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Authors: James L. Rubart

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The Five Times I Met Myself (5 page)

BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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“Of course. Every couple has a drink and a song, right?” She gave him a mock scowl. “Our first date, spring of our junior year, we went to the Ranch Drive-In in Bothell on the way back to my folks’ house. ‘September’ was playing? Earth, Wind & Fire?”

“Wow. That takes me back.” Brock shifted in his chair and smiled again. “I didn’t think we ever decided on a song.”

“We did. You didn’t ever like it.”

“Which means you decided.”

She laughed. “I suppose it does.”

The bartender returned with their drinks, and they lifted the shakes in unison.

“What should we toast to?” he asked.

“This is so cliché, but to memories of a simpler time, and of a love that was simpler as well.”

Brock knocked his glass against Sheila’s. “Well said.”

They drank, and after staring at each other to the point it was almost awkward, Brock opened his palms toward her. “So, are you going to catch me up on the past thirty years, or should I go first?”

For the next fifteen minutes they talked about careers and kids and mutual friends they’d lost touch with. But at sixteen minutes, like the clock striking midnight, Sheila’s face grew serious and she touched Brock’s hand like a feather—removed it an instant later.

“Forgive me if this is too forward, but have you thought about us over the years? What might have been?”

It
was
too forward, and yet it felt like the most natural thing in the world, so Brock didn’t hesitate. “In the early years, yeah. Before I met Karissa, and during the first few years after. I used to have dreams about you, about us. Quite a few, actually. But not for a long, long time now.”

Sheila nodded. “From what I’ve seen on Facebook, you two are a great couple.”

Brock cocked his head. “So you’ve been stalking me.”

“Not really.” She smiled. “I don’t even have an account. My kids do, so I jump on theirs every now and then and pull up your profile. You don’t have it blocked, so anyone can see what you have up there.”

“I should probably fix that.” He returned her smile.

She took another drink of her milkshake as her face grew serious. “Can I go deeper?”

“Sure.”

“I loved you as much as a twenty-one-year-old woman can love.” She placed her finger on the rim of her glass and traced a slow circle till she reached the starting point. She looked up. “It took me a while to get over you; to get over us. More than a while.”

She held no animosity in her voice, no bitterness toward him. Her eyes told him what he already knew—she wasn’t asking for his apology, or even a response, but he gave both anyway.

“I’m sorry I hurt you.”

“Don’t be.” She smiled without a hint of sadness. “The point is I did get over you. Got on with my life and it’s been a good one. Very good.”

Now pain did slide across her features—so fast most people would have missed it.

“What is it?”

“What do you mean?” Sheila looked down and picked at the corner of her tan coaster.

“Your words say it’s been good, but your face disagrees. I saw it.”

“Caught in the act.” She looked at the ceiling and let out a soft laugh. “Crazy how you never stop knowing a person once you’ve shared deep time with them.”

“True.” Brock paused, not sure if he should press or not. “So?”

“I lost my husband three years ago. I loved him so much. It still hurts. Not all the time, but it’s always there at the back of my mind. My kids keep telling me it’s been long enough, to go date someone, but I can’t imagine ever marrying again. He was perfect for me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. We had an amazing marriage.”

Sheila wrapped her lips around her straw and took a long drink of her milkshake. “Are you still a Jesus freak?”

“Yeah.” Brock smiled. “That’ll never change.”

Sheila returned his smile and laughed. “Me too.”

“What?”

She pointed to the tiny cross around her neck. Funny he hadn’t noticed it.

“You always said there was a difference between being a
churchgoer and being a full-on follower of Jesus. I did play-time Christianity when we were together, and you even told me that’s what it was, but I didn’t understand till my late twenties.”

“What happened?”

Sheila sat back and the same sadness he’d seen earlier flitted across her face. “That’s what broke us up, isn’t it? My lack of true surrender.”

“It was a factor.”

The bartender shuffled up to them and took their empty glasses. “Do you guys want another?”

“Probably shouldn’t,” Brock said. “I’m driving.”

Again smiles between them and the years vanished more fully. They were just two eighteen-year-old kids having another milkshake and dreaming about the unquenchably bright future.

“How big?” Sheila’s eyes were serious again.

“How big what?”

“A factor.”

“You want a percentage?”

“Sure.”

“I was kidding.” Brock held up his hands in mock protest.

“I know.” Sheila touched his hand for a moment, then pulled it away. “We had some golden days together, didn’t we?”

Brock leaned back in his chair.

“I’d love to meet Karissa sometime.”

“I’d like that. So would she.” Brock rapped the table. “Let’s make it happen.”

It wouldn’t happen. Just like a yearbook promise to be friends forever.

The rest of the evening Brock enjoyed himself. He connected with old friends and even gave a lame speech toward the end of the
evening. But it made Lennie happy and that was reason enough to have done it.

As he walked across the empty parking lot toward his car, a voice stopped him.

“Brock?”

He turned. It was Sheila. She eased up to him, her eyes darting around the lot. “One more thing.”

She stepped closer as if she were about to speak, then hesitated.

“You okay?” Brock tried to read her eyes.

“Yes.”

Without warning, she pulled him close and kissed him lightly on the lips. Before he had time to react, she pulled back and shook her head.

“Sorry.” She looked down and turned away. “Good-bye, Brock.”

As he drove home close to eleven thirty, sipping a cup of coffee to keep him alert on the road, the kiss and his conversation with Sheila seemed to be on perpetual repeat. Brock tried to push the guilt off his shoulders. Why should he feel guilty? He’d done nothing wrong—feelings were amoral, right? It’s what you did with them that counted in the end. So why did his mind keep screaming he’d done something horrid?

Because in his mind—and maybe even in his heart—he had.

