For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Dim Dom challenged me with "You are walking out the door to go to work and your car keys are not where you usually put them." and I challenged Carrie with " 'I yearn for honesty in life. As an artist, I yearn for the clear moment.' -Jack Nicholson"
[Author's Note: This is a little weird, and a bit of a departure for me. Either this is excellent, or I missed completely. I can't tell. Comments welcome, whichever side of the fence you fall on.]
The day started like it always did, suddenly emerging from the fog of a nightmare. We had been watching one of those History Channel shows about ancient wars, which wound up filling my dreams with clanging swords, grunting, sweating effort, and blood and gore on the tan sand. I gained consciousness, swimming to the surface, checking my surroundings. Reality came swimming back suddenly- it was Friday, I was at home, and my alarm was nagging at me from across the room. Morning, I thought, then got up to turn off the blaring, angry tone.
I placed it across the room for precisely that reason- by the time I walked over there to shut it off, I would be fully awake. The distance seemed longer than it should be, almost like someone had rearranged our bedroom in the night. The floor felt cold under my feet, which was odd, and cold air was rushing up my legs, which was also strange. Clearly, I had managed to remove both my pants and socks during the night. I made my way to the bureau, finally slapping my alarm to silence it.
I realized the jacket I had brought home from the cleaners last night was still hanging in the back seat of my car. If I was going to wear it today, as I had planned, I needed to get pants on and go get it. I started fumbling with the objects on the dresser, knowing I had left my keys there. I kept the light out in deference to my sleeping companion. I knew the keys were there- I always left them there. It was my evening routine.
"What are you looking for," a voice said sleepily. I was surprised at how deep it sounded.
"My keys," I said. My voice sounded strange, too high. I cleared my throat. "I left them here. I always leave them here."
I gave up on the keys momentarily and crouched down, feeling around for the sweatpants.
"Your keys are in your purse. Besides, what are you doing up? I'm taking the kids to school before work, remember? This is your day to sleep in!" The voice was still too low, I thought. Why did we both sound so odd? My purse? What?
I found the familiar feel of the cotton pants, pulling them close. I stood to begin to work them up over my bare legs. They were enormous and billowy, far too large. I felt the fabric slide downwards over my waist. I grabbed it, trying to find some purchase on my body that would hold them up.
"What do you mean?," I said, still sounding too high, no matter how much I tried to clear my throat.
"What do you mean, what do I mean?," the voice said in the dark, strong and firm. "I'm going to get an early shower and get the kids to school while you sleep in. Like we discussed. Come to bed."
My head spun for a moment. I remembered that conversation. I had agreed to get up a little earlier and do the school run, giving up on the luxury of being the last one to leave, the one who can linger over SportsCenter, the morning paper, and a second cup of coffee. It was a fair trade, I thought. So why was I now the one staying home? What was going on here? I tried to pull the sweatpants up, waiting until I felt that I had pulled them taut. They swam on my body, as if they had grown 10 sizes overnight. Had I discovered the secret to quick, painless weight loss? I tried to tuck my shirt into the sweatpants to hold them up.
Suddenly, I was fully awake. My hands found buttery smooth skin, with taut, eager quads, where my misshapen thighs should be. I slid my hands all over- up, down, sideways- finding only smooth skin. Not perfectly smooth, but smoother than mine, with virtually no hair. Had my body hair fallen off overnight? I felt different, unreal. I had to be dreaming. My hands ran up my belly, across my rib cage, finding the shocking weight and warmth of a woman's breasts.
My wife's breasts. I recognized the feel, although I had never felt them from this angle. If this was a dream, it was a particularly vivid one.
I silently recited my name, my social security number, my ATM password. I knew who I was. I was born in Boston. I recited the starting lineup of the 1986 Red Sox: Boggs, Barrett, and Buckner, Rice, Evans, and Baylor, Henderson, Gedman, and Owen. I remembered the first girl I ever kissed, who I lost my virginity to, who played bass on "Big Man On Mulberry Street". I remembered driving the boss' Audi on deliveries, playing "New York State of Mind" over and over again, blasting it through the sun roof. I remembered the first concert I went to, and the first person I ever saw pass out from drinking too much. I remembered my child being born, my brother's names and dates of birth, my college graduation. I rested my hands on my suddenly ample hips. I must have looked like I was molesting myself. I felt myself breathe, felt intestinal gurgles and shifted my weight from side to side. This was definitely not my body, but this was absolutely my mind.
"Come to bed," the voice said. I suddenly realized why it didn't sound right- I was listening to my voice from outside, instead of in the echo chamber of my own head. I allowed my hands to slide forward, then inexorably below my belly button. That was definitely new. I knew my own thoughts, knew my own history, but I was inside my wife's body.
I wonder who is inside my body? Is that also me? He seems to have my memories, too. So where is my wife? What is going on?
And where the hell are those keys?