I heard the voice. I knew the voice. Was I dead?
“No, you’re not dead,” the voice said.
I opened my eyes and saw him, my dear friend from very long ago.
I slapped him. I had no time to think; my hand had a life of its own.
Luca reeled from the slap. Served him right.
“Sandy . . .”
We stayed that way for a while just looking at each other. I had so much anger and pain, emotions I thought I had forgotten about. How dare he show his face right now?
Oh, shit . . . this had to be a dream. I remembered I was on a plane, and it was crashing.
“Where am I?” I asked. I looked around and there was just nothing. Everything was white. “You said I was not dead, so where the hell am I?” I demanded an answer.
Luca still looked at me with a sad expression.
“You are in a pause state,” he said.
“A what state?” What the hell was he talking about? Why was I talking to Luca at this moment? And why would I believe him if he told me I wasn’t dead?
“Pause.” Luca enunciated the word. I heard it right the first time, I just didn’t understand it. I still didn’t understand now. I kept quiet and waited for him to explain.
“A pause state is when we get a chance to step away from time moving forward and just . . . take a breather.”
“A time-out of sorts?” I asked. Now I’m sure I am dreaming. This is ridiculous.
“You can say that,” Luca said.
“So . . . after this . . . the plane will still crash?”
“Ummm, yes, time will move forward.”
“Can’t we make it move backward so that the plane doesn’t crash?”
“It doesn’t work that way,” he said patiently.
“Then why the hell am I here?”
Luca breathed deeply as he stared at me. I was obviously still mad, but I couldn’t meet his stare. Memories were coming back, and I didn’t think I was ready to confront them . . . again. After all these years.
“Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to change one thing in your past, what would it be?”
Ahhh . . . definitely a dream. This was all related to my musings earlier.
“Why, what’s the point of this conversation?”
“What if . . . before the plane crashes, you can get a chance to live briefly the life you would have if you changed something in your past . . . would you take it?”
I was struck dumb. See the life I could have lived if I changed something in my past? Isn’t this what I was wishing for?
“So . . . I will get to see that life, and then the plane crashes and I die . . . again, what’s the point?”
“At least you won’t die not knowing what could have been.” Luca stared at me again.
“So, I will die . . .” I said stubbornly.
“Sandy, when you get into this type of mood, you have always been very hard to talk to . . . you haven’t changed a bit!”
“Oh, I have changed a lot. I am no longer the young girl you knew. So many things have changed. I have changed,” I said bitterly.
“But a lot has remained the same. You are still searching and yearning. After almost thirty years, you are still unsure,” he said gently.
I stayed silent.
“What do you have to lose? This could just be a dream after all . . . won’t you want to see what your dream life has to offer?”
I wouldn’t meet his stare.
“Or do I just press Play again and just get on with it?”
“No!” It was out of my mouth before I even thought of it.
“Okay, we’re getting somewhere. So what is the one thing you would like to change in your past?”
I closed my eyes. I knew I would sound cruel. I knew I would sound selfish. I knew the implications of the next words I was going to say. But this was a dream. This was my dream . . . the plane was crashing. What the hell, right?
“I wish . . . I wish I had never met Miguel Garcia that summer.”
There, I said it. Luca stared at me sadly.
“You do realize that by choosing to not meet Miguel, you are also choosing not to meet me . . .”
“Yes. Maybe it’s also for the best. You hurt me.”
“Sandy . . .”
“I know. You didn’t mean to, but you did hurt me. I never knew I counted so much on our friendship until . . . you just didn’t come back.” I felt the tears coming now.
Luca looked at me with that pained expression on his face and I couldn’t help it. Ours had been a unique kind of friendship that few understood and many were worried about. He was after all a middle-aged foreigner volunteer at our church and I was only nineteen. But strangely, we hit it off. We had a purely platonic, no-malice friendship that I cherished and fought for.
Luca sighed. “Pick a day in that alternate universe where you never met Miguel and me that summer and I will show you what your life would be.”
“Ha, a trick. You will show me how miserable I am so I will learn to be contented with what I have.”
“You are preempting everything. I am giving you a chance to glimpse that life.”
“I feel this is all a setup.”
“Maybe. But aren’t you just a little bit curious? I know you are. I know you’ve been wondering for so long. Why not see it firsthand?”
“Why are you doing this, Luca? Why are you even here?”
Luca stared at me with those piercing eyes.
“I’m here because you need me. I wasn’t there before. I am here now.”
I kept silent. This was just a dream after all. Surely, it can’t be real. What have I got to lose?
“Show me last night. Show me my life without having met Miguel and you and show me a few hours of last night.”
Luca nodded. “Okay. There are a few rules.”
“Of course there would be rules,” I said, exasperated. This dream was becoming old.
“You will live through what your alternate self was living through last night, but she is still in control. You are just there for the ride. Under no circumstances will you try to seize control—”
“Okay, I am just along for the ride . . . no seizing control,” I said, not really taking anything seriously.
“I’m serious. You also cannot make yourself known to your alternate self. Just watch, learn, and experience. Don’t . . . do, say, or influence, okay?”
“Gotcha,” I was getting bored. I wanted to wake up already, although I stopped myself because waking might mean crashing and dying. So maybe being in this dream a little longer was beneficial.
“One final note though. I need you back here at the stroke of midnight,” Luca said, crossing his arms across his chest. He did that when he wanted to be taken seriously, which, in the past, I usually ignored.
I laughed. This is definitely a dream, a not so very original one, I’m afraid.
“Why, do I turn back into a pumpkin?” I asked, feeling like a teenager again, in one of our frequent arguments in the very distant past.
Luca shook his head. “No, just be back here at midnight.”
I snickered. “Whatever.”
He stared at me again, until I grew uncomfortable. We were roughly the same age now. What right did he have to stop aging while I aged?
Oh, yeah. He died.