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My eyelids flip open and the first thing I notice is the clouds at the edge of the horizon…hah, that one looks like my boss. Former boss. Right. Just as they begin to turn red, I pick my head up and remember coming to the little museum café after the messiest day of my life. Something in the back of my head tells me the hours ended at 4. Sure enough, no one’s around to tell me how strange I must look with a red grille-mark on the side of my face. Suddenly a little panicked, I run to the double doors and grab the handles, shaking what little movement the door has back and forth with them as if I could change what had already happened.
That gets boring quickly, so I sit back down at my little metal table and stare into the depths of the lone coffee mug. Somewhere between five minutes and two hours pass as I replay clips from the past few months, and then this morning. I never really wanted to be a paralegal, but it was so exciting to just have a job. If only my alarm clock had been set this morning. I roll my eyes at the air. Finally, I check my purse for a phone and remember sprinting out the door so long ago this morning and leaving the stupid thing charging by my little apartment bed. Oh, yeah, beds…where am I going to sleep tonight?
I can’t see anything soft here except for the grass growing under the fence at the edge of the little half-circle of chairs and tables. I shiver and turn to grab my coat, but as my hand grips the grey fuzz of its hood, my focus shifts to my right foot as it brushes past a little white and blue click-pen. I reach down to grab it and glance at the law firm advertisement on the side, but it only reminds me that I have nowhere to go. I grab the only slightly stained napkin from under the coffee mug, almost tipping it over, and stop. What am I supposed to write, anyway?
My head flashes through dozens of ideas until I catch sight of my reflection nearby. I feel kind of silly, but it turns out to be relaxing. A few minutes later the napkin stares at me, hair in a sloppy bun and makeup mostly gone. Such a textbook face and a textbook drawing, I muse, then mentally slap myself. She looks into my eyes, but her expression is unreadable. I only pause a moment to wonder why because I realize there’s no reason my reflection should be hanging in the air in the first place.
I guess this is one of those days where you never notice things right away. As the wind rushes through my bones, I shiver and look out. There is nothing. Not even whiteness or blackness. For a moment, I reach out and glimpse what it is. But that passes even faster than a light goes out, and I look away from the void and down. It’s like the layers of a chocolate cake, but the layers are layered on each other stepping down and down and never seeming to end. I rub my eyes and wonder about turning away, but it’s impossible.
As opaque as everything is, the whole scene is so orderly. It’s comforting and frightening, and I can almost grasp the pattern. It’s the same café, but always different. Sometimes I’m there. As implausible as the whole scene is, it’s vaguely familiar. I step down. How could you not?
My feet only leave solid ground for a moment. For a second, a wonder if they ever did. Then I see myself. Other-me is sitting at the same table as I was earlier and staring confusedly at the napkin. She looks up and sees me and I flinch, but she’s clueless. I can only stare as my face begins to appear at the command of her white click-pen. I can see her slip up and make my face just a bit too long, and I can see her sigh. By the time my head starts to hurt from trying to figure out if she’s a different person from me the sketch is finished, so I step down.
This time, I see me reflecting into the dregs of that double macchiato. It doesn’t look like Other-other-me’s getting any closure, and I guess I would know. I wonder about closure for a little while. Why do I even need it? I’ll get by, just like I always do. I wanted this job to be different, though. You would think at some point one would mature enough to stay in one place. Then I step down again.
By this point I can see the pattern of the layers. Why are they here of all places, though? I thought interesting things only happened to artists. It’s fun to step backwards through time, though. I wonder how far I could go.
Here it’s early in the morning, but late enough for me to hear yelling. “You…job description…trusted…just never forget to lock up again!” It sounds like somebody forgot to lock the patio doors last night. It also sounds like a chance to get off the café patio and change things. I step a few more times until there’s no one around.
It’s dark now, and even colder than it was this evening. I dash over to the doors and pull one open, relieved. Now travelling up the stairs, down the hallway, through the atrium, out the door, across the street, and so on. I can hardly believe no one noticed me, but my apartment is messy as ever.
I realize I’ve actually had a good evening. It would be nice to hold onto. But if this really is a second chance, I ought to take it. There are certainly no second second chances. I spin the dial on my alarm clock to 6:15. It feels rather final. I walk away, and then back again, feeling a bit moronic. I spin the dial on my alarm clock to 6:15 AM.
* * *
My eyelids flip open and the first thing I notice is the clouds surrounding my ceiling fan…what time is it? I really hope I’m not fired today.