Today you have been granted the opportunity to go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone, travel in time…whatever you wish, it is yours. Now, there’s a catch. (Isn’t there always?) When you wake up tomorrow… you will not remember any of it.
I shouldn’t be here. I should just get back on the elevator, head down to the ground floor and march right out the door. Then I need to climb into my double parked rover, jab it into reverse and high tail it out of this place because this is just crazy. But I can’t. The slip of paper in my hands won’t let me flee despite the potential risk of commitment if anyone in my family knew where I was. One last time I unfold the worn paper, soft from the hundreds of times I’ve thumbed it since it came by mail last week. I CAN GIVE YOU ONE MORE DAY WITH HER. COME ALONE TO THE ADDRESS ON THE ENVELOP ONE WEEK FROM TODAY AT EXACTLY 12:00 THE DOOR WILL BE UNLOCKED. YOU WILL HAVE 24 HOURS AND NOT A MOMENT MORE. -X. The bold letters scream out for me to continue on. I take a slow breath, pulling in the air deep into my lungs hoping to steady myself before I turn the glass knob on the large wooden door.
The building is extreamly old and huge, everything seems over sized; the windows go from vaulted ceiling to mosaic tiled floor and the arm chairs in the corners are overstuffed. In contrast, when I swing open the door the room I enter is small. Really small. It’s reminiscent of a motel room she and I spent half a night in two years ago. We were passing through a small town on our way home for spring break right outside of Virginia when the car broke down. We’d tried to camp out until morning but it was December and after a few hours of cuddling in the back seat we folded and called for a cab into town. Now, my eyes fall on the giant hour glass sitting in the middle of the room. I take a tentative step towards it when the door flies shut behind me. I jump at the way it echos in the space, I can practically feel the floor shake beneath me. “Ah you there, don’t be frightened.” A voice commands my attention and I whip my head to find its source off to the side. Was he here before? The man is old, like ancient old, with cotton white hair and wrinkles for decades. He is hunched over a cane as he hobbles towards me.
“I said, don’t be frightened boy. You’ve nothing to worry about here eh?” I swallow and speak, “Who are you? Are you the one who sent me this?” I hold out the paper for him to see but he disregards it. Instead he steps up to the bare wooden table beside the hour glass and runs his hands along the underside until he unlatches a small compartment from which he produces another slip of paper. “Boy, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don’t screw it up.” I shake my head to show my confusion. “I don’t understand.” The old guy sighs as he turns his piercing black eyes up to meet mine. “You are not meant to understand this. Now, there are two rules that you must not break unless you wish to suffer greatly.” He motions for me to come closer, of course I hesitate but then her smile flashes before my eyes and all fear dissipates. “First, you must not touch the hourglass. Tampering with it will not buy you more time it will only shorten it..” he pauses to make sure that I am listening so I nod my agreement and he continues. “The second rule is that you must agree to forfeit all rights to the memories of the next 24 hours.” I draw in a sharp breath preparing for protest. But he lifts his hand to stop me and states, “Those are the rules. You either agree to them and spend the next 24 hours with your wife as if it were any normal day before the accident or you go home and live with regret in your heart for not taking this chance. Your choice.” He lays the page on the table and places a pen beside it as he steps back for me to sign. “She’ll be normal?” I ask. He smiles and nods. So I pick up the pen and sign.
When I am done with initialing here and dating there he grabs the agreement and places it in his pocket. “Okay, once I flip this over your time begins. When the last grain of time has fallen you will be brought back to your current reality. You will not have recollection of the previous days events nor will you remember meeting me. Understood?” “Yes. I understand.” He gives me one last smile before placing his hand on the top of the hourglass. “Good boy. Get that would you?” he says as he pulls down on the large glass, making it flip over on an axis. Before I can ask him what I need to get there is a knock on the door. My heart flutters and when I look to him for confirmation he is gone.
Wasting no time I dash to the door and fling it open. Tears spring to my eyes as I take in the sight of her. Just as beautiful as the last time I saw her before the accident. I’m rooted in this moment unable to do anything but love her. She steps forward narrowing the gap between us as she smiles through her own tears. “Is this real?” she wispers as her hand brushes my cheek. I lean into the warmth of her palm, such a familiar gesture that fills me with joy. “That or the most vivid dream I’ve ever had.” I breathe. Her brown eyes dance as she reaches up on her tiptoes and places her lips on mine.
