I didn't ask for your company, and yet you sit here and speak with me as if my time is worth your consumption. Your voice drones on, enveloping me in a cloud of my already drunken foggy thoughts. Please, spare me the details. I don't wish to hear any more of the "meaning of life", the reasons why I must keep faith, or how my sorrows could never be releived with a glass of intoxicating poison. I mentally slam my forehead into the old wooden bar table repeatedly, questioning your existence.
The sign read “Johnny’s Sweets.” Truthfully though the 1980’s candy shop wasn’t owned by Johnny; it’s actually owned by a scruffy guy named Vinny. There were also three other owners before that, in the little shops time. They all went out of business within half of a year. Mostly because of a snot nose little boy; well me.
Every other Tuesday and Thursday morning, I would walk up the steps to the city’s oldest candy shop. When I would open the green glass door a faint ding of a bell could be heard. I walk around the store once, then casually go over to the lovely little chocolate section of the store. Pick up the candy; one, two, three. Without the clerk noticing. Then I would reach up to the balloons in the corner and twirl around once. So that the end flap of my favorite jacket would fly up. Then immediately and oh so swiftly; I slip the chocolates right into the pocket inside my jacket. Next I give the clerk a nod and a smile, then walk out the door. I thought to myself “Piece of cake.”
Eventually my parents found out about my crimes. Although that was only when the clerk saw me and called the cops. All over three little chocolates. But I guess they would have to go to these “extreme” measures if they saw me in the act every month. Honestly I seriously could care less about the candy. The thought of actually buying the chocolate for five cents a piece didn’t even come to mind after a while. Plus, it wasn’t even nice, tasty candy, it was actually bitter sweet and I’m pretty sure it was old too. But I would still go back there every other week. You might be wondering why… I guess it was the thrill of theft, or maybe the satisfaction of getting away with it. Either way, I guess it became my hobby, but the games became tougher.
As I got older, I started to move onto bigger and better prizes. At age 12, I stole some shoes, clothes, and little toys from the convince store on the corner. Then I was starting to become a rebel. When I was 14, I stole a pack of cigarettes from my father, my uncle, and my best friends grandpa. Later when I turned 15, on New Years day I stole a shotgun from the hunting shop downtown with a couple of friends. Then when I learned how to drive, that was when things got fun. I earned my license, took off onto the road and never cane back. Although I never really owned my own real car until I was 32. I would usually hot wire the best looking car towards the back of a parking lot. Or fix up the ones left on the side of the road. In my time I have “owned” 159 vehicles. I bet not many people can say that, or say they have been to 49 states in the U.S. plus Canada. And have stolen something in every state. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble through the years. 74 warnings, 32 tickets, 12 fines, and a total of 641 days in jail. I have been asked many times how I can remember all these numbers, I simply tell them.
“When all you’ve ever done it take what isn’t yours. You learn to remember what you think you had. It’s never and item, it’s only a memory.”
Nobody ever had a response to me when I said that. They would nod, say “okay“, or even just walk away. Except for one man, he was my cell mate for a month. His name was Bert, but everyone always called him Ziggy. Only because you never knew what sort of trouble he would get himself into next. The day I met him I could tell he had been through a lot. He looked about 45 with a scraggly brown beard, and had a couple of tattoos on every visible part of his body. Each tattoo was a bible verse, book in the bible, or biblical saying. I suppose this is what he leaned on for help and what he made his, kind of like in my saying.
When we both got out of jail around the same time, he told me he wanted to take me to his favorite place in town. I thought it was going to be some diner or restaurant he loved. But as we were walking down an abandoned street, we came across a huge extravagant old church. The front of it had a stain glass window of Jesus on the cross. I never really knew what all that religious stuff was all about, but he was going to make sure I did, and never forget. We walked through the beautiful hand carved doors of the church, went down the isle way, and sat on a bench in the middle of the room. Bert told me how he would always come to this church with his family when he was just a little boy. He said this was where he learned about the person who died just for us, so we could be forgiven for all of the terrible things we did. His name was Jesus, but of course I didn’t know that. Bert explained to me that, that’s what the stain glass window meant.
