was living in this sixteen year old body, it would be Shane, he thought. Then he thought, “Why do I care what anyone thinks about me in this dream”.
"I meant disrespect," he stumbled after a long awkward pause.
"Oh, now you’re so cool you’re making up your own slang?” Shane said in mock scorn, “I got news for you buddy, this car maybe cool, but you're still a dork."
"Yeah, okay," Lovelle said sarcastically and let the whole thing drop right there.
The rest of the ride was awkwardly quiet. Twice Shane tried to talk to him about some recent event that Lovelle could no longer recall. He did his best not to trip himself up, finding silence to be his best friend in that endeavor. But, the silence only left him more and more conscious of how non-dreamlike this dream was.
And so began the first day of his second life. Lovelle simply woke up and there he was, sixteen again. He spent most of that day quietly observing, trying to get his bearings. Determined not to make any more blunders, like dropping references to things years ahead of when they would actually become a part of the common vernacular.
As the day progressed he became increasingly sure that he shouldn’t allow anyone to detect the change in him. The minutes continued to pass without any of the dull moments being skipped. Lovelle still had not concluded that this situation would be permanent, but, just like he had with his father that morning, he felt strongly that this was not simply a dream to be toyed with without consequence.
Fortunately for him, being quietly observant was what most people expected of him. He usually only loosened up around his small group of friends. Luckily, none of the friends who would expect conversation shared any classes with him, affording him the opportunity to avoid them, at least for a while.
So he muddled through the day trying not to embarrass himself. Trying to remember the names of friends and acquaintances most of whom he had never seen after high school. To avoid embarrassment, he used a skill he had honed over the years working in sales. Anytime he found himself with a client whose name he could not place, he would address them by anything but their proper name until he heard someone else use it. The technique had spared him from many an awkward situation as an adult, and he found it very useful that day.
Making small talk with the people who had not seen him for more than two months was relatively easy, and the restroom made a useful refuge between classes. At one point he narrowly escaped an encounter with two of his closest friends, ducking into the john as they followed behind him in the hall, trying unsuccessfully, or so they thought, to get his attention. One of the friends being a girl, they didn’t follow.
Only as he left school for the day did he get caught by someone who he was sure he would have seen recently. Dan, another friend from the neighborhood, approached Lovelle and Shane in the school parking lot. But, this turned out to be a blessing. Shane and Dan had a quick conversation about their night out over the past weekend. This not only spurred Lovelle’s memory, but filled in a couple of details as well, enabling him to have a normal conversation with Shane during the ride home.
Having made it home in once piece, he now had to decide what to do. All day he had expected at any moment to simply wake up in his own bed. As impossibly weird as this dream was, to conceive that it was anything other than a dream was even more impossible. Yet he couldn’t shake a feeling of foreboding that had settled over him. The initial novelty of the dream had ended hours earlier, leaving him in a state of unease. He told himself that time was always compressed in dreams. And that this stark sense of reality would be lost to him when he finally awoke, with the foggy memory of the dream making it seem just like any other. But, he could no longer enjoy the experience, so he would not bother trying.
He made it through dinner with his family with minimal chit chat. His parents were primarily interested in the happenings at school, which were answers he could readily furnish. Then he sequestered himself in his room to watch TV. That turned out to be the low point of his day. To be relegated to watching the broadcast networks was like having someone stand over him and drive a drill bit through his skull. Prime time TV in the 80’s had been uninteresting to him then, and was completely useless to him now. An avid fan of the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, Lovelle liked very little of scripted television. On that night, even the PBS channel, his only hope for something remotely palatable to watch, was airing the opera "Carmen”. So he read his history text hoping to pass time until the evening news. Instead he fell asleep with his back propped up against the wall and the book on his lap.
He awoke in this position in the middle of the night, anguished to find himself still in the dream. He had hoped to awake in his own bed, next to his beautiful wife, probably to the sound of his son trying to climb into bed with them. Instead, he lay there wondering how one could go to sleep during a dream, even going so far as to have a dream within that dream. Eventually he was able to sleep again, now even more apprehensive about where he would awake next.
Lovelle woke a few hours later to the sound of the alarm, still in his old room, mumbling a few choice curse words. He set about to make his way through the day much the same way as the day before, only this time he was noticeably irritable. He was more than a little bit frightened about what was happening. He could scarcely imagine that he was still in a dream, but, the alternative was still so impossible that he couldn’t seriously entertain that notion either.
On this second day he encountered the other two friends that he was concerned about. The ones who he had barely escaped the day before. Dave was the newest member of their little clique. Having grown up in another part of the city, he had only fallen in with them when they had all entered high school. Trina was another of Lovelle’s friends from elementary school. Being a female, she was not exactly a part of their gang, but, she was close with each of them, and particularly with Lovelle.
As the day had progressed Lovelle became increasingly surly. By the time he ran into the first of these friends he was angry enough that he was no longer being very careful about what he said. However, his foul mood was so obvious that Trina did not bother to press him. That spared him from making a serious misstep. Lovelle realized how close he had come to doing something he would regret and was able to calm down a bit before he encountered Dave during the next break between classes.
“Hey man,” Dave greeted him. “How is it I’ve talked to everyone I know in the last day and a half but you?”
Dave was kidding of course, and normally Lovelle would have jabbed right back, but in his mood he could only answer, “Haven’t felt like talking.”
“Yeah, Trina told me you were in a bad mood. What’s the problem?”
Lovelle hadn’t expected that news to have traveled so quickly. It had only been an hour earlier, and they had all been in class most of that time. But he thought, “No matter, I don’t really care if they all get ticked at me.”
“Just not feeling well I guess.” He lied
“Sucks to be you!” Dave quipped.
“You have no idea,” Lovelle thought, then answered, “Pretty much… Look, I’ll talk to you later.” He excused himself then skulked away.
Day three proceeded in like manner, only now Lovelle had escalated to being both angry and scared. He snapped at people he never would have before. He made a scene about the lousy food in the cafeteria. He even had an altercation with his government teacher. The man had given an oversimplified description of the American political spectrum in teaching the class about political orientation. As a political science major himself, Lovelle distinctly remembered having to relearn that lesson in college, and believed it was a disservice to the students. He pointed out as much, and did so without a bit of tact.
Lovelle was such a bear all day that he didn’t have to bother avoiding people, they avoided him. His friends, who were planning a get together over the weekend, even considered leaving him out of their schemes.
On the ride home, Shane chided him about his attitude. “Damn, Curtis. You’ve really been a jerk today. We’re all supposed to go to the drive-in tomorrow, but Trina said she wasn’t sure if she would even go if you were going.”
“Don’t worry about it, I don’t plan on going!” Lovelle snapped.
“Dang, you don’t have to bite my head off. I didn’t say I didn’t want you to go. I’m just saying you need to chill out. What the heck’s wrong with you anyhow?”
Lovelle apologized, but left Shane’s question unanswered.
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