Adapted from an image © Kapu, Dreamstime.com
Come Go With Me
“You’re so beautiful.”
She was taken aback. Confused. Not that he didn’t give her compliments before, including telling her she was beautiful (even though she was more in the area of “cute,” which in later years would become “attractive”). But it wasn’t the compliment itself that surprised her. It was the intensity of his conviction and how, obviously, he wasn’t simply referring to her physical beauty. He was looking deeply into her eyes, her head, her soul? and truly moved by what he saw there.
Although tempted to say, “Ryan, stop doing that,” she didn’t want to spoil his apparent epiphany of her beauty, deciding instead to just smile and begin looking at the menu with, “So honey, what are you going to have?”
It snapped him out of it—kind of—because he was definitely in an isolated frame of mind that had him looking around the coffee shop they had frequented for the past three years, as if taking it all in for the first time.
As oddly as he was behaving, she would let it pass and keep looking at the menu she knew by heart; he was an odd young man by nature (which is what attracted her to him) but he was also intelligent, compassionate, and funny, so she allowed certain peculiarities to pass, making some comment about the roast beef not always being the best, and—
“There’s something I have to talk to you about,” he cryptically stated, his eyes now focused squarely on her.
She kept staring at the menu, suspecting that whatever it was it wouldn’t be good. But he kept staring at her in that weirdly loving and intense way, so her mind was racing, trying to figure out what terrible thing he was about to reveal before it came out of his mouth, upsetting her beyond reason, because she was tense enough as it was, what with her midterms coming up, her father having to go back into the hospital, and herself being late again, making it necessary for her to think about having an abortion of all goddamned things, which was enough in itself to send her screaming up a sterilized institutional wall,
“It’s a GOOD thing,” he added, as if seeing the tension in her face. He smiled, took her hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze, which did help.
She put down the menu, looked into his eyes, which were so loving, and soft, and something else. What was that? It made her suspicious all over again.
“Gail, it’s alright,” he saw her concern and kissed her hand as if a prince kissing the hand of his queen in the truest love and reverence, but . . .
“Ryan, what is it? You’re acting really weird.” She moved her hand away from him, wanting to go into her purse for a cigarette, but she was trying to cut down, what with all the pressure from her parents and him and the U.S. government, but if this kept up much longer she’d have to light up, and it was 1968, when you could still smoke in coffee shops and most anywhere else, so . . .
“I want you to just listen to me for awhile,” he said. “Don’t interrupt me, and just try to, uh, not necessarily understand, but . . . consider what I am saying . . . alright?” He smiled in that truly loving way—which was now striking her as borderline creepy—and he seemed to pick up on it, making an effort not to look at her so intensely, and—
“Ready to order over here?” a waitress suddenly appeared.
“Oh, just our coffee we’re having for now,” he politely smiled to her, “I’ll give you a holler when we want to order. Thank you.”
The waitress smiled back then left. Gail was impressed, as there was something in Ryan’s manner, as simple as it was, that was so efficient and unlike him, and—
“I had trouble sleeping last night,” he said.
Oh God, here it came. Did he want to break up? Did he want to, as young people were fond of saying back then, start seeing other people? Which, of course, didn’t actually mean “seeing” other people, so much as fucking other people; to have a different set of breasts to suck on, a different vagina to stick your penis into, and all the other obligatory body parts to temporarily distract you into thinking the new flesh actually meant something, because they were so young and she knew how guys were, always wanting to explore, always wanting to see, feel, and taste just one more meaningless pussy in a world filled with irrelevant fleshy pleasures, and . . .
If she were perfectly honest with herself, she knew she had her own little fantasies of “seeing” other men; of being sucked and fucked by other mouths and penises, and she and Ryan DID have their little flings over the past three years. It was easy, what with her being in school at Northern University, and him back in the city, with each of them finding out about the others indiscretions, pissing each other off, making themselves jealous and hurt, suggesting they did have a genuine relationship that could sustain into something worthwhile over the years if they didn’t fuck it up with the impetuousness of their youth, but . . .
There he was, about to reveal information that would profoundly affect their fragile relationship, and—my God—maybe he was about to tell her he was leaving—that he was going to his beloved California? He went out there on spring break to visit his older brother (in her opinion, a very bad influence on him) and fell in love with the place, vowing to return there to live, because Chicago just wasn’t doing it for him—whatever the hell that meant. But she didn’t want any part of it. She was fine with Chicago. There were a lot of opportunities in the windy city, so she didn’t find it necessary to uproot themselves into what appeared to be a loony-bin of misdirected, convoluted individuals for all the wrong reasons, and if that was what he was about to tell her, she might as well just put a gun into her mouth, and—
“I had a dream about this place,” he said—catching her off-guard again. Boy, he was acting really weird, but she’d force herself to listen with an open mind and not be fearful or defensive like he was always accusing her of being (although to her, it was a matter of being logical and responsible) but she let it go, even managing to force a little smile, as he went on to say . . .
“I suppose I was thinking about being here, since we came here so often, and . . .”
CAME? she picked up on the past tense, but didn’t say anything, hoping to God that he would start saying something that made sense, as he continued with . . .