Later on in life, Bert and I became good friends, and on every Sunday we would go to that church he first introduced me to. I learned a lot there, more than I have all through life. As time passed, Bert was getting very sick. I wasn’t too sure of what to do. His only family was me and God, so I was given the responsibility of taking care of him. Yet he was getting more and more sick, fast. It was getting to be too much to handle, I had to take him to the hospital. It turned out that he had been struggling to live with cancer in his brain. However the cancer had already taken over too much too fast, and he died a week later.
I continued to go to the same church, and on Easter Sunday that year, I heard the first lesson I was ever taught.
That Jesus gave his life on the cross to forgive all our sins, so that later when we pass away, we can go to heaven and be with Jesus forever. Then I thought to myself, how even though I could never forgive myself for all of the crimes I committed, Jesus did. That in itself was just remarkable to me, that was when I remembered all my numbers. 259 vehicles stolen, 74 warnings, 32 tickets, 12 fines, and 641 days in jail. It never occurred to me, but all those numbers were now gone, and forgiven.
“Alright alright everybody get in your seats. Come on quiet down. The bell has rung it’s time to start class, that means all conversations stop. Yes even you Mr. Gregory,” Professor Harrington said as he laid his briefcase on his chestnut desk and eyed Greg carefully. “Okay, there is one more month of classes left. You are not done with me yet. I have decided that this year will come to a close not on lectures or final tests, but instead a project.”
Murmurs of annoyed college students aroused in the room while Professor Harrington walked routinely to the front of the class.
“Quiet down! You all should be relieved. One more class of just my voice, I’m sure you can’t handle it anymore. I’m retiring this year, and I’m sure all of you have forgotten. I don’t want to end my days here at Clifton College like any other professor. I will not tolerate any of that “Last Lecture” talk in this room. I want a final project from my last group of technology students. So please, do this project for me, not the grade I’m sure you will earn.”
Silence struck the crowd, and I sat there all ears, awaiting what my favorite professor was going to announce as our project.
“Now, listen carefully. All of you have been in this class a total of 130 days. You should know enough by now to be making toasters if not atomic bombs transmitted through cell phones. I want creativity people! I want pure ingenious state of the art technology from all of you. You will build an invention that no one has ever thought to be possible. From the light bulb to the robots the sky is your limit. Think outside the box.” He then stopped and reviewed what he would say next. “This isn’t going to be like the usual projects I assign. I have thought it over and over with intense depth. I have come to the conclusion that after this moment, I will give little to no critic or guidance on what you all will build. I don’t want to interfere, but know I will always be watching. I will keep an eye on all of you to be sure everyone is making evident progress.” Professor Harrington then clapped his hands in closure and announced, “alright, you all may begin.”
With blank paper and my carpentry pencil in front of me, I formulated what seemed like thousands of brilliant unique ideas on what to create for Professor H. But after each newly imagined idea my conscience got in the way and I thought to myself, “what is creative, useful, and actually wanted in the time period where people already have virtually everything?” My eager attitude slowly wore off into complete disgust and irritation for my brain was not allowing the perfect innovation to come to mind.
Once class let out I still had no usable ideas; so I stormed silently to my dorm, skipping dinner, and going straight to bed.
I collapsed dramatically on my stiff old bed and quickly drifted into unconsciousness. I’m not much of a dreamer, most dreams-if I have them-are pointless or confusing and are often forgotten by morning. But this dream was like no other, so vivid, so real, like it could actually happen. Like I could make it happen…
I nearly ran to Professor Harrington’s classroom. All my excitement for the project came back to life and I had to begin work immediately. I barged through the old wooden door and went directly to my lab table.
“Excuse me, Miss Daniella. What may I ask are you doing?”
I turned to Professor Harrington with a look of confusion and excitement then answered, “I’m working on my project, I have the greatest idea! It came to me in a dream!”
“I don’t mean to un-lighten your mood, but sweetie you sound perhaps like the most barbaric student I’ve ever come across. I mean, look at yourself, your wearing cookie monster pajama pants for heavens sake!”
I busied myself with work as he talked, then responded, “Professor, I don’t think you understand… I could change the world!”