Chapter 5

T
wenty minutes later, Brock trudged toward his bedroom, hoping Karissa wouldn’t ask about the reunion, but knowing of course she would. She was in bed reading a mystery novel when he slumped through their bedroom door. “Hey.”

She set the book down on her chest and stared at him over the top of her dark-blue reading glasses. “So how was the reunion?”

“Fine.”

“That’s it?”

“Basically.” Brock shrugged. “It was an evening of seeing people I don’t want to see more than once every five years, but still fun to be there.”

“Bump into anyone surprising?”

“Ran into Sheila.” Brock tried to give an innocent smile.

“Really? Your old girlfriend, Sheila?” Karissa pulled down her reading glasses.

“Yeah.”

“How was that?” Karissa set her novel on her nightstand. “You were really in love with her.”

“It was good to see her.” Brock unbuttoned his shirt and kicked off his shoes. “Saw Lennie Buck too. Goes by Len now, but he’ll always be Lennie to me. He must have told twenty people about the time I knocked his teeth out in eighth-grade ice hockey and he called me Rocky.”

“Hang on, let’s put the car in reverse and back up a few feet.” Karissa sat up in bed. “Was it weird seeing your old girlfriend after all these years?”

“Yeah, it was.” Brock finished undressing and slipped into light sweats and an old Seahawks T-shirt.

“Is she happily married?”

“Her husband passed away three years ago.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Karissa looked away, but her tone of voice didn’t match her words. “Are you still fond of her?”

Brock didn’t respond, because he suspected what was coming next.

“Do you regret not marrying her?”

Bingo. He turned to her and looked her right in the eyes. “Not a chance. I love you. Not Sheila. I also have fond memories of my 1979 Toyota Celica, but I don’t wish I was still driving it.”

“Some men find their old cars and fix them up.”

“Not this man.”

“Promise?”

He came around to her side of the bed and leaned against the wall. “Why are you bothered by this?”

Karissa slid back down under the covers, picked up her novel, and opened it. Brock gazed at her, trying to find the right words. “If you’re going to pretend to read, you should at least move your eyes back and forth.”

“Shut up.”

“Seriously. Talk to me.” Brock sat on the edge of the bed next to Karissa and rubbed her arm. “Why would you ever worry about Sheila?”

“You have to know why. You’re one of those weird men who actually have a few perceptive bones in their bodies . . . so you tell me.”

Brock leaned back with his head against the wall and stifled a sigh. Of course he knew. And even before this détente, he knew that she knew. They’d hit the still waters, which were much different from calm waters. No wind meant stagnant sailing. It had been a long time since a robust wind had blown through their marriage to stir things up in a good way.

“There’s no wind.” Brock stared at the framed picture of their wedding vows, which hung over Karissa’s dresser. “It’s not blowing these days.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“There was always wind to keep our sailboat in motion, but during the past six years—maybe longer—the wind has died down to nothing. So we’re sitting stagnant. And on top of that, the sailboat needs to be repainted, and the sails need to be replaced, and the food in the galley is getting stale, and—”

“I get it.”

“And you think I’m going to get a new sailboat, thinking that will fix the wind problem in my life and—”

“Brock!” Karissa tossed her book against the wall. “Didn’t I just say, ‘I get it’?”

Yes, she did just say it. In the same tone of voice he’d grown used to.
Calloused to
was the better description, because his heart had hardened and he didn’t know what would soften it. Without question, hers had grown hard as well. She likely didn’t have any
solutions either. Karissa sat still for a few moments before sliding off the bed and onto the floor. She picked up her book and set it on her nightstand, then ambled around to his side of the bed.

“I’m sorry. I’m losing it too often these days.”

“No you’re not.”

“Yes I am. I see it in your eyes that you agree.” She crawled into bed beside him and rested her head on his chest. He stroked her hair. “What’s going to happen to us? I don’t want to lose you, lose us. I don’t want you running off with some old girlfriend.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“Even if you don’t, what will life be like when Tyson leaves? I don’t want to be one of those cliché stories that everyone tells during their Thursday night get-togethers when we’re not there. Where they pretend it isn’t gossip because they’ll ‘pray for you.’ ”

“We won’t be that couple.”

“How do you know?”

“The wind will come up again.”

Karissa repeated herself. “How do you know?”

He didn’t.

After brushing his teeth, Brock crawled under the covers and picked up Morgan’s book again.
Lucid Dreaming: Turning Dreams into Reality.
He turned to the back to review the steps to creating a successful lucid dream, but before he could start, Karissa interrupted him.

“I still don’t get what lucid dreaming is, or why you’re studying it.”

“It’s not that complicated.”

“Then explain it to me in a way I can understand. And more than your typical three-word answer.” Karissa propped herself up on an elbow and poked at his book. “Come on.”

Brock sighed and closed his eyes. “After a stressful meeting with Ron still bothering me, and then the reunion, and our little flare-up, I just want to review this, then get to sleep and try to make the ideas in the book work, okay?”

“Okay. Wonderful.” For the second time in ten minutes, Karissa tossed her book. It smacked the edge of her nightstand and thunked onto the floor. She reached over, snapped off her light, yanked the covers toward her, and turned her back to Brock.

“Let’s not do this.” Brock sighed and set his book down. “I’m sorry.”

“Whatever.”

He was tempted to bury himself in the book, but this was at least a chance to look for the wind. Who knew? Maybe she’d get as interested as he was.

“A lucid dream is any dream where you know you’re dreaming. You’re conscious inside your dream. It’s like you’re awake, even though you’re not. Aristotle said, ‘Often when we’re asleep, there’s something in our consciousness that tells us that what we’re seeing is a dream.’ In other words, you’re aware everything you’re experiencing is happening in your mind, that there’s no real danger, and that you’re asleep in bed.”

BOOK: The Five Times I Met Myself
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