“So it got into my sleep, and . . . when I woke the following morning . . .” He paused, as if amazed with what he was saying, and particularly with what he was about to say next.
Gail literally held her breath. This would be it, something terrible, something that would disrupt their lives, their relationship, her mental and physical well-being, and she was going to be really pissed off at him because she already had too much emotional shit on her mind to deal with, and God knows she put up with so much from him as it was, with all of her friends telling her so, but she held her anger in, determined to let him finish, to say whatever horrendous thing he was about to say, THEN tear into him and try to force him to face reality so they could go on with their lives in a constructive, rational manner, and—
“I was here,” he simply said.
“What?” she asked. “What did you say? You had a dream about this coffee shop then you woke up and—”
“I was here.” He smiled, looked around, then turned back to her.
She was halfway between a smile and slapping him, because he really was trying her patience, her life. “You mean . . . ” she was trying hard to understand, “you woke up, THINKING you were—”
“No,” he firmly shook his head, dismissing her logic.
“Ryan?” her smile was pained.
“I woke up here,” he was certain, “just now . . . with you . . . sitting at this table, picking up the menus and—”
They stared at each other. A long, dense moment that, to Gail, seemed to be filled with all manner of tiny, distinctive sounds she could not identify, and those sounds may have included voices and whispers and somehow colorful little snapshots that filtered in and out of the sounds and her own thoughts and, she just realized, Ryan’s brown/hazel eyes, which definitely had that intense, loving gleam to them that simultaneously soothed and frightened her, and—
“Are you high?” she forced herself out of the suspended moment, once again hearing and seeing the ordinary sounds and activities of the coffee shop. Ryan smiled, shook his head, with . . .
“No, Gail. I’m not high. I haven’t done any drugs now, for, God . . .” he thought a moment and it was truly spooking her, as he finally shrugged with, “thirty years.” He smiled. She didn’t.
“Ryan, what are you talking about? You’re not making any sense. Stop playing with me like that,” she was speaking sharply through clinched teeth, not wanting to raise her voice.
He casually took a sip of his coffee, looked around the place, then said, “I’m not playing with you, Gail. Believe me, I’m dead serious when I tell you . . . as long as it’s taken me to see it, to truly realize it and know it for a hard, indisputable fact . . .” He paused for effect, to let the deeply held conviction of his emotions fully emphasis his final words, which Gail dreaded with all her young, traumatized life to hear . . .
“I love you.” And because he really did love her so deeply, rendering all the other times he told her (so casually, with no perspective or consequence) meaningless, it left her confused and speechless, with neurotic fingers scrambling into her purse for a cigarette, and—
“Come go with me, Gail,” he flatly said—an order, a plea, a somehow reverent prayer—and the indisputable conviction of his belief made her realize that she had no idea what love actually was, or if anyone had truly loved her, or she had sincerely loved anyone, or if she was capable of such a deep and mysterious thing of unimaginable consequence, an experience that would demand the absolute essence of her being, of things beyond human comprehension, and as careful, defensive, and yes, fearful she could be about her life (always a delicate balance, she realized, heavily due to the fact of her being adopted and never knowing who her parents were and why they abandoned her like some unwanted furniture) she wasn’t sure how she felt about giving such an integral and most intimate part of herself up, especially to a well-meaning and original but oddly unpredictable guy like Ryan, and . . .
“Come go with me,” he repeated, taking hold of her hand. His eyes were bright and hopeful and filled with that perfect, frightening love, and even though she wanted him to stop, he then said: “I know what I’m talking about, Gail. I’ve come from over thirty years in the future, from a time with decades of nothing but trial and error and circumstance out of control, with everything we thought we believed in turned inside out into a convoluted compromise that only simulates life, leading to nothing of any meaning or substance, right back here in Chicago, living with your ninety-year-old father, waiting for him to die and wondering what happened to your life, and me, and what could have been but never was, because we let it get away, so through some miracle of God only knows what, I’ve managed to see you again, in this coffee shop, in 1968, so we can save it all, save ourselves, our love, our—
“Stop it!” she screamed out, causing a hush to fall over the coffee shop, with everyone turning. But she didn’t care, she was isolated in her terror of Ryan saying he came from the future to save them?
From realizing she didn’t really love him. She didn’t love anybody. Including herself, and there could be no one coming from anywhere who could save her from such total, convoluted doom, and . . .
She ran out of the coffee shop, tears in her eyes, hands shaking, her body convulsing, a cigarette in her mouth, and . . .
Ryan, stunned, sat in the booth and—
“Did you want to order something?” the waitress said to him, compassionately, wanting to do something to relieve the embarrassing moment, but—
“No,” he said, “I have to . . .”
Wake up. Seven a.m. Los Angeles. His apartment, as he had been waking up for God knows how many years, with no end in sight, and now, the final blow, his miraculous journey to rescue Gail, and him, and their love, and all they could have been . . .
Destroyed. Totally. Because he made the mistake of telling her he loved her.
And really . . .
Where was there to go?
Copyright © 2009 by Jerry G. Erwin