“I’m sure you could… but it’s 6 AM, and you have four other classes to attend. You haven’t had a bite of breakfast, and have already taken out approximately twenty six items to use in your project. Do you have any idea how loony you are right now?”
“Not a chance. But hey, has anyone ever told you you sound like an Englishman in the morning?”
“Good grief, what will this establishment do with students like you when I leave?…”
Un-phased by the short conversation, I quickly drafted my model on blueprints and began to cut and weld metal frames together. I was running completely off adrenaline, using all my energy before I crashed. I searched my brain as forcefully as I could to remember the drafted blueprints in my dream. I smashed my eyelids together, reviewing what the contraption looked like. My memory of the dream was wearing off fast, but as I worked little pieces of déjà vu came alive. I knew I was making it right. Each episode was like a checkpoint, as long as I kept reaching the checkpoints I knew I was doing everything like my dream.
I must have worked in the technology shop for the entire day. By the time I left, I was starved and all the food in the cafeteria was cold. What time was it? I looked to the wall to the right of me, 3AM, figures…
I went ahead and picked up three slices of cheese pizza, grabbed a Gatorade, and headed back to my dorm. I ate it all in under 10 minutes and fell asleep soon after.
The next morning, I awoke as if it were any other day with no remembered dream. I was hoping that I could get new ideas from my barely explored imagination, but there was nothing.
I carried on with my regular classes today, but when technology came I stayed until 3AM again. This routine went on for three more weeks. Exhausted now, but just about finished with my project, all I need is final touches. Nearing the end of the class year, we have 6 more days left of school and I haven’t heard one word out of Professor Harrington since he called me “loony.” Until today…
“Excuse me,” he began. “I don’t mean to interrupt but I have made a slight revision to the project. I have already said it needs to be creative and ingenious, but I would like to add something. I want your innovative projects to work. I want them to be usable, efficient, and able to properly run on their own without difficulty. I apologize for this last minute of new criteria, but what will your project be worth without the ability to use it? Carry on.”
I surveyed the room after his surprising announcement, not a single student was back at working. Everyone was frozen in place. Was I the only one who made something that can actually work? Well, could work?
Today should be the day then, it’s final. I travel back in time today.
I walked to the desk of Professor Harrington’s.
“Go back to work Daniella…”
“I wanted to tell you that I will be leaving.”
“I beg your pardon? Where will you be going?”
He stopped his work, then slowly looked to me. His old tired face expressed confusion, disbelief, and astonishment. I couldn’t help but pull up a smile of smug happiness. His reaction was exactly what I had anticipated. His mouth was left open like he was going to try and say something, but no words came out. All he could manage was, “I wish you luck,” and even then, his voice was strained and cracked. Should I be afraid like he is?
I shoved the thought from my mind. ”No!” I demanded to myself. My machine is perfect, I know it inside and out and there are no holes in my calculations. I will go back in time and Professor Harrington’s reluctant response will not hold me back.
I want answers.
I walked back to my project strutting confidence and determination, but a small part of me was left behind at the chestnut desk. Though I may have looked proud on the outside, I could literally feel myself crumbling down on the inside.
What if it doesn’t work? Will my dream remain in my imagination? What if I never find the answers?
What ifs surrounded me everywhere, all suffocating me.
I laid my hand on the cold silver metal of my project and closed my eyes.
“Just think back to the dream,” I thought. “Review everything, every nut and bolt of the operation. Remember, remember the mission.”
The flow of my dream came back alive.
I was sitting in my wooden desk chair, clutching my gold cameo necklace, like my life depended on it. I was crying, I felt alone, I felt like I didn’t exist. I got up and walked around the dim lighted room, the project was sitting under a large green sheet, covered from dust. Then at my desk were piles of drafted blueprints. Drafts, models, equations, figures, and numbers were all sketched across each sheet. Slowly my dream was fading, everything wiped away clean, but I remembered.
“Daniella,” professor Harrington whispered behind me. “May I see you in the hallway?”
I followed behind him and I could feel everyone’s stares burning coldly through my back. Professor never takes his students out of the classroom. He says it disrupts the environment, and nothing will get done in class afterwards because of the distraction it causes. The first time I heard this, I thought it to be silly, but now I understand.