We spend the next hour kissing and simultaneously pinching one another through laughs to make sure these moments are not hallucinations. “I’ve missed you.” she says against my chest as we lay on the small bed in the corner of the room. My fingers are weaving their way through her long dark hair the way she likes it. I sigh, trying to ignore the lump that has been sporadically reminding me that my time is running out. “I miss you too Lex.” I pause only a moment before deciding to get some answers. “So, do you remember what happened?” I feel her nodding her head against me as she replies. “Yeah, I remember getting slammed into by a semi while I was waiting for the light to change, and spinning. It felt like I was spinning forever.” She takes a shaky breath as she goes on. “Then I hit something, a tree? Or a pole maybe? That’s when the airbag deployed.” I don’t want to ask the next question but I have to know so I spit it out, “Did it hurt?” She props herself up on an elbow to look me in the eyes and says gently, “only for a little while.” Damn, I was hoping she’d say it was painless or at least that she’d forgotten by now.
“Okay,” she exclaims suddenly as she hops up onto her feet towering above me on the bed. “We’re on a time crunch Mr. Thomas, let’s skip the waterworks for now and have some fun! I want to only have good memories of this day and the look on your face is far from happy.” She starts jumping up and down around me and I can’t help but smile at the sight, she always had a childish streak in her. But what she just said… “Wait, your’re going to remember this? How? I thought the deal was 24 hours and then no memory would remain.” She stops jumping and plops down beside me again. “That’s your deal. My deal is different.” I watch as she bites down on her bottom lip, a telltale sign that she doesn’t want to tell me something. I ignore the feeling of dread coming over me and demand details, “What is your deal exactly?” Rolling her eyes she pleads, “Tyler, can we just be here in this moment okay? I don’t want to talk about this.” “Wow,” I huff, “must be pretty bad. I mean, if you can’t tell me then…” I trail off as different scenarios play a out in my mind. “Ugh, fine,” she mutters, “I know what you’re doing in there.” She pats my head. “You’re probably working out that I’m going to hell or something in exchange for today aren’t you?” I shoot her a glare and she bursts into laughter. “Well are you?” I practically shout. It takes a minute for her to catch her breath and cease the laughter except for a giggle or two between her words. “No! Babe, it’s not like that.” I look away and she finally gets serious, “okay. This is my deal…”
She went on to tell me that in order for us to be here now she had to make a choice. She could either spend her whole afterlife with all of her normal memories intact. Me, her friends, her family all of it would be there forever. Or she could spend twenty four hours on earth with me and lose all of that. The only thing she would remember is today. “Why would you make that deal Alexis? Your whole life, everything just gone!” She watches me pace the small room while I rant. “For what, for me? That’s insane!” She lets out a small chuckle as she mumbles “what can I say, I’m crazy about you Tyler.” I want to yell at her more but I realize it won’t matter, the deed is done. So I let it go because this is all the time we have left and I don’t want the only past she will know to be filled with my anger. I smile, “I love you even though you’re crazy you know that right?” I walk over to her and cup her face between my hands, her cheeks push against my palms as she breaks into a grin. “I know. Thank you. You don’t have to love me but you do. I know you stayed by my side every night I was in the hospital. I heard you, reading and singing my favorite songs. I felt you holding my hand even when I couldn’t squeeze back.” She takes a deep breath before continuing, “there was no way I could pass up the chance to see you again, to thank you and hug and kiss you one last time. No way! So is it a huge sacrifice that I made? Yeah but I’d do it again with no hesitation.”
The hourglass kept allowing our hours to turn into minutes, and our minutes into seconds. We filled them with stories of our life together and her childhood. I made sure to give full details of the way everyone looked so she could picture the faces when she remembered the stories. We laughed more, cried more. She told me that she hoped I’d find someone else to love, said that I had too much heart not to share it with another. I told her I’d think about it some day. We made love as the moments dwindled. After, I held her, breathing in her scent and basking in the warmth of her body. We quietly watched the last grains of sand fall through the glass. “I love you Mr. Thomas.” She whispered into my ear, “I’ll love you for an eternity.” I smiled, fighting back the tears and replied, “I love you more Mrs. Thomas.” We held tightly as the last piece fell through.