“I apologize now, but I have to know! What was the dream you talked about, why do you need to go back to year 1921? I don’t understand why it’s so important Ms. Daniella, I don’t. Are you really going back? Do you know if it will work? I think this is a very, very bad, dangerous idea. What were you thinking, a time machine! Really? Please, say something!”
“You’re the one who said you want our projects to work. I made mine capable of working before it was a requirement. I don’t see why this is a bad idea. I thought you would have been proud, excited, ecstatic even. Professor, I want answers just as much as you do right now. That’s why I’m going back.”
“Idiocy and genius are two awfully different things Daniella. What do you need to know so badly? Please, I’m worried for you.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I need to eventually tell somebody, right? Professor is trustworthy. It’s okay.
“It’s a rather long story, I’m not sure the hallway is an appropriate place for me to tell you everything. I can stay after class, I can tell you then.”
He looked unsure of the idea, like he couldn’t trust me.
“I’m not going anywhere until we have talked, okay? Don’t worry,” I reassured him. Without eye contact he gave a slight head nod and opened the door for me. The rest of class I sat at my desk and watched the clock. Slow minutes ticked by, and I even considered using my time machine to speed up class.
At last, the bell rang and class was dismissed. Before everyone had even left, Professor Harrington came to sit at the desk next to me.
“Explain,” he demanded.
“It’s a long story-”
“And I have the time, explain.”
Startled by his urgency, I began with the dream, telling him all that I could remember, which was extremely hazy. Then I started to share why the time machine was so important and why I want to go back.
“The necklace I was clutching in the dream, you see,” I said as I showed him the necklace around my neck. “I received it from a complete stranger when I was born. My parents were told to keep it safe, for it to never get lost. The stranger said it was expensive, rare, and incredibly special. They said that it will belong to me and I will soon know why. At the time, my parents were completely confused just as you were 40 minutes ago. But when I had that dream, it all made sense. I want to go back to figure out who is the girl on my necklace. That means finding the artist too, luckily he signed his name on the back and put the date it was made and where. I’m going back in time to find out why this necklace is so important, and why I have it now.”
“But how do you know your machine will work? You haven’t test run it once, and it all came from a dream.”
“I guess we will have to test run it on me now, and have faith my dream actually knows something.”
Professor looked away from me, he knew I couldn’t be convinced not to go.
“Would you like to help me?” I offered.
His eyes shot at me, but answered, “Grab your coat and tell me what to do.”
I smiled in return, obeyed, and got up to go to my project.
“Okay, so all you have to do is type in the date, December 16, 1921, and the destination, New York City, then press the green button when I say to. It’s that simple.”
He slowly began typing and I jumped in the machine. Standing on the white platform, metal surrounded me in a oval egg like shape.
I continued with directions, “You will know if I got to that date when the green button turns off. Then you’ll know when I’m coming back when the button turns from red to blue to yellow rapidly. You’ll also hear the machine start up again.” I then closed the machine door and locked it carefully.
“Sounds simple. You know, you were always one of my favorites Miss Daniella. It’s too bad that it has all come down to this.”
“Professor what are you talking about?”
“Thank you for making what I never could. I’ll take good care of it, don’t you worry.”
“What do you mean? Your making me nervous…”
“Have fun in 1921. Don’t get lost. It is a big city.”
I began to try to get out, but the machine started this horrible motion, similar to spinning. Making me extremely dizzy, but I wasn’t moving. It felt as if all the walls closed in so tight that I was being crushed. I could barely breath and the atmosphere was intensely pressured. Like sand being turned into a pearl, or coal into diamonds. I was panicking.
But suddenly everything stopped. I felt light as a feather and very cold. I opened my eyes. The bright sun blinded me and it took some time to adjust. But I couldn’t believe what I saw seeing; it had to be a dream.
White snow blanketed the entire city. I was standing on a hill above New York about half a mile away. Seeing thousands of classic Ford Model T cars and taxis in many different colors flying up and down the streets. People everywhere, all going somewhere. It looked like madness but I fell in love with the city instantly.
So with cheers to the journey that will soon commence, I whispered in triumph, “I did it.” With my present behind me and past in front of me, I started towards the city.